Croatian Desserts cookbook

50 step-by-step recipes, 224 pages, 500 images & expert baking tips 

By Andrea Pisac - 37 Comments - October 19, 2019 min read

When I put my superpower travel goggles on, I can see you hover over a map of Croatia, tracing a wish-route that’ll make your holiday unforgettable.

Your eyes sparkle at the sight of Croatia’s crystal blue water.

Next, your mouth waters as you read about Istria’s hand-harvested wines and pastas drowned in opulent truffle sauces.

Finally, your heart races when you imagine yourself exploring ancient Dalmatian towns that your blogger idols just returned from.

And there’s just one question before your sweet travel anticipations turn into a set itinerary.

What about Zagreb? Is Zagreb worth visiting too?

Is Zagreb worth visiting | Zagreb Honestly
Romantic Zagreb Upper Town – photo by Marko Vrdoljak (Zagreb Tourist Board)

If I simply told you ‘Yes, of course it is’, you’d want to know why. Is it an instant winner as the fabulous Croatian coast? Is it ‘the next Prague’? Or something completely different?

I hear you.

When I lived in London, I’d coax my British friends to stop in Zagreb before rushing off to the coast. Not a single one regretted changing their plans. Even when it meant less time sun-bathing or island-hopping.

Of course, I made sure they had me to unravel Zagreb for them. But even if I don’t take you by the hand to my favourite places and share the city’s stories over a cup of coffee, this post will help you find out:

  • what to generally expect from your visit to Zagreb
  • what travel experiences Zagreb is worth visiting for
  • where to get information and inspiration to have a blast in Zagreb

So, is Zagreb worth visiting?

Timeless and elegant like a small black dress, Zagreb is a city that draws you in slowly. If there’s a destination that delivers on the ‘still water runs deep’ statement – it is Zagreb.

Like any Central European capital, Zagreb is not short of praiseworthy highlights: bountiful museums, captivating architecture and an explosion of outdoor activities.

So, think of vibrant food markets, everyday cafe culture, lush greenery and a host of street festivals. But know, they are stylish accessories to the graceful fabric of its biggest highlight – the life attitude.

Where other cities attract with charismatic yet prepackaged tourist attractions, Zagreb delights with its human-scale graciousness.

As James of Nomadic Notes says, it’s ‘a real city, without all the tour buses and restaurants with menus in four languages’. Even when you set out to explore its sights, you’ll be spared the corporate tourist aftertaste: a feeling that you’re in a theme park.

Maybe you’re already itching to explore the best of Zagreb? Then dig into my ultimate guide!

101 things to do in Zagreb

Zagreb is worth visiting if you like:

1) getting around in a laid-back style

If you have a thing for characterful public transport, such as trams in Lisbon or San Francisco, you’ll be easily impressed in Zagreb.

The squealing sound of Zagreb blue trams adds a note of the old word charm to the city’s unhurried pace. Riding a packed carriage will give you a flavour of the local life. But you can just as easily explore the historic centre on foot.

Is Zagreb worth visiting | Zagreb Honestly
Zagreb trams – photo by Marko Vrdoljak (Zagreb Tourist Board)

Walking is one of the greatest things you can do in Zagreb.

The Upper Town dimly lit narrow streets will draw you in on a romantic quest. You’ll be poking your head around each corner, wondering where such a secluded alleyway or a staircase might lead? A mysterious park, hidden courtyard, or a world-class museum?

Even when you join pedestrians in the busier Lower Town, walking from point A to point B will be a joyful sidewalk dance. A mellow stroll infused with window-shopping, people-watching and happily getting distracted with new discoveries.

Get inspired:
1) Michael Hodson of Go See Write loved the idea that you can get inside a courtyard of each historic building and find a world for yourself: a café or a boutique shop. He could stay in Zagreb for 3-4 months!
2) Frank of Frank about Croatia created a guide to Zagreb for couples, revealing places and itineraries that make Zagreb a perfect romantic getaway.
3) Some Upper Town spots are so perfectly hidden and beautiful, they just lend themselves to romance. I call them Zagreb kissing spots. Find them on this Romantic Zagreb Walk.

