Am not usually a fan of high waists. Or skirts. But this one, which I featured here, is super comfy and pretty cool.
Am not usually a fan of high waists. Or skirts. But this one, which I featured here, is super comfy and pretty cool.
An easy way to style your jeans up: throw on a slouchy blazer, add a statement necklace (featured here) and a few bangles…
Jeans – les envahisseurs, boots – Clarks, necklace – Zara, dinner jacket – M&S, t-shirt – Zara
It’s probably not the first place one would think of coming, but Zagreb, Croatia is a good destination for a minibreak. Especially in the Spring, or in the run up to Christmas for a mulled wine and craft stalls vibe. Smart Austro-Hungarian buildings, more good cafes than you can shake a stick at, excellent restaurants, lovely parks, and a central area which is compact and simple enough to navigate without getting stressed, Zagreb is super clean (except for the graffiti problem), organised, and very, very safe. Don’t expect crazy hedonistic nightlife or too much of a buzz (except during špica on Saturdays, see below), but do expect a stress-free time, outstanding wine and food, and friendly people, most of whom speak incredibly good English and who are proud of their country and happy to talk about it (just don’t try to tell them that any seaside exists other than the Croatian coast, it’s futile and is the one thing that’s sure to offend) and help you with recommendations on what to do / see / eat / drink
Croatia Airlines flies most days of the week either from Heathrow or Gatwick, but if you want to mix and match, BA (from Heathrow) and Easyjet (from Gatwick) also fly frequently and are extremely reasonable.
A taxi from the airport costs around 150HRK and takes around 20 minutes. On the way back to the airport, it costs around 90HRK. In my opinion, it’s really not worth the faff for the saving, but you can get a bus from the airport into the bus station, then a tram into town, if you’re so inclined. Generally taxis (look out for the stands on street corners) are very affordable and won’t rip you off, and nothing in Zagreb is that far away
The Regent Esplanade, a smart hotel just a short walk from the main square, is probably the best place to stay (Mihanoviceva 1, www.esplanade.hr)
On one of the four corners of Trg Bana Jelacica, the main square (don’t bother trying to pronounce anything, you’re doomed to failure) you’ll find a tourist office which is very helpful and gives out excellent (and free) concise colour maps, so this should be your first port of call. This map also clearly shows the tram routes (just buy a ticket at the kiosk before you board and punch it on entry)
Wandering around the peaceful old (upper) town – Gornji grad – and its views over the city, seeing the cathedral and the Church of St Mark with its blue and white and red tiled roof
Using the old funicular (only 66metres long and 5kuna per person one way) – linking the lower centre of town (Ilica, precisely) to the upper town (Strossmayer Promenade) – alternatively you can walk up the steps beside it
Cvijetni trg – a great place for coffee and people watching, and the flower stalls (after which it is named) are really beautiful
Špica – on Saturdays from 10am til 2pm, when it’s nice weather, locals like to hang around the centre (Bogoviceva, Preradoviceva) drinking coffee, seeing and being seen
Mirogoj Cemetery – a short taxi ride from the centre and worth a trip if like me you love cemeteries (does that make me sound weird?)
