Zagreb is a European city with an interesting history and lots to see. Despite not being the most popular destination in Croatia, as tourists often flock to nice warm coastal spots like Split, it has plenty to keep a traveler busy. In fact, a single day wasn’t quite enough for us to explore!
With so little time, we immediately did what we always do and found a spot on the free walking tour of the old city. Once upon a time, Zagreb was just two little towns atop opposing hills connected by a ‘bloody’ bridge. It was the local medieval spot for residents of each side to meet and ‘resolve’ their differences.
We started our tour in ‘the square’ before exploring some of the city’s oldest architecture. A highlight was passing through the stone gate. Formally the gate into the town, in the 1700s it burned down in a devastating fire. Amongst the ruin, a wooden portrait of the Virgin Mary was found, untouched by the fire. It is now a little worse for wear looking, but you’ll find it enshrined in the stone gate. Pass through and enjoy the ambience of flickering candles and messages of thank you from those who have visited, prayed, and had their prayers answered.
Beyond the stone gate it is only a short walk to St. Mark’s Church, which has one of the most unique roofs in the whole city. Around the corner is Lotrscak Tower, which provides some of the best views of the city. It’s important to visit just before midday to get the best spot for the 12-o’clock cannon fire. Just like Edinburgh, the shot happens every day no matter the weather.
After the midday cannon, we made our way across the bloody bridge, past the aptly named ‘pub street’ (which reminded us of Siem Reap, and its whole pub street district!), and right into the heart of the daily market. Like much of Croatia, you’ll find vendors of just about everything here but only until 2 pm – then they head home to rest before starting again the next day around 5 am.
Beyond the market, and into the walls of the ‘other town’ we wandered the square in front of the Zagreb Cathedral, Croatia’s tallest building and the home of three huge gold chandeliers straight out of a Las Vegas casino!
By lunchtime, we ended up back on Pub street for a pizza and beer before joining a paid tour all about the creation and disolvement of former Yugoslavia and what happened in between. It’s a long and detailed story, but especially interesting and for us, as it was a small part of what was going on in our childhood. We watched Yugoslavia collapse on our nightly news.
As if that wasn’t heavy enough, there was one more slightly macabre place to visit on our trip around Zagreb… The eccentric Museum of Broken Relationships, featuring some of the weird and wonderful things people leave behind after a break-up. Zagreb and LA host the two permanent exhibits made up of a collection from all over the world. Despite Andrews initial sceptisism, we really enjoyed witnessing the collection and reading the stories.
Just like that, it was all over, with a beautiful sunset to boot. Zagreb has plenty more to keep visitors busy for a weekend. If you’re passing through make sure you give yourself enough time to wander the streets, gardens, and museums, check out the churches and architecture and taste something yum on Pub street or at the markets.