Zagreb is worth visiting if you like:

2) straying off the path

Rambling around Zagreb pretty cityscape will put you in a perfect holiday mood. You’ll be carefree as well as thrilled with things you do and places you see. If you completely ditch your to-do list, Zagreb’s walkable character will wow you even more.

Aimless meandering could take you to secluded leafy paths, just around the corner from bustling streets and squares. So follow your curiosity. There is street art, spooky gargoyles, bygone courtyard wells or painted water pumps waiting out there.

You’ll wonder why these enchanting oddities are not sign-posted or widely advertised. The answer? Because Zagreb is still not a touristy place. You’ll be thankful for that because part of the excitement is discovering them on your own.

Get inspired:
1) Get deliciously aimless with my self-guided Zagreb walks through city’s uncharted territories. You’ll get a map and a bunch of captivating stories, from art history to the city lore, to keep you going.
2) Iva Silla from Secret Zagreb is more than a tourist guide. Her gripping storytelling about Zagreb legends leaves no stone unturned, even in the darkest Upper Town alley or inside secret Zagreb tunnels. If you want your curiosity fired up and then be guided to lesser-known parts of the city, book one of her inspiring walks.
3) Kris and Sarah of Jetsetting Fools stayed in Zagreb long enough to discover the delights of many Zagreb outdoor spaces. Follow their trail through landscaped parks, such as Maksimir, the Green Horseshoe or the Botanical Garden, or venture out to semi-wild greenery and Zagreb lakes.

Zagreb is worth visiting if you like:

3) travelling without to-do lists

Do you know the feeling of overwhelm after spending a few days in Paris or London?

It’s not only the busy ‘things to do and places to see’ itinerary that sends you off spinning but the gnawing guilt about not having covered it all. Even your memory of these grand places carry a tinge of failure.

On the other hand, Zagreb is utterly different. Not only can you do your to-dos short and sweet, it’s a city that forgives you for missing out on some of its official highlights.

In fact, many travellers wish they had allowed more time in Zagreb. But the regret is not about running out of time to do more sightseeing. It’s about not realizing sooner that Zagreb is at its best without an itinerary.

Anne Lowrey of Part Time Traveler said next time she visits Zagreb, it’ll be only to loaf around and sip one coffee after other. Honestly, if you want to experience Zagreb at its most exquisite, you need to match its languid attitude to life.

What Zagreb people love most is their free time. Actually, they’ll conduct even their busiest tasks in what seems like a leisurely context – coffee drinking.

If the sight of crowded terraces in the middle of a workday makes you think no one works here, remember that you might be witnessing a bunch of business meetings.

Also, having a drink with friends is often a spur of the moment thing. Few people will ever require you to arrange a date long in advance. It’s an attitude thing.

Zagreb people believe they should have time for their friends, even if it means taking it out of their work schedule.

Is Zagreb worh visiting | Zagreb Honestly
Coffee with friends at Britanac Square

So throw away your agenda.

Instead of getting busy sightseeing, meet a local and enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing… one cafe after another after another. Or if Zagreb is a stop on your world travels, use your time here to slow down and recover from other busy destinations.

Pretend you live here and the coulda woulda shoulda’s will soon disappear. You’ll love Zagreb for giving you a wonderful freedom to just be.


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As you move from a café to a restaurant, you’ll soon encounter something worth seeing. Maybe it won’t be a guidebook highlight, but it will be just as memorable. Why? Because you’ve discovered it by chance.

And because it’s the way Zagreb unfolds to visitors.

Get inspired:
1) The beauty of Zagreb for Matt Long of Landlopers is in discovering small and unexpected delights like statues of the famous sculptor Ivan Meštrović: ‘a tour just of his statues in Zagreb could easily fill a day’.
2) Iva Silla’s guestpost for the popular Croatia blog Chasing the Donkey praises Zagreb street art scene – just as vibrant and interesting as must-see museums. Why not track down the Zagreb Solar system – a treasure trail of nine planets scattered around the city, relative in size and distance to the real thing. Or stop at a painted water pump to learn about the Pimp My Pump art project?
3) Kami of My Wanderlust took amazing photos of the Zagreb graffiti – another lesser-known city delight, discovered only if you lose your itinerary and hop on an aimless walk.

