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On every traveler’s list of the best things to do in Croatia, a trip to the capital, Zagreb, is an essential stop. After stunning beaches or epic towns from Game of Thrones, Zagreb is a beating cultural center, thriving with museums, nightlife, and eclectic influences on cuisine and architecture. As a metropolis of over one million citizens, the historic center effortlessly retains its small-town charm.

Lying at the foothills of the Medvenica mountain in the northwest of Croatia, Zagreb has been at the crossroads of Eastern and Western Europe for centuries. The capital’s rich history spans back to the Romans, and its diverse influences often caused strife, reflected in the city’s layout. Travelers will visit Upper Town, the historic district perched on a hilltop. Kaptol represents the once-religious settlement, while Gradec represents the secular portion of Zagreb’s ancient core.

After unifying the opposing neighborhoods, Zagreb spilled over the hilltop into Lower Town, a dazzling district of impressive squares, neoclassical buildings, and shaded gardens.

Plan a trip or indulge the wanderlust with this complete guide to marvelous Zagreb, from things to do, what to eat, and where to stay in the historic city.

Related: 20 Gorgeous Photos Of Croatia Taken By Real Tourists

Top Things To Do In Zagreb

Via: Kristijan Arsov on Unsplash

Colorful town square in Zagreb

Travelers will find the essential characteristics of every European capital throughout the attractions in Zagreb. From lovely town squares and imposing churches to bustling markets and shopping streets, tourists will be enchanted by the capital’s appeal.

Zagreb could also be known as the city of museums. The Croatian metropolis offers a unique museum for everyone, from the quirky and cultural to the historical or archeological.

Finally, outdoor enthusiasts can use Zagreb as a starting point for exploring the natural beauty of Croatia.

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1 Marvel At The Zagreb Cathedral

Via: Marko Tomic on Pixabay

The Zagreb Cathedral towers over the rooftops

Towering above the city skyline, tourists must visit the Zagreb Cathedral in the Kaptol district. Difficult to miss, the cathedral is the second-tallest building in Croatia and an impressive sacred monument.

Originally completed in the 13th century, the stalwart cathedral has been shaped and battered by centuries of battles and earthquakes. Much of what travelers see today represents recent reformations from the 1900s.

Whether to marvel at its Neo-gothic facade, gargoyles, and stained glass or to rest in the magnificent yet quiet sanctuary after hours of sightseeing, the Zagreb Cathedral is a central city highlight.

Due to earthquakes in 2020, the cathedral is under frequent reconstruction. Visitors should check before planning to enter.

2 Feel Less Alone At The Museum Of Broken Relationships

Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia
Shutterstock

Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia

Anyone desperate for a good laugh, cry, or cathartic release should visit the Museum of Broken Relationships. Located in a Baroque palace in Upper Town, the museum displays deeply personal objects and short descriptions sent in by forlorn lovers.

Picture, for example, an ax used to decimate an unfaithful ex-boyfriend’s furniture.

The collection of items from failed relationships began as an exclusive showcase and gained popularity after a worldwide tour. Distinctly human, the museum is a profoundly unique attraction in Zagreb and an opportunity for weary travelers to roam the galleries, reflect, and empathize.

  • Hours:
    Daily, 9 AM – 9 PM | Open in the summer until 10 PM

  • Cost Of Admission:
    from

    $8 (€7) per adult

  • Note:
    Last admission 30 minutes before closing

3 Browse The Stalls At Mercado Dolac

Croatian Market
Via: Donna Spearman on Unsplash

Colorful market in Croatia

Market activity began as early as the 13th century in Croatia’s capital. Fleeing from the Tatars, King Bela IV sought refuge in Zagreb’s Upper Town and established a royal free city with fairs and markets to express his gratitude.

Today, the most emblematic market in Zagreb is Mercado Dolac. Colorful and lively, the Dolac Market began in 1930 and is known as the “belly of Zagreb.” Tourists can wander from the indoor to outdoor stalls, offering fruits and vegetables, fresh seafood, and dairy products.

Shop for regional and artisanal products, or soak in the atmosphere as locals go about their everyday lives.

