Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia and at the same time with around 800.000 inhabitants also the biggest city in the country. It is the economic, political and cultural center of a very centralistic country. Almost everything important is decided in Zagreb, which leads to a lot of resentment in other parts of Croatia. Zagreb might be the definite no. 1 in the country, but regionally it's still trying to find its own identity in order to compete with the more established capitals such as Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade.
1. My impression of Zagreb
I basically didn't like Zagreb. It is nothing personal, it's more related to my disappointment, as I had higher expectations. Zagreb was in recent years always in the news in regards to how nice it had become. Yet, some parts in the center didn't look very charming to me, not to mention the suburbs. I especially didn't like the area around the main station a.k.a. Glavni Kolodvor, but once I cam to Ban Jelačić Square as well as the main promenade called Ilica, it looked much better. The Zagreb cathedral (which is called Katedrala Uznesenja Blažene Djevice Marije i svetih Stjepana i Ladislava in Croatian), is also situated in that area. Topping up at 108m, it's the number one landmark in the city. Nearby is the Lower town or Donji grad, Zagreb's well preserved medieval center, that might be the city's most beautiful part (I definitely recommend a stroll around there). I know I had a very limited time in Zagreb, so what you read here is purely my first impression. Croatia is a very beautiful country and there is almost no visitor, who would not be enamored with Istria and Dalmatia, but Zagreb might not be everyone's taste. What I missed most was a special atmosphere, something I felt in Belgrade or Sofia.
2. My photos of Zagreb
These are few photos from my morning stroll around Zagreb, starting at the main station.
3. Zagreb in conclusion
What I liked about Zagreb was the food - there is plenty of street food available at a very good price. There are also many beautiful little cafes and great restaurants scattered all over the city. Once you learn how to take the tram, you will not have any problems with transportation around the city. Zagreb feels more like a small town or a conglomerate of many small towns stuck together (in contrast, Belgrade always feels like a metropolis, even though by size the don't differ a lot). If you're a Croatia fan, there's no way for you to avoid Zagreb, but the real gems of Croatia are located in the West and South (for example Rovinj, Pula, Zadar, Trogir, Split and of course Dubrovnik and Plitvice).
Next in the Balkans tour: Belgrade