Sitting at the crossroads of Central Europe and Eastern Europe, the Croatian capital Zagreb is the country’s largest city. Despite being a bustling metropolis, Zagreb exudes the charm of a small town.
From its cobblestone streets and gas lamps of the hilltop old town to manicured gardens and pavilions of the Lower Town, Zagreb has hidden gems waiting to be explored.
But that’s not all! With the beautiful Maksimir Park artificial lakes, the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Belly of Zagreb, stunning art exhibitions, etc., the city’s many attractions can satiate your wanderlust.
So, if you are planning a trip to Zagreb, Croatia, this list of the 10 very best things to do in Zagreb will give you a headstart.
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- Kaptol and Gradec
- Zagreb Cathedral
- Dolac Market
- Lotrscak Tower
- Museum of Mimara
- Museum of Broken Relationships
- Art Pavilion
- Lenuci Horseshoe
- Grič Tunnel
Image Credit: By Suradnik13 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
The Gornji Grad or the Upper Town is perhaps the best place to start Zagreb sightseeing. It is the city’s medieval core that’s made of once two separate towns – Kaptol and Gradec – that failed to integrate for several centuries.
Kaptol housed the clergy and this is where you will find the famous Zagreb Cathedral. Gradec was originally home to tradesmen and artisans, and this is where you will find the famous St. Mark’s Square, which is home to the Croatian Parliament and Constitutional Court. The Square gets its name from St. Mark’s Church.
It is this Medieval Upper Town where you will find narrow cobblestone streets and the dreamy gas lamps that are used to this day.
Pro Tip: At the top of Gradec’s Radićeva Street is the last remaining Stone Gate or Kamenita Vrata, which is now the Shrine of the Virgin Mary. In the 18th century, a fire destroyed the entire structure except for an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Stone Gate is the last of five gates built during the 13th century.
Located in Kaptol in Upper Town, the Zagreb Cathedral is one of the most visited tourist attractions. Once razed by the Tartars in the early 1200s, the present structure was rebuilt in the 13th century.
Tragically, the cathedral was struck by an earthquake in 1880 that damaged its bell tower and dome. The later reconstruction work followed the medieval design and today, the cathedral today boasts two ornately decorated spires.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to enter the cathedral treasury where you can see many sacred objects, garments, and religious art.
One of the major Zagreb tourist attractions is the famous Dolac Market in the Upper Town. Referred to as the “Belly of Zagreb” by the locals, the Dolac Market, which is located just behind the main square, gives a sneak peek into the daily eating habits of Zagrebians.
All products are sourced from local farms and the market is a great place to buy fresh vegetables, dairy products, and meat. If you want to relish some fresh seafood while visiting Zagreb, this is where you must be.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to visit Optovia – Zagreb’s primary flower market. Just take the stairways leading off the Belly of Zagreb.
Erected in the mid-13th century, The Lotrscak Tower in the Upper Town remains a popular Zagreb tourist attraction to this day. It is one of the few remnants of the city walls.
According to legends, there was a huge bell in this Romanesque tower that rang every night before the gates were closed so that the residents outside the city walls returned in time. Those who failed to return had to stay outside the walls for the night.
A fourth floor and a few windows were added to the tower in the 19th century and even a canon was placed inside the tower. Since then, the Grič Cannon has been fired every day at noon.
Pro Tip: Climb the tower to enjoy sweeping views of the upper and lower towns and beyond. You can also explore the gift shops and the exhibition gallery.
The Muzej Mimara or the Museum of Mimara was created in 1972 to display the collection donated by Ante Topic Mimara – a private collector linked with art theft during World War II. For history buffs and people with an artistic bend, exploring the Museum of Mimara is one of the top things to do in Zagreb.
The Neo-Renaissance building houses various archeological pieces from Ancient Egypt, Persia, Mesopotamia, the Far East, the Middle East, India, and even from Pre-Inca and Inca South America.
