Saturday, 13 August 2022

What do Tourists in Zagreb Think of the Croatian Capital This Summer?

August the 13th, 2022 - It isn't just the Croatian coast that is booming this year, with the capital attracting more and more foreign visitors keen to discover the Croatia which lies away from the sparkling Adriatic Sea. Precisely what do tourists in Zagreb think of the bustling city?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the devastating earthquake of March 2020 and the global coronavirus pandemic well and truly left their mark on tourism in Zagreb - some of the city's accommodation facilities haven't yet been restored after the earthquake. But despite this, the metropolis has enjoyed some truly excellent results: by the end of July, 80 percent of arrivals and 85 percent of overnight stays were achieved compared to the record year of 2019 by tourists in Zagreb. The most numerous guests there have been the Germans, Americans, English, Dutch and French, as reported by HRT.

Although the City of Zagreb seems empty during these sizzling summer months because local people have gone to the coast or have headed off abroad to enjoy time off work, the famous Tkalciceva ulica (street) and Gornji grad (Upper town) are still all full. Most of the people there are foreigners.

''We really like Zagreb. We went through the city by tourist bus where we saw the cathedral and the Church of St. Mark," said Alessia from Italy.

"I was in the Museum of Broken Relationships and it was really fun, and tomorrow I'd like to go to the Museum of Illusions. You have a lot of interesting museums," said Brandon from the USA.

The turnover in souvenir shops is incomparably higher this year compared to the previous one. Tourists in Zagreb who come from all over the world are most interested in Croatian products. "Licitar hearts and little statues of monuments like the cathedral and St. Mark's church are doing well in terms of sales,'' said Angela Zafranovic, the manager of a Zagreb souvenir shop.

“We like the relaxed atmosphere and architecture throughout the city. You never know what you'll find around the corner. Just now we discovered some stairs and decided to go through there," said Pawin from Australia.

"The culture, a beautiful landscape, history and wine. We've just come back from tasting Croatian wines, which are excellent", emphasised Eugene from Las Vegas.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Sava Boats: New Project to Explore Zagreb River's Tourism Potential

July the 26th, 2022 - Sava boats will connect Zagreb's popular Jarun lake with Borovje with the use of five piers. After many ideas like this one for Zagreb having floated around for years now, it will be interesting to see one come to fruition.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, throughout history, there have been many ideas on how to connect Zagreb and the Sava and how to make the Sava something more than just a river that divides the city. Until now, nothing has really succeeded, and only the embankment, which was created out of the need to protect the city from floods, has come to be.

However, after raising the standard along the coast with some new piers, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure is now preparing something for the capital as well. It has launched the project for the Promotion of Green Navigation on the Sava river in the City of Zagreb, for which the study and project documentation will be created in the first step by the IGH Institute, which was selected in a public tender announced back at the beginning of the year.

The very name of the project is associated with "Zagreb on the Sava/Zagreb na Savi" and the European 13 competition, a project that was relevant a few years ago, when the late Milan Bandic was in charge of Zagreb. However, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure has duly pointed out that this project isn't related to that megaproject.

This idea, which involves Sava boats, is a completely different project, and it is their independent project, that is, the City of Zagreb is not included in it at this stage. From the ministry with Oleg Butkovic at the helm, they noted that the involvement of the City of Zagreb is planned during the construction phase, that is, the arrangement of all of the access infrastructure.

In short, the project for which IGH will prepare the project documentation for the ministry envisages the creation of technical conditions for arranging the waterway and enabling the depth that would make the Sava safe for boat navigation. In the tender documentation, the ministry starts from the fact that in the area of ​​the City of Zagreb, the Sava river has very limited possibilities for navigation, and that due to the uneven water regime, it can actually be used mainly only for tourist purposes.

There is no serious navigation on the Sava in Zagreb, and the ministry recognises the possibility of improving the attractiveness of the tourist offer by improving the navigability by introducing, as they say, the water dimension of sightseeing in the city with Sava boats. The ministry also explained that their goal is to create a plan for future works aimed at regulating the Sava river bed in that area in a better way, as well as their intention to create a concept for all of the accompanying infrastructure facilities for Sava boats and a pier project.

