Springtime in Lower Town, Zagreb in Croatia

The air smells rich with the aromas of homemade cheeses, fresh pastas and pastries. Red-striped umbrellas shelter row upon row of wooden stalls and tables stocked with fruits, vegetables, and cut flowers. The open-air Dolac Market is lively and colorful in the heart of the city of Zagreb in Croatia, sitting in the shadows of cathedrals and buildings where plaster and paint have eroded away to expose the brick beneath. Dolac Market is so popular that often, vendors sell out by mid-morning, especially on a warm, spring weekend morning like today.

I flew into Zagreb airport, planning to spend a few days in Croatia before transferring to Slovenia to speak at a conference. But a comedy of travel errors from canceled and delayed flights to lost luggage and airline ineptitude cost me two full days in the city, turning this into a very short stop. Rebuilding optimism, I took to the streets with no agenda. Walking the avenues like a local and navigating the area’s greenways and parks helps develop a strong sense of place quickly. A morning at the market makes one immediately feel immersed in the Zagreb experience, however short.

Lower Town Zagreb (Donji Grad)

European cities like Zagreb are a confluence of regional cultures, their ancient history coexisting with modernity and massive movement of people over time. Their green spaces and beltways with floral landscaping weave through Art Nouveau and Baroque architecture that evokes the essence of Austro-Hungarian grandeur.

Emblematic of Zagreb’s unique ability to integrate its urban elements seamlessly with natural beauty, a bougainvillea plant climbs and stretches its branches up a city wall above a parked bicycle, its vibrant magenta flowers creating a striking contrast with the building’s gray exterior.

Botanical Garden at the University of Zagreb (Botanički vrt u Zagrebu)

Established in 1889, the Botanical Garden is part of the Faculty of Science at the University of Zagreb. The 12-acre garden houses more than 10,000 plant species, including a diverse collection of native, exotic, and rare plants from around the world. It’s a living laboratory for research and education, giving horticulture and botany students access to a variety of species for study.

Besides creating a colorful, walkable garden space in central Zagreb, the department plays an important role in the research, protection and propagation of endemic and native plants and the restoration of Croatian national and nature parks.

Croatian National Theater (Hrvatsko narodno kazalište u Zagrebu)

The Croatian National Theater building, renowned for its design and grandeur, is the oldest theatre institution in the country and an important part of Zagreb’s architectural heritage. It is instrumental in giving the work of Croatian playwrights, composers and choreographers a stage and bringing international performances to the country.

The entrance to the Croatian Natural Theater captivated me with a soft, golden glow at blue hour, especially behind a sprawling bed of purple forget-me-nots(?) and early dark red tulips.

Park Ribnjak Street Art Murals

A number of street art initiatives have helped revive walls around the city with diverse and creative murals. One such space is Art Park Zagreb in Park Ribnjak, which welcomed artists to transform the city park into a public open-air gallery.

Nikola Tesla Statue

Nikola Tesla was born in Smiljan, Croatia, and his legacy of pioneering electrical engineering is celebrated in numerous monuments, street names, museums and institutions throughout the region. This statue on a street corner was a personal favorite.

Even if Zagreb is only a brief stop for many en route to Croatia’s seaside destinations like Split and Dubrovnik, it doesn’t take long to appreciate the city’s range of beautiful European architecture and history woven with green spaces and colorful urban elements.

Photographs in this post were shot on:
• Canon EOS R5 for landscapes and wildlife
• Google Pixel 8 Pro for quick snaps


Heather Physioc is a hiker, travel writer, and landscape and wildlife photographer based in Kansas City. Through her work, she hopes to illustrate inform in an engaging way that inspires people to connect with and care about protecting our planet.

1 thought on “Springtime in Lower Town, Zagreb in Croatia

  1. Holly Cochran says:

    Amazing. I’d love to see the Lippizaner farm!

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