Ten great things to do in Zagreb in July
Zagreb is as lively as ever in sticky July, with plenty of things to do. The city basks in the heat of this mid-summer month, with festivals, concerts and culture blooming at every crossroad. You’ll find promenades to stroll down on balmy nights, and park festivals for entertainment on dazzling afternoons. While many succumb to the calling of the coast, the Croatian capital has its own magnetic pull - if you’re visiting Zagreb in July, here are ten great things to do:
From socialism to Vogue: the Croatian shoe company stepping forward
If you’ve walked along a Croatian city street today, you’ve probably seen a Startas. Small and lightweight – and often sporting a quirky pattern – the plimsoll is taking over the streets one comfortable step at a time. They might be nearing ubiquity now, but a few decades ago, Borovo – the company behind Startas – were on the brink of collapse. Their remarkable story is the recent history of Croatia in miniature: founded in 1931 in Vukovar by a Czech entrepreneur, the company was nationalised in 1945 when the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia emerged from the ruins of WWII. The Borovo factory was an industrial beehive – 20,000 employees produced everything from laces to shoeboxes, churning out the footwear that they would themselves wear to work. In 1976, the factory started making Startas. Originally, the sneaker was designed for professional table tennis players – lightweight and flexible with the springiest of soles, it was a perfect athletic shoe. Robert Grgurev, the president of Startas USA, explains how the shoes came to be popular: “Over time, similarly to how Converse started as an athletic shoe and became a cultural icon in the US, Startas was latched onto by the younger generation, school kids and college students. Getting hold of those international brands in former Yugoslavia was impossible, so the Startas became the shoe that any kid wore.” Business boomed and employees multiplied: a whole town, Borovo Naselje, was born nearby, solely to house and sch
Splits in Zagreb: The Museum of Broken Relationships
Say what you like about the romance of travel. The fact is that going on holiday with your sweetheart can quite easily lead to a parting of the ways rather than the deeply meaningful melding of spirits that you initially intended. The trauma of mid-journey meltdown is just one of the themes dealt with by the Museum of Broken Relationships, an idiosyncratic and enlightening journey through human emotions that has become Zagreb’s most compelling attraction since opening to the public in October 2010. The museum is the brainchild of artist Dražen Grubišić and festival producer Olinka Vištica, themselves a former couple caught unprepared by the aftermath of a love that failed to last. By collecting mementoes that sum up the experience of break-up, the duo have assembled a poignant and unique series of insights into the mysteries of the human heart. The project began life as an art installation put together for the Croatian Artists’ Union’s annual salon in 2006, when Vištica and Grubišić asked their friends to supply objects that symbolised relationships gone wrong. The fact that the collection was housed in a cargo container parked in the yard outside the salon’s main exhibition space only added to the sense of intrigue. And it would have remained a one-off conceptual art gesture had it not been for an overwhelming reaction from the public. ‘It provoked an immediate and totally unexpected interest,’ Olinka Vištica explains. ‘We were suddenly receiving a flood of phone calls an
Watch the Garden brew
The Garden set something of a precedent in the history of European festivals, inspiring hoards of dance music aficionados to swap their wellies for sunblock and the sunnier shores of Croatia. Nick Colgan, a music promoter from Birmingham, started it all in 2006. He became the unknowing progenitor of a summer-long party scene, which, ten years on, brings more foreigners to the coast than ever before. It would be unfair to say Nick stumbled into all of this by accident. An intrepid tastemaker, he’s got more than a knack for being in the right place at the right time. In past guises, Nick’s been studio manager for British reggae icons UB40, jointly organised legendary boat parties in San Francisco, and even had a stint playing keys in a boyband. Now, he’s turned his sights on the burgeoning craft beer scene, recognising Croatia’s changing attitudes towards the hop. This year, the Garden Brewery in Zagreb will become the primary supplier to several large-scale festivals in Tisno. With the help of head brewer Nick Calder-Scholes, imported from London-based brewery Four Pure, they intend to distil their knowledge of the industry into a range of new, pleasingly progressive beers, capable of joining the craft beer revolution rising up through the country – as well as satisfying thousands of thirsty punters in Tisno. Last year was the tenth and final Garden Festival. Why’d you bring it to a close? It just felt right. My business partner David and I have talked about doing the brew
