Which city comes to your mind first when thinking of Croatia? I bet it’s not Zagreb. Though Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, it’s probably not one of the most popular touristy cities in the country. Still it was the first one we visited together and our reason was simple: it’s just 3 hours drive from our home in Budapest, so it seemed to be a perfect weekend trip. Also, it was the end of March and all the trees were in bloom in the region. Any city is wonderful when it’s full of flowers, right? Right. 🙂
Our first impressions
In the first place, Zagreb didn’t seem like a capital and with half of Budapest’s population it’s probably one of the smallest capitals we’ve visited so far. But also its center reminded us more of a smaller town’s charming center rather than of a busy city’s. And we actually liked that!
Another thing what we liked is that it was not flooded with tourists at all. We could sit in beautiful St Mark’s Church alone in peace and quiet for a while. Majority of the people on the streets were locals. Whenever we had short interactions in a shop or in a museum we felt that they are happy to welcome us in their city and not tired of tourists already as we felt in some of the most touristy European cities.
Our favorite spots
We have two very favorite squares in Zagreb. One is St Mark Square (Trg svetog Marka) which is kind of the main square with the Croatian parliament called Sabor and with St Mark’s Church in the middle. While we didn’t find anything special about the parliament building, St Mark’s Church grabbed our attention instantly with its colorful roof. Its interior is beautiful, too, and it’s free to enter.
Our other favorite was the Cathedral of Zagreb and the square in front of it. The gothic cathedral is quite huge and majestic both from outside and from inside. The lovely square in front it is surrounded by nice old buildings and it was also decorated with giant Easter eggs.
So… is it true love?
There’s cities where we love certain spots and buildings, but not really the city as a whole. Then there’s those where we can’t really name significant must-see places, we just love the city as a whole. (And there’s the perfect combination: both admiring certain spots and loving the city as a whole – yes, it exists! For us Vienna or San Francisco is certainly in this category.)
But Zagreb is the second one. We can’t really highlight buildings or squares which are magnificent or breathtakingly beautiful or famous (the so called must-sees…), but at the same time the whole city center itself is just so lovely! Our overall feeling was that it’s just good to be there, walk on the streets and in the parks, staring at the lovely fountains and all the flowers.
The magic of blooming flowers
In addition to the narrow streets and charming old buildings, there’s a lot of small and nice parks in the center and we especially enjoyed them because of the blooming flowers. All the flowerbeds were already full with flowers and a lot of trees were in bloom, too.
Park Zrinjevac is one of these nice parks enclosed by some pretty pieces of architecture. The small squares near the main train station are also peaceful and lovely with lots of green and fountains.
Maksimir Park is larger and further from the center and it has several lakes and creeks, tons of ducks, and Zagreb’s Zoo is also located inside the park.
Ever heard about the Museum of Broken Relationships?
Yes, it’s the real name of this museum and it’s in Zagreb’s center, very close to St Mark Square. Things and stories are collected here which are all memories of broken relationships. Not just romantic relationships, but parent-child relationships and friendships, too. Some of them are sweet. Some are funny. Some are bitter. Some are terrible.
Though this museum is small and an hour is enough to visit it, but it will definitely make you think about a whole lot of things for a while.
Climbing Sljeme in Medvednica Nature Park
If you read our blog for a while, you are probably not surprised that we spent some time hiking during this trip as well. Medvednica Nature Park is only roughly 30 minutes drive from Zagreb, but it can be accessed by bus, too. Medvednica is not a very high mountain, but that meant we could hike to the top even as early as the end of March.
Bikčevićeva Trail is said to be the nicest trail and we continued to Sljeme summit (1035 m) from its end. The hike is mostly in the forest which was still bald when we visited, but we saw the first flowers – a lot of them! – and some snow at the top. We needed about half a day for the entire hike, but without climbing to the very top, it could be even shorter, though it’s steep at certain sections.
How to get there? Bikčevićeva staza is the name of the bus station near the trailhead and Google can find this location, too. From there it’s easy to follow the signs and the parking lot is quite big, you can notice it easily. The trail starts from the parking lot.
All in all
Is Zagreb the most famous Croatian city? No. Even on our own bucket list other Croatian cities and towns are higher than Zagreb, we are just waiting for the summer and our longer holiday to visit them. But Zagreb was the closest to us and we had such a nice time there!
Our opinion is that it’s worth spending 1 day exploring Zagreb it if it’s on your way anyway (for example you arrive to Zagreb airport). But don’t plan for more than 1-2 days, because that’s enough to walk around and see everything and there’s so much amazing destinations in Croatia. Of course, you do whatever the hell you want, but you know that. 🙂 We are totally excited about our upcoming road trip in Croatia and of course, we will share all the details with you!
Have you ever thought of visiting Zagreb?