A street art tour of Zagreb
While the urban fabric of Zagreb hasn’t changed all that much in the last ten or twenty years, large-scale art pieces are adding flourishes of colour to the greyish city centre. Graffiti is as old as civilisation itself. Ancient Romans etched bawdy words onto the basilicas of Pompeii. More artistically, perhaps, in Ancient Greece, rejected lovers often inscribed poems on the doorways of their affection. Zagreb’s sooty facades are strewn with unartistic graffiti: simplistic tags, and scrawls declaring loyalty to Dinamo, or ‘The Bad Blue Boys’ the local football team, are absolutely everywhere. Depending on where you sit, it’s a blatant form of territory marking, or an attack on public space as a form of art or protest. Unlike many capital cities still figuring that one out, Zagreb is beginning to embrace street art. Taking a laissez-faire approach to the scourge of scribbles, the city is also making big strides towards outdoor-art enlightenment. Zagreb’s cultural institutions have sought urban artists to decorate their exterior walls – prolific OKO has painted large murals at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Modern Gallery. More interestingly, the municipal authorities' decision to give over the wall of Dolac (the symbolic heart of Zagreb, and a highly-visible public space) to a popular graphic-artist, suggests that Zagreb is beginning to view street art as a legitimate attraction. Walking off the blue tram at the far-west Ljub
A walking tour of Zagreb's socialist architecture
Like Budapest, Zagreb is two cities divided by a river. Novi Zagreb lies to the south of Zagreb, across the river Sava, and was developed to house the growing population. Its skyline is dominated by the socialist realist monoliths, that I, on a grey January morning, set out to explore on foot. As an important hub within Tito’s Socialist Yugoslavia up until the ‘90s, when the country broke apart in the bloodiest wars of Europe’s recent history, Zagreb at one point vied with Belgrade for leadership of the country. During this period Croatia got more than its fair share of socialist realist architecture, made from identical concrete panels that were rolled out on vast production lines. The city now boasts some of the largest examples of this architecture in Central Europe, much of which can be found south of the river. Visitors staying in the pastel coloured Old Town may be put off by nicknames such as ‘Commie blocks’, but should remember that at the core of the housing blocks is a utopian vision of how the cities of the future might look. Forget the oxidised copper roofs of the Austro-Hungarian centre, the boxy housing estates are where you’ll find the interesting stuff. I don’t walk far from the centre before I hit Béton brut (raw concrete, from which we get the word ‘Brutalism’). Down Savska cesta just before the river are the Rakete, three rocket shaped towers that were modified after the 1963 Skopje earthquake to withstand further tremors. The nickname comes from the
Whisky Fair returns to Zagreb
The fourth annual regional Whisky Fair will be held at the Plaza Event Centar in Zagreb over 9-10 February. Over two days (the event falls on a weekend: hurrah!) visitors can taste from over 60 international whisky brands: prepare to get slowly sozzled from all free samples. Drinks from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the US will be on offer, and there will be a special VIP vault containing brands that aren’t out in Croatia yet. ©Whisky Fair Zagreb There will be plenty of whisky-related chat too, on subjects such as Kavalan whisky from Taiwan and on the finer points of sherry. Expect appearances from brands such as Glenmorangie, Chivas, Ballantine’s, Jameson, Glenlivet, Johnnie Walker, Lagavulin, Togouchi, Grant’s, Glenfiddich, Tullamore Dew, Kavalan, The Famous Grouse, Jack Daniel’s, The Macallan, Laphroaig and Ardmore. Whether you drink it neat, on the rocks, single-malt or triple-distilled, you'd better line your stomach before this one. For tickets and more details check out their website. RECOMMENDED: The best bars in Zagreb.
Brilliant things to do in Zagreb in January
When the kaleidoscopic Advent decorations are pulled down, and the streets turn into a graveyard of jaundiced Christmas pines, Zagreb can seem a bit grey and depressing in January - especially when the holidays are over. But there's enough fun stuff going on this month to help you beat the post-Christmas blues. Now the snow has set on Sljeme, you can hit the slopes or trundle up the mountain on a relaxed winter hike. Feeling more indoorsy? Get your culture fix at one of these critically-acclaimed exhibitions. And don't miss 'Night of the Museums' - when the city's major cultural institutions throw open their doors for a special after-hours event, a free festival of late-night culture. See? There's plenty of reasons to leave the house this month. RECOMMENDED: more great things to do in Zagreb this winter.
25 amazing things to do in Zagreb in winter
This attractive, Habsburg-era city is a grand place for a winter break in Croatia. The month-long Advent festival transforms the city into a lively celebration of Christmas, with several major locations dressed up with wooden chalets and glittering canopies of fairy lights. On crisp winter days, the snow-tipped Sljeme mountain range is an enjoyably bracing hike - and an unbeatable location for a beer once you've reached it's summit. Cutting-edge modern art, wonderful boutique shopping and sightseeing opportunities aplenty complete the winning mix. RECOMMENDED: more great things to do in Zagreb.
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.
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.
The best bars and restaurants in Zagreb
Vegetarian restaurants in Zagreb
Croatian cuisine is famously meat-heavy, but that doesn't mean veggies will go hungry in the capital. A small crop of eateries are providing wholesome, delicious and cheap alternatives to meat - making limp tomato and lettuce salads a thing of the past. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet or Facebook your suggestions. RECOMMENDED: More great restaurants in Zagreb.
