Visit Zagreb Now: Never Has the City Been More Beautiful
May 20, 2020 – A first visit to post-earthquake Zagreb, and a big surprise – never have I enjoyed visiting the Croatian capital more. Zagreb is magnificent right now.
It is almost two months since the devastating March 22 earthquakes in Zagreb. Like everyone else, I watched the tragic images with heartache. Corona travel restrictions meant that I could not visit, and I had to keep in touch with my friends and TCN colleagues from distance.
With all the yearning for travel, Zagreb was the only place I wanted to visit, to walk its streets, share its pain, empathise with its people.
I was actually nervous as we entered the city. What awaited me? And how would greeting friends be in this new lesser-contact world? I also felt a little guilty that while they had been confined to apartments, I had had the freedom of one of the most beautiful islands in the world on Hvar.
What I actually discovered stunned me. For I can genuinely say that I have never found Zagreb more beautiful, more peaceful to roam its streets and parks, or more at peace with itself. Perhaps the little cross on the top of one of the cathedral’s spires, a recent addition, was a symbol of that.
I arrived on Sunday, a non-working day in Croatia with elections approaching, and the ruling government reaching out to its conservative base, and so the centre was emptier than usual. Less humans, more birds.
I found myself walking down the middle of the street at times, as there was so little traffic (it was a Sunday, remember). And on Zrinjevac, some new parking spaces. After the earthquakes, residents move them away from the buildings to lessen the risk of damage from another earthquake. I wonder how long this arrangement will last.
The streets were emptier, the air was noticeably cleaner, Mother Nature was enjoying a relaxing weekend, and the sun was shining. It was divine.
No doubt the shops being shut had a big effect on the lack of people about, but it certainly added to the enjoyment. But one thing I noticed about the people who were out. They were happier, much happier, than the normal faces one sees on the street. I was curious to see how my friends would be after this intense period of their lives. And they were all much more relaxed, calmer and more reflective on what they had been through and the new realities of life. Corona has wreaked havoc and destruction, but it has also contirbuted much to a mindset reset for many people, and they may yet bring great benefits.
Daily life continuing. A family playing table tennis in the park.
I was expecting to see a lot more devastation around the city. It has been cleaned up extremely well (never have I seen it cleaner) and the rubble which remains has been swept into piles in parking spots.
Some streets are closed, and the cranes are out.
I was expecting a lot more disruption, a lot more cranes. They were there, but there were not a major feature. The major feautures for me were nature, calm, happier people. It was a wonderful thing to experience after months of being at home.
The shops might be shut, but the cranes were working.
Most cafes were shut (not sure if this was standard for the moment, or due to Sunday), but those that were open were less crowded, more relaxed, fun to chill out in.
Less people and more time to enjoy the magnificent architecture of the city.
And its nature.
And Zagreb by night was a joy. Just as it felt that I had the island of Hvar to myself during lockdown, so too the city centre of the capital by night.
If you are travelling at the moment and Zagreb is on your radar, visit now, while this magical period of Mother Nature partially controlling the city still exists, as it will almost certainly change when the humans are allowed out to play.
You can learn more about Zagreb in our Virtual Croatia series – Tourism in the Corona Age: 10 Virtual Tools to Discover Zagreb.