Oh hi there Zagreb, I liked you very much. I’d wanted to visit Croatia for agesss, so when the opportunity came up to check out Zagreb as one of Monarch Airlines’ new routes, I obviously took it. Obviously. September city break to sunnier climes (kinda)? Hells yes. So off to Zagreb I went, to spend 4 days exploring Croatia’s capital by myself.
Now Zagreb seems to mainly be used as a pitstop between other destinations, (usually en route to the Croatian coast), so I made it my mission to prove why it’s a worthy city break destination in its own right. It actually made a nice change to have more time and fewer tourist hotspots to tick off my list, and I quite enjoyed it! More time to really get to know the city without running around like a madwoman because OMG so many things to see. Not that there aren’t many things to see, of course there are, but I just took my time a little more because I could. Still managed to walk 20,000+ steps each day though…
I’m gonna go with a good old going simple diary style for this one rather than any kind of list, so hopefully it’ll give a good feel for the city and an insight into how much you can actually fit in. Here goes!
Monday evening: fly Manchester to Zagreb
With a whole plane to myself. Hah, not quite. Was a super chilled flight though, and cabin crew Emma and Jayden were so lovely! I spent the whole time devouring a book I’d picked up at the airport because I cleverly packed a book in my hand luggage that I’d already read. My flight only landed at 9 so after getting to my apartment (more on that in a later post) I just flopped, made a brew, and had a chilled night.
Tuesday morning: walking tour
I decided to let someone else help me get my bearings before exploring for myself, which I’d definitely recommend! A quick Google told me that the 11am walking tour starting at Ban Jelačić Square was a good call, so off I went. Luka was a great tour guide and made the whole thing really enjoyable. I’ve found some tour guides get a little carried away (with pride for their city, understandably) and want to tell you every. single. fact. – information overload, if you will. But this tour lasted a nice 2 hours and had a good mix of historical information, funny bits, and walking around, so all good with me. Walking tours are always a good way to meet fellow solo travelers too!
Day 1 was kinda dull and rainy so taking a pac a mac was a good idea, (especially as it doubles up as a comfy pillow on the plane!).
The tour took us around the highlights of the city centre with plenty of stories and recommendations of museums, foodie places and whatnot to check out afterwards. We also stopped to watch the cannon from the Lotrščak Tower at noon, and despite being warned of it’s volume, I still pretty much jumped out my skin when it went off. If you fancy a laugh from making someone jump, I’m an easy target, seriously.
Tuesday lunchtime: Mundoaka Street Food
Streetfood in both the sense that it was casual kinda food, and that we ate in the street because 6 of us couldn’t fit inside. Yes I went to Croatia on my own, and yes I’d found a group to go for lunch with on day 1! I started chatting to a few people during the tour and we all decided to go for lunch together because why not. We tried the places on Luka’s recommended list but at 2pm they were too busy for a group of 6, but we came across another appealing looking option so all was not lost.
Here I am standing in a tunnel that looked cool. That is all.
Tuesday afternoon: The museum of broken relationships
A museum just as odd and as interesting as it sounds. Virtually everyone I spoke to about Zagreb recommended this place, so obviously I had to check it out. The whole feel of it is pretty difficult to describe, but there are basically a bunch of different objects accompanied by the story of their significance to a relationship, be it one that lasted a day or 60 years. The kind of place that gives you all the feels. Oh and the WiFi password ‘just friends’ (with space, as it should be) cracked me up.
Wednesday morning: an early morning walk
I make it my mission to head out super early at least once in every city and Zagreb didn’t disappoint! Impressive buildings become that bit more impressive when bathed in pinky morning light and with virtually the whole place to yourself. Best time to get that ‘gram too, of course. 😉 Wednesday felt far more like summer, which was nice to drag out summer as long as I possibly could (knowing that ship has long since sailed in England).
Naturally I rounded off my morning walk with an obligatory warm beverage. This pretty matcha was at Quahwa Coffee Lovers Only (odd name, cool place). I decided to be an active participant in the ‘Croatian Cafe Culture’ that I’d read about, and took my sweet time watching the world go by. A woman in an impeccable shirt stood out to me, as she slowly browsed her paper in no rush whatsoever. I adopted this attitude myself in Zagreb and would highly recommend it!
Wednesday morning: fresh fruit from the Dolac market
OK so I actually did this on several mornings but let’s just show it here. My apartment was right by the main square so I passed the Dolac market in all its red umbrella’d glory often, and kept my fruit bowl stocked up at all times.
Wednesday morning: a wander through the Art Park
I had the Art Park saved to my Google maps as a cool place to visit if I passed by, but found myself mighty confused when I was *supposedly* there (according to my blue dot, y’know) but couldn’t find my way in. Turns out you have to go down an alley past Njummy cafe to reach the entrance. Unless I was just being stupid, which is entirely possible. Glad I did though, because it was a really cool, chilled out area with lots of fun art (obviously) and a generally relaxed vibe.
Wednesday lunchtime: more wandering
Not much to say here, I wandered around the upper town we’d visited on Tueday’s walking tour and took photos of things I thought looked pretty.
