‘Zagreb was sort of fantasy. With its endless winter grey, crumbling facades and socialist constructed periphery, Zagreb was everything I imagined when I imagined communism. In Split, the sea and living Roman remains of Diocletian’s Palace are too distracting to think of a single party rule, red stars ans sickles and hammers and well, tanks. Of course you don’t see that in Zagreb now days, but these were the mere props on the set of the Zagreb stage. Once in Zagreb, I finally had the feeling I was in Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Here, history could happen.’
– Cody Brown, Chasing a Croatian Girl: A Survivor’s Tale
Zagreb, being inland and away from any beachy attractions of Croatia, is often left in the shadows. You wouldn’t necessarily go to Zagreb unless you had to, and that is a big mistake commonly made. We would’ve been another statistic on that graph had our flight out of Croatia not been from Zagreb. Even though we had just a day to spend in the city, I’m glad we had that opportunity. The capital city is such a contrast to the other places had been in the country. It is a true blue European city which is emphasized by the Gothic architecture in the city center, its museums, galleries, summer and winter festivals, etc. that make it a hub of activity. What I found most refreshing is that unlike the other touristy places along the Dalmatian Coast, Zagreb is pocket friendly. Hallelujah!
Zagreb is divided into the Upper Town and the Lower Town. Upper Town being at a height and where most of the government buildings are while the Lower Town is dedicated to business, art and culture. It houses the larger parks and museums as well. The city is a beautiful amalgamation of the old and the new. Modern buildings and concepts survive beautifully among the traditional.
‘One Day in Zagreb’ is an itinerary of sorts that takes you through the Upper Town area of Zagreb which is the best area to see if you’re pressed for time. The city center is easy to cover on foot, so no worries there! In Zagreb, you cannot get lost. There are signs everywhere to ensure that you’re headed in the right direction. This walk will take you anywhere from 3 hours to the whole day depending on how you would like to modify it and how much time you have.
Here we go!
Stop 1 – The Funicular
We start the walk with the Funicular as it is the cutest way to get to the Upper Town. The Funicular is located on Tomićeva Street, which is a little street off Ilica street. It is one of the shortest funicular rides in the world, and hence perhaps one of the cheapest at 4 Kuna. The literally three minute ride on the Funicular takes you to the base of Lotršćak Tower. As soon as you exit, turn around to see beautiful views of the city that welcoming you.
Lotršćak Tower is one of the four ancient gates to the Old Town. It was built to guard the southern gate of the Gradec town wall. You can climb to tower to get even better views of the city.
Stop 2 – St. Mark’s Church
Walk around the Lotršćak Tower and onto Cirilometodska Street, it is impossible not to spot St. Mark’s church at the end of the street. With its bright tiled roof, it almost looks like a kid’s birthday cake that has come to life. Right next to the church is the ‘Sabor’, or the Croatian Parliament Building.
Stop 3 – Croatian Museum of Naive Art
As you head back down Cirilometodska Street after visiting St. Mark’s Church, you have the Croatian Museum of Naive Art. Naive Art is a genre of visual art created by artists who had no formal education in art. Knowing this, it makes you look at the displays from a whole new perspective. The artists were usually peasants or the working class. Since they had no formal education, the paintings are usually quite simple and honestly, quite beautiful. You can read more about the museum and the art form here.
Stop 4 – Museum of Broken Relationships
Post the visit to the Museum of Naive Art, head back down Cirilometodska Street to find the Museum of Broken Relationships. From traditional art to modern art. The museum displays relics of .. you guessed it.. broken relationships. The museum started as a travelling collection of items that were donated to the founders as an act of closure of sorts. After it traveled around the world, it found a permanent place in Zagreb.
‘The Museum of Broken Relationships encourages discussion and reflection not only on the fragility of human relationships but also on the political, social, and cultural circumstances surrounding the stories being told. The museum respects the audience’s capacity for understanding wider historical, social issues inherent to different cultures and identities and provides a catharsis for donors on a more personal level.’ – Source
The museum has a beautiful collection of items on display with wonderful (and sometimes shocking) stories that go with it. Definitely give this award winning museum a bit of your time for you would never really see anything like this again.
