I typically write a retrospective post when we’re leaving a country. But this time, I’m writing it as we leave our primary city. By the time we do actually leave Croatia, we will have spent almost half our time in the southern part of the country. And so far, we’ve found the north and south to be quite different. So I’ll write about Zagreb, a city we’ve come to love, before looking back again two weeks from now.
The city of Zagreb is an interesting and wondrous place. Half the time, you feel like you’re in Paris or Munich. And the other half, bits of eastern flare and culture sneak in. However you want to classify it, Zagreb certainly possesses that magical charm that attracts visitors from all over the world. The food scene is well-developed and diverse, and Croatians have great respect and appreciation for excellent wine and beer. The museums are world-class and unique, bound to impress even the most weary traveler. Here are some highlights from our time in this enchanting city:
Food and Drink
Otto and Frank: You only need to know three words to enjoy this establishment: The Zagreb Breakfast. Ham, poached eggs, radicchio, radishes, green onions and horseradish cream are piled atop a soft baguette. And it’s cheap, too!
Tacos and Burger Barr: Want to feel like you’re in Mexico City for a day? Try these creative and succulent tacos from this tiny restaurant. Their “drink of the day” is a delicious blend of tequila, cucumber and lime, and they have a few craft beers on tap. The burgers looked good, too.
50: A Champagne and Burger bar: I mean, need I say more? Excellent selection of bubbles + juicy and flavorful burgers = success. Their outdoor tables look out on to Europski square, and inside quotes from Biggie and the owner’s grandfather decorate the chalkboard walls. Excellent service as well.
Mundoaka Street Food: Fusion comfort street food has found a home – and its way into the Michelin guide – just off Old Town’s main square. It’s always packed, so get there early or make a reservation. Try the tender ribs, flavorful pulled pork, fresh and tangy salads, refreshing borscht, and so much more.
Rocket Burger: The best burgers in Zagreb. Period. And there are a lot of good options (see above!). I think it was the most flavorful, juicy beef we’ve had in years, and the toppings were on point. Great service, good (but small) beer selection. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon.
Kascheta: Pizza is a major staple throughout Croatia. If you want a simple, thin-crust version and cheap glass of good wine, check out this little place. It sits below a hostel, down a small alley, so you kind of have to know where it is. Nice servers and a great deal await you.
The Garden Brewery: A bit outside the city center, this craft brewery sits in an old warehouse down a small road behind other old warehouses. Their beers are bold and tasty, and the burgers from the on-site food truck are drip-down-your-elbows good. Their sampler is also the best value for money I’ve ever seen.
Museums and Sites:
The Museum of Broken Relationships: Who doesn’t enjoy reading about other people’s trials and tribulations? This museum provides catharsis for those just out of relationships, alongside thought-provoking entertainment for anyone who visits. See more here.
Archaeological Museum of Zagreb: A hidden gem, this three-story museum showcases several millennia of archaeological history in lovely, well-laid-out galleries. Their Egyptian collection is particularly impressive. Check out a broader summary here.
The Museum of Naïve Art: Artists who haven’t had formal training are referred to as “naïve.” Their art is some of the most beautiful and interesting I’ve seen in a while. Read more about this lovely little museum here.
The Tortureum (Museum of Torture): While you may only be able to handle this disturbing museum for a short time, it’s worth the visit. Dark corners and creepy sound effects make it all the more nerve-wracking. Read more here.
Saint Mark’s Church and Square: When I picture an eastern European church, something like St. Marks comes to mind. The colorful, tiled roof and pristine, gold-roofed interior are beautiful and different. Go earlier in the morning and you might just have it to yourself.
The Cathedral of the Assumption: One of Zagreb’s most famous landmarks, this large church’s elaborate stained glass windows and high, vaulted ceilings are sure to impress. Just be sure to cover up and pay for the privilege of taking photos.
The Dolac market: If you want cheap and fresh fruit and veggies, the Dolac market is the answer to your prayers. You’ll only need about $10-15 to stock up for the week, and many vendors will throw an extra couple potatoes or oranges into your bags for free.
Festival Svijet Na Tanjuru: The World on a Plate festival comes to Zagreb each year and celebrates a number of local restaurants. These eateries set up stalls in Europe Square and serve their specialties to hungry patrons, locals and tourists alike. Each day has a theme inspired by a country, which is expressed by performances, classes, and music each afternoon and evening.
The Food and Film festival: Right on the heels of the World on a Plate, the Food and Film festival set up shop in the long and lovely Parc Zrinjevac. Even more restaurants came out of the woodwork to showcase their food and drink, and movies play each evening throughout the festival. An excellent place for people-watching and sampling local fare.
Walking around Old Town: When in doubt, just wander and follow your nose. You’re bound to stumble upon a quirky museum, an adorable bistro, or intriguing shop. Check out the incredibly narrow (and highly graffitied) Zakmardijeve stube (street) and climb up to the Panoramic Viewpoint. Bring a lock to fasten to the railing overlooking the cathedral.
Having a drink on the square: Don’t eat, just drink and watch the world go by. Johann Franck is perfect for an Aperol Spritz while watching the sun set.