If you have reached our capital in the early hours of the morning then rise and shine for the smell of coffee is only a stone throw away and we recommend a hot sip to start your day. Let it be known, coffee culture is almost biblical in Croatia. And if you happen to arrive on a Saturday morning, then you’re just in time for Špica, which is where local city folk head out for coffee, mingling and giggling as they talk about their week, hot city topics and more. Dress code is pretty suave as this is when there is a true buzz in the air, and it’s right in the heart of town. Simply find a seat on Flower Square, order your beverage and see how the citizens of Zagreb breathe, sensing that impulse of the city, there and then.
Next on the agenda, head on up to the Dolac Market, the heart and soul of the city and the place to taste authentic fresh food from nearby town surroundings. The market is out in the open and if you head down to the indoor level, the dairy section is filled with specialty cheeses and creams. We suggest you buy a fine loaf of real Zagorje corn bread, and then add some cheese and sour cream for your very first breakfast in Zagreb.
Shutterstock - Dolac Market
After Dolac, head to the corner of Cesarčeva and Bakačeva Street where you will find a scaled model of Zagreb in a nutshell; a so called mini me version of the city. With the model you will get a perspective of what the centre of Zagreb looks like and where exactly you will pass whilst promenading the city streets.
Next on the agenda is a mere walk up to the Zagreb Cathedral fittingly named the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Upon entry, visit its Treasury filled with fascinating liturgical relics whilst the Sacristy holds an altarpiece depicting the Calvary, a discernible artwork from the famous painter Albrecht Dürer.
Heading away from the cathedral across Skalinska Street and Krvavi Most, your next destination ought to be the Stone Gate which is one of the age old entrances to the Upper Town. Whilst on the way, do check for the exact time of day by looking at the Sun Clock on Tkalčićeva Street; it was made by Božidar Jušić in 1955 as part of his Masters studies. The Stone Gate is one of the symbols of the city of Zagreb and it maintains a painting of Our Lady which is one of the oldest of its kind and owned by the city. In 1931, it was adorned with a crown of gold and gems. As tradition would have it, light a candle whilst at the Stone Gate to help spread peace and solidarity throughout the world.
The Upper Town is the historical centre of the city and is definitely coated with an abundant history. Get your camera ready and your sightseeing journey should entail the Church of Saint Mark with its multi-coloured bell tower and picturesque roof adorned with various coats of arms, and the interior is filled with frescoes by Jozo Kljaković and savoured works by the great Ivan Meštrović.
Lunch is almost upon you so before you settle for a well-earned meal, hop on down to Basaričekova Street for a beer in Zagreb’s oldest inn Pod starim krovovima, translated as ‘Under the old roofs’, this used to be known as Beer Street as the city’s first brewery was established here long ago.
One final stop off point is the plateau on Gradec which offers a majestic panoramic view of Zagreb, the perfect moment to soak in Croatia’s capital for all its beauty. We did say one final stop but you just have to take a snapshot with the sitting statue of the legendary Croatian writer Antun Gustav Matoš on a nearby park bench for the perfect selfie. Finally, you can head down to the city centre via the famous funicular which takes approximately 64 seconds. We say you time it, just for the fun of it all!
Zoom zoom afternoon
Lunch is calling and when in Zagreb do as the Zagrebians do! You simply have to choose from one of the restaurants and try some of the local specialties on offer. Keep an eye out for zagorska purica i mlinci, better known as Zagorje turkey with dried flatbread. This traditional meal is a ‘must try’ that had been served at both Viennese and English courts long ago. For lovers of food more green and natural, there are various homemade stews with vegetables to tingle everyone’s taste buds.
After lunch, take a walk to Park Zrinjevac, you’ll come across the meteorological column on the northern side which gives you the exact temperature in degrees, or relax under the age old trees which offer plenty of cover.
Further down, the statue of King Tomislav stands mighty and proud and is in the direction of the Esplanade Hotel, a stopping ground for the once famous Orient Express. Here is where you can devour the famous dessert known as štrukle. Once your back on your feet and reenergised, amble along to the Republic of Croatia Square and head towards the Museum of Arts and Crafts, here you can get a compelling copy of a platter depicting the triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne, which was created in a workshop on Dean Street in London, and has for a long time been part of the Museum’s collection. You can also see the bronzed clock marking the first flight of the balloon in 1783 by the Montgolfier brothers. Close by is the Croatian National Theatre, an architectural delight with the famous wall fountain The Source of Life by Ivan Meštrović.
Photo by Roberto Pavić, Croatian National Theatre
As the sun sets the buzz in the air moves to another level in the heart of town! You’re best to select from one of the restaurants to wine and dine to kick off your night. If you like good beer, take the opportunity in trying local 'craft' beer or dabble in some Croatian wines in one of the wine bars. Zagreb residents love to socialise in bars, and you’ll find a strong contingent at good rock, pop and jazz gigs. If you are keen for more, check out the local tourist guides and concerts in local clubs and venues.
And finally, before you say goodbye to Zagreb, pay a last visit to the main square, give the statue of Ban Jelačić a cheerio for it is the central monument of the square. Last minute goodies can be found nearby at the famous Croatian Kraš chocolate and candy store, don’t forget to visit the Manduševac Fountain on the main square also, soak in the atmosphere for a minute and imagine yourself throwing in a coin and making a wish as was permissible long ago, maybe even a wishful return trip to Zagreb.
The three main chandeliers in the Zagreb cathedral once decorated the Gold Coast Casino in Las Vegas!