Zagreb- Our charming capital

February 2, 2023 by
Marino Bebić

When you hear metropolis, you think of a huge city, city crowds, the sounds of sirens, smog...Let's stop you off right away, Zagreb is not that. With its population of less than million inhabitants, it justifies the status of a relaxed metropolis, pleasant for locals but also for lot of tourists who comes here. And yes, in recent years Zagreb has established itself really high on the list of tourist destinations in Croatia. Excellent connections with the rest of Europe and the world, a large selection of accommodation units, numerous interesting manifestations, events or concerts, make Zagreb an ideal starting point to start (or finish) your vacation in Croatia. 

Rather, let's go back to the beginning, to that dark time of the Middle Ages, when Zagreb became an important city in this area.
Zagreb as we know it today was built on two hills. The secular settlement of Gradec was located on one hill, and the ecclesiastical, Kaptol was located on another hill. Between two hills flowed the stream Medvešćak, which flowed into the Sava from Medvednica hill. The first written mention of the city of Zagreb dates back to 1094, when the Hungarian king Ladislav founded the Zagreb Diocese (bishopric) at Kaptol. In the following period, Europe wasn’t exactly the most pleasant place to live, diseases and difficult living conditions with constant incursions of aggressive tribes from the east does not sound like paradise, right?. In the middle of the 13th century, the Hungarian king Bela IV sought refuge from these warlike tribes on one of Zagreb's hills - Gradec. As a sign of gratitude, in 1242, the king granted Gradec the status of a free royal city. What an honor for a small town on a hill!

Well, when you come to the center of Zagreb, the first thing you will notice is our main and largest square - Ban Josip Jelačić Square. Yes, quite a long name, it won't be easy for you to pronounce it...let's call it "main square" for now. Today, it is the place where all important events in Croatia take place. This is where people celebrate and mourn and protest, but also make appointments or wait for dates. Interesting, just like in ancient history. Namely, today's "main square" was created as a large fairground at the foot of the hills, and as an indicator that the hills could finally be united into one city. This is what happens, finally, in 1850, the concept of the city of Zagreb is officially formed.

If we go east from the main square, we come to the territory of the former Kaptol and the famous Zagreb Cathedral. The Zagreb Cathedral in the Neo-Gothic style dominates the city, and the Renaissance walls around it are one of the few preserved in this part of Europe. What we adore in every city, in Zagreb is now a few steps away from you. City market, Zagreb's Dolac, a place where you can feel the true spirit and charm of the city. Local families from around Zagreb bring their best products here every morning, and you shouldn't miss that experience!
Let's continue and we will reach the "most touristic" street in Zagreb, today's Tkalčićeva Street, which is actually the Medvešćak stream from the beginning of the story. Today, the street with the most cafes and bars in Zagreb is really lively, especially in the summer months. Eh, now we have to cross the bridge. The name of the bridge is Bloody Bridge, and today, since there is no longer a stream, there is no bridge either. There is only a sign that reminds us of the bloody history of this place. It was the bridge between Kaptol and Gradec, and with whom will you most often argue than with your first neighbors. That bridge has been seen throughout the history of numerous bloody battles, fortunately today good neighborly relations are at an enviable level, so you have no worries. If we crossed the bridge successfully, we came to the former Gradec. Today, the territory of Gradec is called Gornji Grad, and the administrative center of the entire Republic of Croatia is located there. The stone gate is the only preserved entrance to the former Gradec, and it is this gate that is perhaps the most important symbol of Zagreb. But we won't steal the job from the local guides, let them tell you in detail why.

There are a lot of interesting places and you will certainly need at least 3-4 hours to go through them all. And then, I'm sure, you'll get hungry. No problem, you won't go hungry or thirsty in Zagreb. What you should not miss - Zagreb štrukle (traditional Zagreb dish), ham, cheese and cream and horseradish (traditional appetizer), duck or turkey with mlinci, various sausages with cabbage and much more. 

Where? Find the top 5 local restaurants in Zagreb in our blogs. 
Zagreb is a charming metropolis where you will feel comfortable. We suggest a city tour with a local guide, because Zagreb really has a lot to offer you, and later, be sure to refresh yourself with local specialties. If you are in Zagreb at Christmas time, you must not miss Zagreb's Advent, which has been declared the best in Europe for years (More on that in another blog). 

We are sure that you will enjoy Zagreb, and find out how to spend 3 days in Zagreb in our blog.

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Marino Bebić February 2, 2023
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