Zagreb sits at the foot of the Medvednica Mountain and you can almost instantly feel the city's connection with its local nature as a result. Zagreb has no shortage of green spaces and the locals love nothing more than to take advantage of these parks and places. Street art, innovative design, and sophistication are ever-present around Zagreb and the city's personality flourishes as a result.
When to Go
Zagreb has four distinct seasons and there are events and things to do in each of them. Summers are warm and the average temperature hovers around 80 degrees. Winters are cold with temperatures around 37 degrees on average. Zagreb is the ninth rainiest capital in Europe, on the other hand, so come prepared.
One of the biggest celebrations in Zagreb is Advent. During this time, the city takes on a cozier vibe with local food, lights, and vendors taking to the streets—head to Zrinjevac to see Advent at its best. In mid-March, Zagreb becomes a fluorescent fantasy world as the city celebrates the Festival of Lights. The city center illuminates with interactive light shows and it truly takes you to another world. Music lovers will enjoy the famous InMusic Festival that takes place every June at Lake Jarun in Zagreb. The festival lures in more than 100,000 music enthusiasts yearly and continues to grow in popularity.
What to Eat
The city of Zagreb does a commendable job catering to everyone regardless of his or her diet. You can find restaurants that meat lovers will fancy in the same vicinity as 100 percent plant-based restaurants. A popular pastry that the locals of Zagreb love is "Strukli," a cottage cheese and sour cream filled pastry that has its origins in Slovenia but is popular in the Croatian capital today. Cuspajz, a meat and vegetable stew, is also pretty popular amongst locals although it can usually be found at home and not necessarily out at restaurants. Like most other countries in the Balkans, you won't be hard-pressed to find Ćevapi, a grilled minced meat, ubiquitously throughout the city.
A beacon by night, a watchtower by day, the lonely lighthouse called Struga on Croatia’s Lastovo Island obsessed author Paul Kvinta (pictured here) with its austere beauty and its keepers—Jure and Nada Kvinta—who share his family name.
Read more in Kvinta's article, "A Light on the Croatian Coast," from the May/June 2011 issue of National Geographic Traveler.
Souvenir to Take Home
Rakija is a popular fruit brandy drink that is commonly found throughout the Balkans and Croatia is no exception. Find a bottle of local rakija and take a piece of Zagreb home with you. If you have space for something a little larger, Zagreb is known for Šestine umbrellas, a style of umbrella that resembles the traditional costume of the people of the Šestine neighborhood, one of Zagreb's oldest districts located close to the mountain. You will see Šestine umbrellas used as parasols at the Dolac Market in the city center.
Sustainable Travel Tip
Zagreb isn't struggling with over tourism at the moment, but that doesn't mean that opportunities aren't present to have a sustainable and mindful vacation there. One way to do this is to support the local businesses and vendors. Buy locally produced wine and beer. Purchase fruits and vegetables from the local vendors and farmer's markets. Bring your own tote bag along with you and say no to excess plastic. If Zagreb isn't your only stop on your Croatia itinerary, opt for a bus to your next destination instead of renting a car. Buses are ever-present in Croatia and are reliable and comfortable.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
For the token Zagreb photo, head to Saint Mark's Church and photograph yourself in front of one of the most recognizable churches in Europe. For a view overlooking the city, check out Zagreb 360 where, for a small fee, you can head to the 16th floor of the building and catch a glimpse of the Balkan capital and its surrounding nature. If you are looking for everyday Instagram-worthy moments, check out Zagreb's café scene. Several cafes in the city and Design District offer aesthetically gorgeous backdrops that will complement your coffee or breakfast.