48 Hours in Zagreb, the top things to do, eat and be Seen in the City…
City breaks are the thing. The appeal of discovering new places in a long weekend, whisking yourself away from the slog of work home life and enriching yourself in a whole new culture. However once you have ticked the major city break hot spots – Amsterdam, Lisbon, Prague, Paris etc. it’s time to turn to pastures new. But just where should be next on the list? We’re here to tell you, it needs to be Zagreb in Croatia…
When you think of a trip to Croatia, the place which most likely comes to mind is either Dubrovnik or Split – both famed for their beaches and beautiful architecture. Zagreb on the other hand – while being the countries capital city – is still relatively unknown. And all the better for it. It feels a little like being let in on a secret. There are no tacky tourist shops, the streets aren’t crowded and the food is authentic. It’s a place to coax out interesting secrets and discover the real hidden charms of a city, while taking it at a leisurely pace. Picture architecture in colourful shades, burning orange rooves, cobbled streets, tiled facades and chic coffee shops.
Listen for the trundle of the blue trams through the city and watch out for the funicular railway – one of the smallest in the world yet worth a ride or as a brief respite if your legs tire from exploring. Zagreb itself is divided into three different areas – the Upper Town which is the most historic of the city, Lower Town which is a little more lively and filled with shops, parks, theatres and cafes and Novi Zagreb – the newer part of the city.
The currency is the Croatian Kuna – and there are roughly 8.5 Croatian Kuna to the pound. Change your money before you go for the best exchange rate. Things aren’t overly expensive in the city – we’d suspect this is due to it not being a very touristy location!
How to get there
The flight to Croatia takes about two to two and a half hours and you can fly direct with Croatian Airlines and British Airways from London. The transfer from the airport to the city centre is only about twenty minutes – half an hour by taxi or easily accessible city bus, an airport shuttle bus, or Uber.
The best way to get around and truly discover the city is on foot, everything is within walking distance and it’s a great chance to get to spot little nooks and crannies you wouldn’t see from public transport. If your feet get tired, hop on one of the trams which run regularly throughout the city and can easily get you where you want to go. We’d recommend you get a Zagreb card (either 24hr or 72hr) which during this time gives you unlimited travel on public transport aswell as discounted entry to a whole host of museums and attractions.
Where to stay
There are a number of places to stay within the city and one we recommend is the Palace Hotel Zagreb. Situated right in the heart of the centre, it encapsulates traditional design with contemporary amenities, tying in with the city’s rich history.
Rooms are relatively basic yet provide all you could need during your stay including a hairdryer, minibar and free wifi. Dinner is served in the main restaurant where you can try a range of traditional Croatian dishes at a reasonable price – ask your waiter for their recommendations. It is just a 20 minute drive from the airport, short walk from the train station, ten minute walk to the main square and has a tram stop right outside the front door.
Where to eat
Stara Vura is one of the oldest restaurants in Zagreb and is situated in the basement area of the Zagreb City Museum. An eclectic mix of contemporary decor with classic nuances, it is historical, interesting and intimate. The walls are crafted from a white stone and dark furniture lends sultry appeal. They serve a range of delicious dishes including fresh fish and meat and have a carefully selected wine list to match.
In the main square of Zagreb you’ll find Bacchus, a semi-underground jazz bar filled with character and hoards of antiques and vinyl records. Drink local wines and listen to live jazz in the winter and spill out into the garden terrace with a cocktail when the sun shines.
Cheese and wine bar
While the name of this bar is pretty simple, the cheese and wine list inside is detailed and delicious. Head here for cool, contemporary vibes and to taste the local wines. You can drink by the bottle or glass and pair with one of their cheese boards where you can sample a range of cheeses from all over. Cosy and intimate for lunch or a buzzing hubbub on an evening, the Cheese and Wine bar is a great place to socialise.
Express Bar is simple, elegant and manages to fit in plenty of seats both in and out doors without feeling cramped. It sells a wide variety of delicious coffees which are purely seasonal and based on fresh harvest. They also serve ‘blends’ of coffee a mixture mostly from different countries, giving you a great chance to try something new!
What to do
Be sure to book in for a walking tour during your stay as it’s a great way to see the city and really get your bearings. A walking tour will also allow you to learn about the ins and outs of the culture and history of Zagreb which you otherwise mightn’t have got a chance to discover!
There are plenty of markets to visit when in Zagreb. We recommend the central Farmers market which is just behind the main square and has a whole host of fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods. Below this is the covered food market which is also great for a wander and to get some local produce such as cheeses, hams or cakes. In this area is also the flower market which is both beautiful and a great chance to pick up a colourful bouquet.
2018 saw the city of Zagreb host its second ever Festival of Lights. Seven main locations hosted breathtaking light installations themed around “Spring” from giant laser shows to disco ball rooms, it was a truly visual masterpiece. Set to launch every year, it is well worth visiting Zagreb just for this.
Museum of Broken Relationships
The Museum of Broken Relationships is dedicated to failed Relationships, with objects and artefacts sent in by members of the public. It is unique, interesting (ideal for any nosy parkers like me) but also tinged with a hint of sadness as you read some of the stories and see simple everyday objects which once held such significant value, just a reminder of a bad relationship ending.
360 Observation Deck
The Zagreb 360 observation deck is a must visit in the city. 182 metres above sea level it gives you panoramic views of the city and a chic and contemporary space to take it all in. Take a wander round the outside walkway, before reclining in one of the comfortable chairs with a cocktail, taking in the sprawling city views below as you do.
Zagreb is a city just waiting to be discovered. It is a place that you touch down at the airport and instantly feel welcomed and safe. It is something that is new and still culturally appropriated to its roots – somewhere that doesn’t have tacky tourism shops on every corner and that plays host to more holidaymakers than it does locals. Why not head for a long weekend, or even for a couple of days as a stopover on your way to the coast? Whatever you decide, a trip to Zagreb will never disappoint.
All you need to know…
Palace Hotel Zagreb, prices start from £92 per night on a bed and breakfast basis, based on two people sharing www.palace.hr/en/
Zagreb Card offers free entry into certain attractions, and free transport around the city www.zagrebcard.com/?lang=en
Croatia Airlines flies direct from London www.croatiaairlines.com/