An old European city, Zagreb has been the heart of Croatia’s life. It may not be as famous as Paris and Rome, but recent years have seen the city growing, developing, and establishing itself as a tourist destination.
When the Croatians got their independence in 1991, Zagreb became the administrative and political center of the Republic of Croatia. Being the country’s capital, Zagreb has been the hub of the country’s academic, business, sporting, artistic, and cultural worlds. Many of Croatia’s famed scientists, athletes and artists came from or are based in the city.
Zagreb’s Upper Town area offers a Baroque atmosphere with its architectural structures. Its picturesque open-air markets, a wide selection of crafts, and diverse shopping facilities make it more interesting to visit. It has green walks and parks that would captivate tourists to explore it more.
Facts and Figures
Zagreb is located on the northern part of Croatia, on the Sava River. It is 170km away from the Adriatic Sea and situated 122m above the sea level.
Time and Climate
This capital of Croatia follows the central-European time which is +1 GMT. It has a continental climate, with an average temperature of 20 degrees Celsius on summers, and 1 degree Celsius on winters.
The city’s urban population is about 800,000; its metropolitan area is over 1,200,000 people.
Currently, the city of Zagreb has one major university, the University of Zagreb; it has 1 theater, 24 museums, and about 65 galleries and exhibitions of art collections.
What used to be just a stopover, Zagreb has now grown into a booming destination. It was in 1094 that the city had its first written mention; during the foundation of a diocese in Kaptol. In 1242, its neighboring city, Gradec was declared a royal and free city.
During the attack of the Turkish in Europe in the 14th-18th centuries, the city of Zagreb became an important fortress. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Zagreb went into a major Baroque reconstruction that totally changed its appearance. Old wooden houses were replaced with monasteries, churches, and opulent palaces.
Trade fairs held by the city as well as revenues brought by landed estates have significantly contributed to its wealth. The move of Europe’s church dignitaries, affluent aristocratic families, rich traders, and royal officials to the city has also played a part in changing the city’s setting. Hospitals and schools were then opened and the city was able to slowly adapt the lifestyle of a typical European capital. Country houses and parks were then built and the city eventually took hold of its title to be the economic, cultural, and administrative hub of Croatia.
The development of Zagreb further went on after its neighbors, Gradec, Kaptol, and other surrounding settlements were combined with it through administrative law. When a disastrous earthquake hit the city in 1880, modernization and reconstruction of the city were then started. Public buildings that are prestigious in design and height were erected; fountains and parks were also made. Its transportation system and infrastructures improved and organized.
The capital of Croatia, Zagreb has a total population of about 700,000 people. Many tourists would often initially find these people of Zagreb to be aloof – or even yet snob! However, staying in the city a little longer and knowing Zagreb’s history will give you a better understanding of these people.
Being long isolated from Western Europe, the people of Zagreb are a bit guarded when it comes to meeting other people. Unlike the Americans, these people may not appear to be friendly at first. But worry not, they just do not rush into building relationships, or exchanging smiles with people they just met.
The people of Zagreb are only taking their time to check out tourists for a while – weighing in if you are worth investing in a conversation with.
It is thus advised for tourists not to be outwardly friendly with the locals (especially with the opposite sex) as they may mistake your gesture as hitting on them.
Despite this ‘image’ though, a number of Zagrebians were able to make a mark in various fields then and now. Among them is actress Mira Furlan who made a name not just in film but in television and theater as well. FC Energie Cottbus football midfielder Ivica Banovic was also born in the city.
Friendly or not, the people of Zagreb just add personality to the city.
Zagreb’s climate is classified as oceanic with four distinctive seasons. Extreme seasons are during winter and summer. During winter the city gets very cold, while summertime sees a hot and dry time in the capital of Croatia. The average temperature in Zagreb in the wintertime is about 1 degree Celsius, while about 20 degrees Celsius in summer.
Snowfall is common in the city from December to March, as this is the winter season. Rain and fog can be expected from October to December that comes with fall.
The city’s weather significantly affects your activities and itinerary, thus, tourists are recommended to check the city’s weather first before planning for your trip. Summertimes are best for incorporating outdoor activities in your Zagreb to-do list. Spending time in the city parks and gardens are best done during this time. In winter, indoor activities are strongly recommended.
With Zagreb’s many museums, each offering rare and interesting collections, you will hardly pay attention to the cold outside. Aside from the museums, the city churches are another winter option in Zagreb. Springs and falls give you more flexibility in terms of the itinerary in the city, so if you are quite unsure of the things you want to do in the city, these seasons are best for you.
Zagreb’s weather is friendly to tourists. Although hot in summer or cold in winter, these seasons do not go really extreme as to hampering your fun and enjoyment in the city. Enjoy!
Zagreb will not captivate tourists right away. Many people who’ve been to the city say that anyone planning to be in the city should try to give it a honeymoon phase in order to truly appreciate it. Living as an expatriate in the city is one good way to give yourself time to see more of Zagreb.
But being an ex-pat in this capital of Croatia should not be taken lightly. In fact, anyone thinking about living in the city should first cover all their bases before moving in. One thing to consider when planning to be an ex-pat of Zagreb is the place to live in. Researching on the real estate in Zagreb would be a very wise thing to do. Aside from that, thinking about what it really is like to be living in Zagreb should be done carefully as well.
Moving to Zagreb will also require you to get to know the city’s culture, people, and way of life more. That said, learning the Croatian language would be a very good advantage, especially if you are intending to find a job or study in the city.
Being an expatriate in the city, you will see that there is more in Zagreb than its landmarks and sights.
Learning Croatian may be a pretty tough language to master, especially for tourists who are new in the city. However, getting yourself at least acquainted with the language will give you so much ease and confidence in exploring the city of Zagreb.
There are several Croatian words that sound like its English equivalent. Among these words are a hotel, taxis, and restaurant. These words are less stressful to understand. However, although there are Croatian words similar to English, there are still many more words that aren’t but are important to get familiar with, especially for travelers. Some of these are the following:
- Train station – glavni kolodvor
- Bus station – autobusna stanica
- Airport – aerodrome
- Tram station – tramvajska stanica
- Square – trg
- Street – ulica
A few interesting phrases to get familiar of include:
- Beautiful eyes – dobra guza
- I love you – volim te
- I don’t like you – mrzim te
Although quite hard to comprehend, especially if it is the first time you hear the language, the Croatian language is not as complicated as other languages as they are pronounced exactly as they are written.
Here are more words and phrases you can make use of while exploring Zagreb:
No – ne
- Yes – da
- Bye and/or Hello – bok
- Good morning – dobro jutro
- Good evening – dobro vece
- Thank you – hvala
- Excuse me – sori
- I don’t understand – A?
- What’s your name? – kako se zoves?
Learning a new language will simply add more color to your experience in Zagreb. Enjoy!