At a glance
Zagreb is often just a connecting point for visitors en route to the Adriatic coast, but this vibrant capital city has far more to offer than just a few hours in transit can reveal.
Laid out along the banks of the Sava river, it is split into three distinct entities. The medieval heart, Gornji Grad (Upper Town) occupies a strategic position on a wooded hilltop, and was itself once two towns, Gradec (the secular part) and Kaptol (the ecclesiastical). A river separated them, which has long since dried up and been paved over to become the Tkalčićeva, Zagreb’s most picturesque and most popular street for strolling, drinking and watching the world go by. Below lies Donji Grad (Lower Town), largely planned and developed during the Habsburg era, a grandiose layout of opulent neoclassical buildings and tranquil green spaces.
South of the Sava is Novi Zagreb (New Zagreb), begun in the 1950s in then-typical socialist style of monotonous housing blocks, but recently rejuvenated with the development of Lake Bundek and its array of leisure activities, the opening of various shopping malls and, crucially, the establishment of Croatia’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the largest museum in the country and the first to be built in Zagreb for 125 years.
Numerous other museums and galleries dot the city; it enjoys a busy schedule of plays and performances at its theatres and at summer festival venues, while rock, jazz and classical concerts and live gigs thrum nightly across the capital.
And for good food and drink – hearty and inexpensive, with ingredients from the fertile hills and valleys that stretch from here along the Dalmatian coast – the visitor is spoiled for choice.
The entire city can be explored easily on foot or by tram while, if you have time for a day-trip, just a bus ride away are Mount Medvednica for hiking, climbing or skiing, and the Unesco-listed Plitvice lakes with their awe-inspiring torrents.