Zagreb, The Capital of Croatia
Updated: Oct 28, 2021
After an amazing summer visiting the southern coast and islands of Croatia, Zagreb was an exciting city to visit before going home to the states. The city is relatively flat so walking or riding a bike to explore all the sites is easy and encouraged. It's a clean, vibrant, friendly city, with lots of beautiful parks, bars and restaurants.
I felt very safe in Zagreb and found the restaurants relatively inexpensive with great food and friendly staff. There was such a diversity of restaurants, Mediterranean, Indian, Asian Fusion, Curry Houses, BBQ, and French Tacos to name a few. Some of my favorite places to eat were "Has", a small, intimate restaurant with delicious food and wine. It features a small menu with many interesting choices. Ana, my waitress is actually part of the team who own the restaurant. Her husband was busy in the kitchen creating culinary delights. The restaurant was slow the night I was there so Ana spent a lot of time chatting with me and trying to teach me a few Croatian words! The meal was finished off with a complimentary pink grapefruit grappa they make which was amazing.
"Eggspress' was a fun restaurant serving interesting egg choices any time of day with an eclectic clientele. I loved "Otto and Frank" which was very close to my apartment on Tkalciceva Street which is filled with bustling cafes and colorful townhouses.
They served the best stuffed peppers and Cauliflower soup. Coffee seems to be a ritual here in Croatia. People sit for hours meeting friends and family, reading books, working on their computers, and never asked to leave. I will miss the delicious coffee served here. (White coffee with honey please! ) Another great restaurant I need to mention is SOI Fusion Bar connected to the Swanky Mint Hostel which indeed was quite swanky! Located down a side alley off the main street. SOI has a limited menu including, Green Curry, Ramen, Tuna Poke and vegetarian dishes. I had a wonderful Pad Thai that was so good and flavorful. A small restaurant packing a great punch that any "foodie" would enjoy.
The tram is a great way to see all that Zagreb has to offer. For eight Kuna (approx. $1.35), a single ticket let's you travel from one end of the city to another all above ground taking in the street life passing by.
The map system is a bit confusing and overwhelming. I used the free "Moovit" app where you can punch in your destination and it tells you what tram to take and the time it will depart from your destination. This app was a life saver for me since "mapgirl", Jamie had returned to Nashville leaving me to fend for myself. After walking 6.5 miles the first day I realized if I had used a map I could have cut off three miles of that walk!
Another easy and inexpensive way to get around the city is using Uber. The average cost of a ride is $5.00. It's worth mentioning that most of the downtown area is cut off from traffic making it an easy city for walking.
Zagreb is divided into the upper city and the lower city. The upper city is the more historical section of town, quiet and subdued. Some of the interesting sites include St. Mark's church with it's stunning, colorful, glazed roof tiles with two coats of arms dating back to 1882. The left side represents the Kingdom of Croatia, and the right side, the City of Zagreb.
The Stone Gate has an interesting history dating back to the middle ages. The gate was rebuilt after the devastating fire that swept the city in 1731. Miraculously, found in the rubble, was a painting of the Virgin Mary unharmed. The tunnel gate then became a chapel dedicated to the Mother of God with flickering candles and plaques of gratitude covering the walls. There are pews where people can kneel and pray as they pass thorough the gate.
Strolling through the beautiful parks you can see the gas lamps dating back to 1863. There are more than 200 of these lamps that are still lite every night by a lamplighter and dimmed in the morning as in centuries past.
Also located in the upper town was an interesting and unusual museum called "The Museum of broken Relationships". It used to be a traveling exhibition but now has a permanent home in Zagreb. The displays are both funny and sad, ranging from a bicycle, wedding dress, to scrapes of paper with notes on them. I offered to donate a few of my own " broken pieces" but it seems they have more than enough donations!
A fun way to get to the upper city from the lower is to take the "world's smallest" and "Europe's most beautiful Funicular".
I would avoid riding it at noon on any given day because a cannon is shot from the Kula Lotrscak tower directly above it. It packs a very loud bang heard all over the city. A reminder that it is 12 noon. So set your watches!
The lower city of Zagreb is mixed with the old Romanesque and Gothic architecture design seen in the old palaces and homes on the streets mixed in with new modern buildings. There are so many town squares with beautiful parks ,cafes, and restaurants.
I visited the Botanical Gardens which was a little disappointing because nothing was blooming and winter was setting in. I can imagine in the Spring and Summer it would be quite lovely with all the blooming plants. It covers an area of two acres and boosts 10,000 species of plants.
Another park I visited was Maksimir Park, reached from the town square on tram number eleven or twelve. This is one of the oldest parks in the world opening in 1794. The park consists of five lakes, meadows, streams and walking paths. It also home to 100 year old oak tree forests. The Zagreb Zoo is located in the southern part of the park. It's a great place to get away from the buzz of the city and relax with a good book or leisurely stroll. Bike paths are also available.
My time is Zagreb was short but I really enjoyed the hustle and bustle of city life there. After the Covid years, it was so nice to see people out and about enjoying friends and socializing again. As much as I loved the serenity of Island life all summer, it was nice to spend time in a thriving city again.
Prior to my departure back to the states, I had to get a Covid test before I could leave the country. Zagreb was well set up to accommodate tourist. I just had to apply for an appointment on line at one of the three locations listed, www.zg.brzitest.com.hr . Results received within twenty minutes. The cost was 100 kuna which was approx. $16.00 US.
I will definitely return to Zagreb. I look forward to exploring the city further, eating at more of their fine restaurants, and hanging out in their beautiful parks.