In contrast to all previous ideas relating to Zagreb's dividing river, which included connecting and arranging the Sava from the border with Slovenia to Sisak, the current project covers only the area from the Bridge of Youth (Most mladosti) to the area near the Arena at Laniste. In this area, it would be quite possible to install five piers, in locations that would coincide with the most important points of urban transport, and which, according to the ministry, lack traffic connections as well as entertainment and recreational facilities.

Those five locations are Jarun-east, where the eastern part of the Jarun lake towards Laniste would be connected by a ferry crossing, and, until the Jarun bridge is built, the ferry crossing would also be located at another location on the right, connecting Laniste to Jarun. The third location is the Hendrix Bridge, where the navigation unit would be placed on the left side of the bank and would be a connection to both tram and bus transport at the Savski Most interchange, while the fourth location would be Liberty bridge (Most slobode) on the right side of the bank and would connect Bundek, and the last, of all, involving the Bridge of Youth again, would connect the settlements of Savica and Borovje.

Traffic on the Sava using Sava boats would take place in two directions, and two ships could dock at the pier at the same time. In accordance with the EU's green agenda, the wharves would have energy connections and power generation from RES, and, as can be seen from the documentation, they would be built so that they would self-adjust to the water levels on the unstable Sava bed.

As far as the dimensions are concerned, the starting point is a bed depth of 5 metres and a bed width of 80 metres, a pier draft of 1 metre, with the length of the access bridge being 25 meters. The deadline by which IGH needs to create a technical solution for the activation of the ambitious project is 36 months from the conclusion of the contract, which is worth 1.1 million kuna in total.

Then it will be clearer how much the realisation of that project would cost and how it would be financed.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Zagreb Botanical Garden Ranked Among World's Most Beautiful

July the 26th, 2022 - The gorgeous Zagreb botanical garden has found itself ranked among the world's most beautiful gardens and parks by HouseFresh, which took to Tripadvisor reviews, one of the world's most popular ''go to'' websites for all things travel and leisure.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Tripadvisor has been used for many, many years by people from all over the world for various travel and tourism tips. Whether you're looking for a restaurant, accommodation, or a particular attraction, it is always good to read different opinions and views from all kinds of people, which will help you in your choice. This time, the best parks and gardens in the world were ranked by the platform, writes Pun Kufer.

Public parks and gardens are simply great places for just about everyone. Just think about it: huge areas for viewing flowers, enjoying nature or simply relaxing and watching the world go by – they're open to all and (most of the time) they're totally free.

If you've ever wondered which of all the parks and gardens in the world are the most beautiful, today is your lucky day. A study by air purification company HouseFresh looked at Tripadvisor's reviews of almost a thousand gardens and parks from all around the world, counted how many times each attraction was described as ''beautiful'' and then ranked them.

According to research, the most beautiful public park in the world is the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, which doesn't come as a shock at all given its giant man-made trees, stunning walkways and millions of different plant species. This hyper-futuristic park is quite a spectacular sight, as evidenced by the thousands of reviews that describe it as beautiful on the Tripadvisor platform.

Still, let's look a bit closer to come and see if any Croatian gardens and parks, of which there are many absolutely gorgeous ones dotted all around the country, stood out for HouseFresh. One Croatian park did make it onto this list, the beautiful Zagreb botanical garden, which, along with the Cathedral and the Upper Town (Gornji grad), is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Croatian capital.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Zagreb Culture of Tourism Project Continues Involving City's Youth

May the 21st, 2022 - The Zagreb Culture of Tourism project is continuing to involve the capital city's youth with the systematic education of high school students.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Tourist Board of the City of Zagreb (TZGZ) in cooperation with the City Office for Education, Sport and Youth is once again implementing the Zagreb Culture of Tourism project. This is a project where the systematic education of high school students, for whom tourism and hospitality are not primary subjects, seeks to raise their awareness of their own city and introduce young people to the tourist, cultural and natural potential of Zagreb.

This year, six schools participated in the Zagreb Culture of Tourism project, and the final presentation of the project will be held on Monday, May the 23rd, 2022, at 11:00 at the Zagreb Dance Centre at Ilica 10.

