Combining Beauty and History – Zagreb

Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is a colorful city with old and new carefully intertwined to create a unique experience for visitors. My husband and I arrived at the Westin Zagreb from Venice, Italy, via the shuttle company, Go Opti, that we met in a parking lot behind Venice’s main train station. (Yes, Go Opti is safe even though these details make it sound sketchy!)

Our hotel was within casual strolling distance to shopping, restaurants, and museums so we never needed a taxi. Since it was later in the day when we arrived, we walked to the main shopping street to find a restaurant and enjoyed the beautiful yellow buildings against a magnificent cobalt sky as we walked back.

Zagreb is the current name of two former cities, Gradec and Kaptol. Even now, Zagreb is divided into two parts: the upper and lower towns. The upper town contains more of the historical sites since the city began there. The walk up is easy, but there is a short funicular that eliminates the walk if visitors want. The funicular is only 217 feet long, so it is not a great place to relax.

In Upper Town visitors will find the Cathedral, St. Mark’s Church and government buildings fronting the same square. The roof of St. Mark’s has the emblems of Croatia and Zagreb embedded in its mosaics so that they can be seen from a distance.


One of the most different museums in Zagreb, and in the world, is the Museum of Broken Relationships. The museum was begun by two lovers, Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, who, you guessed it, broke up and began collecting remnants of other’s broken relationships. The museum, which opened in 2010, contains items as diverse as shoes, letters, stuffed animals, and even an axe. A card displayed by each item tells the story behind the relationship. The museum is extremely interesting, but seemed a little sad to me. (There are now other locations of the museum throughout the world.)

Our wandering took us down the Strossmarte Promenade for souvenir shopping and snacks as we worked our way back down the hills. The Stone Gate is another striking historical site in Zagreb. The gate is the only gate that remains of Gradec. Legend has it that when the wooden parts of the gate burned, the painting of the Virgin Mary within the tunnel-like gate stayed miraculously safe. The painting and gate are now a place for introspection and meditation.

The lower town contains the Croatian National Theatre. Although it was not open when we were there, the exterior of the building is magnificent. We loved its golden color against the evening sky as we walked by and, even in the daytime, the building’s façade is impressive.

We enjoyed the many restaurants and shopping opportunities in the lower town, especially along Bogovićeva Street. The restaurants offered both indoor and outdoor options. Of course, we chose outdoor seating whenever possible to watch people passing by. (We also stopped by a kiosk to try the corn on the cob which is always a must for me.) The city was just the first of many enjoyable stops on our tour of Croatia, a country that is highlighted by beauty and history at every turn.

Have you visited Zagreb? If so, what was your favorite part?

Candace Ahlfinger has loved traveling since she was little and has always been on the go whenever possible. Now she is retired and gets to do what she loves best… TRAVEL! Whether it’s traveling with her wonderful husband, or our children and grandchildren, traveling is a great experience that enriches her life. Because she always enjoys reading and hearing about others’ travel experiences, she wants to share her travels with the Ellis DownHome readers. 


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