Wednesday lunchtime: Štrukli at La Štruk
La Štruk was on tour guide Luka’s list of ‘must visit’ eateries to get a traditional Croatian experience, so obviously I made a beeline there when hunger struck (pun not intended). I went for the pumpkin seed and pesto savoury štrukli, which was a 10/10 decision. Gimme more now. It’s a difficult dish to describe – sort of like a cheesy pastry lasagne hybrid and every bit as delicious as that sounds. The restaurant has a cute little garden area to eat too, so I’m glad I went on the sunniest day.
Wednesday afternoon: Mirogoj cemetery
Never have I ever visited a cemetery on a city break before but there’s a first for everything. I’d heard good things about this one though so with my aforementioned extra time to explore, off I went! The Mirogoj cemetery is a stunning place and so peaceful, as you’d expect a cemetery to be. Despite obviously not being able to read the headstones, I just walked around looking and taking it all in.
Clever me did go slightly wrong on the journey there; I’d read that it was 4 tram stops from the main square but stupidly didn’t keep count so found myself in the middle of a residential area, but oh well. Google Maps had my back, and what’s an extra kilometre when you’ve already walked 10.
Wednesday evening: Zagreb food and film festival
I can now say I’ve eaten a green burger bun, so that’s new! Zagreb food and film festival happened to be in full swing the week I was there (11th – 16th September) so it seemed like a good place to hang out for a while. I wanted to make the most of it feeling summery and eat outside, knowing I wouldn’t be doing that again for a long time! Apparently (food related) films were showing in an open air cinema every evening but I didn’t make it to any. Just a green chicken burger and a slushie Pina Colada for me.
Turns out green burgers are a good conversation starter, and I got chatting to a guy also travelling on his own and we spent the rest of the evening wandering around and grabbing an ice cream.
Thursday: A day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park
Tbh I debated whether or not to take the 2.5 hour journey each way for a daytrip, but YES I am so glad I did. In case you hadn’t gathered from my gushing about Plitvice over on Instagram already. It’s a national park, it’s full of lakes, it’s beautiful.
I wanted to be there as early as possible… which meant taking the 5:45am bus from Zagreb bus station… which is a tram journey away from the city centre itself… which meant a 4:30am alarm to guarantee I’d be there without rushing. That’s early even for me. Worth it though, because it got hella busy a couple of hours later! Not bothering with a tour was definitely a good decision, too; doing so would have made the day way more expensive and I preferred being able to go at my own pace.
For the most part I followed route C, joining route H at the top end of the lakes rather than catching the bus back to the entrance. According to my phone this worked out around 12km; I wanted to see as much of the park as possible so I walked quite quickly through some parts (keeping my eyes peeled for interesting things at all times, ofc). I arrived at around 8:30 and was back at the entrance in plenty of time to grab a burger and catch the 2:45 bus back to Zagreb, so all worked out nicely.
I’m glad I wore leggings and trainers (proper trainers, not converse) and took my scarf and jacket – saw some people in flipflops and I’m fairly sure they regretted their decision! I was warned it’s around 4 degrees colder in Plitvice than Zagreb, but luckily the sun still shone.
Limited success on the long exposures without a tripod (why oh WHY did I forget my gorillapod) but you get the idea. Much water.
Also forgot my sunglasses on the sunniest day. WELL DONE LILY.
Believe me when I say the water really is that blue – I remember thinking the same about the water at the Kolpa river in Slovenia last year. (sidenote: HOW has it been a year since I was in Slovenia? Jeez)
Thursday evening: meeting Antonia for pizza
I already mentioned in my post about things that made me happy lately that I’ve loved meeting people who I’ve known online for ages IRL, which is even better when they can play local tour guide for an evening. And bring you Croatian sweets and chocolate. Antonia you babe <3
We revisted a spot that I’d seen during the daytime, and the pink skies over Zagreb made it even lovelier (definitely a word).
Antonia and I enjoyed a leisurely pizza on the lively Tkalčićeva Street, complete with lots of peoplewatching and girly chitchat. With background music from a woman singing from an open window above one of the restaurants. I couldn’t figure out where the voice was coming from at first until I saw her chilling with a microphone in a windowframe.
On my last day I did the unthinkable – not very much! Caught up on blog stuff, meandered out for lunch, met a gal from the Girls Love Travel group on Facebook and wandered together a little more. But shock horror, (you might want to sit down for this) – I didn’t take many photos. Who is this person and what have they done with Lily. I’d already taken thousands so the camera pretty much stayed in my bag. And that was my trip complete!
Hopefully I’ve convinced you why Zagreb is a worthy destination on its own, and should be added to your city break list. Apparently it’s fantastic at Christmas markets time too so if you’re fancying a lil’ December city break that isn’t *too* cold, here’s your place for a perfect weekender. Monarch offer city break packages too if you want to make it nice and easy!
lily kate x
My flights were complimentary thanks to Monarch Airlines, however all opinions are 100% my own. Monarch is the only airline operating flights to Zagreb from London Gatwick and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £47 one way (£85 return). Monarch offers city break holidays to Zagreb starting from £169 per person. For further information or to book Monarch flights and Monarch Holidays please visit www.monarch.co.uk