  • Hours:
    Monday – Friday, 6:30 AM – 2 PM

    | Saturdays, 6:30 AM – 3 PM | Sundays, 6:30 AM – 1 PM

  • Cost Of Admission:
    Free

After Dolac, take the staircase that leads off from the marketplace to visit Splavnica: Zagreb’s flower market.

4 Dive Into History At The Zagreb City Museum

Parade Zagreb
Via: Pham Ngoc Anh

A city parade in Zagreb near a museum

History buffs and cultural enthusiasts must visit the Zagreb City Museum. Established in 1907 by the Brethren of the Croatian Dragon Society, visitors can expect a fascinating experience.

Some 75,000 items narrate Zagreb’s history throughout the museum’s galleries, from pre-history relics and Roman artifacts to modern artwork. Experience the city’s artistic, political, and economic past through the paintings, maps, furniture, and uniforms characteristic of their times.

  • Hours:
    Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM

    | Sunday, 10 AM – 2 PM | Closed Holidays

  • Cost Of Admission:
    from

    $5.50 (€5) per adult

  • Note:
    Last admission 30 minutes before closing

5 Explore St Mark’s Square

St Mark's Square
Via: Pham Ngoc Anh

St Mark’s Square in Zagreb, Croatia

Globetrotters will find St Mark’s Square at the heart of Gradec, the secular portion of Zagreb’s medieval core. In the charming town square, travelers will feel transported back to when the neighborhood was bustling with craftspeople and artisans.

The Croatian Parliament and Constitutional Court encircle the square, but its crown jewel is St Mark’s Church. The delightful Catholic Church was built in the 13th century and retains several original Romanesque features blended with Gothic additions.

Travelers enchanted by churches can visit the inside for free and later stroll through the quaint cobblestone streets surrounding the square.

6 Stroll Down Tkalčićeva Street

Cobblestone street Zagreb
Via: David Boca on Unsplash

Cobblestone street in Zagreb, Croatia

Tkalčićeva Street is the backbone of the city. From shops, restaurants, and nightlife, every traveler will surely want to visit Tkalčićeva in Zagreb.

Traditional houses and colorful awnings lead tourists and locals down the cobblestone pedestrianized street, where people meet to eat, drink, and enjoy one another’s company. Choose from endless options on the bustling avenue to sip on a coffee, have a sit-down lunch, or grab a meal on the go from a street-food counter.

At night, relax at a restaurant, find the best nightclubs, or jam to live music at a bar.

Tourists should seek out the statue of Marija Jurić Zagorka on Tkalčićeva Street. Marija is one of Croatia’s most celebrated modern icons, the country’s first female journalist, and a beloved author.

7 Get Fresh Air At Jarun Lake

Jarun Lake
Via: Kresimir Sockovic on Pixabay

Jarun Lake near Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb is landlocked, but travelers eager to escape the city and experience Croatia’s great outdoors should take a trip to Jarun Lake.

Crystal-clear waters and pebble beaches entice travelers to relax on the shores or picnic in the shade. Fitness enthusiasts can enjoy several recreational activities at the sprawling city park, from kayaking and cycling to skateboarding and walking.

Conveniently located twenty minutes south of the city center, warm-weather travelers will surely want to cool off at Jarun Lake during the summer heat.

Visitors who stay for sunset on the lakeshore can later party at several nearby bars, nightclubs, and festivals.

Related: 10 Best Diving Spots & Tips For Scuba Diving In Croatia

8 Venture Through Lower Town

Lenuci Horseshoe Zagreb
Via: Anthony Rosset on Unsplash

The Lenuci Horseshoe square in Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb’s Lower Town is the Baroque side of the coin compared to the charm of Old Town. Just south of the medieval center’s labyrinthian alleys and cobblestone streets, the Lower Town is decorated with grand avenues, neoclassic architecture, and lush city gardens.

Jelačić Square is the gateway into this embellished neighborhood and the primary connection point in Zagreb. People watch from the comfort of a sidewalk cafe at shoppers and office workers. Later, wander through the Lower Town to appreciate the gorgeous buildings or indulge in an afternoon of upmarket shopping.

Lower Town is the must-visit neighborhood for luxury hotels and celebrated museums in Zagreb. Some of the most important sites to check out include:

  • Mimara Museum:
    an art museum notorious for its namesake: a 20th-century art collector accused of theft, forgery, and fakes.