"We're very proud of all the students who are researching the touristic side of the city within this project and considering the possibilities of evaluating the existing tourist offer, as well as the development of a new one. In this way, students have the opportunity to get to know their city from a slightly different perspective and give their own views and ideas for the City of Zagreb as a tourist destination.

The Zagreb Culture of Tourism project seeks to involve young people in programmes to preserve ethnological, historical and cultural heritage, protect the environment, and raise the level of hospitality and create a welcoming climate, which should leave a mark on Zagreb's tourism and, in general, development of Zagreb,'' said Martina Bienenfeld, the director of the Zagreb Tourist Board.

It's worth noting that the Zagreb Culture of Tourism project is a project that the Tourist Board started way back in the academic year of 2010/2011. Every year, during a one-semester extracurricular activity, students from selected Zagreb high schools have the task, in agreement with project managers, to design and implement projects with a tourism theme, which they then present publicly.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Zagreb in 24 Hours: Cruising Through the Capital

28 April 2022 - Many people associate Croatian tourism with its famous coastline and sunny beaches. But the nation’s capital is an underrated gem. Here, I show you the best way to visit Zagreb in 24 hours. 

Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of Croatia, with a rich history dating back to Roman times. Described by locals as a "big town disguised as a small city", Zagreb is a mix of Western Balkan and central European culture with laid-back, youth-led rhythm. Walking down the promenades, visiting the outdoor market, and drinking coffee in its vibrant settings, this 24-hour itinerary will have you feeling like a local in no time. From historic locations to museums to a bar crawl, everything covered is within the centre of Zagreb, at most a short tram ride away.

10.00 a.m-13.00 p.m.

Get a good start to the day by walking around the centre of Zagreb, where you’re going to want to pass through some of the iconic walking spots like Tkalčićeva street, where you can also stop for a quick coffee or drink at one of its many open cafes.

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Image: Jorge Franganillo/Flickr

If you find yourself hungry right away, stop for breakfast or brunch at the nearby Otto & Frank. Definitely go for their signature dish, the Zagreb Breakfast - Zagreb’s answer to a traditional breakfast dish complete with toasted bread, cottage cheese, and crispy poached eggs. Their menu contains other brunch staples from oatmeal to French toast, many of which are veggie. 

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Image: @otto_frank_bar/Instagram

Alternatively, go for a coffee at Mala Kavana, a coffee shop/brunch place overlooking the Josip Jelačić main square. Zagreb is home to its own coffee culture - sitting at a vibrant open space with a strong coffee and a friend is part of the ZG lifestyle. And for this packed day, I have planned for you, you're gonna want to fuel up on caffeine.

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Image: Mala Kavana/Facebook

And if you prefer to eat on the go, quickly grab a pastry from one of Zagreb’s bakery chains such as Dubravica or Dinara - the nearest in the centre being in Dolac, from which you may detour towards the end of Tkalčićeva. An iconic place of Zagreb culture, the open-air farmer’s market is where traders from all over Croatia sell their locally grown produce, from fresh fruit and vegetables to different types of cheese. The market also has a butchery and fish market, in addition to pasta vendors, gift shops, and flower stalls. 

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Image: Jerome Rondeau/Flickr

13.00-15.00 p.m.

You definitely will want to hit one of Zagreb’s museums, whether it’s one of the art galleries like Klovićevi dvori, or the more one of a kind ones, like the Museum of Naive Art, the Museum of Broken Relationships, or the Zagreb 80s Museum, all within walking distance of the upper town. Or, the quirky Museum of Illusions in Ilica or the Chocolate Museum in Varšavska street (near the Cvjetni square). The appeal of Zagreb museums is not only its diverse range and creative design, but also its prices and accessibility. Tickets can be bought upon entry, and are usually at an average price of 50kn per adult.

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Image: muzejiluzija.com 

15.00-17.00 p.m.

From the upper town, head from one of the former museums to some of Zagreb’s historic landmarks, from St. Mark’s Church, to the Strossmayer Promenade, the idyllic walking space of the Zagreb upper town complete with a panoramic view of the city, and the location of the historic Grič cannon and the world’s shortest funicular - Zagreb’s first and oldest means of public transport. Connecting Strossmayer to Tomićeva street, this short and sometimes even deemed "pointless" ride is nonetheless a must when visiting Zagreb. If heading out from the Museum of Illusions or Chocolate Museum, take the funicular upwards from Tomićeva to Strossmayer.

