The underrated goodness of Zagreb

Having lived and travelled in Europe for a several years of my life, I have more than a few times heard people not talk so highly of Zagreb. Mostly Europeans who are more interested in heading for the beaches of Croatia rather than visit yet another European city. Coming from Australia, what I call a beach and what a European calls a beach are two different things (cobblestone beach, anyone?) Having now seen Zagreb for myself, I would gladly trade 500km of Australian beaches to have 5 cities like Zagreb in Australia (I’m making an executive decision of behalf of Australia here but, really, we have enough beaches to spare.)

Golden angels at Zagreb Cathedral
[Golden angels at Zagreb Cathedral]

Maybe it was because Zagreb was the first new city I had visited in Europe on this trip, but I took a liking to Zagreb as soon as I stepped out of the train station. Lots of classic old apartments and administrative buildings in various states of repair, with a mix of those that look freshly restored to those with crumbling brick edifaces and covered in graffiti. There are trams everywhere here as well, which is always a good thing in the eyes of this Melburnian.

Tram in Zagreb
[Zagreb tram]

Having just come from Asia the thing that really stood out for me was how green and walkable the city is. I like cities where you walk or cycle anywhere (or get a tram), and I was happy to take a siesta in a grassy park in the afternoon sun.

Sidewalk in Zagreb
[Walkable Zagreb]

Zagreb The Second Time Around

I came back through Zagreb on my way to Ljubljana and I had four hours to spare between trains. In a case of wonderful timing I got to meet up with my friends Melanie and Adam from travelswithtwo.com, who happened to be passing through as well. We went to the highly rated Museum of Broken Relationships thinking it would be a fun way to spend the afternoon. I don’t know how we got the idea it would be fun, but it was certainly worth visiting. The museum features donated items from real broken relationships. While some of the items were comically absurd, many were indeed downright sad.

Museum of Broken Relationships
[One of the many sad stories]

What I liked about the museum was that there is a story behind each article. I find myself frustrated by modern art, where a pile of garbage on the floor can be labelled as “mans struggle with his mortality” and it it gets passed off as great art. What a bunch of crap. Adding narrative to these everyday items gave each piece their own meaning, to a subject that most of us can relate to.

With Adam and Melanie
[Adam, Melanie and yours truly]

Coming back to Zagreb the second time I had an better appreciation for the city. I had just been to some of popular the coastal cities of Croatia, which felt more like holiday destinations. Zagreb feels like a real city, without all the tour buses and restaurants with menus in four languages. As time didn’t permit me to visit the islands of Croatia I know I will need to come back to this country, and I would be happy to arrive via Zagreb again.

Croatia with Eurail

I travelled to Zagreb via rail direct from Budapest thanks to Eurail.com as part of my My Grand Tour of Europe with Eurail.

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Comments

  1. says

    I really miss Zagreb…and I love your photo of those golden angels! That’s my favorite fountain in the city. 

    I also have no idea why we thought the Museum of Broken Relationships would be a laugh, but really? Broken. Relationships. It says all you need to know right in the title. Well that, and there’s an axe mounted on a wall next to a love letter. 

  2. says

    Ooh! Zagreb. Love the photos. You could have put up more of them. I haven’t been there yet but I’d love to put it down on my list of places to visit in the near future. I wonder when would be the perfect time to go there? 

  3. says

    I missed going to Zagreb on my two recent trips to Croatia even though I’ve always wanted to go. I’ve heard mixed reviews about it but I have a feeling I’ll love it. Hopefully I’ll get there later this summer.

  4. ConfusedJulia says

    I’m currently in Croatia and Zagreb is definitely on my list to visit. I have read before about the Museum of Broken Relationships and it definitely sounds interesting (if that’s the right word?).

      • ConfusedJulia says

        I did, and I really enjoyed it. I also visited the Museum, which I loved. The city surprised me actually in how “European” it was – the parks and leafy streets reminded me of Paris, as opposed to some of the other cities I’ve visited in the Balkans.

  5. says

    Just by looking at your photos, I like the look of this place already! I like the mix of traditional architecture alongside crumbling buildings with graffiti. It gives the place character.

  6. says

    nice article!  will be in Zagreb in August.   we have three weeks in Croatia, not sure how to divide things up.  maybe we’ll stay in Zagreb longer than intended?  

    • says

      Thanks Tyler. I only had less than a week in Croatia, so I didn’t rush around to much. If I had more time I would have liked to visit some of the islands. Have fun!

      • says

        We ended up spending four days in Zagreb, two and a half weeks in Split, a couple days at Plitvice Lakes, and back to Zagreb for three days. Loved it all. Ate well, took in the sights and were pleasantly surprised at how much English is spoken (although we try to learn enough of the country’s language to get by).

        The Museum of Broken Relationships is great, as is the Museum of Naive Art across the street.

        We’re currently in Beograd, leaving on Tuesday for Istanbul, studying my Turkish. Serefe!

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