Back then I didn’t know much about things to do in Zagreb and I remember how pleasantly surprised I was – the grand architecture from the Habsburg times and the city’s vibe made me fell for the place right away. I felt this must be one of the best hidden gems in Europe back then.
Since then I was lucky to visit Zagreb many more times. It was either a short stop during my travels (like my flight to New Zealand was from there) or a city break destination itself when I could enjoy Zagreb attractions.
The city became much more popular too, Zagreb tourism is booming, bringing to the Croatian capital many tourists who wanted to see more than just the popular places to visit in Croatia.
But no matter how many times I’ve been to Zagreb, I always like returning there to enjoy the city. I have my favorite streets, cafes, bookstores, or museums that I always visit and Zagreb simply feels right to me. It’s one of those places where I just like being in.
It’s about time I share with you my favorite things to do in Zagreb and show you what an interesting and beautiful city this is. I really hope this Zagreb guide will inspire you to visit the city and push you to plan your own Zagreb trip.
Why visit Zagreb
Zagreb, the largest city and the capital of Croatia, is often overlooked by tourists who choose more popular seaside destinations in the country and don’t really know what to do in Zagreb. But the city is well worth a visit and the number of great Zagreb tourist attractions might be really surprising.
The capital of Croatia can enchant with beautiful and impressive architecture, great museums, and many more Zagreb must see places, including alternative spots. This is one of the best places to learn about Croatia and its history.
And if you have more time in your Croatia itinerary, you can base yourself in Zagreb and go for some great day trips from there!
How many days for visiting Zagreb?
You can spend one day in Zagreb, get a taste of the city and focus on Zagreb sightseeing in the Lower and Upper Town.
But I believe Zagreb deserves more of your time as it gets better and better with each hour spent there. During my last trip to Zagreb, I spent five days there and I still left with a heavy heart, missing some of my favorite places.
I think the optimal time for visiting Zagreb is two days and then add more days if you want to go for day trips from Zagreb.
How to get to Zagreb
Zagreb is very well connected with many European countries (not to mention domestic destinations) so getting there shouldn’t be a problem.
The local airport is located some 20 km from the center, the bus journey takes around 30-40 minutes to the central bus station, the ticket costs 6€. Buses run every half an hour between 06:00 and 20:00, the bus stop is on the right when leaving the airport. You might also pre-book transfer directly to your accommodation – click here for details.
The main train station is located at the edge of the Lower Town, some 10 minutes walking to the main square – Trg bana Josipa Jelačića. You can get to Zagreb by train from Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland or Serbia, there are also connections within Croatia.
The central bus station is some 15 minutes walking east from the train station. If you come from another destination in Croatia you will most likely arrive in Zagreb by bus. To get to the center you need to take the tram from the bus station.
How to get around Zagreb
Most of Zagreb attractions are located in the central part of the city and can be easily visited on foot.
If you need to get to more distant places, like Mirogoj cemetery or Museum of Contemporary Art, you will need to use public transport. This, fortunately, works really well in Zagreb. You can use trams or buses, the ticket can be bought at the kiosk – there are plenty of them around Zagreb.
Where to stay in Zagreb
Since Zagreb is a popular destination, there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from, with a good rating and location in Zagreb city center.
Here are the recommended places to stay in Zagreb:
- Budget: Swanky Mint Hostel (8.7/10) / Main Square Hostel (8.4/10)
- Mid-range: Casablanca Boutique Bed&Breakfast (9.2/10) / Bed & Breakfast Sky (9.5/10) / Hotel Jadran (8.6/10)
- Luxury: Hotel Dubrovnik (8.8/10) / Best Western Premier Hotel Astoria (8.8/10)
- and more!
Best Zagreb tours
I always recommend visiting the place with a guide. A quick tour can give us insight into the visited city and then, with a better understanding of the place, we can focus on independent sightseeing.
If you would like to join a tour in Zagreb, here are some recommended ones:
- 2.5-Hour Walking Tour with Funicular Ride
- 2-Hour Old Zagreb Private Walking Tour
- Private Walking Tour of Upper and Downtown Zagreb
- Zagreb: Old and New Town City Tour
- Zagreb: City Walking Tour
Things to do in Zagreb
And now, let’s talk about what to see in Zagreb! You will really be surprised how many attractions in Zagreb you can find!