The museum also features glass collections from the Mediterranean and Europe, sculptures from ancient Greece, and furniture from the Middle Ages.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the massive collection of paintings by world-famous artists like Rembrandt, Raphael, Van Dyck, Velázquez, etc.
If you plan to visit Zagreb, Croatia, keep the Zagreb Museum on your list. Also popular by the name Museum of Broken Relationships, it opened in 2010.
The idea was to showcase personal items demonstrating broken relationships irrespective of whether they were familial, friendly, or romantic.
It was initially a traveling collection, but soon it found a permanent residency in Zagreb. But before you step in, prep yourself for an emotional rollercoaster, especially if you have some forlorn memories.
All the items in the broken relationships museum depict love and loss. There’s enough in that museum to bring tears, and if you are a bit emotional, you can feel the sadness descend upon you.
But you can drink or eat your feelings away at the Brokenships Bistro or step into the gift shop to grab something that will ease your pain.
One of the major Zagreb attractions is the Art Pavilion or Umjetnicki Paviljon. It was initially built for an international exhibition to be held in Budapest in 1896. However, the original iron framework was transported to the current location where it found its permanent home.
Located on Lenuci Horseshoe, Lower town, the pavilion sits south of ban Josip Jelačić square. The pavilion is the main attraction of King Tomislav Square located on the opposite side of the Central Train Station.
The yellow Art Nouveau exterior will immediately grab your attention. Today the pavilion hosts changing exhibitions of contemporary art and also houses some important works of Ivan Mestrovic.
Scouting the Lenuci Horseshoe is yet another of the top things to do in Zagreb, Croatia. This U-shaped area in Zagreb’s Lower Town was designed in the late 19th century by Milan Lenuci.
Composed of six squares namely Marshal Tito Square, Mažuranić Square, Marulić Square, King Tomislav Square, Strossmayer Square, and Zrinski Square, the Lenuci Horseshoe is divided into the Eastern and the Western Wings that are connected with the Esplanade Zagreb Hotel, the Botanical Garden, Glavni Kolodvor, and Starčević Square.
The Marshal Tito Square is where you will find the Croatian National Theatre while the Botanical Garden boasts a collection of 10,000 plant species from across the world.
Don’t forget! Some of the best museums in Croatia’s capital are found at the Lenuci Horseshoe. Archeological Museum, Modern Gallery, Art Pavilion, Croatian State Archives, the Ethnographic Museum, and Arts and Crafts Museum are some of the top attractions.
If you yearn for a relaxing stroll through a quaint medieval town, Samobor is a perfect destination. Sandwiched between the Slovenian border and Zagreb, this delightful town encircled by wooded hills, is a perfect getaway destination for those who don’t like crowds.
Dotted with Baroque Era architecture, Samobor is one of the most popular Zagreb attractions.
There is a town museum that you can explore, and if the historian in you awakens, 10-minute hiking to Tepec Hill will bring you face-to-face with the ruins of the Samobor Castle with easily traceable gatehouse, outer walls, and moat.
This is one of the day trips from Zagreb city center that you must plan while visiting Zagreb, Croatia.
Underneath Zagreb runs the eerie Grič Tunnel that connects several areas of the city. It was built during the second world war as an evacuation tunnel, but later it was turned into a storage unit. Shortly after, it was abandoned for many years.
In the 1990s, the tunnel became home to many rave parties and in 2016, the remodeled tunnel was opened to host cultural events, fashion shows, and exhibitions.
Now, you can learn about the history and culture of Croatia and Zagreb while walking through the tunnel. Don’t forget to see the Tesla Machine that is similar to the Tesla Coil and spits out a lightning effect using electricity and sound.
Zagreb has much more to offer than just those listed above.
Image Credit: Cannabis Museum
While Zagreb has several popular art museums, it is also home to some quirky museums that include the Chocolate Museum, the Cannabis Museum, the Mushroom Museum, the Museum of Hangover, and the Museum of Illusions, etc.
Image Credit: Croatian Homeland War Tour by Get Your Guide
Sadly, the famous War Photography Museum has been permanently closed.