Interview with street artist OKO
One of Zagreb’s most prolific street artists is a young woman who goes under the name of OKO (“The Eye”). Her phantasmagorical images of humans with birds’ faces, or dreamy patterns woven from what look like entrails, are decorative and disturbing in equal measure. “The bird-faces are a symbol of freedom, of something pure” says OKO. “I read somewhere that birds are carriers of the soul after death, and I was really inspired by that idea.” Stuck to surfaces throughout the city, OKO’s pictures look like prints or photocopies; they are in fact painted on thin paper with acrylics before being glued to the wall of her choice. OKO coined the phrase “the city as a confessional booth” to help explain her relationship with public space. One of her earliest ever works involved writing her fears and frustrations on bits of paper, folded them up and put them in test tubes, which she then hung in various locations around the city to be discovered by strangers. Her trademark larger-than-life human figures with animal heads can be seen at Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Art, decorating the courtyard of Zagreb’s Medika club and at the outdoor wall of the &TD theatre bar. See more of OKO's work on her blog, or buy prints online. Q: How did you become a street artist? A: Like most things in life, it happened in a blink. One day I made a few stickers and put them up in the street. It gave me a feeling of complete freedom, and that’s the main reason why my art has stayed on the street e
All aboard Croatia's first hostel on a train
Croatia’s first hostel in a train has opened. It’s a lot like a sleeper train, with one small but significant difference: it doesn’t move. The train wagon hostel sits in the Zagreb Central Train Station, so travellers arriving by rail at night need not even pass through the exit to find a place to sleep. Just one wagon has opened so far, while two more are undergoing transformation – when they’re all finished, the hostel will be able to sleep up to 90 people. It’s got everything you might expect from your average, bricks-and-mortar hostel: toilets, showers, heating, drinking water, and Wi-Fi. Nearby there are shops, a laundry service and car and bike rental outlets. AdriaticTrainHostels But in a city where you’ll find a hostel on every corner, why squeeze another into this most unlikely of locations? The answer’s pretty much just because they can: funding comes, in part, from the government’s ‘innovative tourism projects’ programme. Essentially, the aim of the project is to draw tourists in not only with the old favourites (sun, sea, culture, cheap booze) but with peculiarities like this. AdriaticTrainHostels has been cooking up this idea for three years, delayed by various bureaucratic hindrances. Finally, it’s come to fruition. The project’s designer, Zvonko Momcilovic, points out that the hostel is completely unique – while you can find other train hostels around the world, they’re normally in separate, not-train-related locations. But if you
Ira Payer introduces Design District Zagreb: a new design festival in the Martićeva zone
I went into ‘town’ for a drink last weekend, and was nicely surprised at how much had changed. Though I am based only a five-minute walk from Zagreb’s main square, I haven’t ventured out much from our cozy neighbourhood. Let me explain a thing or two about what Zagreb locals mean when they say ‘town’: this refers only to a few hundred meters around the Ban Jelačić Square. Even people who live in the Upper Town, only a staircase away from the Square, find it a trudge when they have to go into ‘town’ in bad weather. Croats are by nature more settlers than nomads, and are especially fond of keeping to their own turf. But this is just one of the reasons why I set up permanent camp in my neighbourhood. Here, I have everything I need for a happy fulfilled life: there’s galleries, awesome farmers’ markets, a few charming cafes, amazing bookshops and an abundance of great design. Marija Gašparović Marija Gašparović This neighbourhood, with Martićeva Street as its main artery, is home to our exciting new project - Design District Zagreb - that supports the local creative and design scene. Until recently, this east-central part of Zagreb was home to office and retail spaces mainly related to the slowly dwindling automobile industry. After decades of economic slowdown and general apathy, and just like in other major European cities, the emptied out spaces were slowly taken over by the Zagreb creative community. Domagoj Kunić Urba