Dolac (marketplace) – just off the main square (pictured below). Follow the line of flower sellers, and walk up the steps. Pretty much all foodstuffs imagineable: fruit and veg and fish outdoors upstairs, meat, more veg, pasta, inside downstairs
Britanski trg Sundays bric a brac and antiques until 1400 – a lovely buzzy market to wander around. Our best find? Fantastic quality retro handbags
Tkalciceva, a pedestrian street tailor made for mooching – 19th century hobbit type houses and many inexpensive bars and cafes, as well as some little arty shops
Zrinjevac – a small but extremely pretty and atmospheric central park with a bandstand
Maksimir park and Maksimir zoo – only around £4 in a taxi from the centre of town is this fantastic zoo and huge park, both well worth a visit. The ‘park’ is not a formal one, but rather a huge expanse of woods and meadows, with lovely tree lined walkways. Take a picnic (and ideally some bikes) and you could easily spend the whole day here
Botanical gardens – depending on the time of year you go, it’s worth a little stroll through these gardens, very close to the centre of town
Seeing the theatre from the outside:
Good restaurants abound in Zagreb, here are a few of the best:
Appetit – right in the centre – smart, modern, with excellent quality meat and fish
Carpaccio – again right in the centre – again, excellent quality meat and fish. Delicious pasta dishes. And lovely waiters
Takenoko – Kaptol centar – Japanese, modern, romantic atmosphere – try the spring rolls (nothing like any you’ve ever tasted before and not a vegetable in sight) and the monkfish wok
Mano – unmissable. And try the steak tartare, even if you think you don’t like raw meat
Pod grickom topom – for traditional Croatian food, a comfortable atmosphere and a fantastic view over the city, you can’t go far wrong with this failsafe option that’s in all the guidebooks
Lari + Penati – a small, quality place to drop in for a bite to eat and a glass of wine. Popular with locals and rightly so
Didov San – literally round the corner from St Mark’s Church is this little ‘local’ gem with a friendly, rustic ambience, serving hearty Croatian fayre. We were tipped off about it by a lovely local lady we met in town and were very thankful as it would have been easy to miss
Oranz cafe, just a little way along Ilica (West) from the main square, on the corner leading down onto Cvijetni trg – very reasonably priced cakes and quiches to die for
Some places to try in the evening: Bulldog, Bacchus, Pepermint, Hemingways, Jabuka, Maraschino, Sirup, Route 66
Pingvin – the place for after hours takeaway food (open 24/7). Not too classy but a godsend if you’ve been out drinking and need to fill your tummy in the middle of the night
Museums. Zagreb has a plethora of them. A few to try:
Galerija Klovicevi Dvori – currently has a Picasso exhibition but we enjoyed much more the (free) ” Aftermath – changing cultural landscape” photography exhibition
Museum of Broken Relationships (Cirilometodska 2, www.brokenrelationships.com). Not quite sure what to say about this one. Kind of kitsch, but an original idea. At only 25HRK entrance, you don’t have much to lose and it will give you some conversation fodder (what would YOU donate to the exhibition?…)
And a few more: Museum of Arts & Crafts, of Hunting, of Peasant Riots, of Naive Art, of Blindness, the Technical Museum, the Archaelogical Museum
For a pampering break: (tips from a part time local, ie me)
Massage – Kresimir Abidic who used to be head masseur at the Mandarin Oriental in NYC now has his own salon (called New York) in the centre of Zagreb
Tony + Guy on Gajeva – excellent and much cheaper than Tony + Guy in London. You can usually get an appointment last minute if you’re not fussy who does you. A blow dry here is much more reasonable than at home, so why not treat yourself and look fab during your mini break
Adam i Eva beauty salon – the best in town and just a few minutes walk from the main square – but you need to book in advance as it’s (unsurprisingly) super busy
There are many music / outdoor / cinematic events and so on happening throughout the year; if you really want to research the stay to death (but I think this article will keep you more than busy and you won’t miss any of the best bits) try:
Time Out Zagreb Visitors Guide for the year (50HRK – available at bookshops in Zagreb)
Spotted by Locals – a downloadable guide (www.spottedbylocals.com/zagreb)
#1 Anthropologie shower curtain. Beautiful.
#2 Rockett St George online emporium has some great stuff. These angel wings hoop earrings, for example
#3 Alice Palace cards. Like any self-respecting Brit, I’m big on sending cards, despite the advent of the cyberspace age. Thank you cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, congratulations cards, you name it, I send it. And there’s literally NO better place to buy them than from here. I’ve been a fan for years, especially of the animal ones (no change there then) and the city ones (London, Oxford, Windsor, Brighton, Bournemouth, Cardiff) which are particularly stylish. Reasonably priced, great quality, and very original.
#4 Peacock Screen. Gorgeous.
