Croatia’s capital, Zagreb is a world of hidden treasures longing to be uncovered around every corner. Secret alleyways lead to sidewalk cafes where “When a Man Loves a Woman” plays on a slightly staticky radio behind photos of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. Hidden staircases open into outdoor markets full of colourful fruit and vegetable stands and rows of souvenirs with bright red umbrellas protecting them from the hot mid-day sun. Behind arches and deep doorways, restaurants invite you in for a bite, and seemingly dead ends expose hidden churches and shops.
It’s a picturesque city to wander through, inspiring one to write in a journal or describe the beauty to a loved one on a postcard. Fittingly, it was here that the fountain pen was invented by Slavoljub Penkala, who says he was inspired to write while on his long walks through the colourful streets of Zagreb.
And colourful it is. Bright orange and yellow buildings break up the grey concrete, and luscious green lawns make ideal picnic locations for travels on a budget.
The city grew out of two medieval communities, Kaptol in the east and Gradec to the west. The two used to be divided by a river, which has long since dried up. Today, Tkalciceva Street marks the division.
While the shopping district found in Zagreb’s Lower Town is a good way to spend an afternoon, it’s wandering past the charming old buildings and cobblestone streets of Upper Town that open you up Zagreb’s hidden gems.
Nestled around a corner is Stone Gate, a place of prayer filled with candles and messages in Croatian.
This peaceful hole in the wall leads to St Mark’s Square, where St Mark’s Church and its beautifully tiled roof can be found.
Upper Town is made up of narrow streets lined with old, burnt orange coloured buildings, with crumbly corners and big old street lamps with flower pots hanging from them.
Walking down a flight of stairs and through an alley you find yourself standing in front of the beautiful Zagreb Cathedral, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1880 and later rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style.
Down another corridor is the large outdoor Dolac market, filled with souvenirs and vegetables hidden from the hot noon sun by bright red umbrellas .
While it may not be full of tourist activities, Zagreb is definitely a great city to spend some time in uncovering its hidden treasures.