Zagreb is worth visiting if you like:

3) cities with their own cool

People often compare Zagreb to the Croatian coast or to cities like Prague or Vienna. But Zagreb is neither and both at the same time.

An eclectic mix of Central European and Mediterranean mentalities, it’s smart in an Austro-Hungarian way and spruced up with warm Southern gusto.

Most of all, Zagreb has developed its own way of cool.

Resisting the onslaught of large international franchises, the city centre abounds with idiosyncratic cafes, restaurants, boutique shops, even old-style cinemas.

In the words of Jonathan Bousfield, author of the Rough Guide to Croatia, this ‘makes Zagreb something of a collector’s item among connoisseurs of Central European authenticity’.

Facts that make Zagreb a singular city:

#1 Zagreb has the biggest number of museums per square meter.

The Museum of Broken Relationships is the most raved about gallery. But more unique museum spaces are sprouting all the time.

There is Lauba, an Austro-Hungarian riding stable turned interactive contemporary art showroom, small but quirky Mushroom Museum or the bewildering Museum of Illusions.

Get inspired:
1) Sarah Ricks of Traveling Mom speaks of Zagreb as an architectural feast and includes a list of must-see museums. Her impressions will set you off on a cultured trail.
2) There’s hardly a blog post about Zagreb that doesn’t praise the Museum of Broken Relationships. You get the point – go see it. But Wandering Earl has the most poetic and touching review of his afternoon spent in this ‘graveyard of love’. For him it was an uplifting experience.

#2 Zagreb is a cinephiles’ paradise in more than one way.

It was a movie set for the famous films Sophie’s Choice, Fiddler on the Roof and Orson Welles’ The Trial.

It hosts an incredible number of independent film festivals. For example, The Zagreb Film Festival (October), Animafest (June) and Fantastic Zagreb Film Festival (June/July).

Independent films are screened in old-style arthouse cinemas and are never dubbed. Come summer, you can watch them under the starry skies in the middle of the Tuškanac forest.

Is Zagreb worth visiting | Zagreb Honestly
Tuškanac open-air cinema – photo by Saša Pjanić

#3 Zagreb has over 20 farmers markets.

The most central and famous one is Dolac. Mingling at colourful fruit and veg stalls is a prime tourist attraction.

But markets here still keep their primary function. They connect Zagreb people with local food producers. Walk into any neighbourhood and the freshest from farms awaits at the stalls.

#4 Zagreb restaurant scene has exploded.

The whole of Croatia is dished out on Zagreb plates: traditionally cooked or with a twist.

Fish restaurants cook up a storm with ingredients caught the same day. Whiffs of Turkish-influenced filo pastry or kebab radiate from street bistros. And continental meat dishes wait at vaulted-brick dining rooms.

Eating out in Zagreb has never been so exciting and so easy on your wallet.

Get inspired:
Frank of Frank about Croatia really knows his way around Zagreb restaurants. Not only does he know what and where to eat, but, most importantly, how to eat. Dig into his guide to Zagreb best lunch restaurants and learn why gablec (lunch-time meal) is so crucial for the city food culture.

Zagreb is worth visiting if you like:

4) Life alfresco

From April to October, Zagreb lives outdoors.

Café terraces swarm with happy faces, their chirpy chatter pulling you in like a siren song. But the city alfresco life doesn’t stop there.

Festivals of all kinds roll in week after week: coffee and chocolate, street food, art performances, music – the weirdest one possibly being the festival of pickles.

C’est is the Best, the oldest street festival, launches the season, turning the city centre into an open-air theatre. Think live music, hula-hoop, joggling, but also get ready for more unusual gigs. Like checking into the centre for mood repairs where your long face can easily get fixed.

The fun continues through the summer at the Upper Town Strossmayer Promenade, dubbed Strossmartre. Even when Zagreb people leave for the coast, Summer on Stross keeps going with music, art and theatre festivities.

The most recent gem is Dvorista festival. For one week in July Zagreb Upper Town courtyards open their doors and throw up music and food parties.

Winter doesn’t mean the end of open-air fun.

Yes, Zagreb gets snow – real thick and crispy – but it doesn’t stop us from getting out and about. During December there’s a Christmas buzz around town called Advent in Zagreb.