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Image: inavukic

But regardless of which route you take, by now you'll want a break from all that walking, and what better way to do so than to stop for some sweet delicacies. Right beside the funicular end at Tomićeva is Vincek, the famous Zagreb cake shop, or rather its small outdoor branch known as Vis a Vis. Their kremšnita (cream pie) is a Zagreb favourite, and definitely one to savour in the outdoor setting, next to the carrot cake or triple chocolate brownie. What’s more, all their pastries are gluten-free, meaning those with allergies do not have to miss out.

Untitled_design_-_2022-04-27T160837.937_1.jpgImage: Gilbertt G/Tripadvisor

18.00-20.00 p.m
As the sun sets, head down to Zrinjevac park, a popular hanging spot to just sit in the grass and enjoy the atmosphere. Stop at the nearby Studenac grocery shop for some drinks or snacks, and chill out in the park. If there is an event happening, such as Cest is dBest or the Food and Film Festival, enjoy the music, performances, food and drink, and souvenirs. 

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Image: e r g a s/Flickr

Otherwise, just use the hours to rest and take in the scenes. Walk around the park and go into the other nearby ones like the Josip Juraj Strossmayer park or the one at Kralj Tomislav square.

20.00-23.00 p.m.

If you're after a night out at the club, know that the Croatian way is to go in late hours. Which leaves plenty of time for a bar crawl to get your energy going for a long night ahead! Zagreb has a rich nightlife scene that has only continued to grow in recent years, and no matter what you're into, there is something for everyone. On the main square you have the popular bar and club Johann Franck. Going in towards Bogovićeva street, there’s Bulldog, and in Ilica, the stunning Swanky Monkey Garden, with its chill garden terrace vibe and excellent cocktails. And in the summer, head on further down to Tuskanac for the Pop Up Summer garden. For more info on what to do in Zagreb during the summer season, check out our guide covering festivals and other events in Zagreb that are either cheap or totally free.

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Image: ​​Swanky Monkey Garden/Facebook

Now, if you identify more with counterculture, a bar crawl of Zagreb’s range of alternative pubs is the way to go. Starting on Preradovićeva street, you have Alcatraz, the bar/nightclub that has earned itself a cult following thanks to its regular lineup of cheap drinks and rock tunes.

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Image Credit: Neven Vukovic/CityPal

Nearby there’s Rock star, fully adorned on every wall with rock memorabilia, and just 9 minutes away is The Beertija, the rock-themed outdoor beer garden and nightclub with its long menu list of top-quality beers

23.00 p.m-early hours
Now that it's time to hit the clubs, there’s the trendy Opera on Petrinjska, known as one of Zagreb’s top clubs with the best events and party atmosphere, attracting large numbers of visitiors in the spacious interior from late night till the early morning hours. 

Untitled_design_-_2022-04-28T005305.430_1.jpgImage: Pjerino B/Tripadvisor

For those following the alternative bar crawl, there’s Vintage Industrial at Savska (easily go there from i.e. the Beertija, via the 4 or 17 tram), or for the younger crowd, Močvara at Trnjanski nasip (slightly further away and best reached via the bus).
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Image: mochvara.hr

6.00-9.00 a.m.
If you’ve finished a long night out or just want to get a quick coffee before wrapping up the day, you can always head back to the main square and stop back at Mala Kavana, or grab a slice of pizza at Fries Factory - the latter being a classic post-night out snack stop. 

And there you have it, the best 24 hours spent in Zagreb, hopefully showing just how much the small capital has to offer - not just its history and culture, but also its people and way of living.

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

23,000 Zagreb Overnight Stays Realised During Festival of Lights

March the 30th, 2022 - Zagreb overnight stays have been very impressive over the Festival of Lights period, with 23,000 of them having been realised in the capital.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, according to the Zagreb Tourist Board (TZGZ), during the Zagreb Light Festival, arrivals increased by 179 percent, while the number of Zagreb overnight stays increased by 117 percent when compared to the same period last year.

