MEDIEVAL SQUARES, COLORFUL STREETS AND QUIRKY MUSEUMS... IN ZAGREB.
Begin your tour of Zagreb in the main square, Trg Bana Jelačića, picking up a free map at the Tourist Information Center. The city center can be divided into two parts: medieval Gornji Grad and 19th-century Donji Gard - we’ll explore the former today and the latter tomorrow.
Head towards Gornji Grad , passing through Dolac, the city’s open-air market, known as the 'Belly of Zagreb'. Lined with stalls selling fresh local seasonal produce, it’s the capital’s most colorful shopping venue - expect cherries, strawberries, artichokes and asparagus in spring. Behind the market rise the twin steeples of the cathedral, dating from the 12th century but reconstructed and extended many times over the years since.
Proceed to Kamenita Vrata, a quaint medieval stone gate, and follow a winding cobbled street to arrive at St. Mark's Church, with its distinctive red-white-and-blue tiled roof, and the neighboring Croatian parliament, Sabor.
Nearby, visit the Meštrović Atelier, the former home and studio of Croatia’s finest 20th-century sculptor, Ivan Meštrović. His sculptures, in bronze, wood and marble, are well worth seeing. Afterwards, walk down Tkalčićeva, a car-free cobbled street lined with busy cafes and informal restaurants, where you can have lunch.
For many visitors, Zagreb’s top attraction is the Museum of Broken Relationships. Each exhibit is a memento from a love story that went wrong, and is accompanied by a short text explaining its significance. The overall result is a tender, thought-provoking and at times amusing look into the mysteries of the heart.
For dinner, feast on local specialities such as pečena patka sa mlincima (duck with baked pasta) and štrukli (cheese dumplings), then head to a concert. Zagreb venues attract world-class performers - New Zealand jazz pianist Alan Broadbent, Italian composer-conductor Ennio Morricone and British alternative rock bands Franz Ferdinand and Placebo will all play here in 2015.
Inventor Nikola Tesla originated from Croatia - you can learn about him at the Technical Museum. Every Sunday at 11:30am they stage a 20-minute demonstration, showcasing Tesla’s discoveries, involving turbines, electromagnetic induction and transformers. The museum also displays cars, steam engines, planes and mining equipment, and is home to a planetarium.
A 20-minute walk brings you to the train station, dating from 1892 – James Bond fans might recognise it from the 1963 film, From Russia with Love. Next door stands the capital’s most prestigious hotel, the Esplanade, built for travellers on the Orient Express and opened in 1925. Guests as diverse as Louise Armstrong, Queen Elizabeth II, Shakira and David Beckham have passed through its elegant Art Deco marble lobby.
On the green square in front of the station, you’ll find the Modern Art Gallery. Its excellent permanent exhibition includes works by Croatian artists – big bold-colored oil paintings, imposing sculptures and quirky installations from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Also close to the station, check out the Botanical Garden, known for its ponds and exotic planting – the magnolia trees should be in flower in spring.
Round off your weekend with dinner in the romantic Gornji Grad. To get there, ride the cable-car from Ilica up to the 13th-century Lotrščak Tower, and enjoy amazing views over the city from Strossmayer Promenade before heading to the restaurant of your choice.