Here are the best things to do in Zagreb, in no particular order.
Admire the beautiful architecture of the Lower Town
The Lower Town is the heart of Zagreb and the most beautiful area of the city that you simply can’t miss. It was created at the end of the 19th century below the more famous Upper Town.
I personally prefer the Lower Town with its rows of wide streets that are lined with the grand townhouses from the time when Zagreb was part of the Habsburg Empire. You can easily feel like you are in other important cities of Austria-Hungary as these buildings and style is the same as in Lviv, Przemysl, Brno, Cluj Napoca, Novi Sad, Timisoara and many more places in Central Europe.
Lower Town is such a perfect area to wander and admire all the beauty around – some of the houses are so rich in art-nouveau details it’s hard to take your eyes out of them.
The most beautiful part of the Lower Town is between the main train station and Trg bana Josipa Jelačića, where you can find some lovely green spaces too (they were part of the smart urban planning back in the times). When you are there be sure to visit the Art Pavilion too as the interior is really stunning, a perfect example of how the buildings of the public use were designed at the turn of the 19th and 20th century.
The Lower Town is the business, shopping, and cultural center of Zagreb and you will find plenty of shops, cafes, or museums there however the biggest highlight of this area is the architecture. This is one of the places to visit in Zagreb you simply can’t miss.
Wander around the Upper Town
The Upper Town is where you will find the majority of attractions in Zagreb. This is the oldest part of the city, dating back to the 11th century and is so much different than the Lower Town. Instead of grand townhouses, you will find here smaller houses, cobbled streets, and winding lanes.
Wandering aimlessly around here is a pure pleasure – it’s so easy to fall in love with this area and you might randomly find here so many charming corners. You can easily forget here that you are in a busy capital – the traffic is limited, the place is rarely overcrowded (although it is popular among tourists) and life seems to go by slowly.
Before you start a proper Zagreb sightseeing here, be sure to spend some time just feeling the vibe of the place.
Ride one of the shortest funiculars in the world
The funicular, one of Zagreb highlights, connects the Upper and Lower Town and is among the shortest ones in the world – it covers a distance of only 66 meters and the ride takes exactly 64 seconds. This is actually the oldest mode of public transport in Zagreb as the funicular was opened in 1890, a year before the horse-drawn tram.
The funicular is open every day between 6:30 am and 10 pm and runs every 10 minutes. The ticket is less than 1€ but other public transport tickets can be used too.
If you don’t want to ride the funicular there are stairs next to it so you can still see its original construction.
Visit the Cathedral
The cathedral is probably the most popular of Zagreb landmarks and one of the must things to see in Zagreb as its twin towers can be seen from numerous locations all over the city (after all this is the tallest building in Croatia).
Originally the cathedral dates back to the early 13th century but the 1880 earthquake damaged the structure so badly it had to be rebuilt in the current, neo-Gothic style.
The entrance to the cathedral is free and you should definitely step inside to see its beautiful Gothic interior and the treasury.
Stop at the Stone Gate
When walking between the Upper and Lower Town via Kamienita ul. you will pass the Stone Gate – part of the city walls from medieval times. Stop there for a second since it’s one of the most important sacral places for locals. In fact, you might find there some people praying in silence or lighting a candle, that’s because you can find there the painting of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus.
The legend says that during the 1731 fire the Stone Gate and the surroundings were badly damaged. Only one thing remained untouched – the painting. You can see it behind the beautifully decorated Baroque iron gate made by the local craftsman in 1778.
The interior of the gate is covered in votive plates, you should also think a wish yourself when you are at the Gate. Even if you are only passing by, walk through the gate in silence to respect those praying there.
Shop at Dolac market
Right in the center of Zagreb, a few steps away from the cathedral and the main square – Trg bana Josipa Jelačića, you will find the local farmers’ market – Dolac. This is the best place to buy fresh food from the local producers and even if the prices might be a bit higher it is still worth paying extra for the quality of the products.
The Dolac market has been part of the city’s scenery since 1930 and over the year it has become the major trading point in Zagreb where farmers from the surrounding villages came to sell their products.
In the upper, open-air part you can find fruits, vegetables or flowers and in the lower one, there’s meat, fish, or dairy products.
Even if you are not planning to do any shopping it’s worth to walking through the market to feel its vibrant atmosphere and enjoy all the colors and smells.
