I had forgotten (in fact, I lie, I did not know this at all!) that the cravat tie comes from Croatia. I always associate it with the French … but apparently back in the 17th century, when Croatian soldiers joined the services of King Louis XIV, the croatian women would tie a scarf around their necks before they set off for Paris as a sign of love and fidelity. King Louis loved this style so much the French adopted it! That was just one of the many stories that our wonderful tour guide Jelena Bulat told us.

The other memorable tale was that Zagreb is the only city (in Europe and probably in the world) where a man goes around at dusk each evening and lights the beautiful old lanterns in the old town by hand with a very long stick! The following morning he has to go around and turn them all off again! What a romantic atmosphere these lanterns give to the streets of the old town of Zagreb, you could wander around all day and all night.

So if you’re thinking about a city trip but you need new inspiration – go to Zagreb. You won’t be disappointed. We travelled there at the start of December for the fantastic Christmas markets and I promise you they are magical and local! That’s what surprised me. In a lot of Christmas markets in recent years, they are now so popular you hear English more than any other language as you potter around but in Zagreb it’s really obvious it’s something the locals really look forward to and embrace.

But if you want to find a hot chocolate and not an alcoholic warm drink… you may have a little challenge on your hands! They love warm everything – even white wine!! What? Yes WARM WHITE WINE and it tastes really good but is it really right? You decide.

The markets are a winter wonderland and they are dotted at more than 20 locations throughout the city. An ice-skating rink is the main highlight of festivities at the main King Tomislav Square, walk a little further and you find the food markets where you will not go hungry while there is a more hip bohemian vibe to the fabulous markets in the Upper town at Gradek. Little red lanterns, chilled out music it’s Paris meets Vienna in Zagreb.

In conclusion, I can totally understand why it’s called the city with a million hearts! The people are warm and friendly and they speak very good English.

We were lucky enough to have Irma from Croatia Airlines show us around her home city and she is the first of the million hearts I met there. Always with a smile and good story it’s clear she loves her city.

The even better news is that Croatia Airlines now have direct flights from Dublin to Zagreb twice a week up until 26th Jan 20 on Thursday and Sunday and from the 09th of April until the end of October there will be direct flights 3 times a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Other pieces of info in a nutshell:

Drink: the local Croatian wines and beers.

Eat: Pumpinkseed oil on your salad

Nice Experience: Take the Funicular up to the old town and visit the Museum of Broken Relationships!

Take a day-trip to beautiful Samobor

Hrvatska: croatian for Croatia!

Souvenir: A heart-shaped gingerbread cookie

Written by Claire Mulcahy