My journey to Zagreb was definitely mixed. Both food and entertainment on KLM were sub-par and then there were issues with the plane in Amsterdam so we arrived later than expected and my luggage didn’t make the journey for a couple of days. The hotel transfer I’d booked didn’t work so I had to find my own taxi but then I arrived at the hotel and everything changed!
The hotel wasn’t perfect. Most staff were amazing but there were some that still adhered to surly and uncooperative Soviet era customer service standards. The arrival staff were part of the great ones so that really cheered me up as I had only the clothes I was wearing and had worn new shoes, which seemed really comfortable at first, but were proving to not be comfortable at all worn for over 24 hours straight! I stayed at the Arcohotel Allegra, which sadly recently closed. I have stayed in some of their other properties and it’s a good value choice with a little more style than value usually gets you.
Much like Zagreb was a random choice, my luggage woes forced me into the city center to try and find some wardrobe options until my luggage arrived. The big shopping street in Zagreb is Ilica. It’s well worth your time to discover. It’s a little extra challenging to shop in foreign cities and is definitely more pleasant when you don’t NEED anything but I discovered eastern Europe has gotten pretty stylish but at much more wallet friendly prices than in the west so it’s definitely worth putting on your itinerary.
Another area to check out is Vlaška. It’s a charming street filled with well-preserved one-storey houses and traditional crafts workshops
Another wonderful surprise was the quality of eating and drinking, all at a wallet friendly price. The best place for a fancy cocktail was in my hotel at Joe/s Bar. Since it is now closed, a good alternative is the art deco bar at the Esplanade but it will hit your pocketbook harder. If you want great value, check out Caffe Bar All In at Draškovićeva 31 – my first beer in Zagreb and a great introduction to the thriving craft beer scene. If beer is your thing, also look for Pivnica Medvedgrad at Ilica 49. I decided to take a chance and it was fabulous – an
outdoor beer garden in the back where you can sample 7 different craft beers and eat delicious and very filling rich cheesy štrukli, a Croatian speciality. Don’t be in a hurry…
Croatian wine is also spectacular both in flavour and value as I learned in Dubrovnik. It is next door to Italy so it’s not surprising the wine is so good but it’s still a big secret to most of the world. My favourite glass was an outdoor patio near the fountain at the Esplanade Hotel. I discovered you want the independent outdoor café near the Esplanade, not the Esplanade patio – the view is the same but the price differential is significant. I also had a memorable glass of wine at the Café de
Paris just off Ilica (Trg Petra Preradovića 5) when I needed a break from shopping and a bathroom. It’s worth stopping just to admire the over the top décor.
For dinner, there are plenty of options. I ate in different parts of the city. One memorable meal was at Vinodol, recommended by the charming guy on the front desk at the hotel. It’s on the expensive side for Zagreb but, if you have been hanging out in western Europe, it will seem great value. Another good option is Agava on Tkalčićeva Street. It’s also a more elegant option and there are lots of choices on the street for every budget. The surprise option was the Hemingway Bar Bistro.
I worried they were just using Papa’s name and I would be disappointed but I was hungry and there was a lovely patio with a view of the square so I took a chance and even returned for a second visit as the ingredients were fresh, the portions plentiful and
the prices reasonable.
If it’s quirky local souvenirs you are looking for, check out Kloto on masarykova 14.
I mentioned the Hotel Esplanade in my last post. I flew from Zagreb to Belgrade and then spent a couple of nights in Zagreb before heading home so splurged and stayed at the Esplanade. If you appreciate grand, old world hotels, it is worth the extra dollars. I did have a drink at the bar because it’s beautiful (and the bartenders are highly skilled) but skipped the outdoor bar and the restaurant as it was easy to eat and drink well in Zagreb for much less inflated prices.
My final recommendation for Zagreb would be to look for a good weather day and then do Zagreb 360. It offers an outstanding view over the city as there are very few skyscrapers in the Old Town. I went for sunset, which was sublime.
The charming young servers I encountered assured me tourists were discovering Zagreb and you need to go sooner than later. It’s a beautiful city filled with great eating and drinking where you can still feel like a pioneer tourist. Having seen the fate of Prague first hand, I am sure it won’t last 😉