Is Zagreb worth visiting | Zagreb Honestly
Advent in Zagreb – photo by Hrvoje Pili (Zagreb Tourist Board)

Streets are lit up, food stalls sell sausages and mulled wine. And each square has a unique range of tidbits at their Christmas fair.

The rhythm of live music quickly makes you forget the below zero temperature that turns your feet stiff with cold. If your inner child rejoices at the thought of ice-skating, you can glide across Europe’s biggest open-air ice-rink at the Zrinjevac Square.

Finally, Zagreb’s quintessential open-air experience is climbing the Medvednica Mountain.

Within 20 minutes on public transport, you’ll start on the trails through an unspoilt nature park. Whatever the season, there are lodges with hearty meals and impeccable city views waiting at the top.

Locals venture out there every weekend, so if you really want to crack Zagreb, you’ll follow too.

Get inspired:
1) Follow Frank’s suggestions on how to conquer Medvednica for yourself. If you prefer a more unorthodox leafy stroll, take his word and go to the amazing Mirogoj cemetery.
2) Rambling Mandie has a funny account of hiking up Medvednica in search of the elusive Medvedgrad Castle.
3) Travel writer Anja Mutic takes you on an intriguing exploration of Zagreb hidden courtyards. You’ll be amazed with cafes, restaurants and shops concealed from the main street view and better understand why Zagreb keeps its biggest charms away from the spotlights.

Are you sold on the idea of Zagreb now that you know what to expect?

Drop me a comment if there’s more you need to dispel your dilemma…

As you plan your Europe trip, do you still wonder: is Zagreb worth visiting? This rich account of what Zagreb is best for will dispel your dilemma for good.

And book your perfect stay in Zagreb now!

Try Swanky Mint B&B in the centre of Zagreb. It’s a revamped 19th-century factory full of character and historic industrial features. The best part? It has a fantastic garden and a private roof-top pool! Imagine chilling with a cocktail (they’re famous for that) and enjoying a superb view of the city!

Book Swanky Mint Now!

Book Swanky Mint Now!

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  1. Beautifully put, come and enjoy, no plans just great experiences that will leave you longing to return.

    James (Zagreb & London)

  2. Hello Andrea.

    I am currently in Switzerland for some PhD work. Due to 90 days (out of 180 days) Schengen Visa arrangement, I can’t stay more than the end of April, but I have few more research to do in May.
    So for that reason, I am planning to stay Zagreb (Croatia is in EU but not part of Schengen state) for few weeks and come back to Switzerland so that I don’t utilise my whole 90 days allowance and leave at the end of May.
    My question is, Is 3 weeks – 1 Month too long if I decided to stay in Zagreb? Or this will actually give me the chance to fall in love with the city?

    1. Hi Maya, thanks for your comment. I know any people who find 3-4 weeks ideal to fall in love with the city. This gives you plenty of time to sink into the slower rhythm and really start appreciating the laid-back culture of Zagreb. In my opinion this is the best thing about Zagreb. If you’re the kind of person who likes the non-obvious, non-touristy things, then, yes, this is just the right time to spend in Zagreb.

  3. Although I was interested in taking a trip to Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo and Mostar, I was told by several people that an older Jewish man may not be treated well in Croatia due to the rise of neo Nazi groups and renewed anti-semetism. Is there any truth to this.

    1. Hi Philip, I understand your concerns. Though there is some truth in the fact that our media culture is showing signs of extremist talk, I can’t imagine anyone in the service sector would act in an unfriendly way based on your cultural/ethnic background. This is my personal opinion and, of course, I can’t vouch for the entire country.

  4. Love the article! And love Zagreb… It seems, comparing to the seaside, that there’s no so many things to do and see, but when you scratch the surface, you’ll be surprised… Like just chillin’ in the Tomislavac Park is worth of visiting during the summer season as you’ll most likely encounter backpackers and travelers from around the world there, or visiting the “weirdest” but really cool museums, such as Museum of Illusion or Broken Relationships, or taking a street-art tour that features some of the most iconic Zagreb’s graffiti art pieces; visiting very cool pubs and cafes… Yeah, really cool place 😉

    1. Yes, Martha, it is very safe to travel solo in Croatia and Zagreb. It’s one of the highlights of the country that all foreigners get pleasantly surprised with.

