Zagreb, Croatia

Croatia is a beautiful country, rich in tradition, with diverse geography, romantic pre-Romanesque architecture, generation-strong communities, and the kindest of people. We were drawn here for a volunteer opportunity but took away so much more.

With its many islands and coastal villages, Croatia is a dream for any lover of the sea. We didn’t get the chance to visit the more popular destinations of Hvar, Vas, Split or Dubrovnik, but uncovered many treasured secrets of the lesser known Mali Losinj and Veli Losinj, and have a few tips to share if you stop through Zagreb as well.

Must sightsee

  • Zagreb is filled with a number of sights and landmarks, from St. Mark’s Church to The Museum of Broken Relationships. Take a day to get lost, making sure to hit these spots along the way. Insider tip: Don’t miss the 350 meter tunnel that runs underneath the entire city. It was built during WWII for shelter and safe passage. 
  • Dolac Farmers Market. This is one of Croatia’s most popular farmers markets, having a history that dates back to the late 1920’s. There are a number of fruit and vegetable stalls, with vendors offering you samples of their best. Visit on a Saturday or Sunday morning for the full experience. If the sun or heat get to you, head downstairs to walk through the cool fish and meat market.

Must Dine

  • Mundoaka Streetfood. Don’t let the name deceive you. This place has quite possibly one of the best pizzas we’ve ever had- made on homemade dough that’s closer to a thick bread, overflowing with fresh herbs, cured meats, cheese and crispy vegetables. The seats under the umbrellas on the cobblestone street make for a breezy atmosphere, and their house wine line, Dogo, is quite refreshing as well.
  • Otto & Frank A local BYO that serves an incredible Nutella French Toast and Bikini Panini, this is a charming sidewalk cafe in the heart of the old city that you can’t miss. Notice: The “&” in their logo resembles a cat.

Must eat

  • Borek. Turkish by origin, this is a popular Croatian favorite, made of flaky dough and minced meat. We were able to watch a local chef make it for us, which is a show in itself. You must first start by spreading the dough as wide as the table, filling it with its contents, before folding it many times to create the flaky texture once baked.
  • Zagorski Strukli. This is a Croatian household dish, made up of a cheese ravioli type dough, covered in a baked mixture of whipped egg and sour cream. It sounds different, but is a delicious comfort food and very filling.

Must imbibe

Croatian wine is far lesser known than many of its surrounding neighbors, but secretly quite nice. We’d recommend the Plavic Mali brand (red wine only). Very inexpensive, but surprisingly full body wines packed with bold notes.

Must caffeinate

Eli’s Caffe. Owned by a 3x national barista winner, Eli’s is a quaint cafe, on the outskirts of the old city, serving premium espresso and coffee drinks. If you are a coffee lover, this is a gem you can’t miss!

Must picnic

Buy a bottle of Croatian wine and pick up some treats at a local shop for a relaxing picnic in the beautiful Park Josipa Jurja Strossmayera.

Must go – festivals & events

  • The Courtyards. The saying goes something like this, “every courtyard has a story”, and each July, Zagreb holds The Courtyards event so each has the chance to share its own. Popup gastropubs, mixologists and entertainers alike provide fare and entertainment to curious visitors, as guests try to uncover the secrets and stories of the courtyards.
  • International Folklore Festival. We stumbled upon this during our stroll through the old city, noticing groups gathered together, each in their traditional costume. The festival is held annually to honor the Croatian folklore groups and individuals who represent the diversity of the country’s ethnographic heritage (three cultural zones and a number of smaller areas with distinctive dance and music traditions, costumes and customs), along with the representatives of national minorities, Croats from neighboring countries, emigrants, and the old Croatian Diaspora. Throughout the day, you’ll see a colorful ensemble of their traditional dance, songs, and parades.

Insider tip: See this site and TimeOut Zagreb  for a full listing of Zagreb’s annual events and festivals.

Must Stay

  • Palace Hotel. This is a beautiful hotel, centrally located, with a notable complementary breakfast buffet (mimosas included). The staff are accommodating and helpful, and will point you in the right direction as you plot out your daily plans.
  • Sobe 17. Tucked away in a small courtyard in the old city, this is a charming guesthouse with a grateful owner who will go out of her way to ensure you have a nice stay.

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