If you are a history buff and you want to learn about the Croatian Homeland War in which Croatia emerged victorious and snatched its independence from Communist Yugoslavia, your best bet is to go for a walking tour with a knowledgeable guide.
Image Credit:The Boho Guide
Once derelict but now rejuvenated, the Art Park at Zagreb’s City Center is the first street art park in Croatia. It serves as an outdoor art gallery with movie screenings, DJ nights, yoga classes, music concerts, drawing sessions, and more.
If you don’t like any of those, you can just relax and relish some good vibes.
The oldest and largest park in Zagreb, Maksimir Park is one of the top Zagreb attractions.
Adorned by five artificial lakes and little meadows and creeks, it is a delightful place for nature lovers.
The park also houses the city’s zoo and there is a serene forest if you want to explore.
One of the best and most fun things to do in Zagreb is ride the world’s shortest funicular railway. It connects the Strossmayer Promenade to Ilica Street and the Upper Town and the Lower Town.
With only 66 meters of track, the funicular railway runs every 10 minutes and it costs 5 kn for a one-way ticket.
Image Credit: Zagreb 360°
An architectural landmark, the Zagreb Eye is the observation deck that gives a 360° view of Zagreb. From the 16th from you can enjoy a sweeping panoramic view of Zagreb’s old town and the modern skyscrapers.
Image Credit: Get Your Guide
Zagreb has plenty of restaurants and cafes to enjoy some great Croatian dishes, but if you don’t know where to start, there are some fantastic food tours that you can settle for.
If you are in Zagreb for just one day, I will recommend this food tour that will take you to the best restaurants where you can enjoy local dishes and traditional food.
Zagreb is a great canvas for urban art, thanks to its Soviet-style buildings. Don’t be surprised to find some elaborate and colorful murals here and there. And if you want, you can visit some of the dedicated street art parks to photograph some awe-inspiring art.
Named after a famed Croatian historian, Tkalciceva Street is one of the fine examples of Zagreb’s vibrant atmosphere. Teeming with life, it is an attraction for both locals and tourists alike.
Long winding streets snaking through charming little houses lined on both sides create a perfect setup for a romantic walk. It is also a great place to taste local cuisines, enjoy live music, and experience Zagreb’s nightlife.
If you wish, you can head over to Nikola Subic Zrinski Square (aka Zrinjevac) which is within a walking distance and takes only 11 minutes. Zrinjevac is both a square and a park with tree-lined walkways, impressive buildings, lovely fountains, and beautiful monuments.
If you are tired of ferrying yourself between the Upper and Lower Town, or if you have your fill of people watching, modern art, fine art, beautiful buildings, and impressive architecture; break off from the bustling city life and embark on one of the most famous day trips to the Plitvice Lakes.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a dreamscape of shallow lakes and waterways reflecting every imaginable shade of blue and green. There are 16 mesmerizing turquoise lakes and 90 waterfalls that will captivate your senses.
People say that the best time to visit Zagreb, Croatia is the High or Peak season from June to August because that’s when the party vibe sets in. But that’s when you will pay premium prices and find a large crowd.
I recommend March to May, which is ideal for Zagreb sightseeing and exploring. September to November is an option but because the days are shorter and nights longer, tourists usually avoid it, but you can definitely enjoy lower prices and enjoy Zagreb’s spirited nightlife.
If you want to enjoy Croatia’s festivals and culture, the Low season during the winter months of December to February will be the best option.
There is no shortage of hotels, hostels, or Airbnb in Croatia, so it completely depends on your requirements and budget.
I use booking.com as my preferred hotel booking app. I have tried many over the years and booking.com consistently offers me the best deals.
If however, you’re looking for super budget accommodation try hostelworld.com.
Here are the best budget, mid-range, and luxury accommodation options in Zagreb include:
Luxury Attic: $37/night [For budget accommodation]
With private parking, patio, free Wi-Fi, and private kitchen and bathroom, Luxury Attic is a steal if you don’t mind staying at a 15-minute driving distance from the city center. With a quiet neighborhood, it is perfect for couples.
