Zagreb is one of Europe's most underrated capital cities. While it doesn't have the ancient architectural traditions of cities like Prague and Vienna, it does have some wonderful Secessionist-era buildings and a fantastic Old Town, known locally as Gornji Grad.
Zagreb is divided into two sections, Upper and Lower Town. Most visitors to the Croatian capital often head directly to Upper Town, home to some of the city's highlights. Explore its quirky museums, the city's only remaining medieval city gate, and the famous St. Mark's Square and church with its iconic colorful tiled roof that has become the symbol of Zagreb. The Lower Town is mostly populated with restaurants, cafes, shopping, hotels, and spacious parks, as well as the National Theatre, Mimara Museum, and the Ethnographic Museum.
Not as famous as the Upper Town where the oldest part of Zagreb is concentrated between the Gradec and Kaptol hills, the Lower Town (Donji Grad) is nevertheless where the Croatian revivalist movement made its greatest architectural impact in the final decades of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The elegant Viennese influences seen in the numerous secessionist-style public buildings are sometimes reminiscent of 'Late Empire' Prague. Unlike the Upper Town, the streets are mostly wide and airy, and the layout is intended to give the impression of grandeur. The Lower Town is also the site of Zagreb's 'green horseshoe' where many of the city's best museums and galleries are interlaced with large beautifully manicured garden squares.
Visiting a cemetery isn't usually perceived of as a typical tourist activity unless it's the final resting place of a famous personality, but like the famous ancient cemetery in Prague's Jewish Quarter, Mirogoj is an exception to the rule.
It's true that Mirogoj has its share of famous Croats, but the vast majority are unknown to foreigners, so the main attraction is the open-air art gallery atmosphere created by its monumental tombs, arcades and pavilions. With its ivy-covered, fortress-like entrance, and interior work by some of Croatia's best late 19th century sculptors, Mirogoj Cemetery is one of the most beautiful and peaceful spots to spend a few hours in Zagreb.
Zagreb Christmas Market
When people think of Christmas Markets, most minds think of a winter wonderland in Germany. But you may be surprised to learn that Zagreb's Christmas Market has been rated the best in Europe for two years running.
During advent, the capital of Croatia becomes a festive and beguiling Shangri La with every inch of the city center covered in decorative fairy lights and market stalls accompanied by non-stop open-air entertainment. Time can be spent exploring the yuletide kiosks, enjoying winter treats, and visiting the central ice park complete with an enormous ice skating rink.