Zagreb, Croatia: Traditions, Culture and Kissing

Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, is a place which is definitely worth a visit for a day or two.

Its cute streets, quirky traditions and lovely restaurants make it a perfect city to get lost in for a day, before continuing to the coastline and those famous beaches.

In Zagreb more than anywhere else on this trip, we stumbled upon things everywhere. There was something around every corner – the city really felt alive and vibrant.

Just walking around the Dolac market early in the morning, buying some fresh fruits and freshly baked pastries and sitting down to watch the action flow past – was a fun, cultural experience.

This was where the locals went to buy their food – this was where they met friends – where they bought flowers for their loved ones – where old women sold Croatian lace – a perfect place to start the day in Zagreb and get a feel for the city.

According To Legend…

What we liked the most about Zagreb were all of its traditions and legendary stories.

More often than not descriptions for places in Zagreb – in the guide book – would begin with ”According to legend…”

Everything in Zagreb had a myth, legend and a story – and while we thought it was “cute”, the locals took these legends very seriously.

The firing of the 12pm cannon, for example: every day they fire a cannon from a tower on top of a hill, but nobody knows why or when this tradition began. The fact that they fire off a cannon with a souring loud noise every day for no specific reason is hilarious.

They don’t even know how it started – but ”according to legend…”

The Religious Culture

The Stone Gate is another example – today the stone gate, which separates the upper and lower town, serves as a chapel.

People come here to light candles and pray in front of a painting of St Mary and Jesus which was saved in 1731 after a fire burnt everything down.

Whether you’re religious or not you can feel that the vibe here is very special: holy, some would say – emotional, is what I would call it.

No matter what time of the day you walk past, the small tunnel will be filled with locals in all ages; kids, teenagers, elders.

They all come here, light a candle, pray in front of the miracle painting or by the seats in the corner or leave some flowers by the altar.

The Croatian Traditions

Traditions also seem very important to the people.

The first thing that happened when we checked in to the hostel was to be brought a plate of ”assorted” local shots to try, as that is the custom when having guests.

There were the “girl shots” and “men shots”, but it didn’t really matter as long as you drank it.

When we later took the tram into town the first thing we saw was a big group of guys and girls in their early 20’s fully dressed in folk dresses singing traditional folk songs, together with a crowd who knew every word in the lyrics and sang along.

The changing of the guard in Zagreb is another example of tradition taken to the next level.

Their dedication and flamboyant outfits makes London’s changing of the guard look lame.

It goes on for two hours (!) and they walk around the whole center of town, stopping at squares, correcting their hats and capes, drumming their drums while they pass the crowds on their horses.

The “French Kissing”

I’ve never walked through a city and seen so many couples feeling each other up and practically undressing each other in public!

Everywhere in parks and on squares, there were couples kissing – they were lying or sitting on top of each other, guys with their t-shirts off and arms and hands everywhere.

I don’t know why this was, but it was so funny, and while we felt a little embarrassed when sitting close – nobody else seemed to care at all!

Have you been to Zagreb? What did you think of the city?

28 Responses to Zagreb, Croatia: Traditions, Culture and Kissing

  1. Anonymous August 7, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    I’ve been in Croatia for 3 weeks now. The bit about the local shots made me laugh.. I’ve been given them everywhere, and they are STRONG! 

    I loved Zagreb though, and definitely noticed the kissing couples EVERYWHERE.

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 7, 2011 at 8:24 am #

      Hey Lauren, thanks for the comment – the shot ARE crazy strong aren’t they, LOVE them as welcome drinks haha :P Where are you headed after Croatia?

      • Lauren August 7, 2011 at 11:41 am #

        Heading to Slovenia on Wednesday! 

        • Sofia - As We Travel August 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

          oh wonderful – we LOVED Slovenia, make sure you spend a few days in Bled, really amazing nature there – our latest video was from there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vr7TwVjXoso

  2. Maggie High August 7, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    Sounds like a lovely place!

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 7, 2011 at 8:25 am #

      it is a really lovely place Maggie – we will be posting our video episode from Zagreb in a few days, so make sure to check that out :)

  3. My Kafkaesque Life August 7, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    The real Croatia is Dalmatia! I love it.

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 7, 2011 at 8:26 am #

      thanks for the comment, we haven’t been down to the coast yet, but it does also sound wonderful.

  4. Corey August 7, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Loved Zagreb. I spent four and a half days there altogether and spent over half my time just hiking in the forests and hills in the city and just outside. Beautiful place. Highly overlooked by people escaping to the coast in my opinion. 

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

      Hey Corey – I agree, it seems to be overlooked by many people, who think that the coast and relaxing at the beach will be better – which is a real shame i think.

  5. Andi Perullo August 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    Wow what a passionate city!!!

  6. jennaoutofhermind August 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Beautiful! I never saw a problem with kissing in the open…although groping might be a little much, I mean, how riled up does one really want to get in public? ;)

    I love your description of the market! Sounds absolutely lovely. I have a friend in Prague, if I ever make it out there will be sure not to miss Zagreb.

  7. Debbie @ European Travelista August 8, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    I haven’t been to Croatia yet but it is very high on my list.  We are planning a trip next year and hopefully our plan will come to fruition!  I love markets like the Dolac market.  They are a great way to get something healthy to eat.  I love eating while traveling and use these markets to keep the calorie intact somewhat in check :)

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 8, 2011 at 8:02 am #

      I love markets too, they can be so vibrant. At the Dolac market there were tons of fruit and berries all locally produced. Try the cherries, they’re delicious!

      I hope everything goes as planned for you, Croatia is a fun country to travel in with many beautiful places.

  8. Anonymous August 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    I’ve never been to Croatia, but from the look of it, it looks like a fun place to visit!

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

      I really like Croatia, it has so many things to offer. I like countries that are varied, and Croatia is perfect for that. Strongly recommend a visit ;)

  9. Anonymous August 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    I’ve never been to Croatia, but from the look of it, it looks like a fun place to visit!

  10. yatra flights August 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    what a wonderful description..i love the post thanks for sharing…

  11. Jodi August 8, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    I’m heading to Dubrovnik in a few weeks, but it seems as if Zagreb is pretty cool too!

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 12, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

      Zagreb is awesome, too bad it’s quite far away from Dubrovnik. I really liked the old town of Dubrovnik, it is SO beautiful.
      Have a great trip!

  12. Gregory August 12, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Croatia is really magical country.You can see very interesting places and have a lot of fun there!

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 12, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

      I agree, it’s such a varied country in nature. I would love to go island hopping there.

  13. Vira August 24, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    interesting place! very ‘open’ and yet traditional..

  14. unknown October 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    i am doing a project over this place and every where i reed there is some comment about how people are always touching each other

    • Sofia - As We Travel Blog April 12, 2012 at 11:26 am #

      Haha really? I was curious if that was just our experience, but it seems like other people noticed as well… funny!

  15. Preciouszwane April 12, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    planning on going there in four months time

    • Sofia - As We Travel Blog April 12, 2012 at 11:27 am #

      Exciting, you’ll love it there! If you’re staying for a week or so, make sure you also visit the coast – it’s absolutely stunning.

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