What to do in Zagreb?

Photo: Unsplash (Aleksandar Vučin)

Compact and easy to navigate, Zagreb contains plenty of historic sights and fascinating galleries, complemented by destination restaurants, clusters of busy bars and numerous live-music venues. The main square divides the hilly Upper Town – museums, institutions of national importance, panoramic views – from the flat, grid-patterned streets of the Lower Town, with its gastronomic landmarks, designer boutiques and art galleries. Spread out east and west are areas of bucolic greenery while south over the Sava river stretches the post-war residential blocks of Novi Zagreb, reports timeout.com.

1. Take a tour of Mirogoj

The final resting place for 300,000 souls of many religious backgrounds, Mirogoj is Zagreb’s equivalent of London’s Highgate cemetery and encapsulates the city’s rich patchwork of history.

2. Dolac

Farmers from surrounding villages come to sell their home-made foodstuffs and some of the freshest fruit and vegetables you’ll ever smell or taste. Need to find fresh coriander, rosemary, mint or thyme? This is the place.

3. Admire great art at the MSU

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 the Upper Town) was founded.

4. Marvel at the Cathedral

If Zagreb has an iconic architectural feature, it’s the twin towers of its Cathedral, created by Hermann Bollé after an earthquake struck the city in 1880.

5. Browse Britanski trg

On Sundays, the fruit and veg stalls that fill the city centre’s Britanski trg during the week are cleared away, and an attractive bric-a-brac and antique market is laid out.

6. Go green at the Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens form the east-west anchor of the ‘Green Horseshoe’, a U-shaped band of greenery laid out by Milan Lenuci in the 19th century. About 10,000 plant species come mainly from Croatia, some from as far as Asia.

7. Go underground at Grič

Accessed from Mesnička or Radićeva, the Grič tunnel has already put on fashion shows and exhibitions. For the time being, it provides an atmospheric but well lit five-minute walk far below the most historic part of Zagreb.

8. Trace Zagreb’s history

Zagreb City Museum is the former 17th-century Convent of the Clares. Situated in the Upper Town, it has a permanent collection of 4,500 objects illustrating Zagreb’s history from prehistoric times, laid out in themed sections.

9. Ramble and slalom at Sljeme

They’re best known for their climbing and skiing – the hills are dotted with mountain lodges and Sljeme has been developed as a major international skiing centre, a noted fixture on the sport’s international winter calendar.

10. Museum of broken relationships

By collecting mementos that sum up the experience of a break-up, the museum has assembled a poignant, sometimes funny and always unique insight into the mysteries of the human heart.

11. Sample štrukli

Whether boiled or baked, sweet or salty, or with added poppy, pumpkin or spinach, all versions usually deserve attention.

12. Admire St Mark’s Church

The square outside, housing the Ban’s Palace and the Croatian Parliament, has been the hub of political activity since the 1500s.

13. See a century of Naive Art

This is the oldest collection of Naive Art is the world. Fantastically bizarre rural scenes that verge on the psychedelic, the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art’s collection is unlike anything else.

14. Relax at Maksimir Park

Maksimir Park comprises an attractive 18 hectares (45 acres) of welcome greenery, opened to an appreciative public in 1794. Its woods, meadows and lakes were landscaped in what was then considered the English style.

15. Drink your way down Tkalčićeva

For two decades, this atmospheric thoroughfare has provided Zagreb with its prime bar crawl, a constant current of revellers moving from spot to spot.

16. Play mind games at the Museum of Illusions

A museum with mirror mazes, gravity-defying rooms, bottomless pits, holograms and mirages.

17. See a vintage film at Kino Kinoteka

The cinema itself has a long tradition of holding a very diverse programme and supports independent filmmakers, world cinema and takes part in city-wide cultural programmes and film festivals.

18. See world-class ballet and music at Lisinski

Opened in 1973, this 2,000-seater theatre is the main classical music venue in town and also hosts visiting international ballet companies.

19. Party at INmusic festival

Zagreb’s seminal international music festival INmusic promises three days of big indie, rock and hip hop fun in fields around Lake Jarun.

20. Devour ćevapi and grilled meats at Sofra

A sharing plate, usually for a minimum of two, is usually the best way to sample a range of the menu in the region’s grill houses.

21. Go second-hand shopping at Hrelić

Many of the goods here are cheap – clothes, CDs, sports shoes, home furnishings, electrical goods – but you’ll also find piles of oddities and rarities from all over the Balkans.

22. Marvel at the mosque

The building was designed by sculptor Ivan Meštrović just before World War II as an exhibition space in honour of the then Yugoslav King Peter I.

23. Get into the spirit of Christmas at Advent

Zagreb’s annual celebration of all things yuletide won the award for best Christmas market in Europe several years running. It gets better each year.

24. Discover Lake Jarun

Jarun is a popular public park, a place for picnics and pedal boats, roller-blading and jogging.

25. Admire the views from 360°

The Zagreb Eye offers a spectacular view of downtown Zagreb and is one of the most beautiful ways to see the city 360°.

26. Marvel at Mimara

Set in a neo-Renaissance former school on Rooseveltov trg, the Mimara Museum contains the most impressive art collection in town.

27. Have a night at the opera

This neo-Baroque landmark, opened by Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef in 1895, played a vital role in the establishment of Croatian national identity.

28. Attend a free lecture at Booksa

There is a symbolic membership fee of 10kn/year, but members can then enjoy carefully chosen music, a laid-back atmosphere and regular events that include readings by the big beasts of the local literary scene – with occasional ones by visiting English speakers.

29. Get a pair of Croatian kicks at Borovo

The wacky pattern work-shoes have been touted by international fashion media, including Vogue USA.

30. Tour Zagreb’s street art scene

Local street artists like Slaven Lunar Kosanović, OKO and Lonac have developed distinctive styles, and the popularity of their work has justly exploded onto the international stage.

31. See live demonstrations of Tesla inventions

This impressive collection of historic vehicles and interactive exhibits provides an excellent and unstuffy excuse to visit the just-out-of-town museum.

32. Try beer from Zagreb’s first independent brewery

The Mali Medo branch on Tkalčićeva spreads across several buildings with an extensive outdoor terrace – it’s one of the most buzzing bars in the city.

33. Catch a game at Maksimir

The home stadium of Dinamo Zagreb football club is set across from the leafy surroundings of Maksimir Park.

34. Browse medieval torture instruments

Tortoreum is a small museum themed around historical violence and torture and has a raft of brutal instruments.

35. Take the shortest train journey in the world

The short ride takes you to the Lotrščak Tower a look-out tower built in the 13th century.

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