Wedding season is fast approaching, so I thought it would be useful if I trawled around for some nice, high street dresses. Am shocked at how many awful ones there are out there to be honest, so be careful. And styling is all important so please think about your shoes and bag and jewellery – and factor them into your budget (or organise to borrow) – those things can ruin even the best dress, or elevate a mediocre one to levels of greatness. Also, don’t buy tight thinking you’ll lose weight before the event, chances are that you won’t, and wearing a size that’s slightly looser will be much more forgiving than squeezing yourself in and not being able to breathe all day. Play to your strengths. If you have great arms, show them off! If you’re carrying extra baby weight but have great boobs, show them off! Great colouring? Showcase it with some daring colours and prints! Talking of colour, and weddings tend to bring out a lot of it, try to be a little unpredictable – be inspired by the Dulux colour mixes adverts. Or try using all different tones of the same colour from the palest primrose through to rich daffodil yellow. Next point to note: avoid anything that might make you look like a bride, or a bridesmaid. To this end please, please avoid Coast.
It’s a nice time to do something out of character – everyone will be dressed up so you’re less likely to feel silly. If you’re not usually ‘girly’ why not go all out and surprise everyone? If you’re just not a dress person, try a jumpsuit, or some sort of silky separates look – but don’t go too casual – there’s nothing worse than spending all day feeling like you’ve made a lame effort. Try luxe neutrals (think wide legged palazzo pants and a silk blouse, with classy jewellery) which can look very sophisticated. I like to wear all black to weddings, it can stand out in the sea of pastels and colour and looks striking and smart in the summer. But the jury’s out on whether all black is ‘allowed’ at a wedding. Hope the dress edit saves you some time.
xx Nomad Thief aka the Wicked Fairy Godmother
I like Belgrade. I like that it’s colourful and urban and shabby and cool somehow, ugly and scruffy and noisy. I like that the dogs are naughty and numerous and not as a rule pedigrees. And I like that at the same time as it’s very no frills, it has a certain grandeur.
Belgrade is a big city and the initial impression is that it’s hectic, messy, traffic-y. But you just have to find the little tree heavy backstreets and the huge ‘central park’ and you might just fall in love with it. It’s a shabby, arty, interesting, lively, relaxed, live and let live kind of city now, where people like to eat. That there’s poverty is evident, but you get that in any big city. I like the juxtaposition of visually extremely interesting (imposing, in your face and ugly sometimes yes) buildings and the smattering of discreet ground level posh shops, the graffiti (more like wall art actually), the fact that the pavements are in many places erupting with tree roots. The prevalent dog poo, the same kind of down at heel grandeur as San Telmo, Buenos Aires.
Orientate yourself by finding the main, wide, pedestrian street Knez Mihailova where you have a lot of mainstream shops like Zara, Diesel, Adidas as well as pavement cafes – it has a definite ‘ramblas’ vibe to it. Just below the left end of this street is a huge statue of a horse, and at the far right end of it, over the road and tram tracks, is the ‘central park’ I mentioned, Kalemegdan. It’s built around a fortress and they put on concerts at the base (we saw poor tragic Amy Winehouse here in the last concert before she died). Kalemegdan gives you a feeling of space, it has a great view over the city beneath, and the river. It’s a conker collecting, dog walking, elderly people gathering, souvenir buying, bench sitting, initials scratching, city watching, lovers smooching, cigarette smoking, females gossiping, kids playing kind of park. A park with soul, a park for all.
Walk down the hill from Knez Mihailova to Jovanova and Strahinjica bana and you’ll find some great restaurants and cafes – one particularly cool one at any time of day is Supermarket, another is Homa. Homa restaurant’s food is out of this world and not to be missed. In fact, if you’re a meat eater, I’d say that Belgrade is worth the trip just for the food. Taxis you can just hail off the street like in London – but they’re quite different beasts; beasts being a misnomer here (don’t expect to travel in luxury or particular safety – it’s more of a Flintstones vibe) but (assuming of course that you’re not fussy about comfort or safety) they’re perfectly serviceable, and cheap. And if it’s nightlife you’re after, Belgrade’s got it. But I’ll save that for a second Belgrade post, once I’ve summoned up some energy and inclination to explore it…. anyway there’s loads more to say than the above about Belgrade.
Best place to stay? Square Nine hotel with its great 50s style lobby.