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Croatian hidden gem

A couple of years ago now, I found some very cheap airline seats with Monarch Airlines, who have sadly now disappeared, from Luton to Zagreb; at the time, I knew absolutely nothing about the city if I am honest, I didn't actually know exactly where in Croatia it was even.

I have added below some details on the city and my thoughts.

Firstly, the city is small, if you are looking for a short break, Zagreb is the perfect place to visit, if you are around London, the easiest way to fly to Zagreb is with British Airways from London Heathrow, it takes roughly 2 hours direct. When you arrive, the city is apx 30 mins from the airport; although I took the airport coach which was cheap, it took over an hour, my suggestion would be to have a pre-booked car to collect you, the cost is roughly £35 each way, quite good, I think.

You have a few international hotel brands, such as Hilton, Best Western, Sheraton, and Westin for example, these are full-service hotels, by that I mean, you will have all the facilities of a higher graded hotel, restaurant, gym, maybe swimming pool etc. these hotels also tend to be right in the centre of the city, a good thing. However, they can seem a little impersonal, so you also have an excellent selection of induvial hotels too.

Zagreb is Croatia’s largest city and its capital. It offers everything that a cultured traveller would expect from a dazzling capital city – music, style, art, architecture, history, and gastronomy. Other more popular destinations in Croatia often overshadow Zagreb. But for those few already in the know, Zagreb is one of the world's most spectacular cities.

Orson Welles loved this place, and film directors are now discovering it. Yet, Zagreb remains (for now) one of the most underrated capital cities in Europe: many writers and guidebook authors agree with us.

There is a vibrant café society here in a very central European sort of way. Zagreb is green with more parks and gardens for a small capital city than you might imagine, including the lovely Botanical Garden just five minutes’ walk from the centre.

The pretty Upper Town is reached on foot via Radiceva to the Stone Gate or by a little funicular train which takes under a minute. This is an area of cobbled streets, courtyard restaurants and bars, art galleries and the Sabor, the Croatian Parliament. Fans of Croatia’s most famous sculptor Ivan Mestrovic should head for his atelier, a delightful, intimate museum in his former home just north of Markov trg.

The Lower Town is home to shops (both boutique style and big department stores including Marks & Spencer!) and some fantastic museums, including the Mimara, the Museum of Broken Relationships and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The famous Dolac market is a must-see where produce from every corner of Croatia is available, much of it organic. The city’s top chefs talk lovingly about the place.

Zagreb has a superb evening entertainment offering with cultural events, including opera at a fraction of the price in London, concerts, and music festivals. There is a great restaurant scene from bistros to fine dining.

The tram system is cheap and efficient, and most routes lead to the main square, Trg Bana Jelacica, at the centre of the city.

Zagreb has been described as a “pocket-sized Vienna” and a “fairy-tale capital”. It is perfect for a weekend or to combine with a few days on the Adriatic at Opatija, just an easy two-hour drive away by bus or hire car. If you are short of time, then this combination really is a wonderful holiday choice.

I will be going back to Zagreb; I think my next visit I would twin the city with one of the mentioned resorts on the coast, its an incredibly reasonable city to visit also, a 2-course evening meal at a pretty good local restaurant will cost you apx £20 each, and of course, the Croatian wines are worth sampling also, overall, it’s a wonderful city.

Although Croatia is in the EU, the country does not use the euro; euros are widely accepted though, the local Croatian currency is called the Croatian Kuna. The countries' population is a little over 4m 800,000 of these people live in Zagreb.

If interested, I have added a sample weekend break; I have used September to get a specific cost.

3 Nights stay at the Best Western Premier Hotel Astoria

based in a Twin/Double Executive room with daily breakfast, return economy cabin flights from London Heathrow with British Airways, return private transfers, and a 2-hour private old Zagreb walking tour would cost from £549 per person, this is, of course, subject to availability.

For more information about Croatia and Zagreb, please contact me directly.

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