Zagreb coffee culture: the how to guide
The first thing you notice arriving in downtown Zagreb is the endless rows of bars with terraces packed with people having coffee during the day – every day. If you, like myself, are a picky sort of coffee drinker, this seems like a dream. But it’s not quite what you expect. Finding a decent cappuccino or a perfect flat white is possible, but will require a bit of insight and some walking around. The majority of bars and coffee shops treat coffee like a social occasion with a high return on investment. Signing a contract with a corporate brand brings in the beans – and discounts on them, free equipment and cash advances to the extent where the product itself looses importance. Most of these cafes use dark roasted bitter blends and put little skill into the preparation of milk and other important details. Nevertheless, great coffee is here in Zagreb and these are the specialty coffee places you should visit: Eli's Cafe, Ilica 63 Nik Oroši, four time barista champion of Croatia, recently moved his roasting equipment into this small space that has quickly gained a cult following. Here you can see the magic happening and enjoy the seasonal blends as well as single origin cups that started the regional specialty coffee revolution. Express bar, Petrinjska 4 The number one open air coffee location very near the main square with consistent quality and great variety of preparation methods. 42 Coffee Co, Vlaška 42 The youngest specialty coffe
Zagreb cafés: what’s on the menu
If you’re the sort of person who dives into a new place through food and drink, there’s a thing or two you should know about Zagreb cafés. Kafić, Croatian for café, is a go-to place for drinks of all sorts. With their morning to midnight concept, they’re surprisingly avant guard with their drinks schedule. Coffee is served until wee hours just as spirits, like Croatian rakija, flow freely at the start of the day. On a typical café’s menu, the usual line-up is orchestral rather than soloist: coffee and tea, soft drinks, wine, beer, spirits and sometimes cocktails. But if you’re looking to pair that dark espresso with a chocolate cake or craft beer with burger and chips, this is where the tune stops. Because of a long tradition of eating at home, Croats haven’t missed food at cafés. The golden rule was: eat your breakfast or dinner at home, then meet friends for coffee or drinks. But the winds of change are slowly stirring up. And they’re especially favourable for those who want more than a generic drink. Cafés are showing a real passion for their brews, like Eliscaffe, run by the four-time Croatian barista champion Nik Orosi. This place where specialty coffees roasted on site are made to perfection and are sipped with equally sumptuous ‘Mak na konac’ desserts has redefined Zagreb coffee culture. Everywhere else in the city coffee is a drink; at Eliscaffe coffee is art. Not long ago, expecting to have breakfast in a Zagreb café would end in disappointment. Loca
The best of Zagreb
20 great things to do in Zagreb
There are countless cultural things to do in Zagreb, and its compact size makes it easy for first time visitors to navigate. Attractions range from historic sights and fascinating galleries, complemented by destination restaurants, clusters of busy bars and numerous live music venues. Discover the very best things to do in Zagreb with our list of unmissable activities.
The best Zagreb restaurants
This ultimate guide to Zagreb restaurants covers it all: from top-level, splash-out fine dining to street food, traditional wholesome to high-end international, European bistro to east-west fusion. Get stuck in.
Zagreb nightlife guide
Vienna? Budapest? Ljubljana? Zagreb nightlife is matched by few places owing to the range of regular live music on offer – and for the sheer number of venues to stage it. Zagreb is also known for its music bars – places such as SPUNK transform into small clubs as the night wears on, with occasional live acts too. Read on for our list of the best places to dance the night away.
The best Zagreb bars
People in Croatia's capital city always give themselves time to linger and socialise over drinks. Whatever the time of year, new Zagreb bars are always raising and lowering their banners across the city centre and beyond, while traditional landmarks stay firm. Time Out's experts discover the best places to sip across town.