Visit Mirogoj cemetery
Mirogoj cemetery is one of the most beautiful necropoleis you will find in Europe and the most important cemetery in the country, the resting place for many famous Croatians. The cemetery was established at the end of the 19th century and designed by one of the most popular architects in Austria-Hungary – Hermann Bollé (he is buried there too).
Unlike many other cemeteries, this one was owned by the city, not the church and therefore could be used to burry people despite their religion. When you wander around you will find the graves of members of all religious groups: Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, and more.
The most impressive part is right at the entrance – along the wall you will see long, beautiful and picturesque arcades where the most notable people were buried – some of the graves are very rich in details. You will definitely spend here a bit, wandering around, admiring beautiful ornaments on the graves, and reminiscing about Zagreb’s past.
The Mirogoj Cemetery is located a bit away from the center but it’s easily accessible by bus no 106 from near the cathedral. You can also visit Mirogoj with the tour – click here for details.
Look at Zagreb from above
One of my favorite things to do in every city is finding viewpoints and looking at the place from a different perspective. Luckily, in Zagreb there are a few places where you can see the city from above and each of them is great.
At the edge of the Upper Town, you can find nice views from the Strossmayer Promenade, on both sides of the funicular. You can see the rooftops of the Lower Town and the cathedral towers from there, the promenade itself is a nice place for a stroll anyway so don’t miss it.
While you are there you can also go to the top of the Lotrščak Tower to see even better views of both, the upper and lower town and beyond. The tower itself is interesting too – it’s one of the few remnants of the medieval city walls, originally it was built in the mid-13th century. Before reaching the viewing platform on top you can see the exhibitions inside the tower.
Another viewing point worth visiting is the Zagreb 360° observation deck, located on the 16th floor of the skyscraper at the edge of Ban Jelačić Square. From there you can see the beautiful panorama of the whole city and its main landmarks.
If you want to relax a bit there is a popular bar there too so you can have a drink when enjoying the views of Zagreb.
The good news is when you purchase the ticket it is valid for more entries over a certain period so you can return to the observation deck to see the city during a different time of the day.
Zagreb has some really great and interesting museums. In fact, the Croatian capital is known for having the biggest number of museums per capita in the world. During my last trip there I spent a big part of my time visiting some of them and not a single one has disappointed me!
The most popular one is of course the world-famous Museum of Broken Relationships – such an interesting and unique place to visit. The museum is located in the Upper Town, next to the Lotrščak Tower so you can easily put it in your Zagreb itinerary.
As the name indicates, the museum focuses on the broken relationships – people from all over the world have donated their personal items that tell the story of their past relationships. Some of them are heartbreaking, some of them are funny. Some of them are typical love relationships between partners, others show the bond between family members or even a dedication to pizza.
This is such a quirky place, one of the weirdest museums you will ever see but you don’t want to miss it! You want to get a skip-the-line ticket in advance though, I had to return the other day since the place was too busy and they didn’t let new visitors in. Click here to get the ticket.
Another museum I really liked was the Museum of Contemporary Art, however, this one is located away from the center and you need to take the tram to get there.
If you like contemporary art it’s definitely worth it – the place is really big and shows the variety of works mainly by Croatian artists (but there were some international ones when I visited too). I spent half of the day there and still could have stayed there longer, there was so much to see!
There are only two of many museums in Zagreb but the choice is really big and diverse and you will easily find museums that will interest you. I wrote a separate article about Zagreb museums – you can read it here.
Learn more about the 1990s war
In the 1990s the cruel Yugoslav war rolled by the Balkans and even if Zagreb wasn’t very affected by the tragic events in the region, the city still got its share of the war reality.
You can learn more about the Zagreb rocket attacks in 1991 and 1995 in the dedicated memorial center that focuses solely on these events and commemorates victims and injured ones. The memorial center is located near the main square, at Frano Petrić Street 4/I (it’s on the first floor, you need to ring the bell) and is free of charge.
Another, more touching place, is the War Photography Museum.
You will see here some disturbing yet amazing photos showing the reality of the 1990s Yugoslav war in Croatia (destroyed Vukovar, besieged Dubrovnik, rocket attacks in Zagreb, and more). Photos were taken by well-known professional artists as well as amateurs who died capturing the tragedy of the war.