As such, during the fourth edition of the Festival of Lights, in the period from the 16th to the 20th of March, 10,876 arrivals and 23,072 Zagreb overnight stays were registered. Most arrivals were from people coming from other parts of Croatia, followed by those from neighbouring Slovenia, Italy, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, and as far as Zagreb overnight stays were concerned, most guests were also from other parts of Croatia, followed by visitors from Italy, Germany, the USA, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia.

"We're very pleased with the results achieved, the interest and especially the comments on the organisation of this year's edition of the Zagreb Light Festival.

We also received the preliminary results from our online promotional campaigns which took place on the markets of Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Slovenia and Serbia, according to which the festival's ads racked up more than 43 million views. Our advertorials have been read more than 76,000 times, and the leading markets are Slovenia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During these continued uncertain and difficult times, it was a real challenge to organise the Zagreb Festival of Lights, so I'd once again like to thank all of the partners and institutions that helped us in its realisation. Thank you to those of you who live here and thank you to our visitors for all the words of support and praise, and I'd like to especially thank the residents of Lower and Upper Town (Donji and Gornji grad) for their understanding for the occasional crowds that were created,'' said Martina Bienefeld, the director of TZGZ.

For more, make sure to check out our travel section.

Friday, 4 March 2022

Zagreb February Tourism Continues to Record Positive Trend Seen in 2022

March the 4th, 2022 - Zagreb February tourism is continuing the positive trend seen so far this year which makes a very pleasant change when compared to what we've been seeing over the last two years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, according to the Zagreb Tourist Board (TZGZ), the Croatian capital recorded 137 percent more arrivals and 105 percent more overnight stays in February than it did back in pandemic-dominated February 2021, during which many countries were still in lockdown and severe restrictions on travel were in force.

Luckily for Zagreb February tourism for 2022, an impressive total of 45,082 arrivals and 104,104 overnight stays were registered, and, in addition to Croatian guests, most overnight stays were made by guests from: Russia, Italy, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. In February, there were 31,337 overnight stays realised by Croatian tourists, which is an increase of 35 percent when compared to February last year, and foreign guests realised 72,767 overnight stays, an increase of 164 percent. Out of the total number of arrivals, 16,231 (representing growth of 43 percent) and foreign tourists 28,851 (representing growth of 277 percent).

On that occasion, Martina Bienenfeld, director of the Zagreb Tourist Board, said: "We're pleased that February has continued the upward trend and that we are, in total, during the first two months of 2022 at 90 percent of the amount of overnight stays realised during the same period back in 2019. In real terms, in January and February, we recorded 87,915 arrivals and 211,307 overnight stays, which is an increase of 155 percent in arrivals and 119 percent in overnight stays when compared to the first two months of 2021.

We're also seeing a gradual recovery in business, the so-called MICE segment. Namely, based on the data collected during 2021, the Zagreb Tourist Board recorded a total of 664 business meetings, which is an increase of 28 percent more meetings than in 2020. In addition, we're pleased with two recent independent studies where our city has achieved great results compared to other European and global cities. One is the Ovo Network survey, according to which Zagreb ranks fourth as a destination for families with children (https://bit.ly/3Mdj3TH), and the other is the Holidu.co.uk survey (https://bit.ly/3pubpLc ) according to which Zagreb is in tenth place as the safest city to travel to for women.''

While Zagreb February tourism numbers are of course worth celebrating, we can't forget to mention the horrendous situation taking place in Ukraine as a result of the unjustified Russian invasion of that country around a week ago. The Zagreb Tourist Board has compiled all the information on the reception of Ukrainian refugees in the area of ​​the City of Zagreb on its website. The information is available in Ukrainian, English and Croatian, and it summarises instructions on accepting and assisting Ukrainians who have been forced to leave their homes.

For more, check out our travel section.

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Tomasevic Reveals When Sljeme Cable Car Might Start Working

February the 13th, 2022 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic has discussed the ongoing topic of the Sljeme cable car which has faced numerous obstacles when it comes to noise complaints and obtaining all of the proper permits. This would-be new attraction for the City of Zagreb would allow visitors to experience the nature it has on offer in addition to the bustling city which has attracted more and more foreign visitors over more recent years.

