The perfect family weekend in Zagreb, Croatia

With its special atmosphere and romantics, Zagreb is a city that can excite everybody

Driving by the highway from Serbia to Zagreb with the view of the neat fields around it and the impressive toll taxes, we imagine Zagreb as a cosmopolitan European capital. We imagine it more like Belgrade – the city we are coming from and which we enjoy a lot – slightly larger than our home place Sofia.

Upon entrance in the city we are welcomed by wide and neat boulevards and the view of the beautiful tidy buildings in the centre fills us with euphoria. Until our host tells us that he often goes to Sofia and Plovdiv and according to him, Zagreb is a small town, more like Plovdiv. So with this confusion starts our family weekend in Zagreb, Croatia, and we are excited to explore and know this so interesting city.

The labyrinths of the Upper Town – Kaptol and Gradec

The Upper Town is the historical centre of Zagreb where most sites of interest are located, among them many churches. However, we do not like to make lists or classify the attractions. For us the whole area is one attraction with its special atmosphere, consisting of its streets, monuments, churches and squares.

The streets of the old town of Gradec

The streets of the old town of Gradec

In the Middle Ages Gradec and Kaptol were two separate communities that did not get very well with each other. Nowadays they together make the historical part of Zagreb.

We did not try to see each single attraction noted in the many signs in the historical centre of Zagreb. Instead, we just wanted to feel the city and did it by just walking around, stopping on the beautiful corners and walking over and over again the streets we enjoyed the most. In such way, we spent a wonderful family weekend in Zagreb with our daughter Anna and later you will see which the places we enjoyed the most were.

It was our first visit to Zagreb but we also felt the city close because the grand-grandfather of Andrey has studied there more than 100 years ago.

The churches of old Zagreb

St. Mark’s Church – the church with the most beautiful roof

Saint Mark's church and square, Zagreb, Croatia

Saint Mark’s church and square, Zagreb

Saint Mark's church and square, Zagreb

Saint Mark’s church and square, Zagreb

There are many beautiful churches in Zagreb but our favourite is the Saint Mark’s, located on the square with the same name. This is the famous church with the colourful roof and it is not less beautiful from the inside, too. Saint Mark’s Church is located in Gradec and around it are the most important administrative buildings in Croatia – the parliament, the government, the constitutional court and the Zagreb town hall. The square around is amazingly beautiful and we spent a lot of time there, together with other crowds of tourists.

Very close to the Saint Mark’s Church is one of the best places to eat in Zagreb – Konoba Didov San. I will tell you about it later.

Down the street is the St. Catherine’s church and we also saw a Greek Orthodox church.

St. Catherine's church, Zagreb

St. Catherine’s church, Zagreb

Zagreb Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary

Zagreb Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, Croatia

Zagreb Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary

The most important and famous church in Zagreb is the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary which attracts attention with its 108 m high towers. From the inside, the cathedral is not less impressive with its many beautifully decorated chapels from both sides. The Zagreb cathedral was built in the Kaptol hill and is still the tallest building in Croatia.

The Stone Gate – the only preserved gate from the walls of Gradec

The Stone Gate in Zagreb, Croatia

The Stone Gate in Zagreb, Croatia

The Stone Gate is a rarely special and emotional place in Zagreb. It is both a temple and a street and is also the only survived gate from the walls of old Gradec. There are evidences that it existed as early as the Middle Ages and was a part of the fortifications around Gradec.

The Stone Gate which is actually a chapel, Zagreb, Croatia

The Stone Gate which is actually a chapel

The place is considered a sanctuary since 1731 when a huge fire damaged the gate but a painting of Virgin Mary with the Child survived without any damage. Since then a chapel was built within the gate and is now a place for prayers. However, a street is passing under the gate and it is a little bit weird to just pass by people praying. On both sides of the gate there are signs asking visitors to keep silence inside out of respect to the worshippers.

An entrance to the Stone Gate in Zagreb.

An entrance to the Stone Gate in Zagreb. Please keep silence while passing!