This is a must-visit place for everyone who is interested in the recent history of Croatia and the Balkans.
There is also a highly rated tour focusing on the Croatian Homeland War – if you are interested in the recent history of Croatia you should definitely join it. Click here for details and availability.
Check out the local cafes
With the Habsburg cafe culture legacy you can be sure to find some great cafes in Zagreb. Many of them are hip and cool, serving great coffee so spending time there and chilling over a cup of delicious black drink is a pure pleasure.
I’ve checked plenty of cafes in Zagreb but my favorite ones were Booksa (a literary club, perfect place to read a book over a cup of coffee), Program Bar (located next door fro Booksa, with a really cool interior), Botaničar (located near the National Theater, a stylish yet hip place) and Cogito Coffee (serving probably the best coffee in Zagreb).
But there are many more great cafes in Zagreb and I’m sure you will easily find your favorite ones there!
Find street art
The local street art scene in Zagreb is pretty amazing and you will find so many great works there. Besides the random graffiti or tags, you can find in all the cities, there are some really fine murals too.
They are often painted in the dedicated areas, like the long wall along Kneza Branimira street between the train and bus stations where you will find one great work after another.
Other places you should check include the area near the University Students Center, Medika Cultural Center or Dugave and Siget areas in Novi Zagreb. But the thing with street art is that you never know where you might find it so keep your eyes open when exploring Zagreb.
Track down Zagreb Solar System
Did you know that Zagreb has its own Solar System? In 1971 the local artist Ivan Kozaric created a sculpture of Sun and a few years later, in 2004 a designer Davor Preis made an installation – Nine Views – with models of nine planets.
You can find them all over the city – the location of them isn’t random, they are a scaled model of the Solar System (1:680 000 000) and the distance between the sun and the planets is accurate (for example Earth is 225 meters away from the Sun).
This is one of the quirkest yet not well-known Zagreb attractions but finding the planets can be so much fun (although I must admit I didn’t manage to find them all).
You can find sun in Bogovićeva Street – you will not miss it since it sits in the middle of the street and is around 2 meters in diameter. Here are the locations of the planets:
- Mercury – 3 Margaretska Street
- Venus – 3 Ban Josip Jelačić Square
- Earth – 9 Varšavska Street
- Mars – 21 Tkalčićeva Street
- Jupiter – 71 Voćarska Street
- Saturn – 1 Račićeva Street
- Uranus – 9 Siget
- Neptune – Kozari 17
- Pluto – Bologna Alley (underpass)
Marvel at the Oktogon
Even if located right in the very center of Zagreb, Oktogon is one of the hidden gems of the city. This stunning passage connects Ilica street and Cvjetni Trg and goes through the building of the former First Croatian Savings Bank (originally built in 1990, Oktogon was already part of it then).
There are actually two passages with a beautiful octagonal stained-glass rooftop (hence the name of the passage) above the place where they connect. Be sure to walk through the passage and stop for a second in the middle to admire the beauty of this place.
Shop at the flea market
If you like shopping at flea markets don’t miss the Sunday antique market on Britansky trg. You will find some true gems and most unusual stuff there – from old furniture and clothes to crystals and unopened letters. Even if you don’t plan to do any shopping you can still stop by for the vibrant atmosphere of the place and a peculiar selection of old stuff.
There is one more flea market in Zagreb, at the Hrelić on Sajmišna Cesta on Wednesdays and Sundays, but the one on Britansky trg is easier to visit and seems to be more vintage. During the rest of the week, you will find a regular farmers’ market here.
Walk through the Grič Tunnel
Even if Grič Tunnel is located right in the center of Zagreb, not many visitors seem to know about it.
It was built during World War 2 and was supposed to serve as a bomb shelter but right after the war it fell into disrepair and was used only briefly in 1990s to host one of the first raves in Croatia and to be a shelter during 1990s war. Only recently the tunnel was finally renovated and open to public, it often hosts cultural events.
The total length of the tunnel is 350 meters, it connects Mesnička Street and Stjepan Radić Street and has six exits, at both ends and four branches to backyards on Ilica Street and Tomić Street.
Enjoy the culinary scene
As you can expect from the capital, Zagreb is a great destination for all food lovers. I recommend trying here some of the delicious Croatian dishes but there are also plenty of international restaurants if you feel like eating well-known food. If you opt for the local cuisine the best restaurants serving Croatian dishes are Stari Fijaker, Vinodol, La Štruk or Pod Zidom Bistro.
