By Kristen Monson
Every guidebook at a souvenir shop can tell you how to visit a country on $50 a day, and Croatia is no exception. However, in this Balkan country you can do it for significantly less. Croatia is still on its own currency, the kuna, meaning the U.S. dollar will stretch further than many places in Europe. In Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, there are a variety of activities that can easily be done without emptying your bank account, meaning it is possible to explore Zagreb for less than $20, while still having a full day.
1. Oliver Twist Pub
On Tkalčićeva Street, it is 10:45 on a Wednesday morning and friends are sitting around shaded tables enjoying a pint of beer or glass of wine. Having a drink this early is not uncommon in the small capital city. Near the end of the café-scattered street, you will find Oliver Twist Pub, a brothel- turned house- turned pub. With spacious outside seating, it is easy to be distracted by the exterior and settle for sitting in the temperate 65 degree weather, but the inside of the pub is what holds the true charm. Everything from the bar stools to the tables are mahogany wood with leather coverings and brass accessories. Cherubs hang above the bar, donned with playful smiles. The bartenders are busy making and delivering drinks but are quick to greet you with a dobar dan, or “good day.” With 9 draft beers, 18 bottled beers, over 20 coffee drinks, and a small selection of wine, Oliver Twist can provide a great selection of beverages. Whatever your drink of choice, you can expect to spend under 20 kn (around $3), a small price to pay for a refreshing start to the day.
2. Museum of Torture
Museums present an insight to a country’s culture and history, and Zagreb does not disappoint with its selection of museums. Although the city offers average art and history museums, it also provides museums that are not quite as common. Located on Radićeva Street, the Zagreb Museum of Torture is a dark look into the past of this country, as well as other European countries. There is an eerie feeling about the small, unlit museum, but it quickly washes over you as you become enthralled with the descriptions of torture devices used in past centuries. The museum is 25 kn for students and 30 kn for regular admission.
3. Dolac Market
Looking over the square, the umbrellas open up creating a red sea covering the market. Red isn’t the only color you see though, as Dolac market is a fresh fruit and vegetable market. The small farmer’s market contains shades of greens, yellows, and reds that cannot be found anywhere else in the city. The outskirts of the market comprise of vendors selling flowers and souvenirs. Walking through the rows of booths, the scent of fresh strawberries and flowers drape over you like a perfume you don’t mind wearing. Purgers, locals of Zagreb, can be found at all times of the day at the market buying fresh cheese and produce. As a tourist, the market is the ideal place to grab an afternoon snack, since most fruit is less than 15 kn.
4. Ribnjak Park
Less than a five-minute walk from Dolac is Ribnjak Park, located behind the Zagreb cathedral. Shaded benches sprinkle the walking and bike trails, and you almost forget you are in the middle of the city, but are reminded by the top of the cathedral peeking out of the trees. Kids skip down the paths with parents in tow, women read books on blanketed grass, while men nap on the benches in the sun. Though the park is full of people, it is still peaceful.
5. Baba Delicije
There is almost no better way to wind down the day than to relax with a glass of homemade red wine. At Baba Delicije, a wine bar on Vlaska Street, the wine is rich and smooth, complemented by the cheese served with it. Walking into the small store, wine bottles surround you while cured meats hang from strings. With only one table inside, it is an easy decision to grab a glass of their home made wine and take it outside to the high top tables placed in perfect people-watching position. The waiter will bring freshly cut cheese imported from Bosnia with olive oil drizzled on top, served with the prosciutto they make in-house and thick, soft bread. Although the assortment is enough for two people, it would be a lie to say it was not easy to finish it all just as one person. For the glass of wine and food, the cost was 51 kn.
Not every city is capable of offering you a variety of activities while still staying in budget, but Zagreb’s affordable nature and scenic surroundings will have you hooked. After spending 109 kn throughout the day in Zagreb, the grand total is just $18— giving you a whole $2 to spare for your next adventure.