I’d had a look at a Lonely Planet guide before I left home, which asked “Is Zagreb worth visiting?” It answered with something vague that suggested you may as well stay the night if you had to stop there on your way to the coast. I think it even used the word “pleasant”.
Let this be a lesson not to rely on Lonely Planet. I loved my 2.5 days in Zagreb.
It started as soon as I got off the train. The weather was perfect, and at 5pm the afternoon light was magical. Unlike Ljubljana, where I had come from and where the train station faces onto a bus station and some dreary office blocks, Zagreb station is near the centre of town and faces a grassy square with trees and surrounded by beautiful buildings. It was so pretty my diary from that day took a turn for the teenage-girl-ish: “I felt I had arrived.”
Overwrought sentiment aside, the city benefits from a strong Austro-Hungarian influence on the architecture, but it’s not a museum and mixed in are elegant 1920s apartment blocks, some modern city buildings, and even some art deco. The blend makes it perfect for strolling, which goes well with the sheer number of cafes in the city — my pattern was walk around a bit, have a coffee and read some of my book, repeat repeat repeat. I could live like that.
Other things I did:
- The evening I arrived, there was a free organ & violin concert in the cathedral. Heck yes free concerts. And it got me to sit down for an hour in the cathedral and actually look at the art, which is pretty great for me who normally does a 2-minute lap of a church and then walks out again.
- The Museum of Broken Relationships, which is the one museum that seemingly every backpacker who goes to Zagreb visits. It lives up to the hype. If you’re a sap like me, bring tissues. (I didn’t, and had to suppress every thought of “he left her then??” and focus on giggling about the Toaster of Vindication until I got out.)
- The other museum I went to was the Croatian Museum of Naive Art, which I enjoyed although I wish there had been more explanations. Like, one of the artists had a chicken in almost all his paintings on display. Did he just like chickens? Did it have a symbolic significance? I started to make up my own interpretations. The chicken stands for human unwillingness to face life’s deep questions.
- Maksimir Park was well worth the walk out of town. It’s a really well designed city park, very peaceful with beautiful gardens. And apparently one of the first free public parks in Europe.