Zagreb, the romantic charm of a European gem
Always full of surprises, Croatia’s capital combines prestigious heritage with the buzz of a young and modern city.
As it is practically bursting at the seams with art and greenery, Zagreb is certainly ample competition for its Italian neighbours across the Adriatic. The city’s twenty theatres, thirty museums, forty-five galleries and a dozen of art collections are only a tiny fraction of the treasures it has to offer. At the crossroads of continental and Mediterranean influences, it exudes a truly poetic atmosphere.
For example, legend has it that a victorious soldier returning from battle asked a young girl called Manda to draw (“zagrabi” in Croatian) water from a spring for him. And this is supposedly how the city got the name “Zagreb”, and how the spring, which is now a fountain in Ban Jelačić square, came to be called “Manduševac”, in homage to the young girl. This heritage is still as alive and attractive as ever.
From the medieval alleyways of the upper town to the Austro-Hungarian facades of the lower town, the colourful tiles of Saint Mark's church to the Ban Jelačić central square, the wealth of museums to the numerous parks, and the lively terraces to the contemporary art galleries, you will be sure to discover a city that is young and endearing on a human level. This unique romantic charm will accompany you every time you head out into the city as a couple or with your family. You only need to travel a few stops on the tram or the funicular to reach something new and unexpected. And you can follow the pathways of Croatia’s national history while taking a romantic stroll. Less than 30 kilometres away, you can find exciting nature activities, both in summer and winter. Fans of water sports should head to Jarun Lake, known as “the sea of Zagreb”, in the very south of the capital, where you can go sailing or canoeing; while winter sports enthusiasts can look forward to the snowy season to put on their skis and hurtle down the slopes in the heights of Mount Sljeme, the summit of the Medvednica massif. Amateur hikers and experienced climbers alike can follow the mountain’s hiking trails leading up to the medieval fortress of Medvedgrad. This impressive feat of human ingenuity rivals the spectacular nature on display in the Plitvice Lakes region, a forest reserve classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the northwest of this young country, between Mount Medvednica and the River Sava, Zagreb is a real jewel in Europe’s crown. Its public gardens, which are modelled on those in Vienna and Paris in the 19th century, the artificial lakes, natural parks and reserves that surround it, make this small Croatian metropolis the perfect getaway for a combination of culture and nature.
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© Text and photography courtesy of EnVols