Since 2019, I’ve lived as a digital nomad — working as a freelance writer and video producer from wherever I can find internet.
I’ve visited more than 65 countries and countless cities, but nothing has felt quite like Zagreb, Croatia. So when Croatia announced it was offering one-year residence permit to digital nomads in 2021, I decided to go for it.
Since arriving in Croatia, I’ve moved around the city trying to find the perfect apartment. They say the third time’s the charm — and in October 2021, after two prior rentals, I found my favorite home in Croatia yet: a newly renovated, two-bedroom, 700-square-foot apartment in Zagreb’s city center.
The rent is $680 per month, not including utilities. Here’s what the apartment hunting process was like, and what it’s like to live here:
Finding an apartment rental in Croatia
Tourism is a major industry in Croatia, so there is no shortage of short-term rentals, especially along the country’s coast.
There are many ways to find an apartment, from agencies to Facebook groups to online marketplaces. I found my place while scouring a local website called Njuskalo (think: a Croatian version of Craigslist).
Using Njuskalo helped me avoid agency fees, which are typically one month’s worth of rent.
Because I worked directly with the landlord instead of an agency, the approval process was quick and easy. I signed some paperwork and registered my address with the government for a new local ID.
An apartment that checks all the boxes
The apartment was completely gutted, newly renovated and fully refurnished before I moved in.
The aesthetic is very modern and minimalistic, which suits my style. The beige walls and high ceilings give a sense of spacious airiness, while the wood floors, clean tiles and white cabinetry create an overall sophisticated look.
Having a full-sized fridge, dishwasher and washing machine also makes life a lot easier.
The fourth-floor walk-up has a balcony that overlooks a quiet courtyard, and it’s the perfect place to catch some fresh air. The shared rooftop offers sweeping panoramic views of Medvednica, a beautiful mountain just north of Zagreb.
All the windows in the apartment face the courtyard and provide an abundance amount of natural light.
The bedroom came with a new mattress that makes me feel like I’m sleeping on a cloud. And the second bedroom has a proper desk, so working from home is a joy.
It’s all about location
Croatia’s largest city is welcoming and thoroughly walkable, boasting wondrous Austro-Hungarian era architecture and a wealth of cultural landmarks.
Zagreb has an excellent public transit system, and I’m lucky to have a stop just outside my door. But I still prefer to walk everywhere. Working from home means my commute is from my bedroom to my office, so walking forces me to be active.
I’m about a 15-minute walk from Ban Jelacic Square, the center point of the city that’s lined with shops and cafes, as well as the jumping off point to Tkalčićeva Street, Zagreb’s main hub for nightlife.
Zrinjevac Park and King Tomislav Square (both are perfect picnic spots) are a touch closer. My gym is a 10-minute walk away, and the nearest café, grocery store and bakery are all within a stone’s throw from my building.
Almost everything I want to do — going to museums, restaurants, bars — is within a 30-minute walk from my apartment.
Rent and additional costs
The average one-bedroom apartment in Zagreb’s city center costs around $530 per month to rent, according to Numbeo, which compiles user-generated data.
But after living in a studio apartment in Playa del Carmen, Mexico in 2020, I knew I wanted a two-bedroom apartment so I could sleep, work and live in different rooms, and an in-unit washing machine.
My apartment was listed at slightly above my budget at $740 per month. I always recommend asking locals in Facebook groups or on message boards if a price is fair or if you should negotiate.
I decided to negotiate a cheaper deal and offered to pay all six months’ worth of rent, plus a security deposit of one month’s rent, in advance. They agreed to bring the price down to $680 per month, and I paid $4,760 for a six month lease.
Here’s a look at my average monthly utility expenses:
- Holding costs (building maintenance, water, garbage collection): $55
- Gas: $75
- Electricity: $10
- High-speed internet and TV: $40
Total: $180 per month
Home sweet home … for now
After a year in Croatia — and the majority of it spent in Zagreb — I’m hard-pressed to name a city or country I’ve enjoyed more. This apartment certainly adds to that; finding it felt like hitting the jackpot.
While my lease and digital nomad permit will eventually expire, you’ll most likely find me right back here in Zagreb sooner rather than later.
Steve Tsentserensky is a writer, video producer, photographer and digital nomad. He currently lives in Zagreb, Croatia. Follow him on Instagram and Medium.