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What to See in Zagreb
Whether you want to spend a lot of time in Zagreb, or it's just a day or two layover on your way to Dalmatia (the coast), there's still plenty to see and do in this city. Here are my recommendations. I've been to Zagreb about a dozen times, every few years since I was a kid.
Zagreb by Day
Zagreb at Night (video)
Zagreb is the nation's capital and has a little over 1 million inhabitants. An Austro-Hungarian city, it will share some design elements with Vienna and Budapest, although on a much smaller scale. You'll want to visit "Stari Zagreb" (old Zagreb), north of the Sava river.
(+) You'll most likely have to fly through Zagreb to get to the coast anyway
(+) The city has tons of foot traffic--lots of people-watching opportunities abound
(+) The old part of town is easily walkable in a day or two.
(+) There's an interesting mix of history in the city
(-) In the late summer, it can get oppressively hot. (Look for "klimatizacija" in hotel/shop windows--it means A/C)
(-) Not even close to the coast. Lake Jarun nearby is the closest you'll get to enjoying the water in Zagreb.
(-) Don't expect to be taken seriously if you ask for "non-smoking section, please".
I'll be building out a Zagreb Hub next, but in the meantime, here are some attractions worth seeing in Zagreb:
- Ban Jelačić Square - the center of the city. The Ban (Duke) used to point his sword at Croatia's colonial master, Hungary; now it points to Serbia... A nice fountain, great cafes, and TONS of people-watching. Watch out for the trams!
- Dolac - Zagreb's open-air market. Mostly for food, but you can buy some nice souvenirs like licitarska srca or lavender oil
- Gornji Grad (Upper Town) - the really old, quiet part of town housing the presidential palace, Croatian parliament (Sabor) and St. Mark's Church, in addition to charming galleries, restaurants, and cafes. Take the funicular from Ilica, the longest street in Croatia, off Jelacic Square
- Tkalčićeva ulica ("Tkalča")- street of Jelacic Square lined with cafes for about a mile. All the cafe seats face the narrow street; i.e. a people-watcher's dream. The place to go at night for some beer and pre-club socializing, too.
- Architecture: Hrvatsko Narodno Kazalište (Croatian National Theater); Muzej Mimara; Glavni Kolodvor & Trg Kralja Tomislava (Main Railway Station and King Tomislav Square)