Wednesday, 02 September 2015 17:10

Zagreb, Croatia’s Dynamic Capital

Written by  Geri Bain
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Europe-Zagreb
Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, combines a charming historic Old Town with chic designer shops, lively clubs and cafes and a vibrant cultural vibe. Its wide range of offerings is epitomized by three recent additions to the scene: the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Torture and the newest, the Museum of Illusions, which just opened this spring. Families especially enjoy the Zagreb Zoo and kid-friendly museums while quality hotels and event venues are ideal for weddings and conferences.

Small wonder that Americans are coming in ever-increasing numbers. The city welcomed nearly 44,000 U.S. visitors in 2014, up 47% from 2010, and is on target to welcome more than 50,000 by year-end. The average stay, just over two nights, has also been growing as Americans discover how much the city has
to offer.

Centuries of History
No one is quite sure how Zagreb got its name, but this is certain; the city has a long history. First settled by the Romans, the present city was actually two hillside hamlets when the bishopric of Zagreb was established in 1094. In the thousand-year old Upper Town or Gornji Grad, cobblestoned streets lit by gas lamps lead to St. Mark’s Square, bordered by the 13th century St. Mark’s Church, with its iconic tiled roof sporting two Croatia and Zagreb coats of arms, as well as the Old City Hall, the Croatian Parliament and Presidential Palace. The district is also home to the City Museum, where clients can see a scale model of Old Zagreb and learn its history through artifacts and crafts, as well as the unusual Museum of Broken Relationships, which displays the artifacts of love lost.

A Vibrant Culture
The streets widen into stately boulevards punctuated by pretty parks and squares, especially along the Green Horseshoe, in Zagreb’s 19th century Lower Town or Donji Grad. Here, clients will find most of the top hotels, restaurants, theatres and cafes as well as its main shopping street, Ilica.  To take in cafe society and nightlife, advise clients to head for the bars and open terrace cafes of Tkalciceva Street.
Not to be missed are the nearby Dolac market, one of Europe’s most picturesque open-air markets, and the non-denominational Mirogoj cemetery, a sprawling park with grand monuments that is the final resting place for many Croatian poets, scientists and leaders.
Despite its growing popularity, Zagreb still has its hidden spots. To help put clients in the know, suggest they download the Zagreb Be There app (www.betherezagreb.com). Introduced in 2014 by the Zagreb Tourist Board, the app offers a fun and interactive way to discover some of Zagreb’s lesser-known attractions, such as hidden courtyards in the Upper town, a vintage market place, and an open air museum of street art in one of the newer districts.

Options Abound
The city has more than 17,300 beds with accommodations ranging from luxury five star hotels to hostels, including international brands like Starwood, Best Western and Hilton as well as heritage hotels like the Art Nouveau Palace Hotel and the Esplanade Hotel, originally built for the travelers on the Orient Express. The newest is the 33-room Loop Hotel, a minimalist design hotel about 1.2 miles from the city center.
A year round destination, Zagreb has a full calendar of events. From April to October the city is especially charming because of many open terraces and cafes in the city center and vibrant cultural scene. Among the most popular are the INmusic festival in June, an open air music festivals that draws visitors from around Europe, and the Zagreb Time Machine project, with events that showcase the city’s history and traditions from April until late September. In winter, there are open air concerts, an amazing outdoor ice-rink and traditional wooden huts and stalls selling Christmas gifts, cards, mulled wine, cookies, and hot snacks. The city center twinkles and glistens with fairy lights and special candle-light displays throughout the month of December.

Easy Access
Zagreb makes a great gateway to other tourist destinations in Croatia, including Plitvice Lakes, Istria, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik. Zagreb is also well situated for inclusion in Central and Western European itineraries. It is just 230 miles from Vienna, 208 from Budapest, and 260 miles from Venice, and offers excellent road and
flight connections.
To learn more, visit Zagreb’s newly designed website (www.infozagreb.hr) and blog (www.lovezagreb.hr). Subscribe to the Zagreb Tourist Board’s monthly newsletter (www.zagreb-touristinfo.hr/contact/b2b/newsletter) and follow its Social Media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Google+, Blogspot, YouTube). For help with groups, contact the Zagreb Tourist Board Promotion Department (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). And for agents who want to see Zagreb firsthand, the Zagreb Tourist Board, in collaboration with Croatian National Tourist Board, organizes study trips (www.croatia.hr).

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