I’m going to be honest. The only reason I even came to Zagreb is because I wanted a comfortable stop-over between Slovakia and the beaches of Croatia. When you read about travel to Croatia, you read a lot about Plitvice Lakes and about beautiful beaches. There isn’t a lot of hype about the country’s capital, Zagreb. Maybe there should be; it’s a great place to visit. But is it a good place to live?
Cars here have absolutely no respect for pedestrians, and there are only sometimes lights to help you get across intersections. Being in a car is even more terrifying, and probably dangerous, because traffic is terrible. As it is, in the short time we’ve spent here, we got into a minor accident. Outside of that, the city doesn’t seem very unsafe in the traditional sense, even the parts of town that aren’t as pristine and cleaned up as Old Town.
Zagreb is a pretty large city and outside city center, it’s an average big city, with a lot of traffic. City center, though, is amazing. I thought I would be sick of seeing “Old Town” by now, but Zagreb has a really unique vibe to it, both architecturally and culturally. I can definitely spend all day hanging out at one of the many outdoor cafes and restaurants with a snack and a drink. Of course, that’s assuming I don’t get hit by a car on the way there. Because of the difference in elevation in different parts of the city, you often get a great view. Half of Zagreb is basically an observation deck. So there are many great places to sit on a bench overlooking the city and read or make out with someone. For some reason, I also feel like Zagreb has the best dogs of any place I’ve visited. I can’t explain why; I think they just breed more adorable puppies here.
The people of Zagreb are friendly and I guess they’re close enough to Italy to be a little in your face with the friendliness. There are definitely a lot more unsolicited comments and conversation when you’re just walking down the street or having lunch than with Croatia’s northern neighbors. But it’s not too much that I feel uncomfortable walking around. The rest of Europe can take notes about service from Zagreb. They are so on point that they make you feel like you’re slacking. There is no time for games at Zagreb restaurants. You need to know your order 5 minutes after you sit down, and your bill will be on the table with your food.
The city has a lot of trams that go basically everywhere you would want to be. But we couldn’t figure out where to buy tickets, so we’ve walked and taken Uber everywhere. To be honest, an Uber is probably just as cheap as the tram, cheaper if you’re splitting it. When you’re walking in Old Town, which is divided into two major sections, Upper Town and Lower Town, you will encounter a lot of stairs. But Zagreb gets away with it because every stairway to another part of the city is like a beautiful, hidden alcove that either leads somewhere awesome or is covered in art or offers a fantastic view of the city.
The exchange rate in this country is favorable, to say the least. One dollar is a little less than 7 Croatian Kuna. And depending on where you go, those Kuna can take you a long way. It’s not Poland, but you can still get a plate of seafood risotto for $5.
In two ways, Zagreb is a bit of a pain. For one, the cell phone service here is terrible. I usually don’t need WiFi because I have free international internet service, but the service is spotty and slow here. I’ve had better internet in the Sahara Desert. And that wouldn’t be a problem if I could just use WiFi, but the WiFi pretty much everywhere, from our hotels to restaurants, is equally poor in quality. My second issue with the city is that is almost exclusively cash only. I don’t like carrying money on me, never have. I need to live in a place that doesn’t make me run for the ATM to pay for dinner. Zagreb is not that place.
Total Livability Score 4/10
I’m really impressed with Zagreb, though I don’t know if I would want to deal with getting around in this traffic every day to get to work. But if I hit the Powerball, I would come visit more often.