We recently spent 3 weeks exploring the beautiful country of Croatia. We visited some of the well-known places, like the city of Dubrovnik and the coastal town of Rovinj, but one of my favorite stops was the city of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. It’s a much less visited city by most tourists since it’s inland and most people visit the coastal towns and move on, but Zagreb is a city well worth a visit.
Zagreb is a bustling city and has much to offer, including unexpected surprises. It just so happened that we were there during a holiday. While wandering, we noticed a truck stopping to place what looked like red scarves on all of the statues around the park. I asked the gentleman what was the significance of the red scarf? He told me that for the following 4 days Croatia was celebrating “Cravat Day”. Yes, you heard it…they celebrate the necktie. After all, they did invent it and this celebration commemorates an element of Croatia’s national heritage. The celebration included a historic-military show of the Great Shift Guard of the Joint Historical Combat Unit led by the Kravat-Regiment. There were drums, horses and of course cravats! And…the gentleman who was placing the ties on the statues was spotted in full uniform in the ceremony.
In the morning we got our 10,000 steps in early and walked to another part of Zagreb to visit the studio where the authentic Licitar Hearts are made. I thought there was a storefront there where I could purchase some of the lovely hearts but as it turned out, the location was a manufacturing studio, not really a retail store. The women there graciously let us in any way and allowed us to see the studio and buy some of their beautiful traditional Croatian Licitar decorations that are favorite for Christmas trees in Croatian homes and for giving as a gift to the loved ones at special occasions. Ironically, later in the afternoon, we visited “The museum of broken relationships”. This was an interesting museum, to say the least – not your typical museum. It was filled with items and stories about broken relationships. It was thought-provoking and actually really made me sad, but it was real.
My vote is for everyone to just give Licitar hearts to everyone, but I guess that’s my fantasy world. Another lovely day in Zagreb.
Another surprise was the terrific food options in the city. Here is a sample of what it looks like to eat on vacation in Zagreb, Croatia. It’s always an adventure to travel to new places and food is part of the adventure. If you are a really picky eater you can be disappointed when traveling because there are places that just don’t have the same types of traditional food we have in the US. And dare I say, there are still cities on this planet without a Starbucks. Zagreb is not one of those places. The food in the city was top notch. Pictured are pancakes with bananas and Nutella, a nice organic burger and Russian Honey Cake. All delicious! There is also not a shortage of amazing coffee spots around the city.
We thought we had already visited the city in Croatia known to have the best sunsets.
According to some (Alfred Hitchcock apparently) Zadar, Croatia has the best sunsets in the world. We visited Zadar and it was lovely, but I can tell you that the best sunset was in Zagreb. We had the pleasure of viewing the sunset from the 16th floor of the Zagreb 360° building observation deck, one of a few “skyscrapers” in Zagreb. It lasted for over an hour and didn’t look like much when it started. But as the hour went on, it just kept changing and lighting up the sky in different colors and directions. This really was the best show on earth. It was mesmerizing.
We spent the last week of our 3-week tour of Croatia in the capital city of Zagreb. Probably more than any other place on our list of stops, this was the place I was most unsure about. It seemed that most travel advisors steer visitors to the coast and the more “touristy” locations. For me, Zagreb was actually my favorite. It’s has a population of approximately 800,000 people, roughly the same as Portland, Oregon. The people there were incredibly friendly and you could feel the life in the city happening all around. The buildings are imposing but beautifully styled with Gothic, Baroque, Art Nouveau, Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Venetian decorations. The Zagreb Cathedral pictured below is Mid-13th century Gothic. We had beautiful weather and ate very well! I would not hesitate to return to Zagreb.
Camera gear I used while traveling
Cameras: Fujifilm X-T2 | Fujifilm X100S
Lenses: Fujinon XF 16mmF1.4 R WR | Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 R | Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R