  • Lenuci Horseshoe:
    a series of impressive fountains, buildings, and squares that will transport travelers to Vienna. Home to botanical gardens and the Croatian National Theater.

9 Discover The Past At The Archeology Museum

Archeology Museum
Via: 2H Media on Unsplash

Egyptian stone monuments in an archeology museum

At the crossroads of several civilizations throughout the centuries, Croatia boasts more than beaches. Visitors can take a fascinating tour of the eras and cultures that have influenced the country at the Archeology Museum in Zagreb.

Although small, the museum bursts with Egyptian, Greek, and Roman artifacts. Apart from alluring archeological pieces, two of the most spectacular displays in the museum are the Vučedol Dove, a ritual vessel from at least 2,500 BC, and Liber Linteus, a 3rd-century Etruscan mummy wrapped in bandages etched with the world’s lengthiest example of Etruscan script.

  • Hours:
    Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Fridays, noon – 4 PM

    | Thursdays, noon – 6 PM | Saturdays, 10 AM – 2 PM | Closed Sundays & Mondays

  • Cost Of Admission:
    from

    $4 (€4) per adult

10 Take A Day Trip Deeper Into Croatia

Aerial view of Pula, Croatia
Via: Peter Tóth from Pixabay 

Aerial view of Pula, Croatia

Zagreb is hardly a final destination. The best way to experience the historic city is as a stop through Croatia’s natural wonders and stunning towns.

The best outdoor trips from Zagreb include:

  • Risnjak National Park:
    less than two hours away, this natural paradise is excellent for hiking and observing wildlife.

  • Učka Mountain Range:
    about 2.5 hours from Zagreb, hikers will love the mountains, valleys, and the peninsula’s highest peak.

  • Plitvice Lakes National Park:
    Around two hours from the capital, this park boasts turquoise ponds and waterfalls and is Croatia’s most renowned natural wonder.

11 Where To Eat In Zagreb

Grilled Octopus
Via: Jesse Hanley on Unsplash

Grilled octopus in Croatia

The cuisine in Zagreb is representative of Croatian heritage and centuries of influence from its surroundings. The capital serves fresh seafood plates due to its proximity to the Adriatic Sea, and heartier dishes meant to withstand long winters, thanks to the impact from nearby countries like Austria and Hungary.

From cozy traditional caverns to street food counters, foodies are guaranteed a unique experience eating in Zagreb.

Must-try foods in Croatia include:

  • Cobanac
    : hearty Shepherd’s Stew

  • Sarma
    : Stuffed cabbage leaves

  • Crni Rizot
    : Seafood Risotto

And for dessert in Zagreb:

  • Kremsnita
    : Puff pastry with custard cream

  • Licitar
    : the traditional symbol of Zagbret, a honey-dough heart-shaped cookie

Breakfast Spots In Zagreb

Otto & Frank

  • Hours:
    Daily, 8 AM – 11 PM

    | Sundays, 9 AM – 5 PM

  • Cost:
    $$

  • Address:
    Ul. Ivana Tkalčića 20, 10000, Zagreb

  • Recommended:
    Brunch | French Toast | Banana Bread

Lunch Locations In Zagreb

La Struk

  • Hours:
    Daily, 11 AM – 10 PM | Open Saturdays until 11 PM

  • Cost:
    $

  • Address:
    Skalinska ul. 5, 10000, Zagreb

  • Customers Love:
    Strukli | Garden Patio

Konoba Didov san

  • Hours:
    Daily, 11 AM – 11:30 PM

  • Cost:
    $$

  • Address:
    Mletačka ul. 11, 10000, Zagreb

  • Customers Love:
    Traditional Croatian food | Grandma’s Pan | Squid with Potatoes

Dinner Restaurants In Zagreb

Purger

  • Hours:
    Daily, 7 AM – 11 PM

  • Cost:
    $$

  • Address:
    Petrinjska ul. 33, 10000, Zagreb

  • Recommended:
    Traditional Croatian cuisine | Sarma | Stew

Pingvin

  • Hours:
    Monday – Thursday, 11 AM – 2 AM | Fridays & Saturdays, 10 AM – 4 AM | Closed Sundays

