For those unacquainted with it, allow us to introduce you to the capital and largest city in Croatia. Zagreb’s unassuming stature, long overshadowed by the Londons and Parises and Berlins and Pragues of Europe, may just be the characteristic that makes this city such a fantastic place to experience. After all, its streets are safe but lively, its architecture is first rate, its parks and squares and museums are plentiful, and its populace lacks that telltale impatience native to all cities overburdened by an exploitative tourism industry. Consider it a refreshing break from the typical big-city experience. So sit back, grab a drink at a café (you’ll be right at home here), and get to know a little more about the world’s only capital to start with the letter “z”.
If you’re on the lookout for cultural hot-spots, get ready to take some notes. Park kralja Tomislava is a good place to start your exploration: smack dab in the center of the city, replete with frisbee-tossing locals frolicking on the grass and surrounded by nearby landmarks like the Croatian Academy of Sciences and the unmistakably impressive (and unmistakably yellow) Art Pavilion building. Speaking of impressive landmarks, you’ll want to hit up the Mirogoj Cemetery and the Mimara Art Museum during your visit; the first for its towering architecture and the second for its collection that includes works by the likes of Caravaggio and Renoir. Should your cultural curiosities tend to be of a more contemporary nature, you’ll be happy to know that Zagreb’s healthy university population means that there’s plenty of consistent entertainment to be had here throughout the year as well. Areas like Ul Tkalciceva and Lake Jarun provide ample opportunities either by day or by night for extroverted out-of-towners to mix and mingle with a few friendly locals.
Feeling slightly more adventurous? Well we’ve got some good news, because Zagreb is by no means a city without access to scenic romps in the natural world. Mt. Medvednica tends to be a local favorite due to its close proximity to the city center and its selection of accessible adventures throughout all four seasons (hiking, biking, skiing, etc.). However, if you’re not opposed to a drive, the Zumberzak-Samoborsko Gorje to the west and the UNESCO recognized Papuk Geopark farther to the east offer tons of opportunities to explore the wooded, waterfall-strewn side of Croatia that gets such sparse attention from the bulk of the country’s visitors. There are also a number of nearby parks and lakes (Jarun, Maksimir, etc.) that can handle all the urban outdoor recreation you feel like partaking in. So grab a Zagreb Card, a map and a sense of adventure and come pay an exploratory visit to one of Europe’s best-kept capital secrets. These days it's got something of a reputation for exceeding expectations.