By Kelsey Mannix
Zagreb, Croatia: a small city with history, beautiful architecture, and the world’s shortest funicular track. Just a five hour bus ride from Budapest, Zagreb is a great city to visit over a three day weekend. Visiting museums and churches, sampling the variety of restaurants, and experiencing the nightlife are just a few activities this city offers tourists and locals.
The tourism in Croatia is mainly around the beaches far to the southwest of Zagreb, with Dubrovnik being the most popular destination. Although it is unable to compete fully with more popular tourist countries such as France, Greece, and Italy, tourism overall has been increasing, evident through the 11.8 million people that visited in 2012 (http://www.croatia.eu). From January 2013 to July 2013, 6.6 million tourists visited Croatia, which, according to http://www.visit-croatia.co.uk, is a three percent increase from the same time in 2012.
For Zagreb in particular, over 600,000 people visited in 2007, which was a 13 percent increase from the year before (http://www.zagreb-touristinfo.hr). The newsletter entitled “Record Growth Rates in Tourism Turnover,” posted in February 2008, also states that tourism was increasing in all seasons throughout the year.
If you’re looking to visit Zagreb in the future, here are five things you should be sure to do:
- Take a free walking tour. There are tours throughout the city in multiple languages, so everyone is able to learn about the history of Zagreb. The tours begin across the street from the main train station, travel through the main downtown area, and end in Uppertown by the look out tower. It’s a great way to get a basic idea of how the city came to be and see all the important or interesting landmarks.
“It was really fun, and afterwards, I was able to appreciate the city much more because of the cool history and stories,” Clarissa Balint, a student from the main campus, said.
- Visit the city museum. The Zagreb City Museum takes visitors on a firsthand look at the history of the city and how it developed over time. It includes important moments, the effects of wars on the city, and memorabilia from different centuries and decades. Fun fact: there are two Oscar statues in the museum for Zagreb Film and its work in animation in the 1950’s and ‘60’s.
- The Botanical Garden is a must-see in Zagreb. A short walk from the train station, the garden is home to a variety of plants and a pond full of fish and a few turtles. While it is probably lush and full of color in the spring and summer time, it is still worth the visit towards the end of summer, even if some of the plants are dying out for the season.
- Try some of the local bars and restaurants. In the downtown area, most of the seating is outside (in comfortable chairs too, might I add), so it’s a great way to kick back, relax, and enjoy some food and drink. Here are some places I recommend trying:
- Mundoaka- This place has fancy (and delicious) street food for a reasonable price. “When I think of street for food, I think of New York hot dog stands, and Mundoaka boasted about its fresh ingredients and unique style. It was delicious!” Rachel Kuchinsky, a semester student from the main campus, commented.
- Bulldog Bistro- A restaurant that offers a variety of foods from around the world fitting for any budget.
- Millenium- A gelato place with an upstairs lounge that also has more eloquent desserts and drink options.
- Kava Tava- This cafe is perfect for Sunday brunch if you’re looking for something sweet or savory.
- The Museum of Broken Relationships. This unique museum is home to mementos of relationships that have been broken off, whether it was a marriage, a mother/daughter relationship, or a traditional boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Each item has a story behind it; some are depressing, while others are humorous and make visitors laugh out loud.
“I had high expectations for the museum, and they were met,” Leanna Jasek-Rysdahl, another main campus student, explained. “Each person could relate to the stories in different ways, and each story was unique to its object.”
There are other things to do there as well, such as visiting the cathedral, checking out the local market near Uppertown, and of course, riding the 66-meter funicular. It’s a great tourist location because most people that work there speak English, so it’s easy to communicate when you’re ordering a meal or have questions.
For more information about Zagreb, you can check these websites: http://www.visit-croatia.co.uk/index.php/croatia-destinations/zagreb/