The cable car, which would transport residents and visitors to the Croatian capital alike up the mountain which towers behind it, still isn't quite out of the paperwork woods yet, however.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, after the Sljeme cable car finally received the green light from the Sanitary Inspection, Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic announced that it should be open by the end of February, if all of the necessary permits are finally in proper order by then.

"At the beginning of next week, a permit for use should be issued, followed by a report on the safety of the Sljeme cable car by the end of the week, and then a work permit issued by the Ministry of Transport will follow," Tomasevic said.

However, as an additional 1.7 million kuna will be invested in the Sljeme cable car for noise reduction, following one complaint which saw a permit rejected in the not so distant past, Tomasevic announced that it will be open to the public during its promotional hours, and then it will be closed for a week to carry out any additional work before opening properly for for good.

“Some of the work can only be done while the Sljeme cable car is not working. If the administrative deadlines are met, it will be closed after the promotional period, and then reopened and will work regularly after that,'' explained Tomasevic.

For more, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Friday, 11 February 2022

Zagreb Tourism Numbers Very Encouraging for January 2022

February the 11th, 2022 - Zagreb tourism numbers appear to be on the rise as the world slowly begins to emerge from the global coronavirus pandemic. 2022's maiden month of January has shown some encouraging growth in terms of overnight stays for the Croatian capital.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, according to the Zagreb Tourist Board (TZGZ), the Croatian capital recorded an extremely impressive 174 percent more arrivals and 133 percent more overnight stays during the month of January than it did back in January 2021, which was heavily dominated by a poor epidemiological situation across Europe owing to the emergence of the Delta variant, as well as by lockdowns and harsh restrictions across the continent as a result.

A total of 42,456 arrivals and 106,093 overnight stays were registered, and, in addition to domestic guests, most overnight stays which have contributed to these promising Zagreb tourism numbers were realised by guests from Russia, Italy, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United States of America.

On that occasion, Martina Bienenfeld, the director of the Zagreb Tourist Board, said: "We're pleased with the statistics that we're closely monitoring because they show the trend of recovery of Zagreb tourism. Regarding the arrival of Russian guests who were the most numerous foreign guests in Zagreb in November and December last year and, now, in January, there is very good feedback from the field. Namely, by the airline Aeroflot and the travel agency Atlantis, which mostly bring Russian guests as part of arrangements related to coronavirus vaccination, everyone is very pleased with our hospitality, they have great first impressions and plans to come again in the summer. We're additionally pleased with the fact that, compared to January 2019, we are at 90 percent of that year's overnight stays, and the average stay has been extended to 2.5 nights. If the situation with the pandemic continues the current trend of gradual calming down, I expect a further increase in Zagreb tourism numbers in the coming months.''

It's also worth pointing out that in January there were 32,702 overnight stays realised by Croatian tourists from other part of the country, which is an increase of 62 percent when compared to January last year, and foreign guests realised 73,391 overnight stays, marking a very significant increase of 190 percent. Out of the total number of arrivals, domestic tourists made up 14,972 (79 percent growth) and foreign guests made up 27,484 (286 percent growth).

For more, check out our travel page.

Fancy bumping up the Zagreb tourism numbers yourself? See what you can do here in the bustling Croatian capital with Zagreb in a Page.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Lunar New Year in Croatia: The Basics

January 26, 2022 - As strategic relations between Croatia and China have continued to grow from strength to strength, a look at the Lunar New Year in Croatia. 

Over the last decade, relations between China and Europe have warmed as a result of the Belt and Road Initiative, and the “16+1” mechanism between China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries.

Similarly, strategic relations between Croatia and China have continued to grow from strength to strength.

A side effect of these collaborative efforts is that more European countries including Croatia, are taking the opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture and incorporate them into their annual festivities. 

Within Chinese culture, there is no celebration more important than the Lunar New Year, taking place from February 1-14 this year.

Celebrations in Croatia

In 2016, the City of Zagreb kick-started the first Lunar New Year celebrations in Croatia by lining Josip Jelacic Square with 80 sculptures of terracotta Chinese warriors.

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Terracotta Warrior Sculptures 2016, image: Zagreb Tourism Board/Facebook

In 2018 the Zagreb Tourism Board (TZGZ) introduced week-long celebrations before COVID halted further festivities in subsequent years.

