Zagreb travel guide
Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is the country's economic centre and the gateway to Western Europe. The picturesque city is situated on the slopes of Medvednica Mountain, along the banks of the Sava River, in the north of Croatia.
The core of Zagreb consists of the Gornji Grad (Upper Town) and Donji Grad (Lower Town). The Upper Town is home to the well-preserved medieval city, known as Gradec and Kaptol, while the residential area covers the southern slopes of the Medvednica Mountains. Since the 1950s the city has grown appreciably to the south of the Sava River, and the main industrial area is in the southeast.
Besides being a commercial hub Zagreb is a popular tourist centre, and an established international conference venue. Zagreb has a history dating back nearly a thousand years but it is also an efficient modern city; it is rich in historical monuments, museums and galleries, has modern shops, restaurants, sport and recreation facilities, and good transport infrastructure. The city's tourist attractions are largely historical, ranging from the Palaeolithic Veternica Cave, through the vestiges of Roman culture, to the fascinating medieval old town.
Zagreb is well-situated as a springboard for exploring the picturesque medieval towns of northern Croatia, including Samobor, Vrbovec and Karlovac. There are also great hiking opportunities on nearby Medvednica Mountain, which casts its 3,280-foot (1,000m) shadow over the pretty city.
Andautonia Archaeological Park
Near the village of Scitarjevo, close to Zagreb, are the remains of the ancient Roman town of Andautonia, which have been excavated and provide a fascinating tourist excursion. Andautonia was a prominent administrative, economic, cultural and religious centre about 400 years ago. Archaeologists are still excavating the site, but at the Andautonia Archaeological Park visitors can view a 26,910-square-foot (2,500 sq m) area of the Roman City including parts of the main street, city baths, colonnades and side streets. There is a museum at the site which exhibits artefacts from the Greek and Roman history of the area. Tourists can also visit the present-day village of Scitarjevo, which offers examples of typical rural farms with their characteristic wooden houses.
Address: Archaeological Museum: 19 Nikola Subic Zrinski Square
Croatian History Museum
The building that houses Croatia's history is itself a part of
that history. Situated in the historical town centre, it is the
beautiful Baroque palace, Vojkovic-Orsic-Rauch, built at the end of
the 18th century and formerly the private residence of three
successive baronial families. In the late 1930s the palace became
the residence of Zagreb's mayors, before being designated as a
repository for the historical relics of the city. It currently
houses more than 140,000 artefacts in various collections, from
stone monuments to fine art, religious artefacts to heraldry.
The exhibitions in this museum are not permanent but constantly changing so that all the collections get an airing. This means that it is possible to visit the museum many times and never tire of the exhibitions. The artefacts are grouped into 17 collections which include a map collection, a coin collection, a collection of religious items, a collection of stone monuments, a military uniforms collection and a weapons collection, among other things. It is a small museum but the exhibitions are thorough and interesting.
Address: Matoševa 9
Croatian National Theatre
The building housing the Croatian National Theatre (commonly
referred to as the HNK Zagreb) is as much a national treasure as
the world-class theatre, opera, music and ballet productions that
take place on its stage. Construction began on the theatre building
in 1894. Croatian painter Vlaho Bukovac painted the ceremonial
curtain while Viennese artist Alexander Goltz decorated the ceiling
of the auditorium. The building was officially opened by
Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz-Joseph I at the end of 1895. The
theatre is owned and operated by the Croatian Ministry of Culture
and it is constantly busy with full performing arts programmes. At
the entrance to the theatre visitors can see the famed wall
fountain called "The Source of Life", designed by Croatian artist
and sculptor Ivan Meštrovic in 1905.
The Croatian National Theatre has hosted famous artists and performers from all over the world and culture vultures shouldn't miss seeing a show. If travelling with a group, the mezzanine boxes are a wonderful way to experience the performances together. Even if you don't have time to catch a world-class ballet or opera, it is worth walking by the HNK Zagreb to see the building itself.
Address: Trg Marsala Tita 15
Praska Street, in the lower part of old Zagreb, leads on to a
sequence of attractive park squares, each flaunting their own
attractions and worth a walking tour. Zrinski Square features a
music pavilion dating from 1895 and fountains, with the
Archaeological Museum at No.17. This square also features a row of
busts of distinguished Croatians and the palace of the Croatian
Academy of Arts and Sciences (1876), which houses the Strossmayer
Gallery of old masters. On Strossmayer Square is a monument to
bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, founder of the academy, and several
other historic buildings.
