Saturday, April 19, 2014

Living like a local in Zagreb

I'm excited to kick off a series on "living like a local," written by folks living in some of the world's most exciting cities. Now, I had wanted to start you off with a post about my home city of Boston, but even MORE exciting than my city is the face that my sister is getting married next week! So, let's just say that things have gotten a bit hectic over here...

Fortunately, Frank and Vera of Frank About Croatia have stepped in with some fantastic insider tips for visiting Zagreb - enjoy!


Zagreb, the city where we used to live, is the largest city and the capital of Croatia. Few years ago we moved to the coast and despite the beauty of the sea and easy breezy coastline lifestyle, we miss the vibrant and friendly city where there is always something to do. Large pedestrian zone in the downtown area is full of cool restaurants, bars, shops, and lovely parks. Although small compared to other European capital cities, Zagreb has much to offer to its visitors. All the major landmarks are within a short walking distance one from the other, and can easily be explored on foot. Uptown (literally upper city since it sits on top of a hill) has many hidden corners, and you will enjoy discovering all its sights while overlooking the entire city. Zagreb surroundings including the Sljeme - a steep hillside overlooking the city, offer numerous opportunities for daily excursions; from cycling the tracks in the green hillsides to taking long walks along the riverbeds. Let us take you through the Zagreb that we love.

The city spreads out before you

Drinking Morning and the Afternoon Coffee

As the town of the terrace cafes Zagreb is full of people all year around. This means that in the summer, in the spring, in the fall and even in the winter you will find cafés full of people. Saturday morning shopping followed by a coffee in the downtown is a special ritual called “špica”. It literally means to see and be seen walking on the popular downtown shopping streets, and having a coffee on Saturday morning in one of prominent cafes. If you lived in Zagreb this would be a common way to spend your Saturday.

Our favorite place is the Velvet Cafe. Located off the main touristy routes, but very close to all the hustle and bustle, Velvet is a real oasis in the town center. The café is modern with many design elements. It serves tasty coffees, sweet and sour pastries, and freshly squeezed juices on a relaxing terrace. Another hidden gem when it comes to bars in Zagreb is the Palinovka Café. This charming little café is located at the historical Upper town. It has a lovely terrace with huge trees. Great place to have a coffee or a glass of wine. The third café we simply adore is the Galerija Lav Café. Obviously, Galerija means Gallery in English. This place combines art and history with a café culture. The café is located just few steps above the Kamenita Vrata (the Stone Gate), the monument of the old Zagreb with an intriguing origin. Visit it and find out what makes it so unique. The gallery has an interesting paintings and antique furniture on display. The bar has lovely interior, but we enjoy having a drink at their gorgeous balcony. The café Galerija Lav offers a great variety of teas. This is definitely a great spot to relax during the sightseeing in the Upper town.

Palinovka Cafe

High Noon

Boom! Every day at noon a cannon in a fortress on the upper city fires a blank round sounding off high noon to all locals and visitors. Yes, the locals continue to drink coffee or read newspapers while the visitors flinch surprised by the sound of the cannon. Welcome to Zagreb, remember to remain calm and indifferent at high noon.

Jelacic Square, in central Zagreb

Lunch Time

Zagreb has some awesome restaurants. Ok, if compared to New York it misses diversity in different international flavors. Don’t worry - it does have some international restaurants so your craving for Mexican or Chinese will be taken care of. Certainly, Zagreb’s restaurants will deliver when it comes to creativity. Restaurants offering traditional Croatian dishes with a modern twist are IN, based on fresh and locally sourced produce, with menus changing daily. If you like such a concept, and you are looking for a sublime dining experience of a multiple course dinner, we highly recommend restaurants Prasac, 5/4, and Bistro Karlo. Homemade and tasty soups you’ll find at the restaurant Cuspajz. Its name, the Cuspajz, is actually a Croatian word for a thick vegetable stew. It can come with or without the meat. You can choose between three different daily soups. 

Where else can you find a great place to enjoy a healthy and warm meal for as little as 5 €? Well, for a hearty and affordable meal hang around Zagreb green markets. The restaurant Da Piero, located at the central green market Dolac, offers daily lunch menu for 2 € to 5 €. This place is far from fancy, but the food is good, home cooked and fresh. Near the Tresnjevka green market, try out the restaurant Salsa. This place has quickly become locals’ favorite lunch spot. Lunch is served from 11.30 am to 3.00 pm. It includes a choice of three hearty meals for you to choose from. Vegetarians and vegans will eat happily at the restaurant Vegehop, or a bit pricier but exciting Raw Food Club Elixir.