But what is Lunar New Year? How is it different from New Year on the 1st of January? And what are some of the traditions involved in the celebration?

Let’s take a brief look at some of the basics.

Lunar New Year 101

The Lunar New Year, also called Chinese New Year (after the world’s largest population of Lunar New Year celebrants), or Spring Festival (春节 Chūn jié). This event is also widely celebrated in places like China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

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Lunar New Year Celebrations in Thailand, image: Pixabay

In Korea, Lunar New Year celebrations are known as 설날 (Seollal), which lasts 3 days. While in Japan, the Meiji government phased out the use of the lunar calendar in 1873 to be more in line with the West, making celebrations a more muted affair.

Like Thanksgiving and Christmas, Lunar New Year is a time for families and friends to gather, catch up on the past year while consuming copious amounts of food and exchange gifts in the form of money-filled red envelopes (红包, hóng bāo).

Red is an auspicious color for the Lunar New Year, symbolizing happiness, passion, hope, vitality, and luck.

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Exchanging of Red Envelopes, image: Rodnae productions/Pexels

Celebrations begin on the first day of the lunisolar calendar, last 14 days, and concludes with the Lantern Festival (元宵节 Yuán xiāo jié). The day before Lunar New Year, families usually come together to partake in a reunion dinner (年夜饭 Nián yè fàn) to begin the festivities.

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Reunion Dinner, Image: Angela Roma/Pexels

What is the Lunisolar Calendar?

While the Gregorian calendar, the standard calendar used as the primary means of tracking time worldwide - is the official calendar in all countries that celebrate Lunar New Year, the lunisolar calendar still plays an important role in everyday life.

It determines when traditional holidays such as Lunar New Year, Lantern Festival (元宵节 Yuán xiāo jié), Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节 Zhōng qiū jié) and Ancestors’ Day (清明节 Qīng míng jié).

Briefly speaking, the lunisolar calendar is a hybrid timekeeping method that accounts for both the earth’s orbit around the sun taking 365 days a year (i.e. Gregorian calendar) and the moon’s orbit around the earth (i.e. Lunar calendar).

On average, the moon’s synodic orbit around the earth takes 29.53 days which is then multiplied by the 12 lunar months. This adds up to approximately 354 days a year, 11 days shorter compared to the solar calendar.

To remedy this discrepancy, an additional 13th month is added to the lunisolar calendar once every 3 years. This once in three-year occurrence is known as (农历 nóng lì), or the agricultural calendar.

Since the lunisolar calendar is not in complete sync with the Gregorian calendar, Lunar New Year can fall anywhere within the months of January or February.

Due to this, the first day of Lunar New Year falls on February 1st this year, marking the beginning of the year of the Tiger.

In 2021, it fell on February 12th, welcoming the year of the Ox, while in 2020, January 25th marked the first day of the year of the Rat.

But why are there different animals for each year and what do these animals represent?

Chinese Zodiac

Each year in the lunisolar calendar is attributed to one of the repeating 12-year cycles of animals known as the Chinese zodiac.

In order, these zodiac animals begin with the Rat, followed by Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and ending with the Pig.

Each animal is also attributed with a set of traits that broadly categorizes the personalities of individuals born in that year.

For example, those born in the year of the Tiger are said to be independent and competitive yet have impetuous personalities. While those born in the year of the Ox are said to be diligent and honest, but with explosive personalities.

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12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac, image: Pixabay

This zodiac is rooted in a legend dating back to the Qin dynasty in China that ruled over 2,000 years ago. The story goes that the Jade Emperor summoned all the animals within his Kingdom to take part in a great race towards the palace.

The first 12 animals to reach the palace were selected to be part of the zodiac, and the order in which they arrived determined their place.

Lunar New Year thus marks the transition from one animal to the next. 

Although this tradition is fading, the Chinese zodiac used to play a vital role in everyday life, determining one’s entire outlook for the year including career, finances, marriage compatibility, health, and more.

So, as we prepare to ring in the second Lunar New Year since the beginning of the pandemic, here’s to a healthy and prosperous Year of the Tiger!

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

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