Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, a vibrant city with just under 800 thousand inhabitants. It is the administrative, commercial, diplomatic and cultural centre of the state. Zagreb has about 50 museums, galleries and private arts collections, as well as more than 20 theatre and concert venues.
Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, a vibrant city with just under 800 thousand inhabitants. It is the administrative, commercial, diplomatic and cultural centre of the state. It's also the university centre with approximately forty institutions of high and higher education attended by more than 40 000 students. Zagreb has about 50 museums, galleries and private arts collections, as well as more than 20 theatre and concert venues.
The city's history is long and dates as far back as 1094 when a diocese was founded here. Zagreb was bestowed the title of a free royal town in 1242, and has since spread to both banks of the river Sava. To the north, it leans against Medvednica mountain with its highest peak Sljeme being the favorite weekend spot for the citizens of Zagreb.
Trg bana Jelačića is Zagreb’s main square, dominated by a statue of Ban Josip Jelačić seated on a proud horse. The space "under the tail” of the monument is a popular rendezvous spot. The area north of the Trg includes Gornji Grad (Upper Town) and its Gradec and Kaptol neighborhoods, which are perhaps Zagreb’s most picturesque areas. At night, Zagreb’s Gradec neighborhood glows under the light of gas lamps. In the summertime, all 267 of the street fixtures are individually lighted by a traditional lamp lighter.
Donji Grad (Lower Town) is south of Gradec; it begins at Trg bana Jelačića and includes Ilica Street, where designer shops are increasing in number every day. It ends at the main train station to the south. Draškovićeva Street is Donji Grad’s eastern border, and Republika Austrija Street the western border. In the middle of this section of the city, a U-shaped series of adjacent parks runs roughly from the main square to the main train station, from there to the western end of the Botanical Gardens, then north to the end of Trg Marsala Tita. Known as the “Green Horseshoe” or Lenuci’s Horseshoe, the public green spaces are dotted with galleries, museums, and schools.
Mount Medvednica Nature Park and its highest peak Sljeme north of town can be accessed from the main square by taking the tram No. 14 to the end of the line, and then tram No. 15 to its terminus. Mirogoj Cemetery is also north of the center and can be reached via the No. 106 bus from the cathedral. Novi Zagreb (New City) is an area of apartment buildings and shopping centres south of the Sava. Maksimir Park is an elegant wooded zone east of the center, with five lakes, the city zoo, the Swiss house, Echoes Pavillion and the observation post. It can be reached via trams 4, 7, 11, and 12. Lake Jarun, also known as Zagreb Sea, is in the southwest part of the city. It's a popular recreation area where people go swimming, sailing, rowing, sunbathing and cycling, or clubbing in popular bars.
*Travelers who are staying for several days should consider buying the Zagreb Card. The card offers unlimited travel on public transport in Zagreb, discounts at virtually all of the city's museums, reduced prices at many restaurants, shops, and service providers and many other concessions. It costs 90 kuna (approx. 12 euros) and is valid for 72 hours from the date and time entered on the card. Holders of the card also receive a special booklet with a list of all of the establishments and the discounts available to them. The card can be purchased at any of Zagreb's Tourist Information Centers and at the reception desks of the majority of Zagreb's hotels.
*There are three parking zones in Zagreb, each with its own rate. When you find a space, you can pay at one of the boxes installed on most corners and display your ticket on the dashboard. You can also send an SMS to a number displayed on the parking box (send your license plate number to get an SMS confirmation. When your time is almost up, you’ll get another text asking if you want to add more time or move your car). If you don’t have a phone with a domestic SIM card, you’ll have to dial the international code first.
*No drugs of any kind are sold anywhere except at a pharmacy (ljekarna). There are several pharmacies open 24/7, the most convenient one is at the main square (Trg bana Jelačića).
*Tobacco smoking is banned in all enclosed public spaces, including restaurants and some (but not all) bars and cafes. The smaller bars / cafes could opt (and some did) to allow smoking.
*Individuals who have compulsory insurance abroad have the right to use emergency medical services during their stay in Croatia.
