Croatia’s capital, Zagreb dates back more than 1,000 years. Its name was first mentioned in 1621 when it was selected to be the seat of the Croatian viceroys. Before Croatia declared its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, Zagreb was the second largest city in the county behind Belgrade.
Zagreb is known as the city of museums; there are more per square foot than any other place in the world. In the evenings, the streets around the museums and galleries are softly lit by gas lamps. Everywhere the stories of the past beckon.
Duck under the only surviving town gate, dating back to the 13th century and painted with a beautiful depiction of the Virgin Mary. This mural miraculously escaped the fire of 1731 and today it’s a place of pilgrimage where candles are lit in prayer. The soft yellow Presidential Palace has been the seat of power for more than 200 years; the last Viceroy called the complex home until 1918.
Start your walking tour of Zagreb in the main pedestrian square, its skyline punctuated by the twin neo-Gothic spires of the 13th-century St. Marks cathedral nearby. The sloping rooftop of the cathedral is a checkerboard of red, white, and blue, interrupted by the coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia.
To get an insider look at life in Zagreb, head to the Dolac Market, where vendors ply fresh fruits, vegetables, and crafts. Cozy restaurants line quaint streets, serving dishes influenced by the Austro-Hungarian heritage. Your Ker & Downey guide will help you order a Grenadir Marsa, a variety of pasta dishes served with onions, cheese, or cabbage. Taste the puff pastry stuffed with an indulgent combination of cheese and cream. Coffee shops tucked into classic facades on Tkalciceva street invite you to spend the day people-watching. Doughnuts sprinkled with powdered sugar are filled with marmalade or chocolate cream. Of course, no culinary journey to Zagreb would be complete without sipping on its wine.
Zagreb is open for visitors year-round. In the warmer months, swim and sail in Jarun Lake. Cooler days call for skiing at Mount Medvednica, only a tram ride away. Croatia’s natural beauty is diverse and simply stunning. The Pltvice National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with luminescent lakes so clear that you can see fish swimming below.
This is a land that cherishes its rich history. Tiny villages dot the countryside. White homes decorated with small window baskets of colorful flowers add to the charm. In Kumrovec, learn about pottery making and weaving. With a Ker & Downey guide, see how traditional wooden toys are made by a local artisan.