Often viewed as a mere stopover on the way to the Adriatic coast, Croatia’s capital Zagreb is waiting to be discovered.
Nestled between the lush hills of Croatia, Zagreb is a city that often slips under the radar for many travellers. Plan to spend a few days in the city to unpeel intricate layers of history and vibrant cultural offerings, and uncover a lifestyle that seamlessly balances tradition and modernity.
Be transported back as you wander through Zagreb’s old-world cobblestone streets. Get intrigued at the city’s train station, which was once a stop for the famed Orient Express. Spot famous and not-so-famous Croatian sculptures. Board one of the shortest funiculars in the world to the Upper Town, known as Gornji Grad. It is a quintessentially European affair, with medieval architecture and charming squares. Witness 150-year-old gas-powered street lamps being lit at sundown. Don’t miss the iconic St. Mark’s Church, a unique masterpiece with a vivid Lego-style chequered roof depicting Croatia’s coat of arms and medieval history. Stroll through the Stone Gate, the only surviving medieval gate of the city, to find a chapel with a revered painting of the Virgin Mary.
touch the culture.
Zagreb has a vibrant cultural scene with fascinating museums, galleries, and theatres. Find street art, including the half-kilometre-long mural on Kneza Branimira Street. For a quirky experience, step into The Museum of Broken Relationships, where an unconventional collection of mementoes from past relationships narrates touching stories. At the Mimara Museum, you can see an impressive array of art and artefacts from around the world, spanning centuries of history. If contemporary local art interests you, consider visiting the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery, housed within a historic palace.
melt into market magic.
Visit the bustling market to feel the true soul and spirit of Zagreb. Dolac Market, the city’s leading farmers’ market, is a sensory extravaganza of colours, aromas, and sounds. Stalls and vendors showcase fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and handmade crafts in a lively atmosphere that embodies the city’s heart. Engage in friendly banter with the vendors, uncover a hidden culinary gem or take home a unique souvenir.
be a gourmand.
Croatian cuisine is a delightful blend of Mediterranean and Central European influences, and the capital is the perfect place to taste these authentic delights. Head to the charming cafes and restaurants lining Tkalciceva Street and indulge in local specialities. Don’t miss the opportunity to relish strukli, a traditional pastry filled with cottage cheese; or try a hearty bowl of štrukli, a savoury dumpling dish. Pair your meal with a glass of local wine to know how Croatians relish their cuisine.
step up the nightlife.
When the sun sets, Zagreb transforms into a thriving hub of high energy. Tkalčićeva Street is a hotspot for intimate venues belting live music, from jazz to indie rock. For those who prefer something more sophisticated, there are regular opera, ballet, and theatre performances at the Croatian National Theatre.
be one with nature.
Zagreb’s urban spaces seamlessly merge into nature’s tranquil embrace, thanks to abundant lush parks and green spaces. Strossmayer Promenade, adorned with sculptures and city views, is a favourite haunt for locals to hike, cycle and relax under tree benches. Seek tranquillity at Maksimir Park, Croatia’s oldest public park and an oasis of relaxation with winding pathways, serene lakes, and a zoo. Join locals in strolls, soak up the picturesque scenery or attend cultural events or concerts in verdant surroundings. Venture to the foothills of Mount Medvednica for panoramic city views and or hike through its pristine forests. The mountain transforms into a skiing and snowboarding haven in winter, offering outdoor adventures for all seasons. It is a year-round playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering winter skiing, vibrant spring flora, refreshing summer hikes, and captivating foliage in autumn, all just a stone’s throw from the city.
See a different side of Zagreb at the beautiful Mirogoj Cemetery for an uncommon, reflective afternoon. This lesser-known spot in the city is an architectural gem featuring graceful arcades, intricate sculptures, and serene pathways through landscaped gardens. The cemetery is a peaceful slice of paradise away from the busy city, offering a deep dive into art, history, and spirituality in an unconventional setting.
Beyond the city
Just a short drive from Zagreb, you can visit Trakoscan Castle, a fairytale fortress in the hills. With its rich history, art collections, and picturesque setting overlooking Trakoscan Lake, the castle offers a glimpse into Croatian heritage. Add Plitvice Lakes National Park to your itinerary for the ultimate day trip. The breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage site lies within cascading lakes and waterfalls weaving through lush forests. Wooden pathways wind around the crystalline turquoise waters, offering a one-of-a-kind hiking experience in one of Europe’s most stunning natural wonders.
Whether you are a history enthusiast, a culinary connoisseur, an art buff or an outdoor lover seeking natural beauty, Zagreb ticks off all the boxes. Go beyond the obvious to discover a rich tapestry of history, culture, and experiences in one of Europe’s most underrated capital cities.
All photographs courtesy: Vikas Baijal
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
— How to reach Zagreb?
Emirates and Lufthansa offer flights from Bengaluru to Zagreb.
— What is the best month to visit Zagreb?
Travellers often visit Croatia in May and June or September and October when the weather is pleasant and sunny. July and August, which are high tourist seasons as well, can get hot, especially in the afternoon. January in Zagreb can be cold but it doesn’t snow.
— What is Croatia famous for?
Not only does Croatia house gorgeous waterfalls, beautiful islands and ancient Roman ruins, but it is also famed for its honey, pag cheese, and Christmas markets. Moreover, it is also famous for doubling as the setting for the popular movie, Games of Thrones.