Gric Tunnel

Gric tunnel, Zagreb, Croatia

Gric tunnel, Zagreb, Croatia

The Gric Tunnel is one of the newest attraction for visitors and citizens in Zagreb. It was built in World War 2 but has been recently renovated and opened. Gric Tunnel was actually the first attraction we saw in Zagreb because the apartment where we stayed was located just opposite of its entrance. We love exploring tunnels and underground areas so we were really excited to walk the Gric tunnel, too.

Gric Tunnel was constructed in the 40s to act as a bomb shelter. Later it was abandoned and for decades it wasn’t the safest place to visit in the city. However, in the recent years it was renovated and reopened and now everybody can explore it safely. Which is great, because it has two very good features: first, it provides a quick shortcut between different places in Zagreb, and second, it is a perfect retreat from the summer heat or the rain in the wet seasons. Gric Tunnel is free to enter, open every day from 9 do 23.30 h, well-lit and guarded.

One end of the tunnel is on Mesnicka Street and the other is in a yard on Radiceva street. There are also several extensions: the first two lead to the Art Park on Tomic street. The place is close to the lower station of the funicular but we actually could not find a way to go from the funicular to the park. Another extension leads to a yard on Ilica street that is also hard to find for entrance. The last exit was closed.


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We were lucky to find a wonderful place to stay in Central Zagreb – an apartment on Mesnicka street, just in front of the entrance to Gric Tunnel. A cozy apartment with a free parking spot for a reasonable price. If you are looking for accommodation in Zagreb, check it out – Apartment Diamond Residence.

The hidden charming places of Zagreb

Zagreb is the perfect place if you wish to enjoy an easy and romantic weekend with nice walks, cafes, delicious and peacefulness. Besides the cozy streets of Upper Town, there are also some other places that do not count as huge tourist attractions but have their own wonderful charm.

 

Attractions for kids at the Strossmayer Promenade in Zagreb

Attractions for kids at the Strossmayer Promenade in Zagreb

One of them is the Strossmayer Promenade – a fascinating green place for walks with amazing panorama towards the city. One end is just next to the Tunnel Gric entrance on Mesnicka street and the other end is actually a beautiful terrace with a staircase leading the main square.

Strossmayer Promenade, Zagreb

Strossmayer Promenade, Zagreb

Somewhere in the middle is the Lotrscak tower, one of the main attractions of old Zagreb.  This is also the most popular place to start your walk through the promenade.

 

In the immediate vicinity is another charming place – the open-air Gradec cinema with its panoramic terrace, just behind St. Catherine’s church. As a bonus, the place features a 3D painting of a whale on one of the buildings around.

Gradec cinema and its terrace with a 3d painting, Zagreb

Gradec cinema and its terrace with a 3d painting

The view from the terrace of Gradec cinema, Zagreb

The view from the terrace of Gradec cinema

Again close to the Strossmayer Promenade is the fascinating Art Park. If you are fans of drinking beer in the parks and count yourself free-minded, there you will probably find many friends. However, we visited the Art Park for two other reasons. The first one is that there is a nice playground and little Anna deserved her time of entertainment. The second is that in the Art Park are located two of the entrances to Gric Tunnel and we were eager to explore it from all sides. Of course, in the park there is a café where you can buy beer.

View from Strossmayer Promenade to the Art Park and Zagreb skyline

View from Strossmayer Promenade to the Art Park and Zagreb skyline

Streets of Zagreb. Another place to enjoy a great panorama to the city is the cafe on top of the skyscraper at the city centre

Streets of Zagreb. Another place to enjoy a great panorama to the city is the cafe on top of the skyscraper at the city centre (pictured back)

The in Zagreb – your must-see if travelling with children

We are huge fans of Zoos and if we are travelling with our daughter, they become almost a must-see place in any city we go. So we were enthusiastic to explore the one in Zagreb, too.  We took the 20-minute ride with tram 11 and to the Maksimir park where the zoo is located.

Anna and her new friends at the Zagreb zoo

Anna and her new friends at the Zagreb zoo

The Maksimir park itself is a wonderful place, built in old English style with many ponds and promenades. And the Zoo of Zagreb is a great addition to all this beauty – we can easily day that it is one of the best zoos we have ever visited.

