For us, Zagreb was a bit of an incidental destination.
Originally we had planned to fly into, and then out of, Croatia’s capital city at the start and finish of this year’s summer holiday. When we changed our mind and decided to drive to the Balkans instead, we hung onto our hotel rooms in Zagreb for one night, and made it part of our trip home.
The four hour drive from Split to Croatia was a fairly sedate one, mainly on motorway and broken up only the conclusion of our third ‘Stephen Fry Reads Harry Potter’ cd.
We did find the clouds sitting heavily atop the bare, rocky mountain range we drove alongside worth a photo or two though.
Zagreb was a much bigger town than we expected. The kids were ecstatic as we passed not one, but two, McDonalds on our approach. As far as they were concerned, this meant civilisation!
We stayed in the Esplanade Zagreb Hotel, which has got to be one of the nicest places we’ve ever stayed, anywhere. It’s decorated in Art Deco style, the rooms are large and solid and it’s 10-15 minutes walk to the town centre. It’s probably a bit upmarket for the likes of us, but we really enjoyed our night in luxury there, and they could not have made us more welcome. They even had a valet to drive our filthy, crisp-packet strewn car to the hotel carpark for us. He didn’t blink an eye at the state of our vehicle, although he did try and climb in the wrong side to drive off initially.
We originally booked two rooms, but they moved us into a beautiful suite and threw in a complimentary breakfast. The youngest two had to sleep on a sofa bed, but they didn’t mind and they loved the spa bath which was almost big enough for them to swim in. DH was happy because they had people to help get our luggage to our room and the children were happy with the WiFi that allowed them to enjoy an hour or so of Minecraft before we headed out to explore a little.
As we were only there for one night, we didn’t have much time to look around Zagreb but we did get out for a bit of a wander. We went next door and watched the fountain and colourful trams for a bit before heading towards the city centre for dinner. In the end, we couldn’t agree on anything we all wanted to eat ( the kids were tired and fussy by this point) so we just had a drink, walked back to the hotel and ordered room service. The kids were ecstatic to find fish fingers on the menu!
We all slept well; the beds were probably some of the most comfortable we’d had during the four weeks we were away, and we really enjoyed the breakfast the next morning. There was everything you could think of laid out buffet style, and hot dishes, such as eggs benedict and pancakes, were available to order. Best of all there were many other kids around, including a couple of screaming babies, so our lot weren’t the noisiest kids in the room for once.
Halfway through the meal, DS went off to the toilet, and came back wittering on about a ‘quiet room’ that he wanted to show us. So we’d packed, and DH was checking out, we traipsed after him to take a look. It was a huge ballroom, all decked out in white and crystal. When a staff member came along and caught us peering through the door, he ushered the kids in, turned the lights on and wanted to show it off to us. The kids got up on the stage and sung a few songs to enjoy the amazing acoustics but I was terrified that they would break something!
And then that was it, our car was driven round and packed for us and we were off to our next one-nighter on our way home to the UK.
Zagreb is widely underrated as a place to visit in its own right, as most people probably fly in, then race off down to the coast to Split and Dubrovnik, but there are plenty of parks, museums and galleries to explore; we could have easily spent a couple of days here. And despite being vastly superior, the accommodation was half the price of the hotel we stayed in in Dubrovnik. It would be a great place for a city break, with or without children and we will definitely be back for more.