Escape the usual tourist traps in beautiful Zagreb

If you’re looking for somewhere to go to impress your friends – you might be tempted by the idea of a weekend break in one of Europe’s more secluded capital cities.

Whilst Croatia’s tranquil islands and world-class beaches have allowed the country to begin reaping the benefits of tourism in recent years, the country’s capital city, Zagreb, is still relatively unknown, and the lingering memories of the recent war there have meant that, even ten years on, few tourists visit this charming town.

Around a fifth of Croatia’s 4.5 million inhabitants live in Zagreb, which managed to remain remarkably untouched despite being subjected to Serb missiles in the early to mid 1990’s. The city is an intriguing combination of eastern and western European influences, with the town centre’s traditional Austro-Hungarian buildings frequently displaying the latest designs from Italian and French fashion houses.

For lovers of art Zagreb has an abundance of open-air craft markets as well as several museums, ranging from the Naive Art museum with its simple imagery to the 17th-century house where Croatia’s best-known sculptor and artist Ivan Mestrovic created his masterpieces.

After sunset, there is still plenty to enjoy in Zagreb. Whilst much of the nightlife is student-orientated, those visitors with more cultural interests might like to pay a visit to the National Opera, or simply relax in one of the capital’s charming cafes with a traditional fruit brandy or local beer. There is also a fine selection of restaurants which serve a variety of cuisines ranging from traditional meat and potato dishes to more exotic, international flavours.

Zagreb is a city of contrasts, commended by the Lonely Planet guide for its “rich diversity of attractions” and, despite its rapid economic development, its green parks and beautiful architecture have ensured that it remains a picturesque and relaxing city.

With the noticeable increase in direct flights to Croatia this year, there has never been a better time to visit the country, and its capital should be high on your list of holiday destinations.