*As other cities in Croatia, Zagreb is very safe, but just as anywhere else, dark alleys, parks during the night, etc. should generally be avoided, and common sense should be followed. Park Ribnjak, located very close to the city centre, is safe during daytime and worth visiting, but should be avoided after dark because it's a meeting place of alternative youngsters, and subculture violence involving "skinheads" and similar violent young people has occasionally occurred. If you are going out at night (especially on weekends), steer clear of any drunk and rowdy groups of young people you might encounter in the street or night trams, as random beatings have been known to occur. Also, avoid clubs which play what is known in Croatia as "turbo-folk" music, as violence erupts in them quite easily.
*Dental Emergency service is at Perkovčeva 3; open 24/7, takes walk-ins.
*All major items brought into the country (laptops, boats, sauna equipment) must be declared; to do so ensures you will be allowed to take them back when you leave. Keep your receipts (500 HRK minimum on one receipt) in order to qualify for a VAT refund at all border customs offices.
*The electricity supply is 220V, 50Hz.
*The speed limit in urban areas is 50kph unless otherwise marked; 80kph on secondary roads and 130kph on highways. If you are stopped for any reason, you will be expected to show your driving licence, car registration papers and insurance certificate, so make sure to always keep them with you.
*Pleso International Airport is located about 16 km south of the city center. A shuttle bus runs every 30 minutes from the airport to the main bus station (the ride takes half an hour). There are no direct flights to Croatia from the U.S., Canada, or Australia, but Croatia Airlines, the national airline company, connects Zagreb with several major European hubs as well as with other cities in Croatia. The airport is relatively small; there are no left luggage facilities and all arrival and departure areas are located on the ground floor. Several local and international rent-a-car agencies have their offices at the airport.
*The main bus station (Autobusni kolodvor) is a bright, efficient hub with restaurants, shops, ATMs and tram connections to every part of the city. There's a luggage storage area on the ground floor and it's open 24/7. The ticket office, an exchange office, a post office and a bank are on the top floor. Frequent buses connect Zagreb and all of Croatia's main cities, and there are daily international connections as well.
*Zagreb's main train station(Glavni Kolodvor) is at Trg Kralja Tomislava with excellent tram connections and within walking distance of several hotels. There's a 24-hour luggage service; a restaurant with an open terrace; exchange facilities, bakeries, shops, ATMs and an information center.
*Zagreb’s electric tram system (ZET) is the most convenient transport service that will take you around the city. It runs 24/7, though the frequency is reduced on weekends, holidays and during the night. Tram routes cover the greater part of Zagreb and connect to buses that run to outlying areas and suburbs; however, trams are often late. Most lines go to the main train station, Trg bana Jelačića, or both. Tickets can be purchased at news stands for 12 kn or from the tram driver for 15 kn. Note that you cannot buy tickets from the driver in new trams. Tickets must be validated at yellow machines upon entering the tram and are good for 90 minutes. All single tickets are transfer tickets valid in multiple vehicles traveling in a single direction, so you won't need a new ticket when switching trams and/or buses. Tariff zone system exists, but only for townships and communities outside of Zagreb city limits. If you plan on taking more than two rides, buy a daily ticket. Children under 6 ride for free. Control checks are random, but not uncommon.
*There are several taxi services in Zagreb: Taxi Cammeo | Radio Taxi Zagreb | Eko Taxi | Oryx Taxi Avoid taxies that wait in front of main train station (Glavni kolodvor) or next to the main bus station (Autobusni kolodvor) that don't belong to any of the identified companies.
You can drop your letters into any yellow post (Pošta) box around the city, but if you need to buy stamps or send a package, the Central Post Office is at Jurišićeva 13, and there's another one at Branimirova (next to the main train station).
There are numerous ATMs in central Zagreb where you can withdraw cash using American Express, Diners Club, Maestro/MasterCard, Cirrus, and Visa. You can change money or traveler’s checks at most banks, exchange offices, and travel agencies for a fee (the fee is higher in hotels). Bank hours vary, but most are open from 8am to 7pm weekdays and 8am to noon on Saturdays.
In June, Strossmartre Festival takes place along the Strossmayer Promenade and stages free outdoor film screenings, concert and all sorts of fun activities. Zagreb Summer Festival in the Upper Town begins in July and lasts throughout August. It's a cycle of concerts and theatre performances, both indoor and out in the streets.
Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary The 105 m twin spires of this magnificent Gothic structure are under reconstruction since 1990. The grace and beauty of this Herman Bollé masterpiece shines as a symbol of Zagreb. Inside, the cathedral glows thanks to a refurbishment that was completed in 1988. Note the 18th-century marble pulpit by Slovenian sculptor Mihael Cussal and the sarcophagus of the controversial Blessed Alojzije Stepinac behind the main altar.
Tkalčićeva Street This cobblestone street to the left of Dolac winds up a fairly steep incline into the belly of the upper city. It is lined with boutiques, bars, restaurants, and galleries in 19th-century mansions. Tkalčićeva is also home to Zagreb’s cafe society, and every evening the tables along the street are full.
Kamenita Vrata It’s a steep walk up a long flight of stairs to Radićeva from Tkalčićeva and a few minutes more up another steep cobblestone path to Kamenita Vrata (The Stone Gate), which was one of four entrances to the walled city of Gradec. Kamenita Vrata is the only gate that survived a 1731 fire, which destroyed almost everything wooden in its path. Just inside the gate a small, dark grotto houses the Chapel of Virgin Mary where a painting of the Virgin and Child is ensconced in an alcove behind a Baroque grid. According to legend, the painting survived the fire and it is revered as a miraculous icon. There are a few pews in the urban chapel, where people come to light candles and pray all through the day.
Kula Lotršćak (Burglars’ Tower) A cannon is fired at this vestige of Gradec’s fortifications every day at noon to commemorate the Croatian victory against the Turks. You can climb the tower to get a fabulous view of the city.
Croatian National Theater This neo-Baroque building was designed by Ferdinand Helmer and Hermann Fellner of Vienna. The ostentatious temple to drama opened with lots of fanfare in 1890 when Emperor Franz Josef did the honors. Meštrović’s celebrated 1905 "Well of Life" sculpture is in front of the entrance.
The Croatian State Archives This Art Nouveau building is UNESCO-listed and one of Zagreb’s finest—it’s also home to Croatia’s most important documents. The Archives’ written holdings won’t interest most English-speaking visitors, but architecture buffs from any country will be awed by the interior and exterior treasures concentrated in the stately building that opened in 1913. Both the lobby and atrium area are adorned with brilliant mosaics, intricate ironwork, sparkling leaded glass, and lustrous marble.
Maksimir Park This lush green oasis about 3.2 km east of the center is Zagreb’s biggest park, popular among families, dog walkers, and couples going for a stroll. Opened in the late 18th century, it has five lakes and a cafe, and it houses the Zagreb City Zoo. The park is easily accessible via tram (No. 11 or 12 from Trg bana Jelačića) and it’s free (except for the zoo). Exit the tram at the Bukovacka stop, which is a few steps from the entrance.
Mirogoj Cemetery Think of Mirogoj as an open-air museum splashed with heavy doses of history and art. Many of Croatia’s heroes and common folk are buried here. Mirogoj is another Herman Bollé creation, and as such it is a fascinating mix of architecture that includes soaring domes; a neo-Renaissance arcade; and trees, flowers, and gravestones in all shapes, sizes, and colors, enclosed by a protective wall.
Zvjezdarnica Zagreb’s little known observatory is where you should head to make use of all those wishes you’ve been stockpiling over the years. It is located in the picturesque surroundings of Gornji Grad (upper town). The building continues to be a key post for scientific observation of natural astronomical phenomena, and regularly hosts visitors - both young and old - looking for a peek at stardust. For organized tours, admission is 10kn per person.
Funicular Quite possibly the shortest funicular in the world. Starting just off Ilica you can hitch a ride for 5kn up to the base of the Lotrščak Tower that guards the entrance to Gornji Grad. Steps run up the side of the tracks.
Botanical Gardens Zagreb's botanical garden offers a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city where you can relax, read a book or take photos. In addition to 10 000 different plant species, the garden features two small man-made lakes with turtles and an arboretum in the style of an English park.
Museum of Broken Relationships This museum revolves around the concept of failed relationships and their ruins, offering a chance to overcome an emotional collapse by contributing to the Museum's collection. The exhibit area covers around 300 sq m and is divided into several main themes: passion, breakup announcements, rage and fury... containing items from all over the world.