  5. We live in Australia and do house exchange. We have been offered Zagreb and was undecided. Your article has decided me! Yes, is our answer!

  6. Thanks Andrea, we are also from Australia and not sure if we will drive up to Zagreb from Split or just stay in Split for the 5 nights, not liking over touristy places i think you have made the decision for me.

    Zagreb sounds gorgeous.

    Thanks

  7. Hi,

    Your blog helped us decide that we are going to make time to visit Zagreb during our Croatia travels. Where would you recommend we stay for 2 nights?

    1. I’m glad my writing managed to persuade you to spend some time in Zagreb 🙂 You can choose from many wonderful rental apartment available on airbnb, but if you’d like to stay in a hotel, my recommendation would be Hotel President Pantovčak or Art Hotel Like.

  8. Dear Andrea,

    I have really enjoyed this delightful description of beautiful Zagreb. I’m looking for unique destinations to celebrate New Year’s eve (NYE). Now, I’ve never been to Croatia, and if I decide to go in December I would visit both Zagreb and Dubrovnik. I would like to ask you 2 questions: 1) Where do you recommend to spend NYE: Zagreb or Dubrovnik? 2) If you have 10 days for vacationing, how much time do you recommend on each city?

    I appreciate your advices.

    All the best,

    Hector.

  9. I have studied, lived and worked there. It is a city which has it’s own charms. Beautiful streets, down to earth people. While living there I have made so many close friends. Evertime I go to Zagreb I do go through the known streets where I spent the best time of my life.
    I lived in a rented house. It was a beautiful life. Never ever worried about anything. I believe that in Zagreb there are so many places to be visited. One can go there and he or she will always find places of one’s interest.

  10. Hi Andrea, Thanks for your passion for Zagreb! We are currently planning our one week in Croatia and had totally dismissed Zagreb as somewhere to go but after reading this, I am really reconsidering. It sounds like a great city to visit for summer chilling out and for Christmas festivals and music but we are going in the first week of November which is right in the middle of that. Would you recommend going at that time or would it be better to head somewhere coastal at that time?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Grace, November in Zagreb may not be the most exciting of times but it is definitely livelier than somewhere on the coast. By November, Dalmatia goes into their winter lull and the weather turns damp and cold. On the continent, we’re used to proper winters so we get into that cozy and warm atmosphere with lots comfort food and drinks… roast chestnuts… mulled wine… 🙂

  11. Most people think that Croatia is a country for summer holidays, but the capital city Zagreb became a very popular travel destination all year round.
    Many people started loving Croatia because of the 2018 football World Cup. Thanks to great football success, people all around the world got to know more about this small country. Before that happened, one could say that Croatia was known for being the home country of one of the world’s greatest scientists, Nikola Tesla and that Croatians invented the tie. Nowadays, Croatia is better recognized because of Luka Modrić, currently the world’s best football player. Maybe they should name a square after him 🙂

  12. Hi Andrea, Thanks for this wonderful article. We reached your writings while researching for our next trip (been on two trips of Europe but southeastern Europe is untouched at the moment). Will we visit Zagreb? Can’t say as of now. But if you ask us, are we really motivated to visit, the answer would be, your article has done it.

    Thoroughly enjoyed your writings.

  13. This is a most beautiful place on the planet I would love to visit , I also have listen to the 2cellos and this is why I would love to visit this city. It’s beauty is like their music .I can,t wait to travel there.

  14. Hi, i will be visiting Croatia for 12 days & will pick up my Motorhome at airpot in Zagreb upon touch down. I wish to spend time & walk around Zagreb first. Where is the nearest, or convenient place where i can park the Motorhome during my walking tour?
    Appreciate any advise.
    Thanks
    Kenny

  15. A tasting of Croation wines is on the horizon. 32 guests and two to pour. And I will give a copy of your article to all!! Croatia is so enticing.

  16. Hi Andrea,
    Will be solo travelling to Zagreb in June and decided to rent a place through airbnb. Please suggest ideal location to stay for a few days.
    Thank you.

  17. Hows the English speaking level in Zagreb/Croatia? We're you able navigate the city and order food/groceries without much issue?

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