Zagreb you made us smile everyday 😃.
Zagreb does not have an Eiffel tower nor does it have a Grand Canyon, but what it does have is just everyday life, with people riding bicycles and people heading to the market to pick up their fresh flowers and produce. In every neighbourhood, there is a favourite café with regulars sipping on their coffee with friends. Zagreb is not a city that you come to in order to see big showy sites. It’s definitely a city that you have to stay more than a day or two in order to get in sync with its rhythm.
Zagreb has a bit over 600,000 people but yet it feels “relaxed“. It seems to lack the noise and chaos of a bigger city. For some reason, no one seems to be in a big rush here. If slowing down while having all the conveniences of a larger city is what you are looking for, then Zagreb is for you.
This city’s main core area has practically no vehicles, therefore no traffic noise. But what you hear is music playing and this makes you smile, even on a spring showery day.
💕The city of a million hearts –
Zagreb is called the city of a million hearts. Traditionally these hearts known as licitars. are decorated biscuits made of sweet honey dough. They are often given at special occasions and holidays. For Zagreb, they have now become the symbol of the city as it represents its warmth and energy. You’ll definitely run into these hearts on your visit to Zagreb.
This past week we could see the build-up to the Easter Holiday. A new little market area was set up, selling Easter treats, food and crafts. Of course, the licitars hearts were there.😊
As a tourist –
Something unique we found here is that nothing much has been adjusted for us, the tourists- at least not YET. What the city has to offer is already in place for its own residents and the tourist gets the privilege to participate along with them. Unlike other European cities we’ve visited in the past few years, there is no big construction going on here to accommodate us. We think that will soon change as you see more of us arriving & enjoying what this city has to offer. Hopefully, it won’t change too fast, as Zagreb, we love you just the way you are.
We found the people here friendly, helpful, humble and welcoming. Zagreb also has a number of universities which also brings a youthful population to the city.
Zagreb gave us an authentic European experience. It’s been pleasant to simply sit down, slow down, and enjoy the ambience 😊
Our neighbourhood –
We had a nice modern apartment, which we booked through Airbnb. It was within walking distance to everything. ( a review at end of this post).
Every day, our walk to and from our apartment took us on Tkalčićeva Street. This street is filled with life and has numerous colourful boutiques, restaurants and cafes that line up both sides. When you walk along this street, it’s hard to imagine that in the period of 1899 to 1941, almost every house was once a brothel. Now it is one of the most attractive streets of the city. Here below on Tkalčićeva is the snazzy Village Tavern. They have huge glass panel doors that open up to the street.
Our Saturday “ritual” in Zagreb –
During our month in Zagreb, every Saturday was “market day.” We always made sure that we were in the city on that day. On Saturdays, the city seems to take on another “life” . There are people out and about, with the market often being their first stop. In the photo below you can notice the bright red market umbrellas in the centre of it all. We took this photo on top of the 16th floor of an observation deck, also known as the Zagreb Eye in the Ban Jelačić Main Square. It’s worth the trip up there for these spectacular panoramic views of the city.
The first stop at the market for us was always to get some flowers. So many varieties but what is helpful is that many small bouquets are already done up. Flowers to go, please!🌺
At the market you always had to watch out for those, market buggies!….okay, I think we need someone to direct “buggy traffic”out here! 👮♂️😊
We also joined in on the local custom of špica , which is having coffee & lunch on Saturdays in the city centre with friends and family. Instead of sleeping in, locals dress up and head to the city centre to catch up with each other. It’s obvious that it’s all about socializing, relaxing and of course enjoying a kava. Maybe a bit of people watching too! 😊
Just look at the photos below, the first taken at about 9am on Saturday, no one around, and then by 11am, the scene comes alive! Not a seat left anywhere. Bernard, we best grab our seat, quick!
Where we usually sat for špica there was always a message written upon this sign below (in Croatian), but last Saturday there was one written in English that we quite enjoyed.
So, Bernard, I don’t know about you, but it’s wine for me today!
Zagreb’s parks and green spaces –
Zagreb has a number of parks and also green spaces within the city. Many streets are lined with trees and green spaces are visible every few blocks.
During our time here we managed to get to a few of these beautiful parks.
Checking out the cultural events –
On the cultural scene, there appears to be always something happening in the city. Here below are a few events we managed to get too during our stay.
As we mentioned in a previous post the week we arrived, the city was having it’s week-long Spring “Festival of Lights“. The whole upper town was illuminated. This building ‘ facade, for example, was totally transformed into an aquarium.
A musical performance, Jesus Christ Superstar was also in Zagreb during the time we were there as they are touring Europe. We were lucky enough to get tickets as it was completely sold out. It was being presented at the Komedija theatre. This theatre is beautiful and probably only seats 500 people. With this size, you feel like you are right on stage with all the performers. Check out this theatre if you come to Zagreb.
We were thrilled to attend a rosé & sparkling wine tasting event at one of the city’s museums (Mimara) which was an absolutely beautiful venue. We had a fun afternoon and learned lots about some of these tasty local wines. Think PINK for this event!🌸
One rainy afternoon we attended a Croatian wine tasting event at a wine bar, Bornstein. The building in which this wine cellar is located is in the heart of the former religious quarter and where the landlord is still the local church. ⛪️Our presenter brought us through a sampling of various Croatian wines as well as gave us many historical facts on the country. Apart from tastings, there is also live music and other events, weekly at this wine bar.