What impressed us the most in the Zagreb zoo was the wonderful way the inhabitants and visitors are being treated. We actually did not feel like in a zoo but like in a forest with birds flying above us and ducks and swans sailing in the flowing river. We were amazed by the effort made to ensure comfort for both inhabitants and visitors in the park. There are many benches, trees, playgrounds and other places to rest. And the distance between the animals and the visitors was as small as possible.

Zebra at the Zagreb zoo

Zebra at the Zagreb zoo

Inhabitants of the zoo in Zagreb

Inhabitants of the zoo in Zagreb

The houses of primates, reptiles and amphibians also made a great impression to us. There were no signs of bad smells or ugly unhappy animals – everything looked so natural and comfortable for everyone. Our WOW! moment came when we discovered the Nile crocodile happily bathing under a waterfall.

Happy Nile crocodile at the Zagreb zoo

We really envied the Nile crocodile at the Zagreb zoo

The Zoo in Zagreb is not very large but features a wonderful atmosphere and comfort and you could easily spend hours enjoying the company of the animals. The Maksimir park is easily reachable by tram from the centre of Zagreb.

Where to eat in Zagreb

You know that for us a journey is not a journey if we have not enjoyed the local food and drinks. Therefore, we did our best to explore the best places to eat in Zagreb and we had a great success.

Konoba Didov San – Gornji Grad

Konoba Didov san, Zagreb

Konoba Didov san, Zagreb

One of the most famous places to eat in Zagreb (and there is a reason for that) is Konoba Didov San in the Upper Town, very close to St. Mark’s Church.

It is a wonderful place to try traditional Balkan specialities and also some Mediterranean suggestions. In addition, we found in the menu some other ideas like frogs and snails but we did not dare to try. However, I bet they are preparing them well, as everything else.

A traditional starter in the area is uštipak – fried doughnuts served with cheese and butter. For the main course, if you are fans of Balkan cuisine, the speciality is called Didova Tava and includes 3 steaks with vegetables and potatoes. The Dalmatian sea bass was extremely delicious, too. If you are not sure what you want, the waiters are very competent so do not hesitate to ask for suggestions. Do not miss also to order some good local wine.

Didova Tava - the speciality of Konoba Didov san

Didova Tava – the speciality of Konoba Didov san

Konoba Didov San is easy to recognize and find because of the many adverts and signs all around the town. The most attractive ads are a vintage car and a bicycle – very cute! The restaurant could look a little bit touristy and pricey but we were impressed how many locals came to dinner there because of the wonderful food and service.

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Дидов сан 45.817461, 15.973316

Bakeries

If you need a quick snack, you will be happy to discover the many bakeries around Zagreb. Maybe the most popular chain is Dubravica. No matter whether you prefer sweet of savoury snack, a doughnut or a sandwich, you will find there many options. If you are not fan of bread – they have great salads!

The sweet tooth

At some point of the day, every tourist would need a cup of coffee with something sweet. In the winter, it could be a cake, in the summer it is doubtlessly ice cream. A nice place for this is VINCEK sweet house on Ilica street, some 50m from the main square.

Escape from the heat at VINCEK sweet house, Zagreb

Escape from the heat at VINCEK sweet house

If you are not sure what you want to eat, make a stroll by Tkalciceva street and the neighbouring Skalinska street. There you will find tens of restaurants and pubs for every taste and budget.

The food place - Tkalciceva street, Zagreb

The food place – Tkalciceva street

The other food street - Skalinska, Zagreb

The other food street – Skalinska

The one place we did not have enough time to see near Zagreb is Medvedgrad, a few kilometres north from the city. It features a medieval castle with a great view to the city but it stays in the list for our next visit. The reason we missed it is another fascinating place we were impatient to explore – a glamping on Kolpa river, on the border between Slovenia and Croatia. But if you have been to Medvedgrad, we will be happy to hear you story. Is it as good as it looks?

Our blog's team in Zagreb

Our blog’s team



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