The Croatian capital of Zagreb is the starting point for many of our Sava River cruises and is a beautiful city to explore before you set sail. The city limits are spread over 247 square miles and encompass areas in the valley, along the river, and those at higher altitudes, in the foothills of the Medvednica Mountain.
The origins of the name Zagreb are uncertain, but many believe that the etymology is to do with the Croat verb zagrabiti, meaning ‘to scoop’. A legend that supports this theory states that an officer was leading his thirsty soldiers through an area of arid land when he drove his sabre into the ground and water poured out. He then ordered his soldiers to dig and the resulting waterhole was the basis for a new settlement.
Here are a few things to add to your to-do list whilst you’re in Zagreb.
Frequent The Farmers’ Markets
The locals love their markets in Zagreb and so there will be no shortage of places to sample and buy some traditional food and wares. The largest market, Dolac, can be found close to the main square and is spread across two different levels. As well as the flowers, you will find plenty of local food to try.
As you wonder around the indoor section of the market, the wonderful smell of fresh bread will fill your nostrils. This is also where the cheesemongers, butchers and pasta vendors can be found. In the outside section, on the first-floor level, you will find sellers of fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, spices and nuts. You can definitely lose a few hours here amongst the lively atmosphere that the people of Zagreb love so much.
If you prefer your food to be prepared for you, the city also has a vibrant restaurant scene. Lunch is the most important meal of the day and so deals can often be found at this time. One thing you should definitely try is the Croat version of strudel, known as štrukli.
Walk The Walk
Nature lovers and walking enthusiasts may enjoy getting out of the city centre for a few hours to take a hike up Medvednica Mountain. There are many different trails for you to choose from, some of which can take you to medieval ruins, caves and hot springs, but the two most popular routes are polar opposites.
The first is one of the least demanding treks, known as the Miroslavec trail. It starts in the city and leads to a beautiful creek at a place called Kraljicin Zdenac. Alternatively, you can climb the 957m to the Puntijarka mountain house, close to the highest peak of the mountain, and reward yourself with a delicious slice of apple pie at the end.
If you would rather stay in town to get your nature fix, why not take a wander through the parks and gardens known as Lenuci’s horseshoe? Created by an architect by the name of Lenuci, these green areas create a ‘u’ shape and provide an extended walk in peaceful surroundings.
Contemplate Contemporary Art
Zagreb is home to the largest museum in Croatia, the Museum of Contemporary Art. Known locally as the MSU, it houses a library, boutique and children’s workshop as well as the extensive exhibition hall. You will see works by Croatian artists as well as those who are more internationally recognised, but one may be more familiar than most. The entrance hall features a piece by Carsten Höller called ‘Double Slide’, which uses the same principle as his ‘Test Site’ work that used to be in the turbine hall of the Tate Modern. These two slides can be used by visitors to travel between the different floors.
For a completely different museum experience, you can head across town to the Museum of Broken Relationships. This tongue in cheek collection features exhibits that have played some part in the breakdown of a relationship. All are accompanied by a passage which tells the story of the object and walking around these quirky displays can be an emotional rollercoaster.
If you would like to visit Zagreb, take a look at the Sava River cruises we have available. It is also worth remembering that we can add hotel stays on to the beginning of your cruise so that you have more time to explore this wonderful city.