  • Cost:
    $

  • Address:
    ul. Nikole Tesle 7, 10000, Zagreb

  • Recommended:
    Traditional sub sandwiches | Late-night street food

Drinks In Zagreb

Mali Medo

  • Hours:
    Sunday – Thursday, noon-midnight | Fridays & Saturdays, 10 AM-midnight

  • Cost:
    $$

  • Address:
    Tkalčićeva 36 Street, 10000, Zagreb

  • Customers Love:
    Pub grub | Craft beers | Lively atmosphere

12 Where To Stay In Zagreb

City Street Zagreb
Via: Pham Ngoc Anh

City street in Zagreb, Croatia

Travelers have endless options when searching for accommodation in Zagreb. The Croatian capital is a relatively affordable travel destination, with luxury stays for honeymooners, modest options for families or couples, and plenty of budget hotels for backpackers or friend groups.

The best neighborhoods to stay in Zagreb are in the center for convenience and to best experience the city’s pulse. These neighborhoods include:

  • Lower Town
    or
    Upper Town

  • Kaptol

  • Novi Zagreb

Luxury Stays In Zagreb

Hotel Esplanade

DoubleTree by Hilton

Related: If You’re Looking For True Luxury In Croatia, Hvar Is The Best Island

Mid-tier Stays In Zagreb

Canopy By Hilton

Hilton Garden Inn

Budget-friendly Stays In Zagreb

Hotel Blue

B&B Cool Centre Zagreb

13 Best Time To Go To Zagreb

Busy City Square Zagreb
Via: Marko Tomic en Pixabay

A busy city square in the Kaptol neighborhood of Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb has an oceanic climate and experiences the best and worst of each season. Visitors can expect hot summers, rainy springs, and cold winters. Luckily, Croatia offers something unique any month of the year.

Spring and summer are the best times to visit Zagreb. Longer days mean more sun, letting tourists maximize their time exploring the city or staying out to enjoy the nightlife.

Springtime temperatures stay comfortably warm in the afternoon, while travelers might want to escape inside a museum to avoid the hot summer midday. Spring and summer are also excellent times to road trip to the beaches or national parks.

April through September also coincides with the busiest and most expensive months to visit Zagreb.

April to June are the rainiest months, so bring an umbrella and rain jacket. Fortunately, precipitation can be heavy but is short-lived.

Related: 10 Small Towns In Croatia To Visit Over Its Tourist Spots

Tourism and hotel rates decrease during the fall while temperatures gradually drop. Daily averages waver between the 40s and 60s. Visitors can expect foggy mornings.

Finally, Zagreb knows the winter. Although slow with tourists, snow is common, and temperatures range from the 20s to 40s.

14 Best Ways To Get Around Zagreb

Trams in Zagreb
Via: TheoRivierenlaan en Pixabay

A blue tram passes through Zagreb

The best way to navigate Zagreb is on foot. While tourists may need public transportation to hop between areas, walking around the capital’s museums, medieval neighborhoods, and grand avenues is the best way to appreciate its architecture and eclectic character.

Going on foot is an excellent approach to seeing Zagreb’s main sites and exploring shopping streets and markets.

Zagreb is also ready to be discovered by bike. The city conveniently offers a bike-sharing service called Next-Bike, with blue signposted stations throughout the center.

Public Transportation In Zagreb

Iconic blue trams crisscrossing the city are the main transportation in Zagreb. The tram system began as early as 1910, today compromising 15 daytime lines and four nighttime lines. The funicular, the city’s oldest form of transportation, is the easiest way to tackle the brutal climb between Lower Town and Upper Town.

Tickets can be purchased from the conductor or newspaper kiosks and must be validated at the yellow boxes on the tram. Once validated, riders can take unlimited trips within 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the destination.

  • Hours:
    Throughout the day

    | Night trams run from midnight – 4 AM

  • Tickets:
    from

    $4.50 (€4) for a day ticket | from $0.50 per single ticket

  • Note:
    Use exact change when buying from the conductor

Don’t always trust the printed timetables at the stations. Instead, watch the electronic signs for tram arrival times.

Zagreb also boasts almost 150 bus lines connecting riders around the city and its surroundings. Payment works similarly to the trams.

