While planning our upcoming trip to Croatia this past January, my husband and I were looking at different routes from Toronto. We had the option to either fly direct to Zagreb or fly with a connection to Split. When my husband and I were younger, we used to start our trip in Zagreb and stayed at Hotel Dubrovnik, which is in the heart of Ban Jelačić Square. I have fond memories of those carefree days where we would walk around the city and enjoy some coffee. My choice was clear: we had to start our trip in Zagreb and continue our tradition.
My husband on the other hand was not quite sure. He considered driving straight to our family home in Vodice following the flight. I quickly vetoed that as my rationale was we will all be hungry and tired. But, deep down inside, I just wanted to stay in Zagreb and reminisce about a time before we were married and had kids, a time when it was just the two of us. I wanted to simply walk around the streets of Zagreb with the kids and just take all the sights in. In other words, my husband had no choice but to book a hotel in Zagreb. We decided to book Hotel Dubrovnik, where we have previously stayed. We love Hotel Dubrovnik and it is our favourite hotel in Zagreb due to its close proximity to Ban Jelačić Square and Ilica Street. The staff there is incredible, especially with kids and their complimentary breakfast is second-to-none. We booked two nights there knowing the first day would be a bit of a right-off with the travel.
Following check in we got settled into the hotel and let the kids rest a bit. We decided to venture outside for an early dinner and walk around Zagreb. We made our way to Tkalčićeva Street and had pizza at Nokturno, which was recommended by the hotel staff. Pizza sort of is the theme of this trip as that’s all what my kids have been eating. You would think that Italians are only known for their pizza, but Croatians make a pretty good pizza if you ask me. We thoroughly enjoyed our first meal and the kids were enamoured by the sights and sounds of Tkalčićeva Street. We spent the rest of the evening walking around the city, namely towards Kaptol where we saw the Zagreb Cathedral (Cathedral of the Virgin Mary) and passed by the market, which was closed by the time we got there.
The kids were extremely jet-lagged so we let them sleep. They slept probably for a total of 15 hours. My husband and I took turns going out for breakfast so he went first and then I second. It turns out that this day was a holiday, Croatian Statehood Day (Dan Državnosti) so most stores were closed. The city felt quiet as most people went to the beach for the day. By the time my husband returned to our room, the complimentary breakfast was closed, so I made my way outside towards the Ban Jelačić Square and purchased a fresh croissant from a nearby bakery and enjoyed a cappuccino at the Hotel Dubrovnik Kavana. This moment felt like pure bliss. Peace and quiet while I did some writing in my journal.
Once the kids woke up we fed them some yogurt and krafne for breakfast and made our way outside. We walked towards Zrinjevac Park where the kids thoroughly enjoyed splashing in its many fountains. We eventually made our way to Kralj Tomislav Square where the kids were in awe of such a impressive monument to Croatia’s first king.
We spent most of the day walking around the city, namely to the Gornji Grad (Upper City) where we walked by the Croatian Parliament and St. Mark’s Church. To get to this part of the city, we went underground through the Grič Tunnel, which the kids found very interesting!
As written previously, pizza has become a favourite meal on this trip. We asked the kids what they wanted to eat and they cried “pizza!!” So we made the trek all the way to Karijola which is located directly across from Galleria Importane. The rooftop patio was lovely and instead of gemist I opted for a glass of rose which from my understanding is making a huge comeback this year. I find the taste of rose crisp, and subtly sweet and when served cold it is the perfect summer wine.
Following this we returned to King Tomislav Square where the City of Zagreb threw a free concert in honour of Statehood Day. The performer was none other than the remarkable National Folk Dance Ensemble of Croatia, LADO. Nothing is more Croatian than LADO, who performs traditional Croatian songs and folk dances. As my husband and I were both very active in Croatian folklore in Canada, we were delighted to attend this show and share our love of Croatian culture with our children. The kids enjoyed it thoroughly and we managed to last the first hour of the show, until they got tired.
The following day we checked out of our hotel and walked around Ilica and Ban Jelacic Square. We took the kids to the Budi Ponosan (Be Proud) soccer museum. It’s a little museum located on Petrinjska off of Ilica which is dedicated to the Croatian National Soccer Team. The kids enjoyed looking at all the jerseys throughout the team’s history and some of the displays.
After our visit to the museum, we stopped for coffee and juice at the trendy La Bodega before departing to our next destination. The first few days of our trip were a success, the kids enjoyed themselves, and for a small moment in time, I felt as if I was living a dream. As a family, we created magical memories to last a lifetime and I am so happy that we started the trip how I wanted to, in Zagreb.