National Theatre, Zagreb, Croatia by Croatian National Tourist Board
For opera, ballet and theatre the Croatian National Theatre dominates © Croatian National Tourist Board

Croatia’s capital is packed with lively squares and spectacular
Habsburg architecture. 

Rebecca West sized up Croatia’s capital nicely when she was here in 1937: ‘Zagreb makes from its featureless handsomeness something that pleases like a Schubert song, a delight that begins quietly and never definitely ends. It has the endearing characteristic noticeable in many French towns of remaining a small town when it is in fact quite large.’ Indeed, today, with a population of a million, Zagreb is easily Croatia’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, though the centre is still agreeably manageable on foot.

Zagreb’s heart is a fine, clean example of solid Habsburg architecture, tending towards palatial elegance, and large squares from which to view it – though if you move away from the city centre you’ll find sprawling suburbs and high rises, thrown up to accommodate waves of incoming workers over the past 60 years.

For more than six months of the year Zagreb is a lively outdoor city, with café tables spilling out across the pavements and flowers everywhere. In winter it can be cold and a bit oppressive, with snow on the ground for an average of over 50 days annually and the streets of the lower town seeming too large for their occupants – but with a big university and heaps of bars, clubs and nightlife on offer, the locals certainly know how to have a good time. The city is also particularly strong on classical culture, with regular opera, ballet, theatre and musical performances of international standard.

As the capital, Zagreb is well served by both international and domestic transport routes, and has an international airport, as well as major rail and bus terminals.

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