Although the number of shopping malls at the outskirts of Zagreb is growing, the downtown Zagreb is still a very popular shopping hub for locals and tourists. The pedestrian zone is full of exciting stores, including the newest shopping center, the Flower Square Mall. Beside high street fashion brands, you’ll find stores featuring Croatian fashion designers. The popular ones are I-Gle, Budoir and our personal favorite Nebo. The Nebo is located in Radiceva Street. Their clothes, particularly dresses, are modern, yet very chic, and affordable. 

Take Me Home, located at Tomiceva 4 in Zagreb

Croatian design has really taken off and it hasn’t stopped at clothes. In Tomićeva Street, you’ll find the shop Take me Home. It has everything from toys and kitchenware to accessories and souvenirs. All products are made by Croatian designers. The Ekolica is a single product that locals love. It’s a 100% handmade wicker basket on wheels. You can buy it at the town’s green market Dolac on weekends. If you are still a romantic who carries around a notebook and a pen, check the Lega-Lega shop in Masarykova Street. Beside really cool notebooks, you’ll find variety of coasters, t-shirts, and even bandanas, all made by Croatian designers. In the Kaptol Center shopping mall, stop by Olive Oil Gallery where you can learn about olive oil making process, taste many Croatian olive oils, and buy some as a souvenir to bring home. The Wine Club & Shop Bornstein, located close to the Cathedral, offers an excellent selection of Croatian wines and spirits. The staff is very friendly, and you can taste the wine before buying it.

Zagreb Parks & Woods

Zagreb is a town of parks and woods, small green oasis in the middle of urban jungle. Locals love the parks (their dogs even more). There are eight parks in the downtown connecting seven squares in the shape of a horse-shoe. This urban complex is built in the early 19th century, by Milan Lenuci, and it's popularly called Lenuci's horse-shoe. The Zrinjevac Park is the most popular of all. It has a pretty music pavilion in the center that serves as a stage for many events taking place in the park throughout the year. The Tuskanac starts just steps away from the frenzy of urban life, and it is the purest forest you can imagine. No, it's not a well-tended and landscaped park. It's a natural forest and one of the locals' favorite walking spots in the town. Ribnjak is a small park bordering the medieval Kaptol walls. This is a nice place to unwind during the day and enjoy the view over the Cathedral. However, at the nighttime, this place turns into a party spot for Zagreb youth. The park features a youth culture club and a popular bar Purgeraj. Maksimir Park is located in the east part of the town, near the stadium. This is a large park with pretty lakes, nice walking trails, few mansions, and a nice vantage point. This is, beside the Lake Jarun, local’s favorite recreational spot for walking, cycling, jogging, and even rowing in spring and summer. If you go deeper into the park, you'll find yourself surrounded by the natural forest. Maksimir is also a home of the town's zoo.

You'll find all sorts of green spaces to relax in in Zagreb

The Market

Zagreb has over twenty open air farmers’ markets. Market hopping is a part of locals' daily life since most people tend to buy their produce, meat and vegetables fresh and on daily basis. Every single neighborhood has a market. The famed Dolac market is located in the center of the town, just behind the main square. If you visit it, make sure to taste a homemade corn bread and sir & vrhnje (cottage cheese with cream). You can find them in the lower part of the Dolac market. It doesn't get more local than this. The Britanac market is the oldest open air market in the town. Located only two tram stations from the main square, the Britanac is much smaller than the Dolac. However, it's busy with locals. Make sure to visit an antique market taking place here every Sunday. The Tresnjevka market is located in a working class neighborhood of the same name. Here you will get to feel a “real” Zagreb. This is the biggest market in Zagreb, and it has excellent selection of locally produced goods.

Produce available at Dolac Market

This post is brought to you by Frank and Vera, a Canadian-Croatian couple currently living in Croatia. They are the duo behind, a Croatia travel website, where they share the best of Croatia just as they discover it. They would like any visitor to Croatia to have a truly enjoyable and authentic experience  of the country and its people.

(all images courtesy of Frank About Croatia)

No comments :

Post a Comment

Copyright 2009-2015. Julia Hudson, The Epic Adventurer.
Smiley face
  • The Epic Adventurer
  • +