Tomislav Square features the Art Pavilion, fronted by a monument to Croatian Renaissance painter Andrija Medulic. King Tomislav rises on horseback at the southern end of the square. Starcevic Square is home to the City Library and Hotel Esplanade, and gives access to the Botanical Gardens and Frane Bulic Monument. In Marulic Square the University Library building stands as a magnificent example of Art Nouveau architecture. Mimara Museum is on Roosevelt Square, and the neo-Baroque Croatian National Theatre stands on Marshal Tito Square. Any or all of these squares are worthy of attention and it is best to just stroll around them all, camera in hand.
Tourist attractions in Zagreb are manifold. The area with the greatest concentration of things to see in Zagreb is the old town, where a stroll through the cobbled streets is in itself an experience. One of the main attractions in Zagreb's delightful medieval centre is the Croatian History Museum, which is housed in an 18th-century Baroque palace called Vojkovic-Orsic-Rauch. There is a sequence of town squares, at the end of Praska Street in the old town, which are a must-see for visitors; each square boasts its own historical features and attractions, making the area a veritable party pack for tourists.
For those intrigued by ancient history, the Roman town of Andautonia is close to Zagreb and well worth a visit. This very interesting archaeological site has excavations open to the public and an informative little museum where artefacts from the town and greater region have been collected. For a walk through centuries of Zagreb's proud but turbulent history visit the Mirogoj Cemetery. Many prominent Croatians are buried here and it is said to be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Europe.
Another popular attraction in the city is the off-the-wall Museum of Broken Relationships, which won an award in 2011 for being the most innovative museum in Europe. As the name suggests this museum collects and displays mementos from failed relationships from all over the world. Each item is displayed with a story, some funny, some sad, some touching. It certainly is not a typical museum experience but people are flocking to see these ordinary objects and read the stories that make them significant, and the museum is earning rave reviews.
For a break from the bustle of the city go hiking or biking on Medvednica Mountain, which looms above Zagreb, and promises beautiful scenery and numerous well-maintained trails. From several vantage points on the mountain you can get impressive views of the city below.
Trakoscan is a legendary 13th-century Gothic castle that was
home to various influential families for centuries before finally
falling into abandoned disrepair in the second half of the 18th
century, when it belonged to the Draskovic family. In the 1950s the
castle was taken over by the state and turned into a living museum,
reconstructing life in a medieval castle. Visitors can explore four
levels, including the dungeon, and finish their exploration by
enjoying the surrounding parklands.
Trakoscan Castle is a spectacular journey for the imagination as it feels so authentic and you can wander with remarkable freedom through the stone corridors, up and down the winding staircases and into the numerous rooms. It is a great attraction to enjoy with kids because they particularly love exploring the castle; with the lake and forest setting it really does appear to be straight out of a fairytale or a medieval romance. The castle contains original artefacts from its history, including furniture and weaponry, and the displays are informative and well laid out. As wandering through the castle, and its beautiful grounds, can be somewhat tiring, you may want to stop for a break at the restaurant by the lake.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
The Plitvice Lakes have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage
Site and the national park that encloses them is the oldest in
Southeast Europe (founded in 1949). It is the natural beauty of the
16 green and turquoise lakes, linked by waterfalls and surrounded
by forests, that attracts thousands of visitors every year. Wooden
walkways meander over, around and across the magical watery setting
that was formed by mineral deposits in the water creating
travertine barriers within the constantly changing limestone
landscape. The lakes are divided into lower and upper lakes and
trails are well marked. Visitors can cover the 11 miles (18km) of
walkways on foot, but the park entry ticket also includes the use
of buses and ferries to cover certain sections.
The incredible lakes are not all the park has to offer; it is a heavily forested area with an extremely diverse variety of flora and fauna, including rare European species like the brown bear and wolf. It is one of the last regions in Europe in which these two species can be found living in the wild. Some may recognise the area from the film adaptations of Karl May's Westerns, which were filmed here in the 1960s and 70s.
The commercial capital of the idyllic Adriatic coast is the
cultural city and holiday destination of Rijeka, which has an
international harbour that lends it a cosmopolitan flair. Rijeka is
not only the gateway to the beautiful coastal island resorts, but a
tourist's delight in itself with its charming historic buildings. A
stroll along the Korzo Promenade in the old part of town provides
an eyeful of classic buildings and a variety of street cafes ideal
for resting your feet and enjoying the passing parade. Rijeka also
has an annual carnival full of lively music and dancing, involving
plenty of ancient Slavic folklore and mythology. Revellers don
masks to scare away evil forces and a good time is had by all in
numerous events, concerts and the carnival parade.
