Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is a wonderful yet underrated place to visit during your Balkan trip. There are so many great things to do in Zagreb that the city will keep you busy for at least 2 days.
However, be sure to plan a few more days for the Croatian capital since you might want to use it as a base for some cool day trips from Zagreb. The city has some really beautiful and interesting places nearby and going for a day trip is always convenient as you don’t need to pack and unpack every day.
During my few visits to the city, I managed to go for a few Zagreb day trips and really enjoyed each place. You can visit some spectacular natural sights, cute towns packed with history or even go to another country – Slovenia. There are many options to choose from!
Table of contents
- 1 Day trips from Zagreb
- 2 Map of possible day trips from Zagreb
- 3 Final thoughts on day trips from Zagreb
- 4 Further reading
- 5 Travel Resources
Day trips from Zagreb
And so today, with a help of fellow travel bloggers, I have prepared for you an overview of all the best Zagreb day trips. I’m sure you will find some interesting places in the list below.
The places are listed in no particular order but they all are reachable as a day trip. You can easily get to some of the places by public transport but often organized tours are a better and more efficient option (if that’s the case I will link the recommended tours).
So without any further ado, here are the best day trips from Zagreb.
Plitvice Lakes is one of the most popular day trips from Zagreb and it gets the hype for a reason. This is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Croatia.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is located in the central part of Croatia, very close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and getting there from Zagreb takes around 2 hours.
There are two main entrances to the park, located 3 km apart – I recommend entering the park through entrance no 1 and then continue towards the second entrance. This way you will easily see all the best attractions of Plitvice Lakes.
Inside the park, you will see stunning waterfalls (including some bigger ones like Veliki Slap) and emerald lakes and you will walk between the places on the paths made next to the water which makes the overall experience even more special. There is also a boat and small train ride included in the ticket.
During your visit, you will have a few hikes to choose from, from short ones to those that take up to 8 hours of sightseeing. No matter which one you choose you will be in awe of the beauty Plitvice Lakes offer.
Most of the places are easily accessible and don’t require to be fit, however good shoes are recommended since some of the paths might be slippery.
The national park is open all year long and you can visit it every season since it’s always beautiful however it can get rather crowded and expensive in the holiday season.
You can get from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes by public bus, there are around 10 connections per day. If you would like to see some other places like Rastoke on the way it’s worth considering a tour.
Here are recommended tours from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes:
- Rastoke & Plitvice Lakes National Park Tour from Zagreb
- Plitvice Lakes National Park and Rastoke Tour from Zagreb
- From Zagreb: Plitvice Lakes and Rastoke Day Trip
- From Zagreb: Plitvice Lakes Full-Day Private Tour
Rastoke is a beautiful village located on the way from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes yet often overlooked by tourists going this way. But this place itself is a good destination for a Zagreb day trip.
The picturesque village (technically part of the town of Slunj) is known for the waterfalls and therefore is often called “the Small Lakes of Plitvice”. That’s also where the Slunjčica river flows into the river Korana, making it such a pretty sight since the river divides into a few smaller branches creating cascades and small waterfalls.
Rastoke was first mentioned at the end of the 17th century as a fortified town with a bridge and a mill and the mills are what makes the place special. At the peak of prosperity, there were 22 of them, using the power of the water from the rivers.
Today Rastoke is a rather sleepy place where it feels like the time has stopped – a perfect interesting destination that is still not very well known.
Samobor is probably the easiest day trip from Zagreb! This small and charming town is located only 20 km away from the capital and there are frequent buses connecting these two places, departing from the central bus station. The company serving this route is called Samoborcek, their platform is located in the back of the bus station.
Samobor dates back to the mid-13th century when it was founded as a free royal town. It has been a popular tourist destination already at the beginning of the 19th century, attracting hunters and hikers. Today it is a sleepy town with beautiful Baroque architecture, a popular day trip escape from the capital.
The center of Samobor is at King Tomislav Square – the vibrant main square lined with beautiful buildings and numerous cafes where you can sit down over a cup of coffee and a famous local cream cake – kremšnita.
Samobor is surrounded by beautiful nature and you can go hiking in the area. The most popular hike is to the ruins of Samobor castle, around half an hour from the center. A few kilometers north of the town, towards the border with Slovenia, you can visit Grgos Cave – one of the most beautiful caves in Croatia.
If you would like to go on a tour to Samobor, here are the recommended ones:
- Picturesque Samobor & Samobor Castle Private Half-day Tour
- Private eclectic hiking experience of Samobor Hills
Karlovac isn’t a popular day trip from Zagreb but it should as the city is really interesting and full of history. Most of the people visiting Croatia know it because of the local beer – Karlovačko, one of the most popular ones in Croatia. But that’s not the main reason to visit Karlovac.
