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Visit Zagreb, a Capital full of Culture
October 9th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

While Zagreb is Croatia’s capital, Dubrovnik’s various attractions tend to overshadow it. However, as an alternative to Dubrovnik’s sun-kissed beaches and bustling centre, Zagreb is an intriguing destination, in its own right.

Situated in the north west of the country, Zagreb is perhaps more of a city break destination than a resort, but it’s still ideal for a self-catering villa holiday, if you’re considering a stay in Croatia.

There are three main parts to Zagreb: Gornji grad or Upper Town, including Sabor, where you’ll find museums and galleries; Donji grad, or Lower town; and New Zagreb, which is more of a high-rise business district.

A City of Museums

Zagreb is known as the city of museums because it has so many of them. These include the iconic Museum of Contemporary Art, home to a fine permanent collection and different exhibitions of works on temporary display; and the intriguing Museum of Broken Promises, an unlikely showcase of heartbroken correspondence and collected personal belongings of past lovers across the globe.

Also well worth checking out are the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Arts and Crafts, the Zagreb City Museum and the Mimara Museum, housing the private collection of Ante Topic Mimara, a local art collector and philanthropist.

Mimara is something of a controversial figure in the art world, as various art historians claim he stole many of the items in his collection when he was working for the Yugoslav military at the end of World War II.

St Mark’s Church

Situated in the Upper Town, this 13th century structure has a distinctive, colourfully tiled roof. This displays the medieval coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slovenia on one side, and the emblem of the city of Zagreb on the other.

Only open when mass is held, the church contains dramatic sculptures by the 20th century artist Ivan Mestrovic.

Between April and October, you can catch a changing of the guard ceremony outside the church every Saturday and Sunday at midday.

Take the Blue Tram

Zagreb’s blue trams go across the Lower Town, making them ideal for sightseeing. Most of them pass through Ban Josip Jelacic, the main square, which is a useful starting point for making trips to different corners of the city.

In all there are 15 different lines, and they make sightseeing easy, as you can either stay on and watch downtown Zagreb pass by, or get off at key points to experience the Lower Town close up.

Exploring Zagreb’s Lower Town

While there is a certain amount of urban uniformity in Donji grad, it also has a series of garden squares that are all interconnected and known as Lenuci’s Horseshoe, after the city’s planner, Milan Lenuci.

The streets in the Lower Town are generally wide and spacious, and the main shopping street, Ilica, is a lengthy stretch, running from Ban Josip Jelacic square to the Vrapce neighbourhood of western Zagreb.

For a wide selection of cafes, bars and restaurants, Ilica street is a great stop-off point – try a local fruit brandy, rakija or sample a strukli, a local pastry available in sweet or savoury variations.

If sampling the local bars is to your taste, Tkalciceva street full of them, providing a characterful thoroughfare to wind your way up and down, slowly.

Then, on a Saturday, you can blow away the cobwebs by taking part in the local spica phenomenon.

This takes place by the flower market, from 11am and runs until early afternoon. The best way to describe it is as somewhere between a social gathering, an outdoor party and a fashion parade.

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