Essential Zagreb attractions
Zagreb attractions number plenty of stately icons among their ranks, owing to the city's status as a former Habsburg hub and capital of a new nation. Towering cathedrals, a venerable zoo and a stately cemetery all provide plenty of things to do in Zagreb. Our experts pick out the best.
Latest restaurant and bar reviews
Compared to Vienna, Budapest or Ljubljana, Zagreb contains a relatively modest number of faux pubs. This is the best of a motley bunch – and the best loved. Cosy, communal and staffed by sweethearts, Sheridan’s encourages a loyal if limited regular custom with pub quizzes and craft brews to complement the mainstay draught option of O’Hara’s – the nearest you’ll find to Guinness. Darts, TV football and occasional live music sessions provide further entertainment.
Best galleries in Zagreb
Housed in the impressively renovated Vraniczany palace on Zrinjevac, the Modern Gallery is home to the national collection of 19th- and 20th-century art. It kicks off in spectacular fashion with huge canvases by late-19th-century painters Vlaho Bukovac and Celestin Medović dominating the sublimely proportioned hexagonal entrance hall. From here the collection works its way chronologically through the history of Croatian painting, taking in Ljubo Babić's entrancing 1920s landscapes and Edo Murtić's jazzy exercises in 1950's abstract art. Several contemporary artists are featured here too - sufficient to whet your appetite before hopping over the river to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see some more. The Moderna Galerija's most innovative feature is the tactile gallery, a room containing versions of famous paintings in relief form (together with Braille captions) for unsighted visitors to explore.
When it comes to historical art collections, the Mimara is certainly Zagreb's biggest in terms of quantity. Donated to the city by wealthy patron Ante Topić Mimara, the collection includes paintings, statues and archaeological finds, organised chronologically and thematically but with little by way of English explanation. Highlights on the ground floor include oriental carpets, south-east Asian sculpture and Chinese porcelain, while the picture galleries upstairs display works from every era from the Gothic period onwards, with artists like Velázquez, Rubens, Rembrandt and Manet each putting in an appearance. It's also an important venue for temporary exhibitions with an art or archeological theme.
Zagreb has always lacked the kind of small-scale independent galleries that occupy the fertile spawning grounds in-between public art institutions and private dealers. Which is why Greta, a gallery in a former clothes shop that opens a new exhibition every Monday night, has proved such an instant hit. Greta doesn’t follow too strict a curatorial framework, ensuring the widest possible variety of artistic approaches. The gallery’s location, at the apex of a bohemian Bermuda Triangle formed by the Fine Arts Academy, the Architecture Faculty and the Sedmica bar, ensures a knowledgeable and enthusiastic public. Indeed Greta regularly receives more visitors than many of the more established galleries, with opening-night celebrants spilling out onto the pavement outside.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Costing some €60 million and covering 14,500 square metres, the MCA – MSU in Croatian – is the most significant museum to open in Zagreb for more than a century. Its collection includes pieces from the 1920s and gathered since 1954 when Zagreb's original MCA (in Upper Town) was founded. Of particular note are Carsten Höller's slides, similar to the 'Test Site' installation he built for Tate Modern's Turbine Hall but custom-made and site specific for Zagreb – pieces of art patrons can ride to the parking lot. Croatia's outstanding 1950s generation of abstract-geometric artists (Ivan Picelj, Aleksandar Srnec, Vjenceslav Richter, Vlado Kristl) play a starring role in the collection, alongside photographs and films documenting the more outlandish antics of legendary performance artists like Tom Gotovac and Vlasta Delimar. The new-media and computer-art works produced by the Zagreb-based New Tendencies movement in the late '60s and early 70s reveals just how ahead-of-its-time much of Croatian art really was.