Hotel Jägerhorn: $87/night [For mid-range accommodation]
Close to Ban Jelacic Square and standing between the old town and main pedestrian street, this is the oldest hotel in Zagreb. With elegant rooms, free Wi-Fi, ensuite bathroom, minibar, and included breakfast, if you want mid-range accommodation in the heart of the city.
Esplanade Zagreb Hotel: $133/night [For luxury accommodation]
Located in Zagreb’s city center, this 5-star hotel is also a popular landmark with art-nouveau-style rooms. With satellite TV, a minibar, a restaurant, room service, a bar, and free Wi-Fi, this is a perfect hotel if you don’t have budgetary constraints.
There is no shortage of trips and tours to make the best use of your time in this beautiful country. However, here are some suggested trips I recommend you explore further.
- The best way to get around Zagreb, Croatia is by car or RV. I recommend discovercars.com and their pricing starts at $11 a day. However, they are not the only providers. Check a few other options. Taxis are also available however, this won’t be cost-effective in the long run. There are plenty of public transport options available, too, but I recommend getting around on foot because the majority of the attractions are within walking distance.
- Wi-Fi connection was pretty good almost everywhere in Zagreb, but remember that when you go for day trips to places like Plitvice Lakes and Trakoscan Castle you will face issues.
- Croatia’s currency is the Croatian Kuna and you need to pay in their local currency. Carry plenty of cash in HRK. Some places will accept credit cards, but make sure that your card allows transactions in HRK.
- Depending on how long you’re staying and the kind of phone contract you’re on, it might be worth getting a local SIM when you get there. Most times when I travel, a local sim is the cheapest option. An e-SIM in Croatia will cost around $15 for 5GB of data for 30 days. It’s worth checking roaming fees with your phone company before traveling.
- If taking money out of an ATM, always choose the ‘convert from your own bank’ option, rather than the convert from the ATM option. This is a golden rule worldwide. I have tried multiple ATM’s in multiple countries and the bank conversion is always without fail cheaper than a local ATM conversion.
- Also when paying with your travel credit or debit card, always choose local currency. If you choose your own currency, the conversion will be done then and there by their bank. When choosing local currency, the conversion is done by your bank and will be cheaper. Not by much, but every little helps!
It’s tough when organizing your travels to know which companies offer the best deals and can be trusted with your credit card details!
The following resources are companies I have consistently used over my 11 years of travels and who I believe are the best in the business. I’m constantly updating this list as I find new and improved services.
Rome2Rio – a fantastic app which will show you the best routes to get from city to city or country to country. Simply enter where you’re traveling from and too, and they’ll show you how to get there via planes, trains and automobiles!
Skyscanner.net – always my first port of call when looking for the best flights. Easy to use and consistently highlights flights I can’t find anywhere else, they’re the best flight resource there is. Plus an easy to use app.
Flight Aware – a free, handy app showing flights around the world. I use this to track family or friends when they’re flying, to check whether my flight has left on time on previous days so I can be prepared for delays etc, and just to double check my own flight details as and when I’m traveling.
Trainline (for Europe) – I used to use this just for UK trains, but nowadays you can book trains all over Europe using their services. Cheap, reliable and with a great refund policy for canceled or delayed trains, they’re highly recommended.
Booking.com – I have tried all the other hotel booking sites and without doubt booking.com has consistently offered the best deals. One caveat to this, is always to just check the hotel website directly before finalizing your booking as sometimes they’ll have specialized deals.
Getyourguide.com – the easiest and most reliable activity booking agent. I haven’t had a bad trip to date with them. Plus an easy to use app which tracks all your bookings and includes the meeting point, trip details and everything else you need to ensure your activity goes smoothly.
Discovercars.com – Easy to use website to find rental cars in over 145 countries around the world. Pick up from one location, drop off in another. Find the best deals with the best reviews.
