How long does a haircut take? For me and my thinning hair, anything more than 15 minutes is unacceptable. As it happens this is also the maximum amount of time that I am able to do small talk. Beyond 15 minutes and there is a real danger that I might try to elevate the conversation from small talk to medium talk and then people start to think I am weird.
I only brought this up because one summer we were in Zagreb and my partner said that she was going to get her haircut (she doesn’t trust British hairdressers) and she would meet me and my young son in town after she had finished. In my head my plan was to get my son to sleep in the pram, find a nice shady cafe away from the blistering sun and read my book before meeting my partner for a beer whilst remembering, of course, to compliment her on her new hair. I was factoring in an hour at most.
Three and half hours later we finally met up. I learned a lot that afternoon how to entertain a small child in the excruciating heat of Zagreb in Summer. I know why everyone heads to the coast to escape the suffocating heat radiating off the buildings in the city.
Zagreb is a great city and well worth a visit, even if it is just a stop before heading to the coast. And if you are trying to entertain kids then hopefully some of this information is useful. It was found out the hard way.
Technical Museum Nikola Tesla
I mostly went to the Technical Museum Nikola Tesla with my son to get out of the heat for an hour but it is a great place to visit in its own right.
There are plenty of exhibits for younger and older children, although not a great deal of interaction with the exhibits compared to some more modern museums.
Kids love planes, that is just a universal fact.
The tunnel was built as a bomb shelter during World War Two, then fell into obscurity except amongst the homeless, hosted one of the first raves in Croatia in the 90’s, was used again as a bomb shelter during the war of independence before finally opening to the public in 2016.
All of this history will be lost on children of course but a stroll through the tunnel is still great.
Art installations now occupy the tunnel where once there were raves.
Nowadays, the space is typically given over to art exhibitions which can be fairly interesting but kids will love the tunnel and the thought of walking underneath the busy city centre.
It may be one of the shortest funicular railways in the world but it is a fun way to get from the lower town to the upper town.
During the hot summer months, this lake, known as the Zagreb Sea, is a great place to find some solace from the sun. Great place to walk around but there are also water sports for older kids.
The lake is surrounded by bars, cafes and even nightclubs.
Around the lake there is a “walk of fame” of great Croatian athletes.
Kids love trams. They are trains that are on the street so of course they are going to love them. In an act of spectacularly and customary short-sightedness, most cities in the UK got rid of their tram networks when they were also high on tinned spam. The car was the future and the trams had to make way.
The fact that some cities in the UK are trying to reverse this decision through expensive re-tramming shows that Zagreb was right to hold on to its tram network. It is a great and inexpensive way to get around but also a great way to see the city.
Tram tickets can be bought from the many kiosks dotted around the city and you just validate the ticket once on the tram. Children under seven do not need a ticket for any public transport.
This cafe pretty much saved my life on that unbearably hot summer day with my son. If you have kids then this place ticks a lot of boxes; friendly and understanding staff, typically good Croatian coffee, a beer for the frazzled adults but most importantly a nearby play park for the kids to vent all of their energy.
The park is very popular with local families who would inevitably try to strike up a conversation with me as my son played with their kids. I got by on a series of nods and my loose grasp of the Croatian language. I sat and had what might be the most refreshing bottle of Karlovacko I have ever had while my son played happily with the other children.
A cafe like this in the heart of the city is a godsend to every parent.
Zagreb really comes to life in a magical way in the run up to Christmas with so much going on for adults and kids. It is no accident that the festival has consistently been voted the best Christmas festival in Europe. It really puts the standard British Christmas market, with its faux Bavarian huts, cheap tat and three tonne of sausage, in its place.
Advent in Zagreb
Advent in Zagreb spreads out across the city, radiating outwards from the main square at Trg Bana Josipa Jelacica. In the main square itself you will usually find bands playing in the evening and crowds gathering, but further afield you will find bands on every bandstand and a great variety of food and drink. For the adults there is plenty of mulled wine and more and more hipster style beers. For the kids there is enough sugar to keep them awake all the way to Christmas day.
Summer on Stros
Zagreb also raises its game for summer festivals, particularly Summer on Stross. This festival turns the Strossmayer Promenade in the city’s old Upper Town into a stage for art installations and live music whilst being completely free.
On some evenings there are dedicated magic and puppet shows for the children to enjoy.
Check local listings and Facebook for more information.