48 hours in Zagreb with Chantal

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Croatia, a country that has been attracting more and more tourists in recent years. Not surprising, with its ancient cities and beautiful nature. How to make the most of Zagreb in two days and what is my impression of the city?

Perfect for a city trip

A series of city trips were scheduled for October 2022. From the Netherlands to Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Zagreb. Zagreb won out over Budapest because I was curious about Croatia and its capital city. I immediately think of the beautiful pictures of red roofs. Besides, the centre is not that big, so in a few days I could see the highlights with ease. I recommend travelling to Zagreb by train. From the Netherlands to Zagreb is very long, but combine it with other nearby cities, for instance. On the way from Vienna to Zagreb, I see mountains full of pine trees, fog that makes me see some mountains better than others and the sun appearing above the mountain peaks.


Finding your way around Zagreb is quite easy because it is not that big and there are dozens of signs pointing the way to the highlights. Most signs point towards the old town, so that’s where I head. I notice that many buildings are in scaffolding, including the cathedral. I send a picture to my sister and she apps back that this was the same four years ago. Later, I learn that the city was hit by an earthquake in 2020 and its traces are still clearly visible. That is probably one reason why the cathedral is still in scaffolding. St Mark’s Church, close to the Museum of Broken Relationships, has a red-white-and-blue mosaic roof shining proudly in the sun. Unfortunately, there are barricades around it, preventing me from getting close. There are also many security guards around the church square. I remember reading that there are several institutions at this square – hence probably all the security. Unfortunately, I cannot visit the cathedral either – there are all sorts of fences and construction materials in front of it. A good reason to come back again.

Zagreb's cathedral
The church is located in Kaptol, the high district of Zagreb

A little further on, I see police motorbikes and black cars turning the corner onto the llica – one of the longest streets in Zagreb. Just before this, pedestrians were crossing and trams were running; now everyone pulls over for this parade. I hear someone say ‘Premijer’. A bit later in the day, I join a war tour by Free Spirit Tours, as the country behind the capital has a turbulent war history and this gives so much more background and context to a destination. Highly recommended! Among other things, the tour tells us that Franz Ferdinand went on a state visit to Sarajevo in 1914. He made the biggest mistake a politician can make: he was in a car without a roof and was shot dead. King Alexander I of Yugoslavia went on a state visit to Marseille 20 years later and made the same mistake. The prime minister now visiting the city has learnt from this.

Using Europe’s shortest tram line, I walk to the National Theatre, a big yellow building I already recognised from a viewpoint. There is also plenty of graffiti in the streets behind the theatre. By the way, I recommend visiting a higher vantage point at every destination – be it a hill, a cathedral or another viewpoint. Zagreb has several viewpoints, all offering different views. The red roofs with their rounded tiles stand out, something I find typical of Croatia. It is a contrast to Vienna and its chic white buildings and palaces. Zagreb has dilapidated flats and buildings under reconstruction, but also beautiful old buildings, coloured houses and modern flats. So a bit of everything.

The National Theatre in Zagreb

Here you want to eat

After all that walking, it’s time to get some treats. Here some tips:

  1. Submarine burger – A tip I got from my niece. I recommend the smokehouse burger with BBQ sauce and crispy bacon. Of course with classic fries and cola. There are several locations in Zagreb.
  2. Kavkaz Kavana – Located in Zagreb’s cultural oasis, this theatre café offers views of the National Theatre. I can recommend breakfast (e.g. waffles) and a snack such as coffee and cake.
  3. A hidden gem is restaurant Theatrium by Filho. During my walk through the city centre, I come across it. It is a bit hidden, I have to go through a kind of tunnel before I come out in the nice courtyard. You can also sit outside, but it’s chilly so I go inside. The menu appeals to me so I make a reservation for that evening. I eat on time, which makes it feel like it’s open especially for me. One of the waiters even says ‘My lady’ to me. I get a homemade hot sandwich with a butter of mushroom. Normally, I always skip the bread because, in my opinion, it’s just stuffing. But this is very tasty, even just the bread without the dip. Then I get beef steak risotto (with carnaroli rice, steak, dried tomatoes, chives and parmigiano). Soft rice, meaty flavour, warm: real comfort food and what you expect from a risotto. For dessert, I go for ‘plum’, grilled plum with nut ice cream and basil. Also a very nice combination: the sweet and sour of the plum and the nutty of the ice cream. I only miss something crunchy. And all this for just €27.47! Only after returning home did I find out that chef of this restaurant is very experienced and has worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants!
Kavkaz Kazalisna Kavana in Zagreb
Theatrium by Filho in Zagreb

Night train 

Should you consider a train journey, check out the night train. There is of course plenty to see along the way during the day, but should you want to spend time in the city during the day, the night train is a good option. In one compartment, there are three beds one above the other, all as wide as two train seats. At night, there are a few stops for passport control and loud banging on the door. What will those officers find, I wonder, chuckling. Maybe you, on your next city trip?