By Car In Zagreb

Travelers shouldn’t need to rely on a car to get around Zagreb. The compact city was designed for walking and is well-connected by public transportation. While the avenues and grid-like blocks are easily managed by cars, traffic is heavily restricted.

Nevertheless, road-trippers can rent a car from the city center or airport and dive into Croatia’s beautiful countryside and coastline. Dependable companies include Hertz, Oryx, and Nova.

Visitors can also reliably use Uber and several taxi companies in Zagreb.

How To Get To Zagreb

Travelers can reach Zagreb from the new Franjo Tuđman Airport, only 10 miles from the city, and conveniently connected by a bus service that runs every 30 minutes.

Zagreb is also connected to the rest of Croatia by an extensive network of buses and trains.

15 Tips To Know When Visiting Zagreb

Zagret City Center at Night
Via: Frane Medić on Unsplash

Zagret City Center at Night

Practical Advice For Visiting Zagreb

  • In 2023, Croatia switched to the
    euro
    as their official currency. Many hotels and large establishments will accept credit cards, but travelers should always carry some cash.
  • Customer service may feel lacking compared to Western standards. Learn to say
    thank you
    in
    Croatian
    . Croats are not unfriendly, but they have different hospitality expectations and appreciate any efforts made on the tourist’s part.
  • Tourists often find betters deals on Airbnb compared to local hotels in Zagreb. Many offers include cozy and modern apartments in the center.
  • Due to the double whammy of COVID and earthquakes in 2020, many sites and museums are under renovation in Zagreb. Always check before visiting.

Related: A Travel Guide To Croatia: 11 Things To Know While Planning Your Trip

Is Zagreb Safe?

Zagreb is a safe tourist destination. The low crime risk means visitors can feel safe using taxis, public transportation, or walking around at night. It is also a secure travel spot for solo female travelers.

Nevertheless, tourists should always be cautious and vigilant for petty theft or scams.

16 How To Spend The Perfect Day In Zagreb

Zagreb City Center
Via: Frane Medić on Unsplash

Zagreb’s city center at sunset

Famous for its beaches and medieval coastal towns, globetrotters eager to travel to the beautiful and understated Croatia should visit its capital, Zagreb.

If planned correctly, the best of Zagreb can be experienced in one day before venturing into the rest of the gorgeous country.

The perfect day in Zagreb starts at the Dolac Market. Tourists can enjoy the lively market vibes, snack on some fruit, or have breakfast at a nearby café. Later, travelers should wander and get lost in the two medieval neighborhoods: Kaptol and Gradec. Cross off the main highlights like the Zagreb Cathedral, St Mark’s Square, and charming cobblestone alleys.

Head to Tkalčićeva Street to people-watch and get comfortable at any restaurant for a traditional Croatian meal of fresh seafood or hearty stews. Use the energy to venture south to Lower Town, a classical yet modern neighborhood offering several museums.

The perfect afternoon in Zagreb is spent soaking in the culture in museum halls. Visitors can choose between the Archeology Museum, the Zagreb City Museum, or the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Shoppers can stay in Lower Town to window-shop at its upmarket shops. Outdoor enthusiasts can instead enjoy the sunset from Jarun Lake and welcome in the night at one of many nearby bars, restaurants, and clubs.

FAQ

Q: What are some free things to do in Zagreb?

Zagreb is an excellent destination for backpackers because of its gorgeous natural surroundings, affordable accommodations, and free attractions.

Some of the best free things to do in Croatia’s capital include admiring the Zagreb Cathedral, browsing the Mercado Dolac or Tkalčićeva Street, and getting fresh air at Jarun Lake.

Q: What are some unique things to do in Zagreb?

European vacationers deciding between Croatia’s Brac or Hvar should also consider visiting Zagreb.

The best unique things to do in Zagreb revolve around visiting the capital’s endless museums. View an Etruscan mummy at the Archeological Museum or achieve a cathartic release at the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Q: How many days in Zagreb is enough?

Deciding how many days to spend in any city is always a balancing act, and travelers should consider what to see and what to avoid in Croatia when visiting its capital, Zagreb.

One day in Zagreb is the perfect amount to stroll through neighborhoods, try traditional Croatian food, admire its architecture, and visit some museums. Any more days should be dedicated to exploring more of Croatia’s beautiful landscapes and towns.

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