Before going to Croatia, I was most looking forward to spending time on the coast, in places like Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. However, my friend Lee had spent three weeks in Zagreb in 2015, and insisted it was one of the best places around. Our original itinerary didn’t plan for any time there, so instead of cramming in Belgrade or Sarajevo after Slovenia, I decided to spend four leisurely days in Zagreb, and I am so happy I did!
I spent my time in Zagreb before Gareth arrived, and it was the perfect city to do solo. It was small, safe, walkable, and oh my god so cute. I LOVE Zagreb. In an alternative life I never left and am hanging about, still as enthusiastic and in awe as I was when I first arrived. It was my favourite part of Croatia. Perhaps if we’d gone in warmer weather, when swimming was an option, I’d feel differently, but we went in April and Zagreb was the hands down winner.
Where to stay
I stayed at Hostel Chic which was exactly what I needed after being in crazy (bed bug ridden!) hostels for the last week. I’d only recommend Hostel Chic in the right circumstances. Unlike any other hostel I’ve ever stayed in, I was the youngest person there. It seemed to have about a 50/50 mix of people there for a short time, and people there longer term. Each night I planned to leave to find somewhere a bit livelier, but I ended up staying there the whole time. Zagreb is known for its amazing hostel scene, which is definitely worth looking into. But Hostel Chic was quiet, and each bed had its own lamp, plugs, and a half wall, so no one could see anyone else from their beds, and the bit of privacy was so refreshing!
If you’re looking for something a bit more social, I’ve heard great things about Swanky Mint Hostel.
Things to do
Zagreb is so beautiful and so walkable. The city isn’t very large and it’s easy to explore. It’s also home to my absolute favourite museum in the world, the Museum of Broken Relationships. I spent hours in there—I wish they would open a place in London so I could go back all the time. It was so interesting and healing in a way, to see all the different experiences people have had. It wasn’t just romantic relationships, but familial, friends, everything that once meant something. A lot were decades in the past and it was like getting to skim the book of someone’s life. I really loved it and could not recommend it more.
I also went to the which was smaller, quieter, and fairly inexpensive to visit. The art inside was gorgeous, and I loved getting another tiny taste of Croatian culture.
Be sure to visit St Mark’s Church which is maybe the most vibrant and fun church I’ve ever seen. On the way up I stopped into some really cool art shops, and picked up a hand painted canvas depicting Marija Jurić , the first female journalist.
After leaving, keep heading away from the church and you’ll end up at an incredible outlook, with great views of the city. You can order drinks and sit, which I did, spending a few hours reading and writing. It was one of the best days, and I basically repeated it again and again —just changing up where I ate, and adding in a few new hang out spots—the Botanical Garden, the little café next to the Museum of Broken Relationships, and the other parks around the city. There’s also Dolac, a big market open daily from 7-2, a great place to pick up fresh produce and souvenirs. And while Zagreb was very relaxed, the city still felt really vibrant and alive.
I feel awful Gareth missed it, but it just means we have to go back to Croatia—what a not terrible problem to have!
Definitely do breakfast at Otto & Frank. I went there two of my four days, and nowhere else compared.
Eat at one of the places above the market. I went to PLAC and had their mixed grill plate, which was pretty good, though some of the other food looked better.
Make sure to try a fritule, a yummu donut-like Croatian pastry made for Christmas (but available year round).
Dolac market has fresh fruit and veg, which is a nice snack for a day spent wandering.
Zagreb was just the start of a fantastic week and a half in Croatia, but I maintain it was the best part. Don’t skip it just because it isn’t on the coast!