History more accessible

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am

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With a history dating back more than 1,000 years, Zagreb has a multilayered past and plenty of historical attractions, and it is now more accessible to Hong Kong travellers following the launch of a new connecting service.

In the capital of Croatia are remnants of city walls and fortresses built in centuries past to protect the strategically situated settlement from invaders.

These are interspersed with tree-lined streets, leafy parks, stately mansions, and countless churches.

St Mark's Church, with its colourful, ceramic-tiled roof, is arguably one of the loveliest places of worship in Europe. And Zagreb's twin-towered cathedral rivals some of the Europe's grandest.

There are dozens of museums - some with important collections of European masters and sculptures dating back to classical antiquity.

The Upper Town's historic, gas-lit neighbourhoods are scattered with art galleries and boutiques, and each district of the city has an open-air market, where vendors sell flowers, vegetables and fruit harvested in the surrounding countryside.

A couple of stalls offer handicrafts to the occasional tourists who relish the area's local colour.

The moment spring arrives, chairs and tables with umbrellas begin appearing outside Zagreb's countless coffee houses, restaurants, bars, and pubs.

After dark, crowds pack the city's many discos, cocktail lounges, and clubs.

'Zagreb has a new Museum of Contemporary Art that is truly amazing,' says Ivica Krizmanic, acting general manager of the Regent Esplanade Zagar hotel. 'Numerous parks and promenades were enriched, shopping centres have been developed, there is a new business area with offices, cafes and clubs, a new ski resort on Sljeme Mountain, and we've got a new sports arena, which has opened its doors to numerous events and hosted some world-famous musicians,'

Despite its many charms, Zagreb had, until now, largely remained off the radar of tourists from other parts of the world.

'When compared to other destinations in the Balkans or Central Europe, Croatia is a relatively new tourism spot for Hong Kong people,' says Zoe Cheng, senior operations manager of long-haul and cruises at Wing On Travel. 'We are, however, seeing steady growth of traffic from the local market.'

With the launch of a connecting service via Qatar Airways from Hong Kong last month, Zagreb is now more accessible to travellers from southern China.

'Croatia, with its flourishing tourism industry, will be a popular destination for travellers from Hong Kong and beyond,' predicts Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker.

'With our new service, we look forward to making it easier for travellers from around the world to fly to Croatia without having to connect through busy European hubs.'