Safetywing – quite simply the best insurance for digital nomads and long term travelers. See my Safetywing insurance review for more details, but with cheap monthly plans and an easy to use claims process, you won’t find better on the market.
Light Packing Guide
I’m generally a very light packer. Here is what I would usually pack, with a maximum weight of 7 KG;
Swimming costume or bikini
Light Beach dress
2 x pairs of shorts
2 x summer skirts
3 x t-shirts
1 x ‘going out’ dress
2 x night shorts & tee
14 x underwear (I always take a lot as I hate washing underwear in hotel sinks)
1 skin color plunge bra (can wear under black or white, and with posh dress or t-shirts)
1 x flip flops or thongs or sandals (depending where you’re from in the world)
1 x trainers/sneakers (which I generally wear when traveling from place to place or hang off the back of my bag
3 x trainer socks
1 x leggings
1 x light cardigan
Travel size all in one Shampoo/Conditioner (sacrilege to some women, but hey I want to travel light)
Travel size shower gel
Small battery powered toothbrush (with cap)
Travel size sun lotion
50SPF lip balm
Travel size body moisturiser
Ziplock bags – for anything and everything!
Travel Bags – for separating tops/shorts/underwear etc, and also great for laundry
My husbands bag usually weighs less than mine and he takes;
2 x shorts (Both double as swim shorts)
2 x tees
7 x socks
7 x boxers
1 x ‘going out’ shorts & tee
1 x croc flip flops
1 x trainers/sneakers
Travel size shampoo
1 x razor
Lying along the breathtaking Sava River and at the southern slopes of Medvednica mountain, Zagreb is located in the northwest of Croatia. The city is only 30 kilometers away from the Slovenian border.
Zagreb is a very safe city even for solo female travelers.
As with all popular tourist destinations you’ll need to watch out for pickpockets and keep your valuables hidden, plus for females, use your common sense and don’t go wandering on your own in the middle of the night plus be careful when drinking in bars/clubs. (Sad but true across the globe).
But on a general scale compared to the rest of the world, for tourists visiting Croatia it would be considered a very safe city, for solos, couples & families alike.
Nevertheless, always ensure you have travel insurance wherever you go as it will protect you against theft, injury, illness, or cancelations. Use the form below to get your personalized quote.
The official currency of Croatia is the Croatian Kuna and you must pay in their local currency. Though you can use international travel credit and debit cards that will allow paying in Croatian Kuna, it is suggested that you carry a lot of local currency, because certain remote places and local shops do not accept cards.
Standard Croatian is the official language, however, many people speak Bosnian and Serbian, or a mix thereof. Other foreign languages spoken in Croatia include English, Italian, Czech, German, Slovak, Hungarian, and Romani.
In the summer Croatia uses CEST (Central European Summer Time) as their time zone, meaning they’re 2 hours ahead of UTC.
In the Winter from 30th Oct to 27th March, they use Central European time, making them only 1 hour ahead of UTC.
Apart from the medieval core of the Upper Town, the busy life of the Lower Town, 28+ museums, St Mark’s Church, the botanical garden, and thought-provoking street art, Croatia’s capital Zagreb is teeming with rich history, awe-inspiring natural beauty, delectable Mediterranean food, and friendly local inhabitants, there is so much to do and see in Zagreb, Croatia.
From bike tours, wine tasting, sightseeing, exploring art galleries & museums, enjoying a funicular ride, or even just simply walking around, this city has something for everyone.
Its rich history & cultural heritage, the medieval charm of the old town, and the quirky and fine art museums will enchant you.
Some places that I visited such as Kaptol & Gradec, the Cathedral, the Museum of Broken Relationships, Lenuci Horseshoe, and the Museum of Mimara, etc. have cast a spell on me with their phenomenal beauty and rich cultural history.
I’m planning the next trip, and this time for at least 4 days because I feel the need to explore Zagreb more and take in everything that this city has to offer.
For more posts on things to do & places to visit in Croatia please see the following;
I hope you’ve found this list of things to do in Zagreb, Croatia useful for your travels. Let me know how you go!