The city was founded at the end of the 16th century as a fortress to protect the area from the Ottoman Empire. The said fortress, built on the shape of a star, is one of the city’s main attractions.
Inside it, you can find the central part of the town with the buildings from the times of the Habsburg Empire. Even though some of the places need renovations (Karlovac was badly destroyed during the Yugoslav War) this is such a pleasant area to visit, although a bit sleepy.
The city has also plenty of green, leisure areas in parks or along the river Kupa. Not far from the center you can also visit Renaissance Dubovac Castle from the 15th century, overlooking the city.
Karlovac is located 50 km away from Zagreb, with good train and bus connections, so visiting the town is really easy.
It is possible to see Karlovac with a guide, click here for details.
If your Balkan itinerary is packed but you would like to visit another country you can plan a day trip from Zagreb to Slovenia. The country, located north of the Croatian capital, is really close and can be a good destination for a quick detour.
Depending on your interests, you can visit a few places that are some of the top Slovenia attractions. You can go to Ljubljana – the charming capital of Slovenia, known for its lovely old town, the castle towering above the city and the vibrant riverside lined with numerous cafes and restaurants.
If you still have time you can continue towards Slovenian Alps and visit its most popular destination – Lake Bled. This picture-perfect place will definitely take your breath away with beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains. When in Bled be sure to eat their famous cream cake and compare it with the one from Samobor (I personally prefer Bled cream cakes).
You might also visit a spectacular Postojna Cave – one of the largest caves in the world with some 20km of underground corridors.
Alternatively, you can go to the Eastern part of Slovenia and visit its second-biggest city Maribor and nearby Ptuj – the oldest town in Slovenia. Both places are really pretty and full of interesting sights.
Here are recommended day tours from Zagreb to Slovenia:
- From Zagreb: Ljubljana, Postojna Cave & Predjama Castle Tour
- From Zagreb: Ljubljana and Lake Bled Tour
Recommended by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
Varazdin makes for a wonderful day trip from Zagreb if you enjoy history, architecture, and art. The baroque town of Varazdin is called “Little Vienna” because of its beautiful architecture, and it was Croatia’s capital city for a few years in the 1700s.
On a day trip to Varazdin, stroll its charming cobblestone streets, admire the many churches, including the Varazdin Cathedral, tour the historic buildings for their architectural beauty, and visit the castle, on the outskirts of the historic center. There are museums to visit as well as parks and gardens.
Varazdin’s main square is a nice place to sit and enjoy a drink. Here you will also find cafes that sell pastries, including Varazdin’s version of the famous cream cake. There are many good eateries for lunch, serving local cuisine or pizzas and pastas.
You can drive to Varazdin from Zagreb, or take the bus if you wish to use public transport. You can also take the tour and combine visiting Varazdin with Trakoscan Castle – click here for details.
Recommended by Ellie from Ellie’s Travel Tips
Immerse yourself in the history of the historic, peasant town Kumrovec for an idyllic day trip from Zagreb. Located on the far eastern side of the scenic Sutla Valley, Kumrovec offers a picturesque, white village for you to explore immensely.
Known as a classic Croatian white village, Kumrovec boasts the typical vineyards, peasant haystacks, and clucking chickens. The center of the Kumrovec village is home to the area’s open-air ethnographic museum. This reconstruction of the city’s historic buildings offers a glimpse back in time to the life of the Zagorje people in the years before World War I.
Stroll around this cozy village through traditional Croatian houses, workshops, and barns that illustrated the peasant lifestyle of earlier years. As the birthplace of the former Yugoslavia leader Josip Broz Tito, visitors can learn about his fascinating career through a small display of his uniforms and photographs with other historic figures.
To get from Zagreb to Kumrovec, head north on E59 and D205 on a simple hour-long drive. There are also plenty of tours leaving from Zagreb, where guests are brought up to the historic white village to spend a couple of hours exploring before heading back through the rolling Croatian hills.
Here are recommended tours to Kumrovec:
- Kumrovec: Croatian Ethno Village & Josip Broz Tito’s Birthplace
- Kumrovec village tour in old-timer YUGO car
Located 60 km north of Zagreb, near the border with Slovenia, Krapina is yet another overlooked destination that makes a perfect day trip from the capital. You can easily get there from Zagreb by train or bus.
Krapina was founded at the end of the 12th century and has been a favorite place for Croatian and Hungarian rulers (that’s why there were many castles or country houses built in this area).
Today Krapina is mostly known for the Neanderthal Museum – in 1899 over eight hundred Neanderthals’ fossil remains were found near the city, the richest collection of Neanderthals remains in the world.
The local museum tells the story of this discovery and Neanderthals but also teaches more about evolution. In fact, this is one of the best museums in Europe focusing on evolution so if you are interested in this topic Krapina museum is a must-visit place.
The town itself is really nice too, with some old buildings and a picturesque location in the valley surrounded by green hills of the Zagorje region.
