Croatia’s capital has barrels of charm and is perfectly suited for first-time visitors. Small and easy to get around, it contains plenty of historic sights and fascinating galleries, complemented by destination restaurants, clusters of busy bars and numerous live-music venues. Everything is an easy walk or, at most, a few tram stops, from the main square.
Visitors to Zagreb's handsomely historical city centre are often struck by its absence of chain stores. Instead of Starbucks, you'll find independent shops, markets, cafe-bars and bakeries careening its winding pedestrianised streets.
Zagreb’s shopping centres are where retail therapy really gets serious. Shoppers seeking the chain stores and big brands go just south of the Sava to Arena Centar, one of the region’s biggest indoor shopping malls.
Situated next to the city’s major sports hall where all the major games and music events happen, this giant shopping and entertainment centre hosts all the brands you know from home - and more. We explore everything Arena Centar has to offer, from fun for the kids to fantastic local designers and from restaurants, bars and cafes to top-notch entertainment venues.
1. Retail therapy
A funky array of established chains and independents, this huge shopping centre in south-west Zagreb is home to 200 shops and kiosks that should leave you satisfyingly bag-laden. Expect to find popular labels such as Zara and H&M among the luxury fashion houses, including Armani and Tommy Hilfiger. With its blend of trusty big labels, all the high street brands you could ever wish for and a few specialist shops in the mix, Arena Centar is a shopper’s paradise.
2. Shopping for all budgets
Arena Centar houses a gigantic range of shops to suit all budgets, where you'll Liu Jo, Massimo Dutti, Pandora and Swarovski rubbing shoulders with high-street favourites like Desigual, H&M and United Colors of Benetton.
Arena Centar is the place for destination shopping: nowhere else in Zagreb can you browse this many fashion houses together in the same place.
There's also a great crop of shops specialising in home and garden, sportswear, jewellery and even groceries - one of the city's biggest supermarkets Interspar is located in the shopping centre. For top beauty and cosmetic brands, try M.A.C., Kiehls and DM. Basically, whatever you're looking for in Zagreb, you can probably find it here.
You can also turn your trip to the shops into a day and night of fun with allocated play areas to keep the kids busy. The department store houses a wide range of toys, clothes and anything your child could possibly need.
3. Stay for the entertainment
If you’re looking for entertainment, there’s the Game World Casino and the Cinestar Multiplex Cinema offers 3D, IMAX, and Samsung 4DX screenings. The superlative setup means you can catch all the latest blockbusters in high-definition with state-of-the-art sound. English-language films are usually screened in subtitles rather than dubbed in Croatian, so you’ll have no problems knowing what’s going on.
4. Tuck in
The international food court and various cafés are your options if you’re hungry: the central walkway buzzers with shoppers and al-fresco diners. Zageb’s best mainstream restaurants are represented here with fabulous sushi from Wok and Roll, deliciously spicy Mexican-inspired fajitas and burritos from Mex and rainbow-coloured macaroons from Torterie Macaron.
There are plenty of stands and kiosks offering local delicacies like olive oil, honey, lavender and figs. For an extra special gourmet treat, stop off at the Kupilek kiosk to taste a locally-made blackberry wine from a sun-drenched vineyard in Zaprešić. The organic wine is produced with ripe blackberries from Family Jambresic Estate and apparently has healing properties too. Result.
5. All-seasons shopping
With all the convenience of the high-street with none of the unpredictable weather, Arena Centar is a great way to spend a rainy day in Zagreb. Also, in the summertime, an outdoor patio area provides the opportunity to relax.
Since it opened, Arena Centar has ensured Zagreb’s place on the map of the region’s best shopping destinations. People journey from places as far-flung as Ljubljana and Rijeka to shop at its vibrant array of trendy retailers and restaurants.
As Zagreb grows ever-busier as a tourist destination, especially in the summer months and during the Christmas Advent Festival, Arena Centar attracts an increasingly international shopping crowd. With around three thousand free parking spaces; the centre also runs its own free bus service and is easily accessible by public transport, it's also situated in a bike-friendly location. Arena Centar opens from 10am to 9pm on weekdays, and from 9am to 9pm on weekends.