I’m not going to lie to you folks, but Zagreb isn’t my favourite city in the world. It’s not the prettiest city in the world either. That being said it’s also not the worst place in the world and it makes for a lovely, affordable weekend city break destination.
There’s just something about it.
The city is unique in that it’s divided into two- the newer part of town at the bottom of the hill is the modern section, full of tram lines and artistic, supposed-to-be-there graffiti, and the upper town at the top of the hill is the historic old town. There are no hotels in the upper town so you have to stay at the bottom of the hill.
The old town is full of history and culture, from Dolac farmers market which happens every morning, to the Cathedral, to cute little churches and prayer sites tucked away on little cobblestone streets. It’s also home to probably the most museums ever seen in a city and what is probably the most Instagrammed church roof ever in the form of the decorated roof of St Mark’s Church.
I spent just two days in Zagreb and it rained the whole time. Rain, wherever I am, dampens my spirits a little but it didn’t seem to matter too much in rainy Zagreb. This was partly because I was determined to make the most of my short visit but also because the city is full of museums and quirky bars and cafes, so there’s always something to do whatever the weather.
The main square:
The main square, Jelačić Square, is large and full of trams and colourful buildings. There’s a statue of ban Josip Jelačić on a horse, the square’s namesake, which the Hungarians, at the time, didn’t want putting up as they considered him to be a bit of a traitor.
The square is usually a hub of activity as you have to walk through it to get to a lot of places. When I first arrived there was a live band sound checking on a pop-up stage and quite a big group of people had already gathered to watch. At Christmas time, apparently, it’s a lovely, festive place all decorated with fairy lights and Christmas trees.
Just off the square you’ll find the famous Tkalciceva street, full of quirky pubs and cocktail bars, and the daily Dolac farmers market, with its statue of a woman with a basket of fruit on her head welcoming you at the top of the stairs.
The Cathedral of The Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary:
This Cathedral is huge (not even exaggerating!). It’s so huge, in fact, that it’s the tallest building in Croatia. I’m not religious in the slightest but I fell in love with this cathedral for some reason.
Zagreb is a very religious town (it’s not unusual to see a few nuns wandering round the town centre on a daily basis), and it’s very easy to see that Zagreb is proud of its cathedral. Visitors are welcome to visit for free when there’s not a service going on, as long as they’re respectful and quiet. That means no short shorts/skirts, no bare shoulders, no eating or drinking, and no disturbing others who may be using it to worship. When I went they were rebuilding part of one of the spires (and I suspect they still are) so they were taking donations inside and charging to light candles and what not, to put towards the repair bill. If you visit, spare a few Kuna if you can!
Up yet another hill (don’t worry, there’s a funicular) you will find museums galore. There are the standard ones like art galleries (the gallery of Naïve art is a popular one with locals) and history museums. There’s niche museums and the downright weird but strangely intriguing. Museum of torture anyone?
There’s the very unique (and my personal fave) Museum of Broken Relationships. This started as a travelling exhibition but became so popular that it got its own museum based in the city where it all began. It contains items that remind people of past relationships, either romantic relationships of family ones, and a little story to go with it. The stories are funny, maddening, uplifting or downright heart-breaking. Be prepared to laugh, cry and feel every emotion in between.
Church of St Mark’s:
Aka that church with the famous decorated roof. The church itself is located in the middle of a square full of parliamentary and other important buildings, which is a little strange, but a bloody gorgeous looking area. I didn’t go inside but, apparently, the inside is nothing to look at unless you’re a big fan of church architecture.
The picture of the castle on the red background is the emblem of Zagreb, and the other image is the medieval coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia. Fun Fact: the animal in the bottom red strip is called a Kuna in Croatian which is the name of Croatian currency today. The more you know, eh?
Another fun fact: I was interviewed by the news in front of this church! Yeah, don’t talk to me; I’m famous in Croatia! (Jk!)
Quaint Cobblestone Streets:
Zagreb is an old European town which means its narrow streets are full of cobblestones. If you follow the street directly ahead of St Marks church down you come to Stone Gate which serves as a mini-church. In here there are pews, lighted candles, and a shrine to the Virgin Mary, which many religious people frequently come to pray in front of as it’s believed to have magical powers. The walls are sweetly decorated with hand-written notes all containing the word Hvala (thank you).
Come out of the church and back onto a downward slopping cobbled street where you’ll find a statue of St George on a horse, and various boutique shops and museums. If you follow any cobbled street it’ll eventually lead you to somewhere beautiful and interesting (and almost always somewhere with another statue, the city’s full of ‘em.)
The Art Park:
New for summer 2016, the art park is an art project which doubles as an outdoor museum (on a hill, because, obviously). The steps to the park lead down from a cute little pathway through another park, shaded by trees. Along the wall you’ll see what looks like half-finished paintings of various animals but, when you get to the bottom of the hill, the other half is painted on a wall lower down. If you stand in the right spot the paintings line up. It’s pretty awesome. There’s also various artwork made, mainly by children, dotted around the park and, when it’s open on hot days, there’s a tuck shop and picnic benches where you can sit to enjoy one of their events/workshops they put on for the community.
Further up from the Art Park is a viewing point which gives you panoramic views of the city, high above the buildings below. People have even connected love lockets to the fence. Cuties.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; you’re not my favourite place in the world, Zagreb, but there’s just something about you!
Has anyone been to Zagreb before? Did you like it or dislike it? Let me know in the comments!
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