Stop 5 -Stone Gate
Once you’re done with the museums, it is time to head back down Radiceva Street. On the way, it is impossible to miss the shrine at the Stone Gate. The Gate was the Eastern Gate to the medieval Gradec Town. Legend has it that the wooden gate to the town was burned down in a severe fire, while the painting of the Virgin and the Child remained intact which is why the painting is believed to have magical powers. Since then, this space has become a shrine. It has been preserved beautifully and you do not realize that you’re still in the middle of a street!
Stop 6 – Tkalciceva Street
As you walk down Radiceva Street, take any one of the small streets that takes you to Tkalciceva Street. The narrow streets are lined with restaurants and you will be there just in time for a drink and lunch. (Remember to hit this street at night as the night life in Zagreb is concentrated here.)
Stop 7 – Dolac
After a nice hearty meal at Tkalciceva it is time to hit Dolac – the farmer’s market. The best way to get there is to walk down Opatovina Street (which is parallel to Tkalciceva where you just had lunch). The street ends with this beautiful view of a plaza lined with red umbrellas. Along with fresh fruits and vegetables, you can buy some amazing wooden items for your home and kitchen (which I was so tempted to buy) and you can get your souvenir shopping done here as well.
Stop 8 – Zagreb Cathedral
Tear off the Dolac onto the left side, keeping the cathedral in your sight. You will soon be on Kaptol and then at the Cathedral. It is impossible not to be in awe of this beautiful Gothic church which couldn’t be more European. The church is equally beautiful from inside as it is from the outside. It has been restored in the Neo-Baroque style since it was damaged in the 1880 earthquake. Don’t miss checking out the original clock and the marble column that have been preserved in one corner outside the main cathedral.
Stop 9 – Model of Zagreb
On your way down Kaptol, making our way to the main square, we stumbled upon a model of the city made in metal. This beautiful model filled the architect in me with pure joy. The detail is absolutely fabulous. The direction marker on the model is in the shape of the sun with a rotating globe. The globe has ‘welcome’ written in different languages and we were thrilled to find ‘Swagat’ written in Hindi!
Stop 10 – Statue of the ban Josip Jelacic
It is very easy to spot the opening at the end of the street from where the model of Zagreb is. This is the Ban Jelačić Square, which is the central square of Zagreb. The most characteristic feature about this square is the statue of Josip Jelacic after whom the square is named. Josip Jelacic was one of the most celebrated generals of the Croatian Army. The square is huge and is surrounded by beautiful buildings that makes you feel like you’re in the heart of Europe. The square is a beautiful place to hang around or meet people. Most of the celebrations in Zagreb happen here.
The little tour around Zagreb ends with you at the square. There are a lot of shops along the length of the Illica for all you shopping pangs or do what we did, head to a gelataria to suppress the gelato cravings.
Stop 11 – A Gelateria
I had to put this in. Our trip to Croatia included at least one scoop of Gelato a day. We celebrated the end of the trip with two scoops… each! We did save the best for the last. The Gelato we had in Zagreb was definitely a befitting end to the trip and I assure you, will be a befitting end to the walk as well.
Lower Town or Donji Grad
If you have some more time on your hands, you can check out the Lower Town as well. It is the area south of the Ilica. . The Lower Town has a lot of museums, galleries and parks. The buildings are simply gorgeous. The streets are wider and more inviting. The parks are perfect for a picnic which we do so often on our trips to Europe.
Zagreb turned out to be a lot more than we expected. It really is a beautiful city with so much to offer. I enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t as touristy as the other places we had been to. I do wish we had a little more time to explore the city. Have you been to Zagreb? What did you like most about it? Till then, I leave you with a few more images of this lovely city.
This post is a part of the 3Girls and a #BlogAlong hosted by Upasna from Life on My Plate, Shruti or Msz Knowitall and me. We’re back after a bit of a hiatus, but we’re all in wanderlust mode. All we can think about is the beautiful places we’ve been to, hence this month’s theme had to be Travel! Let’s hear about your favourite places, or the place you just visited, how about the place you hated! Let’s kick the wanderlust into high gear! Come join in on all the fun!