There is plenty to eat, drink, see and do in this vibrant port city. The best way to see Rijeka's cultural and historical attractions is to follow the well-worn tourist path that takes in all of the most important sights of the town. Most of them are accessible by foot, as they are located in or near the city centre (parts of which are not even accessible to traffic). Although, to see the remarkable Trsat Castle you will have to either hire transport or climb the formidable stone steps from the city centre to the castle. It is certainly worth it.
The largest island in Croatia, Krk (pronounced kirk) is a haven
of sparkling beaches and lovely holiday towns. Nicknamed the
'Golden Island', Krk is the nearest Croatian island to mainland
Europe and has a laid-back Mediterranean atmosphere.
Getting to Krk from the mainland is made easy by a 4,500-foot (1.4km) bridge. Once there, visitors are spoiled for choice as there are many beaches and villages to explore. Krk Town is the largest and most popular hub for tourists with many restaurants, shops and bars in the attractive Old Town area.
The best beaches in Krk are found in Baska, which boasts more than 30 beaches connected by a promenade. Though most are covered in pebbles, soft mats and chairs are available for hire. Other popular beach towns on Krk include Njivice and the sandy coastline of Klimno Bay, though many towns have more to offer than just beaches. Vrbnik is home to vineyards that produce some of the best white wines in Croatia, while the August folk festival in Dobrinj draws crowds from all over Croatia.
Krk Island is popular for weekend excursions from the Croatian mainland; however, visitors can easily spend a week exploring the winding streets and hidden corners of the island. A paradise for summer watersports, diving, bird watching and hiking, there are many things to see and do on Krk for just about anyone.
Zagreb Pleso Airport
Location: The airport is situated 10 miles (16km) southeast of Zagreb.
Time: Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 from last Sunday in March to end October).
Contacts: Tel: +385 (0)1 45 62 222. Email: email@example.com
Getting to the city: A convenient bus shuttle operates between the airport and the Central Bus Station in Zagreb, running from about 7am until 8pm and scheduled to meet arriving flights. The journey takes roughly 30 minutes.
Car rental: Car rental agencies at the airport include Hertz, Dollar and Europcar, among others.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside the terminal.
Facilities: The airport has a bank, post office, tourist information kiosk, 24-hour left luggage services, business lounge, conference facilities, and shops selling souvenirs and luxury products (including duty-free). There is also a restaurant and a few cafes.
Parking: Parking lots P1 and P3 charge HRK 27 per hour, up to a daily maximum of HRK 150. Lot P2 charges HRK 19 per hour, up to a daily maximum of HRK 130.
Location: The airport is located four miles (about 6km) northeast of the city of Pula.
Time: Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 from last Saturday in March to end October).
Contacts: Tel: 060 308 308
Getting to the city: A bus service connects the airport to the station in Pula.
Car rental: Car rental companies include Avis, Hertz, Budget, Sixt and Alamo.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside the arrivals area.
Facilities: Facilities include ATMs, bureaux de change, restaurants and cafés, internet access, a nursery, and duty-free shopping.
Parking: Short- and long-term public parking available.
Departure tax: None.
Zagreb has a compact city centre with all the main sights and places of interest for visitors in close proximity to the major hotels. Walking is therefore a good option for getting around in Zagreb. Those who need to travel further afield can make use of the highly efficient tram system, which has frequent services throughout the city connecting bus and train stations and the main square, Trg Bana Josipa Jelacica. Four tram routes also operate throughout the night. Each ticket gives you 90 minutes of travel, starting from when you first climb aboard and validate the ticket in a machine. The alternative public transport is public buses. Particularly useful is the inexpensive bus connection to the airport from the city centre. There is a plentiful supply of taxis in Zagreb, particularly at major hotels and the airport. Fares are negotiable and it is always best to agree on a fare before setting off, if the taxi is not metered. Many tourists like to rent cars when they travel in Croatia as the road system is very good - Zagreb is a fairly easy city to negotiate by car.
The climate varies quite substantially between the Croatian coastal regions and the interior. The climate of Zagreb is continental, with four separate seasons. Summers (June to August) are hot and dry, and winters (November to February) are cold. The average temperature in winter is 34°F (1°C) and the average temperature in summer is 70°F (21°C), although it can get much hotter. In fact, the interior can feel much hotter than the coast due to the lack of cool sea breezes. The end of May, particularly, gets very warm, with temperatures rising to 86ºF (30°C) and up. Snowfall is common in the winter months, from December to March, and rain and fog are common in autumn (September to November).
The most popular time to visit Zagreb is in the peak summer months, when tourists are flocking to Croatia for the sun and sea on the coast. Possibly the best time to visit the city, however, is in spring (March to April) when the weather is slightly less hot and the city is less crowded and usually less expensive.
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