When We Return To Zagreb

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photo by Pete Heck

Note the definitive “when” instead of the suggestive “if”.

With more museums then there are hotels, a bustling market everyday and gorgeous parks throughout the city core, Zagreb deserves much more time then we alloted to explore. We immediately dug the vibe of this often overlooked city.

Poor planning on our part left us with only one full day, and that one day was a very chilly Monday, where almost all the museums and cultural centers are closed. Our fantastic tour guide Jelena helped us explore as much as we could, but the most important thing we came away with from our day was a list of things to see and do WHEN we return.

Mestrovic Museum: Croatia’s most important sculptor spent some time in Zagreb, and the musuem is in his old residence. And it’s not just his place that he shared with his wife, but also the house next door that was shared with the bearer of his children!

“The Source of Life” by Ivan Mestrovic

— The Naive Art Museum: This artistic movement, started in Croatia and mostly done in the 20th century, is made up of paintings done by untrained artists. Without formal schooling to develop their skills, they shared a much different perception of the world then their educated counterparts. I can’t help but feel compelled to visit this, being untrained at my own form of “art”, to see how I may identify with the work.

— The Green Horseshoe: Built in the late nineteenth century, majestic parks in a giant U-shape weave through the city center with gorgeous palaces built for the rich lining the streets (they now are primarily embassies and other offices). Covered in a shroud of fog and frost, we could only imagine casual picnics under big leafy trees admiring the flower gardens that reportedly burst with color in summer.

— Mant Delikatesse: Situated in the permanent market for meats and cheeses beneath the city center, an array of local delicacies are on offer. During our quick visit we sampled exquisite bear sausage (selling for $50/kilo), salted ham that literally melted in our mouths as well as several award winning cheeses. Our next visit will likely include many more stops, and some of the best meals of meats and cheese that we’ve ever had.

Sampling cheese with our guide Jelena

— Stalking people: Two residents of Zagreb have a couple of the coolest jobs we know. At noon everyday, one man shoots a cannon to time the church bells that follow consecutively, setting the whole city into a harmonious ringing of bells. Later in the day, another man has the job of lighting almost 300 old gas lanterns that softly illuminate the old city. He is quite a popular tourist attraction in his own right, and we missed him in our frantic exploration.

— Invent something: Croatia is home to some significant inventors with their world-changing wares: the necktie, pen and pencil, the MP3, fingerprinting techonology, and the alternating electric current. With enough time there, perhaps we could be inspired to create something of our own.

— Start a political party: Why not? Everyone else seems to do it! For a small country with a population of about 4.5 million, there are well over 100 polticial parties, and 5 to 6 of them represented in government at a time. I’m sure there is some political niche left uncovered that we could create!

Elections in Croatia are right now! Get your party started!

We walked through a crumbling church, sampled the freshest olive oil we’ve ever had, and even saw some live music.  It wasn’t enough.  We will be back.

Thus, until next time…


Many thanks to Jelena and the Croatian tourism board for the complimentary city tour.

Also, thanks to the Hotel Jagerhorn for our very pleasant and comfortable stay. Please click here to see our full hotel review.

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  1. Very compelling, after reading this I don’t see how I could not visit Zagreb one day. I’ll bring my politically oriented friends.

  2. Croatia has been on my ‘must see’ list for a while now. I’ve heard nothing but good things. I guess Zagreb will have to be my first stop! Great post guys!

  3. Zagreb was an interesting people watching destination for me. I was there in August and with the cafe culture, I spent a full afternoon at a cafe alternating beer and espresso. I liked walking around, but it was so hot at that point.

    There is a park out one direction(east I think) that had old growth oak trees that were pretty cool. I didn’t get to see much in my two days either, but it was a neat place. Like if Vienna had been built by Italians is how I described it at the time.

    1. They do have a really great street of cafe’s that I would have loved to spend more time at as well. And I wish we had known about that park! Ah well, next time, as I know there will be one!

  4. Exciting, sounds like a fun city. I have read a lot of people say that it wasn’t really exciting but maybe they were more keen on the Croatia party boat path. I personally would appreciate a little of both!

    1. Yes, most people bee-line for the coast when they come to Croatia. And it is pretty awesome as well, but I think they are missing out if they don’t check out Zagreb!

  5. Wow… I wished I had read this post before I went to Zagreb a few years ago. I was even staying with a friend who’s from this area and still learn about the city as much as you did. Might just have to do a city tour next time! I’m liking the “invent something” idea, keep us posted on that 😉

    – Lily

    1. Our tour guide even gave us an idea of something to invent – the “crumbling” church has to be redone every 15 years because it is, well, crumbling! She said someone needs to come up with some sort of polymer to hold it together better – ha! Not exactly down our alley, but you never know! We’ve done a few tours now (thanks to the Croatia tourism board), and they really do make a place much more interesting. I love city walking tours!

    1. Ohhh…we love Buenos Aires too! We spent two weeks there, and THAT wasn’t enough either. We’ll never get all the way around the world at this pace!

  6. What a fantastic post! I’m an American living in Zagreb and you just made me that much more excited about being here and I can’t wait for my family and friends to come visit. Zagreb is really cool and I love all of the neat things you highlighted in this post. Bravo and come back anytime!!!!

  7. Truly a superb post. The pictures are stunning and it was so nice to see how you were able to pull out so much life from these seemingly small, maybe insignificant moments. It’s not often you hear about Croatia, so seeing it in this light is so great!

    thank you

  8. BRAND spanking new to the blogging world, NOT so new to traveling. We did pretty much the same trip you describe above. We just happened upon Zagreb, as a layover from Rovinj. We spent 2 full days and 1 night and fell in love with Zagreb. What a delightful yet unknown city to Westerners. We wondered if anyone even held a job in Zagreb as they seemed to spend most of their time at the cafes which was fine with us! We also visited Plitvice and a week in Dubrovnik… glorious!!! I LOVE your blog and pictures are amazing!!!

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