1. Saturday mornings are sexy
Between 10am and 3pm on Saturdays, a coterie of socially-conscious locals don their finest, flashiest clothes, and strut their way to Bogovićeva, just by the main square. Then they sit, drink coffee, and pout. It’s part of a strange phenomenon called špica, and it’s all about seeing and being seen.
2. Dragons are the city’s favourite creatures…
You’ll see horses standing proudly on plinths in most European capitals. And while Zagreb is partial to a stallion or two, their creature of choice is the dragon. The reptilian beast lurks all over – look out for Austrian sculptor Anton Fernkorn’s recreation of St George slaying the dragon next to the national theatre.
3. … closely followed by dogs
You can barely walk two metres without tripping over a Chihuahua or Yorkshire terriers. Coffees, bars and resraurants are very dog-friendly. All over Croatia people care and love dogs and take care of them.
4. You can take a tiny, thrillingly safe train
One to get health and safety officials jumping (carefully) for joy. Zagreb’s old-fashioned funicular system – the little street car that trundles up and down from the old town to the new – is the world’s safest public transportation system, reporting zero passenger injuries in over a century.
5. There’s a unique museum dedicated to lost love
Celebrating romance is way too conventional for Zagreb, which has a special place reserved for the heart-broken. The Museum of Broken Relationships showcases relics from lost loves and loved-ones lost. It’s touching stuff – a sensitive soul might even find it sublime. Most people will find themselves weeping profusely as they peruse the keepsakes and billet-doux; more cynical visitors will need to excuse themselves, so that they can repress their unexpected surge of emotions in a quiet corner.
6. But at least you can comfort eat afterwards…
The cutest stalwart of Zagreb’s confectionary scene is the licitar – a popular and traditional biscuit. Shaped like a heart and glazed in red, the delicious thing is supposed to symbolise love and affection.
7. It has a brand new arty area
Martićeva, the Eastern part of the city centre, has recently been declared Zagreb’s design district: in recent years, all manner of creative businesses have set up camp in this once-barren slice of the city, and it’s swiftly becoming Zagreb’s hot spot à la London’s East End or New York’s Lower East Side. It’ll be celebrated this June in a joyous festival four-day festival of art and design.
8. Green Zagreb
You can find spaces for recreation almost anywhere around Zagreb. Also within easy reach we find Medvednica, a popular destination for outings. Right in the city centre, parks, streets and squares intersect with green spaces and gardens. Landscaped in the 19th century, Strossmayer Promenade in the Upper Town is where you can enjoy a romantic panorama of Zagreb accompanied by the poet A.G. Matoš, in sculpture form. Further evidence of 19th-century urban planning is provided by the so-called Green Horseshoe. This line of eight green squares created by Lenuci serves as the axis of the Lower Town. One of the most popular is Zrinjevac, known for its row of plane trees brought in from Trieste more than a century ago. Fountains, a music pavilion and busts of notable figures take us back to that time.
9. Eat, pepper, love
Croatian cuisine is diverse and exciting – and the Dolac market, affectionately called “the Belly of Zagreb”, is a gastronomical experience to be reckoned with. In particular, visitors are drawn to a traditional aromatic biscuit known as the paprenjak. Hard name; amazing taste. The cookie, once made by the women of old Zagreb, is an unusual combination of honey, walnuts, and pepper – a reminder of Zagreb’s unique contrasts.
10. Wonderful wifi
Many tourists are dependent on GPS – and thus wifi. But this ancient city, steeped in history, is way ahead of the game when it comes to modern amenities. The city centre has free wifi, along with many other streets, hotels and cafes throughout the city. In fact, there’s a whole Facebook page offering the passwords for free wifi in the city. So in Zagreb you’ll never be lost – and you’ll never be without Instagram.