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The easiest and most authentic way to experience Zagreb is at one of her many town squares. These little pockets across the city attract locals and tourists by the hundreds. The squares, or trgs as they are known in Croatian, are full of history, character and crowds. Some of these squares hold farmers markets, others host street performers. In the winter, Christmas markets are set up, and during the summer, concerts and exhibitions are on display. No matter what time of the year, the squares are abuzz with activity. I have spent many a delightful hour at these squares, usually with a coffee and paperback in hand, and here are some of my favourites:
Trg Bana Jelacica
The Trg Bana Jelacica, a city landmark, is situated in the heart of Zagreb and is named after local Croat hero Josip Jelacic, who fought off the Hungarians in 1848. He can be seen at the centre of the square, sitting on a horse with his sword raised in the air. Around him are a series of impressive buildings in different architectural styles; many of these double as chic cafes and boutiques. The Main Square, as it is commonly known, is a popular meeting point, the busiest tram stop and the starting point for city tours. As a result, it is forever pulsating with life and activity. In addition, Zagreb’s main shopping street, Illica, also starts from this very point.
Preradovicev Trg is situated just a few paces from Trg Bana Jelacica and is named after Croatian Poet Petar Preradovicev. The square holds a variety of colourful flower stalls all year long and is therefore commonly known as the Flower Square (the crowds of young men here on Valentine’s Day, buying red roses, is quite a sight.) You’ll also find the Serbian Orthodox Church here, as well as a number of impressive boutiques and cafes. Over the weekend this square fills up with Zagreb’s most fashionable and is the place to be seen.
Britanski Trg (British Square)
A mere ten minutes away from the Main Square, Britanski has a popular farmer’s market and a string of cafes set up here during the summer. But the real magic of this square can be experienced on Sunday mornings, when the antique market sets up. Apart from grandma’s old china and vintage dressers, bargain hunters and collectors can scrounge through old postcards and art works, antiques and heirlooms. This is a great place to find wonderful little curios and souvenirs.
St. Mark’s Square
The St. Mark’s Square in the Old Town of Zagreb is surrounded by history, beginning with the 13th century St. Mark’s Church. The tiled roof of the church, displaying the Croatian and Zagreb City coat of arms, is one of the most recognizable images of the city. The Croatian parliament and the presidential palace can be found along the square, as can galleries and museums. Many other historical landmarks, like the Lotrscak Tower, are within walking distance of the St. Mark’s Square.
Trg Marshal Tito
There is an air of royal opulence about the Marshal Tito Square. Its most prominent landmark, the Croatian National Theatre, stands right in the centre and dominates the landscape. This Baroque beauty is surrounded by a perfectly manicured park, and a string of impressive galleries and museums. The park itself is one of the most picturesque in the city, especially when it is in full bloom during the summers; it isn’t uncommon to find tourists and locals catching the sun here. The square is also peppered with interesting sculptures, the most famous being the ‘Well of Life’ by Ivan Mestrovic.
These are just a few of the many quirky and interesting squares in the city; this list can go on for a few more pages with ease. The best thing to do is find one that suits you, take a seat, and enjoy the city like a true local.