Here are the recommended tours to Krapina:
- Museum of Neanderthals and Kumrovec
- Museum of Neanderthals and Historical tour to Zagreb countryside
Recommended by Nisha & Vasu from Le Monde, the Poetic Travels
Located 57 KMs southeast of the Croatian capital Zagreb, Sisak is a place to visit for Roman history and ruins, among many other activities and things to do in Sisak.
Being a regional economic, cultural and historical center, Sisak has lots to offer to its visitors. First and foremost is the beautiful castle or Sisak fortress situated by the river Kupa. It has a triangle-shaped structure, made of brick and stones. The rounded towers have conical roofs. Over the period of time this Sisak fortress has gone through many damages and then was renovated. It also houses the local town museum.
The 18th century cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is situated next to the archaeological park.
Sisak jazz club, one of the most famous jazz clubs in the world, holds several concerts and musical events. One of the oldest brick houses, Mali Kaptol was built in the Baroque period and is located next to the club.
The historical Old Bridge made of bricks is as popular as the promenade Slavo Striegl. Here you can refresh yourself in one of the many cafes and enjoy the view of the river.
House Lieberman, Veliki Kaptol, and Palace Grga Tuskan are a few other places you can see in a day.
One can reach Sisak by road or by train. There are several buses plying to Sisak from different cities. Sisak is on Croatia’s main railway line and there are many trains operating between Zagreb and Sisak.
If you are looking for an alternative day trip from Zagreb you can go for a small hunt to find some of the most impressive spomeniks in Croatia. If you are not familiar with the name, “spomenik” simply means “a monument” in the Croatian language (as well as Serbian or Bosnian) and it is a common name for all the monuments built in the former Yugoslavia between the 1950s and 1980s to commemorate the fight with fascism during World War Two.
Spomeniks are usually huge and impressive concrete structures, often standing in remote locations in the middle of nowhere. If you are traveling by car you can visit some of the best-known spomeniks in Croatia since they are located not too far from Zagreb, there are also tours available.
Here are some of them:
- Monument to the Revolution of the People of Moslavina located in Podgarić, 80 km from Zagreb
- Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija in Petrova Gora, 100 km from Zagreb
- Stone Flower in Jasenovac, 110 km from Zagreb
You can find all the spomeniks in Croatia on this map.
Here are spomenik day tours from Zagreb:
Istria, the seaside region west of Zagreb, deserves a few days in your Balkan itinerary. But if you are short on time you can go to Istria as a day trip from Zagreb. It will be busy and packed with attractions day but definitely worth all the effort.
There are so many great things to do in Istria but with only one day you should focus on the biggest attractions the region has to offer.
Pula is known for its massive Roman amphitheater that dates back to the 1st century and is one of the best-preserved monuments of that kind in the world. Rovinj is a picture-perfect place with an impressive Church of Saint Euphemia towering above the town. Porec is yet another charming town with cobbled streets, made for wandering around.
If you still have some time left you can stop in Grožnjan – the town of artists or Motovun, known for its culinary scene.
A day trip to Istria can give you a great overview of what this Croatian region has to offer so you can eventually return there to get to know it better.
Here are the best tours from Zagreb to Istria:
- Istria Day Tour From Zagreb
- Magical Istria Tour (Pula, Rovinj) from Zagreb
- Opatija, Rijeka, Trsat and Lovran Private tour from Zagreb
A day trip from Zagreb to Zadar might be a bit long (around 3 hours/one way, some 280 km) but if you would like to get a glimpse of the Croatian coast, visiting Zadar might be a good option. The city has plenty of interesting attractions and is a perfect place to spend one day in.
The Old Town, located on a peninsula, is small but nice. The biggest highlight of the place is the 9th-century Church Of St. Donatus with the cathedral bel tower standing next to it – be sure to climb it for the best views of the Old Town and beyond!
Don’t miss the so-called Sea Organ – a unique and interesting art project – the marble steps going into the Adriatic Sea might look pretty normal but the waves crashing into them create unique sounds, like the organs. Next to it, you will see the Monument to the Sun – the circle with some three hundred glass plates, beautifully illuminated in the evening.
Once you are done with the Zadar sightseeing you can sit in one of the many cafes, preferably at the charming People’s Square, and enjoy the atmosphere of the place.
And if you still have some time you can go to nearby Nin – the old royal town located only 15 km away from Zadar. It’s tiny but charming, with cobbled streets, old houses, and probably the smallest cathedral in the world.
You might visit both places on a tour from Zagreb – click here for details.
Recommended by Gabi from Under Flowery Sky
Castle Trakošćan is the most famous castle in Croatia, a fabulous place surrounded by the lake and picturesque mountains. This is already a good reason to visit this place.
The easiest way to come here is by car. Alternatively, you could take a tour (click here for details) or come by bus to Očura where you should catch a taxi.