The best Asian restaurants in Zagreb
Looking for Asian food in Zagreb? A decade ago, there wasn't a stir-fry in sight, but that's all changed in recent years. The 'Asian food' umbrella is, of course, a wide one, especially when you consider the delicious tapestry of ethnic cuisines that make up the eats of the East. Truth is, Zagreb has been slow on the uptake - but what the city lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality. These days, Cro-Asian gastronomy packs real culinary clout. Swanky fusion joints like Tekka specialise in destination dining, while more specialized restaurants serve up Japanese dumplings and Korean kimchi. Chopsticks at the ready - here's our list of the best Asian restaurants in town. RECOMMENDED: More great restaurants in Zagreb
Craft beer bars in Zagreb
The popularity of craft beer - progressive beers produced by small-scale breweries - has well and truly exploded in Zagreb. Fans of bold, flavorsome beers are rejoicing. After years of market dominance from behemoth brewers Ožujsko and Karlovačko, the craft beer revolution has taken hold, and Zagreb's bars and restaurants are fully waking up to the trend. Craft aficionados have even more reasons to be be beerful with this year's arrival of The Garden Brewery, and dedicated tap-rooms Hop In and Craft Room, which have bubbled in popularity since their recent inception. Happy drinking! RECOMMENDED: more great bars in Zagreb.
The best bistros in Zagreb
Once, eating out in Zagreb meant choosing from a slew of local restaurants with menus featuring meat, pastry, and more meat. But the capital's recent gastro-revolution has changed that. A wave of recently-opened bistros are making lunch a more exciting prospect in the capital, and most of them are the projects of passionate entrepeneurs - which means that these independent little places offer top-quality food and hand-selected decor. Like a traditional French bistro, those in Zagreb master breezy, intimate atmosphere, but their menus - often based around global 'street food' - are a welcome update. Here's our batch of the best bistros in Zagreb. RECOMMENDED: more great restaurants in Zagreb.
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.
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 Kristian Kožul are among the highlights.
Day trips from Zagreb
Zagreb day trips
If you're looking for Zagreb day trips, you're spoilt for choice. Natural beauty spots surround the capital, ranging from the majestic waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park to the marshy wetlands of Lonjsko Polje. If your city break has left you gasping for rural greenery and fresh air, these wonderful day trips are exactly what the doctor ordered. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia
Plitvice travel guide
Plitvice Lakes is one of Croatia's most alluring attractions. Just a few hours from capital city Zagreb, and easily reached by road, this remarkable feat of nature is very accessible. Visitors flock here in summer months to gaze at the 16 startlingly clear lakes and heavenly cascades spread over its lush terrain. Carefully protected by the government, Plitvice is not overrun with eateries and hotels, but you can easily find places to dine and doze around the fringes of this natural wonderland. RECOMMENDED: more great travel destinations in Croatia
Varaždin is one of the true Baroque jewels of Central Europe, with a parade of fine palaces and churches presiding over a calm, pedestrianised centre. It is also home to the country’s one unmissable non-Adriatic summer festival, the Špancirfest, a week-long series of parades, outdoor concerts and club events that takes over the town at the end of every August. With the Trash Film Festival in September and the highbrow Baroque Music Evenings soon afterwards, there’s enough going on in Varaždin to warrant the two-hour journey from Zagreb. Historically, Varaždin was a fortress town, and flourished as a strategically important Habsburg stronghold against the incursions of the Ottoman Turks. Croatian aristocrats who prospered from these border wars built their townhouses in Varaždin, turning it into a lively centre of society and culture. Meetings of the Croatian parliament were held here from 1756 onwards, and the town may well have become the long-term capital of Croatia were it not for the great Varaždin fire of 1776. It’s an easy town to explore, with a compact centre bordered by strips of park that follow the lines of the former fortress moat. Presiding over grassy embankments at the north-western corner of the centre is the resplendently whitewashed Castle, with a beautiful Renaissance courtyard girdled by earlier, 15th-century towers. Inside the castle is the City Museum (042 658 754; 9am-5pm Tue-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat & Sun; admission 25kn), with displays of arms, lo
Samobor is an easy hop, only 20km west of Zagreb near the Slovene border. A cantonal centre under Napoleon, Samobor has always been an important stop between Zagreb and the sea. Many travellers alighted at the hotel K Gradu Trstu on their way to or from Trieste. It was also at the hub of the 19th-century Illyrian movement and attracted many a Croatian poet, writer and politician whose works called for independence. A tradition of folk carnivals and balls is maintained to this day. This dovetails nicely with Samobor’s penchant for leisure and relaxation. The first spa, Šmidhen, was opened in 1868, the first public park, Anindol, in 1883, and locals flocked here from Zagreb every weekend. By 1914, Samobor could boast three hotels, a boarding house, a restaurant, a coffeehouse and 50 pubs. Until 1979, the narrow-gauge Samoborček slowly shuttled between the capital and Samobor; today it’s a quicker but perhaps less bucolic journey by car or bus (from Črnomerec or the main bus station). Visitors still come in numbers for relaxation, around Samobor’s main square of Trg kralja Tomislava, through its narrow streets, along the Gradna creek, and in the parks of Vugrinščak and Anindol. Well-preserved sights include the churches of Sv Anastazije and Sv Mihalja, and the chapel of Sv Ana. The Town Museum contains a small but delightful display of local ethnography. Samobor’s other great asset is its proximity to a wealth of easy hiking opportunities. Šoićeva kuća, a rust
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.