Kontesa Jazz & Cabaret club – Kontesa is a venue for live jazz music & cabaret. If you are going to Zagreb and enjoy jazz music we would recommend this club. The decor is how you would expect a jazz club to look like. We were thrilled to see a French Jazz group performing there as part of festivities for “La fête de la Francophonie en Croatie.”
A City of Museums –
Zagreb is well known for its museums and it offers 28 in total. We could have basically visited one each day. We did manage to get to a few of them (below).
Mimara Museum – This museum houses 3750 works of art The collection contains art from French Impressionists. You can marvel at paintings from Goya, Rubens, Renoir, and many others.
Say hello to a couple of Renoir’s 🎨
Museum of Broken Relationships – There are two locations, one here in Zagreb and one in Los Angeles. It’s a bizarre concept but it seems to work. Apparently, it’s the most visited museum in the whole of Croatia but receives no state funding. Some of the exhibits are expectably sad, but some are even funny. People from around the globe have donated articles, objects, letters etc which for them represents their break-up.
We also got to the Croatian Museum of Naive Art. This was quite interesting and some of the paintings were painted directly on the glass which made them stand out, so vibrant in colour. It’s remarkable to think that these artists were never formally trained in the art world.
Museum of war photography – the image of war is a museum of war photography whose aim is to show the horrors of war through the eyes of professional photographers. The museum also tells the stories of the ordinary and innocent people caught up in this war. Sadly, this war happened really not that long ago. This photography exhibition covers those years from 1991 to 1995.
Staying active –
We’ve been trying to keep active during our time in Zagreb. We attended a fitness centre, Forma gym which we tried to get too as much as possible.
We were also happy to learn that Zagrebians often go hiking up the Medvednica mountain which is located just on the outskirt of the city. We decided to go try it out as well. What is cool about reaching this mountain peak is that you get rewarded by getting to eat at one of the mountain huts, located at the top of the mountain. Was this experience ever neat!
We took off early one morning with the foot of the mountain just a short tram ride away from the city. We did not know too much about where we were going, as there was not much information on the web on how to access the trails. Luckily it was on a Sunday, with lots of locals going hiking so we just followed the gang in front of us.
Finally, we reached the peak with Zagreb city way down there!⛰
Okay Bernard stop laughing at me, I’m resting my eyes!!!!🤣
Now for the reward!
After a hike like this nothing tastes better than a home-cooked meal. We managed to get one at the mountain hut, called Grofica.
You only have a few choices on the menu at these huts and guess what, we couldn’t read any of it! We got in line anyway. It was similar to getting in line, cafeteria-style. We were wondering how this would go, what would we order and how?? 😕 🤷♂️And then BINGO, as we should have expected in Zagreb this wonderful lady from the kitchen came to our rescue to help us with the menu! Were we that obvious?! 🤣 Barbecued pork, please! Hvala!
What’s for dinner? –
When you are away for this long, you have to eat-in as much as possible. Basically, we’ve been dining out about the same amount of time as if we were at home. When eating out we’ve been seeking out regionally dishes.
When cooking for ourselves you lack a lot of the staples you normally would have at home but you make do with what you have and it works. It’s all about checking out the grocery stores and market and being creative.
Here below Bernard is cooking up his signature dish! For some odd reason, this is a dish that he typically only makes when we travel and it’s to die for! Pasta, fresh pesto & not too sure what else. It’s never good to know the chef’s recipe! 😊 La p’tite nappe champêtre often comes out of hiding for these meals.
UPDATE– Do you remember us mentioning the following in a previous post – for 150 years now, the street lights of the upper town gets illuminated manually, one by one. There are still 214 of them. We are on a mission to catch this guy in the act before we leave Zagreb. We’ll let you know if we do! Well, guess what, we hunted him down! There was me and a couple of other women following him around and taking pictures. I was so excited that most of my pictures didn’t turn out! 😊 He seemed quite amused by the whole Paparazzi scene. We got lots of big smiles.😊
After all that running around tracking down the lantern guy, it’s now time to relax, stroll the upper town and admire all the lanterns.
Mr. Zagreb, I came to say goodbye. 🌺
As we depart, we will be leaving a bit of our own hearts back there.
Bonne nuit Zagreb.
What we enjoyed about Zagreb –
EVERYTHING– Zagreb is often a transit point to the country’s Adriatic Coast. However recently more people are staying longer to discover the city. Lonely Planet has recognized Zagreb as a No.1 destination and it was also voted for being the best Christmas market in Europe, for three years in a row. So, don’t just pass through Zagreb, it deserves so much more of your time.
What we didn’t find here –
Euros – Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like math. So arriving in Croatia and having to deal with figuring out the kunas brought many chuckles along the way! So really 200 kunas is just $40 Can?
Apartment review – In Zagreb, we stayed in a new modern apartment. Big windows with lots of natural light. The location was perfect, only a 10 minute walk to the main square and upper town. It was a very safe and quiet area and building. No elevators but this apartment is only on the 2nd floor. No washing machine. We would absolutely stay here again.
Next bus stop 🚌 Budapest, Hungary 🇭🇺