The Archaeological Museum The museum is located in the historical Vranyczany-Hafner Palace in Zrinjevac Park. Founded in 1846, the museum holds about 460 000 items, among which is one of the biggest numismatic collections in the world. Don't miss your chance to see the famous Zagreb mummy and the unique collection of Etruscan material with its linen book - the longest preserved text in the Etruscan language.
Mimara Museum The arts collection of Ante and Wiltrud Topić Mimara is based on the donations of the former and was opened to the public in 1987. The collection is housed in a Neo-Renaissance palace in one of the most beautiful squares in the Lower Town - Roosevelt Square. There are 3750 pieces in the collection and a library with more than 5400 titles. Some of the most famous exhibits include works by Lorenzetti, Raffaello, Giorgione, Veronese, Caravaggio, Canaletto, 60 paintings by the Dutch masters Rembrandt, Van Goyen, Ruisdael, 50 works by the Flemish masters Van der Weyden, Bosch, Rubens, Van Dyck, and more than 30 by the Spanish masters Velasquez, Murillo, and Goya. The permanent exhibition provides a chronological insight into the historical and stylistic periods, starting with ancient civilizations, and presents various European schools of art.
The Solar System
If you’ve ever wondered what the great big metal ball in Bogovićeva Street is, the answer is the sun - a sculpture made by Ivan Kožarić in 1971. In 2004 Davor Preis created a scale model of the solar system around this mighty Sun, including planets at the following locations: Mercury - Margaretska 3, Venus - Trg bana Josipa Jelačića 3, Earth - Varšavska 9, Mars - Tkalčićeva 21, Jupiter - Voćarska 71, Saturn - Račićeva 1, Uranus - Siget 9, Neptune - Kozari put, Pluto - Aleja Bologne (underpass). Preis never revealed the locations of the planets, so finding them turned into a game lasting until the last planet was “discovered” in 2006. It’s a great way to get a feel for the dimensions of the solar system and to discover random corners of the city. Can you find all the planets?
The slopes of Medvednica Nature Park are perfect for hiking. The highest peak, Sljeme (1,033m/3,389ft), offers great views. From here, marked footpaths lead through woodland and several mountain huts offer hearty meals and basic overnight accommodation. There are also 15 mountain biking trails, and in winter it is possible to ski.
Swimming season on Lake Jarun begins in June when the Blue Flag - the international standard for clean, safe and well maintained beaches and associated facilities - is raised. There’s a 5.5 km “trim track” right the way round where you can amble, blade or cycle at will.
Jarun has sand volleyball courts by the small lake and on the south side, where there’s also a handball court (price 80kn/h), football pitches and a softball field (belonging to a club). You can also play mini golf, table tennis, skittles and boules (boćanje). The south beach also has a floodlit skate park, an arcade with billiards and air hockey, cageball, a jumping park, a mountain bike track and a sledging hill with a mini lift in wintertime.
Zagreb and northwestern Croatia favour the kind of hearty meat dishes your might find in Vienna. Juicy pečenje (spit-roasted and baked meat) features janjetina (lamb), svinjetina (pork), and patka (duck), often accompanied by mlinci (baked noodles) or pečeni krumpir (roast potatoes). Purica (turkey) with mlinci is practically an institution of Zagreb and Zagorje menus, along with zagrebački odrezak (veal steak stuffed with ham and cheese, then fried in breadcrumbs). Vinodol Restaurant is a great place to try some of the traditional meals.
Another delicacy is sir i vrhnje (fresh cottage cheese and cream) bought from the locals at markets (Dolac, Britanac, Branimir plac, just to name a few).
Palačinke (thin pancakes) with various fillings and toppings are a common dessert; a wide variety of cakes and ice cream can be found at Vincek, the favorite pastry shop of locals and tourists alike.
Beer lovers should visit Pivnica Medvedgrad if they want to try something better than Ožujsko or Karlovačko which can be purchased at any store. For an authentic Irish brew, try one of Zagreb's few pubs - Sheridan's, Old Pharmacy or Godot, for example.
If you're more into wine, try gemišt - a mixture of white wine and mineral water which is very popular in Zagorje.
Coffee is an essential part of Croatian life, which is why Zagreb is full of cafes. Cozy places like Booksa, Divas and Velvet are popular among the young, but you can have your coffee virtually anywhere in the city.