Surrounded by lovely hotels and hiking trails through Ravna Gora, Trakošćan offers the return back in time. The castle dates to the 14th century capturing the collection of furniture, paintings, and even photographs of Juraj Drašković whose work characterizes the 19th century.
The artificial lake is encircled by the educational trail The Path of Fairies which takes 2h.
Ravna Gora itself gives the splendid views of the soft mountains where even some paragliders can be seen. Mountain huts, two of them, are beautifully painted and decorated.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit castle Trakošćan as it will give you the fairy-tale feelings.
Veliki Tabor Castle
Recommended by Enzo from Inguaribile Viaggiatore
Veliki Tabor Castle is one of the most important cultural and historical monuments of secular architecture in continental Croatia, with a monumental and authentic fortification structure. Located on top of the Hum Košnički mountain, 333 meters above sea level, it has dominated the Zagorje area for over half a millennium, during which architecture blended with nature. The splendid view from Veliki Tabor extends over the entire Zagorje area and part of Slovenia.
This monument is one of the most recognizable landmarks not only in Croatian Zagorje but of the whole country.
The oldest part of the premises is its central part, the pentagonal castle, dating back to the Gothic period. The castle is surrounded by four semi-circular Renaissance towers connected by the curtain walls and the north entrance walls. The center of the fort is surrounded by the outer defense wall, with an agricultural office, a Renaissance bastion, two semicircular guards (north and south), and the quadrangular entrance tower.
You can visit Veliki Tabor and a few other sights in Zagorje region on a tour from Zagreb – click here for details.
Risnjak National Park
If you are looking for more like an active day trip from Zagreb you should consider Risnjak National Park, located some 130km from the capital towards Istria.
This area is known for the diverse nature since it’s between the Alps and Dinaric Alps. The highest peak of Risnjak National Park Veliki Risnjak (1528 m above sea level) but there are many walking and hiking trails in the area so you can easily find the one that suits your needs.
It is possible to visit Risnjak National Park with a professional guide – you can find details here.
Medvednica, a mountain range just outside of Zagreb, is another idea of a day trip to nature. You can reach the highest peak, Sljeme (1035 m above sea level) by the chair lift, on top you will find the hotel or the tv tower.
In the wintertime, this is the favorite area for locals to go skiing and even some international skiing competitions take place here.
The area is a protected nature park and is a great place to visit all year long – there are many hiking trails you can choose from to explore the area.
Tour local wineries
If you like trying local wine during your travels you will be pleased to know that the area surrounding Zagreb is known for good wine, it’s just not very popular outside Croatia. There are many family-owned wineries producing high-quality wine you might not find anywhere else.
If you are a wine fan be sure to plan a tour of wineries during your trip to Zagreb!
Here are some wine tours from Zagreb you might want to take:
- Zagreb Region Wine Tour
- Fairytale castles & delicious wine
- Wine tour and tasting in Sveti Ivan Zelina
- The Dionysus Tour Lunch or dinner and Wine Tasting at Plesivica
- Private Wine Road Day Tour from Zagreb
Terme Sveti Martin
Recommended by Nichola from Globalmouse Travels
When you’re looking for an escape from the busy city then you can’t beat a trip north to Terme Sveti Martin and one of the best spas in Croatia. The drive out is beautiful and takes you close to the border with Slovenia.
This retreat has been using its thermal waters for medicinal and relaxation reasons for over a hundred years and has an impressive complex of treatment rooms and spas. There’s an indoor pool area, a large water park complete with water slides, and a number of additional pools dotted around. There are also some fantastic saunas and steam rooms in an adult only section.
There’s a couple of restaurants here (including a very impressive one with interesting local foods and using the techniques of Dr Rudolf Steiner). Terme Sveti Martin is also one of the best family resorts in Croatia with accommodation in apartments or lodges throughout the site so while you may visit for the day it’s also somewhere you can come and stay for longer.
It’s a real retreat and the perfect place for some relaxation and me-time.
Map of possible day trips from Zagreb
Here is the map of all the places mentioned above, to give you a better idea of where to find them
Final thoughts on day trips from Zagreb
As you can see there are so many options to go for some great day trips to Zagreb. Be sure to plan your stay in the Croatian capital so you can also have time to see some of the places beyond the city. You will quickly see that Croatia has so much more to offer than it seems at first!
By now I was lucky to visit Croatia a few times hence you can find many articles here that you might find interesting or useful when planning your own trip to Croatia. Here are some of them:
- 33 Best Places to Visit in Croatia
- 25 Wonderful Things to Do in Zagreb, Croatia
- How to visit Krka National Park in Croatia
- 23 Amazing Things to Do in Dubrovnik, Croatia
- 35 Split pictures that will inspire you to visit Split, Croatia
- and many more!
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- I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Croatia too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. Thank you!
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