With long coastlines, home to over a thousand islands and crossed by the Dinaric Alps, it’s easy to see why it was difficult to spend only 10 days in Croatia.
The world perhaps only noticed that here lies a country with just 4 million after they qualified and breezed into the FIFA world cup finals in 2018.Till then I guess, it was just known for the popular ‘Games of Thrones ‘series been shot here and just about a tiny nation there.When I was zeroing into this destination in 2017, many asked me ‘Why Croatia?’
I was like ‘Why not Croatia ‘? It’s easily one of the Best destinations around Europe alongside quaint never ending beaches, Mediterranean food, economical to one’s wallet and absolutely friendly people.
So here I was in the summers of India hopping on to the flight to Zagreb, the capital and the largest city of Croatia. It’s often overlooked as a destination and not many stay put here which is really shameful as it has a lot to offer.The history of Zagreb stretches as far back as 1094. Croatia was part of Yugoslavia, and has seen the worst of the World War II. Although it was hit a few times during the resulting war, the city emerged relatively unscathed and there’s no lingering evidence. You will still find the World War tunnels here which is used and you can walk those.
Zagreb is also called a city of museums as there are more of them per square foot than any other city in the world. But this doesn’t mean that there is nothing else for you to do if you aren’t a history buff. One of the many pleasures that the Zagrebcani (the locals) enjoy is sitting in one of the numerous cafes watching the world go by. In the evening, you can visit one of the many restaurants, sampling a delicious Croatian dish, and finish the day in the one of the bars or clubs. Whatever you choose to do, you are guaranteed to have a good time!
As I landed the first thing I did was to exchange my Euro currencies to Kuna, as many outlets here does not accept any other. So ensure you do that. I had booked myself into a hostel here (Chill out Hostel) which was very much in the center of the city and walkable to all the sights nearby. I love hostel stay as you get to meet lot of other like-minded travelers too and can network well. The hostel folks also helped me hire a car which I was planning to drive from here to Split which is the best thing to do as you get to see the country side well and travel at leisure.
I decided the next day to take the Walking tour of Zagreb offered by the Hostel which was a good idea as here we had a guide who took us along the city to explain the history and significance of the place too.
Here is the guide to Sightseeing in Zagreb:
- Ban Jelacic Square- When sightseeing in Zagreb, it’s a good idea to head here first. Being the main square in the city, from here you are within walking distance of all the major attractions.In the middle of the square you will of course see a statue of Ban Jelacic himself. Josip Jelacic is a Croatian hero (ban means viceroy) who defeated the Hungarians in an uprising in 1848. His statue was erected in 1866 (in fact, pointing north towards Hungary) but was removed in 1947 after Yugoslavia was reformed post World War II. (It was removed because of its significance to Croatia – Yugoslavia was not a country to allow individual nationalism from its republics.) The statue was placed back on the square in 1990 just prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia – he now, however, faces the other way. Whilst in the square, do take a look at the beautiful buildings on all sides. There’s also a plethora of cafes in the square – take a seat, order a coffee (or beer) and watch the world go by in the pedestrianized square.
2. Zagreb Cathedral: When facing north in the square, take the right-most street and head up it to see the twin neo-Gothic spires of the cathedral. Although parts of the cathedral date from the 13th century (and after),it was very badly damaged in an earthquake in 1880.
3. Dolac Market: Near the cathedral is Zagreb’s main market – the colorful Dolac. It is definitely worth a visit to see all the stalls and sellers in action. You will find many food items (particularly fruit and veg) on sale, although there will also be some craft items and other little bits and pieces on offer. You can also have an inexpensive meal in one of the fast-food kiosks close by.
4. St Mark’s Church: One of the most famous sights in Zagreb, if not in the whole of Croatia, is St Mark’s Church with its beautiful tiled roof featuring the coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia. The church was constructed in the 13th century. The roof was destroyed during the war and is replaced a little over but you hardly see the difference.
5.Funicular railway: Just behind the hostel we stayed up was a funicular railway that was constructed in 1888. It is in fact, the oldest public transport system in Zagreb- a year older than the horse –drawn tram. On a track of just 66 meters in length, it is also the shortest funicular railway in the world. Hop on for the ride from the Upper Town to the Lower Town – or vice versa.
6. Museum of Broken Relationships: A quirky museum, it is well worth a visit – its pieces have been donated by people from across the world. Each has an accompanying story of a past relationship which can be sad, amusing or unusual – a fascinating yet brief glimpse into something so private and personal. The museum was a European Museum Award winner in 2011 for the Kenneth Hudson award of the most innovative museum in Europe.
So Zagreb , has a lot to offer from food , beer , tapas to sights. Go , Make the most of it !