Though sometimes overshadowed by the country’s incredible Mediterranean beaches and the Renaissance-era marvels that dot them, Croatia’s capital holds its own as a world-class destination. As the nation’s cultural and economic center, this Central European metropolis features a core of Austro-Hungarian architecture, supported by a modernized infrastructure and industries. While the city embraces tourists with an eye to globalization, it has done a remarkably good job at preserving its distinctive cityscape. As you wander or bike through the cobbled streets of the Old City, explore the dazzling museums, and relax at the lakeside or under park trees, revel in the heart of South Slavic culture.
Location: Spanning River Valleys and Foothills
This city sits firmly inland in the country’s north-western region, on the banks of the Sava River and in the shadow of the Mèdvednica mountain. Croatia’s gorgeous rocky beaches are several hours away, but could make for a fun weekend excursion. Zagreb International Airport (ZAG), also referred to as Pleso Airport, accommodates over two million passengers annually, with connections across Europe and beyond, while numerous rail routes offer an overland alternative.
Business: A Crossroads of European Trade and Transport
A prime location along major continental trade routes means that Zagreb has historically been a hub for commerce and business, and that tradition holds strong even today. The modern city has an internationally-focused economy supported strongly by the production of electronics and chemicals, transportation, food processing, and financial services–most Croatian (and indeed, Central European) mega-companies have their headquarters here.
Culture: Living, Breathing History on Display
Zagreb’s museums are top-notch, and showcase not only regional art and artifacts but also those of the globe at large. Check out the collections of the Archaeological Museum–packed with 450,000 pieces representing millennia of world history–and the Museum of the History of Zagreb, to name just a couple. A stroll through the historic Gornji Grad (“Upper Town”), the city’s medieval core, offers a glimpse of Zagreb’s development over the ages in the form of monuments, cathedrals, trade halls, and market squares.
Activities: Tour the City and Surrounding Nature
Once you’ve had your fill of museums, there’s plenty to do outdoors. Take a walk, bike, or jog through the woods of Maksimir Park, or head down to the coast of Jarun Lake for swimming and boating. A tram ride to Mount Mèdvednica provides scenic overviews of the cityscape and incredible hiking opportunities. In January, the immensely popular Snow Queen Trophy (a women’s Ski World Cup event) draws crowds of roughly 25,000–definitely worth a look if you’re in the city.