Lurking mysteriously in a little-visited area 4km west of the centre is this brand-new private art gallery, occupying a century-old barrack block painted in alluring matt black by modern restorers. Displaying the collection of businessman Tomislav Kličko, Lauba includes major works by virtually everyone who is anyone in Croatian art from about 1950 onwards. If you've already visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, then Lauba will provide you with a refreshingly alternative take on the local art establishment, concentrating on visually appealing works as well as more conceptual exercises. Figurative paintings by Lovro Artuković and disarmingly bling sculptures by Kristjan Kožul are among the highlights.
More things to do in Zagreb
Just west of the train station and forming the east-west arm of the Green Horseshoe, these lovely gardens were founded in 1889. The first plantings took place in 1892. Since, the 4.7 hectares (11.6 acres), dominated by an English-style arboretum, and containing rock gardens, lily-pad-covered ponds, symmetrical French-inspired flowerbeds and ten glasshouses (closed to the public) have been an island of tranquillity in the city centre. It's an idyllic spot to grab a shaded bench in summer. About 10,000 plant species come mainly from Croatia, some from as far as Asia.
Maksimir Park & Zoo
A ten-minute tram ride from the main square heading east of the centre, these attractive 18 hectares (45 acres) of welcome greenery were opened to an appreciative public in 1794, the many woods, meadows and lakes landscaped in what was then considered the English style. Rolling hills cradle footpaths and cafés, providing ample room for jogging, romancing and relaxation. At one end you'll find the City Zoo, with the daily feeding times posted up for the seals, sea lions and otters, so that you can time a family visit around them. On the other side of the road stands Croatia's national football stadium, also called the Maksimir, base of home-town club Dinamo Zagreb.
The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary (Katedrala Uznesenja Blažene Djevice Marije) is Zagreb's principal landmark. And though much of the exterior has long been veiled behind construction sheathing, its neo-Gothic twin towers, visible over the city, are as close as Zagreb gets to a visual identity worthy of calling-card status. The first church was destroyed by the Tatars in 1242 and later reconstructions were damaged by fire. After an earthquake in 1880 the city hired architect Hermann Bollé, who added a monumental pair of 105m-high bell towers. The interior remains austere: neo-gothic altars, 19th-century stained glass, and an Ivan Meštrović relief that marks the resting place of controversial Croatian Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac. An effigy of the archbishop rests on a raised platform behind the main altar.
It's a pity more don't make it to this attractive cemetery. Mirogoj is widely regarded as one of the city's architectural gems. Behind a series of green, onion-shaped cupolas that cap ivy-covered brick walls, are tiled arcades, monuments to Croatia's most prominent citizens and the final resting place of 300,000 souls of various religious backgrounds. Stejepan Radić, who was shot in the Yugoslav Parliament in 1928, is buried here; so are Croatian literary giants Petar Preradović and Tin Ujević. Designed by Hermann Bollé of Cathedral fame, Mirogoj opened in 1876. As the rolling landscape continues to gain residents, it also gathers more museum-worthy sculptures, headstones and memorials. Renowned 20th-century Croatian sculptors Ivan Meštrović and Ivan Rendić are responsible for some of them. Of special note: Franjo Tudjman's modern, black-marble monument, worthy of an independent nation's first president. The grave of basketball legend Dražen Petrović, who died in a car accident at 28, is one of the most visited sites. Mirogoj comes into its own on All Souls' Day, November 1, when Croatian families visit loved ones equipped with thousands of flickering candles – a moving experience.
St Mark's Church
Two coats of arms grace the red-white-and-blue chequered roof of this emblematic church: Zagreb's and Croatia's. Since the 1200s when the Romanesque original was built, the church has gone through many architectural styles – note the Gothic south portal and baroque, copper-covered belltower. Inside are hand-painted walls by Jozo Kljaković and a crucifix by Meštrović. The square outside, housing the Ban's Palace and the Croatian Parliament, has been the hub of political activity since the 1500s.