You might also want to join the highly rated culinary tour to learn more about Croatian cuisine and try some of the best local dishes. Click here to see the details and book the spot!
Buy local souvenirs
In the center, especially on Radiceva street, you will find a few regular souvenir shops where you can find usual things to bring home.
If you are looking for more unique yet typical Zagreb souvenirs you can buy things like cravat (a necktie), Licitar hearts (the symbol of Zagreb, a UNESCO protected Intangible Cultural Heritages), or Šestine Umbrella (you can see its bigger version at Dolac market stands).
There are also local designers shops that can be perfect stops for unusual shopping.
I always end up buying too many books by local authors translated into English or those about the history of Croatia and the Balkans, my favorite bookstores in Zagreb are Planetopija at Ilica 68 and Arkadija at Trg Bana Josipa Jelačića 14, I always manage to find some good books there.
Discover the alternative side of Zagreb
While the center of Zagreb is neat with its charming corners of the Upper Town or grand architecture of the Lower Town, there are also a few spots that you can call alternative.
The most popular one is Medika – the first legalized squat in Zagreb, located in the former medical factory. This is the heart of alternative Zagreb, where the best parties in the city take place, along with some good art exhibitions, movies screening, workshops or flea markets. Even when there is nothing going on Medika is a cool place to stop at to see all the great street art around.
Another cool spot, not far from Medika, is Student Center of the University of Zagreb. Besides the typical administrative offices for students you will find there an art gallery, a theater and again plenty of good street art.
These are only two cool places in Zagreb but there are more of them so if you like the alternative vibe and modern culture you might really enjoy Zagreb.
Find brutalist architecture
Fortunately, also in Zagreb you can find some really fine examples of brutalism, even though they are not located in the center and require a bit of a detour.
The most iconic brutalism in Zagreb is the Zagreb Rockets – the three residential buildings in the shape of concrete rocket, built in 1963 (you can find them at ul. Lavoslava Ružičke). Other buildings worth seeing are The Mammoth (Mamutica) at ul. Božidara Magovca, apartment block at Vukovarska 52, Kockica at Prisavlje 14, Super Andrija at Siget or Zagrepčanka at Savska cesta 41.
You can join the 2.5-Hour Cycle Back to Socialism Tour to learn more about socialist/communist history of Zagreb and see some interesting sights from that period. Click here for details and to book the tour.
Stroll through the botanical garden
Zagreb botanical garden is one of the prettiest garden of this kind you will find in Europe. It was founded in 1889 and opened to public two years later.
You can find there over 10.000 plant species from all over the world, including almost 2.000 exotic ones. To make the place even more picturesque there is also a small pond in the middle, adding charm to the overall look of the place.
The best time to visit is obviously in the spring when all the flowers and plant bloom but the botanical garden is beautiful all year long. You will find it in the Lower Town, not far from the train station.
Witness the cannon fire
Don’t be surprised or afraid when you hear the cannon fire around noon – nothing wrong is happening, it’s just the local tradition.
Each day exactly at 12:00 you can see the cannon blast from the Lotrščak Tower – the tradition has been present for over a hundred years now and it commemorates Zagreb’s victory over the Turks. Try to be near the Lotrščak Tower around noon to see it yourself, this is one of the biggest Zagreb attractions.
And once the cannon was shot you can continue with visiting the Upper Town or take the funicular down to the Lower Town.
Relax in the pleasant parks
The central part of Zagreb offers some very pleasant green spaces, perfect for relaxing after sightseeing.
The most popular parks are King Tomislav Park, Josip Jurji Strossmayer Park, and Zrinjevac Park, located next to each other between the train station and Ban Josip Jelačić Square – all of them are really lovely and worth stopping by. Another lovely green area is Park Ribnjak located behind the cathedral.
If you would like to go hiking you can also do it right outside of Zagreb – there are some really nice green areas not far from the city.
Visit the National Theater
The Croatian National Theater, located at Trg Republike Hrvatske, is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, constructed at the end of the 19th century in the neo-Baroque style. It is spectacular not only from the outside but also inside, with rich decorations and an interior that can surely take your breath away.
You can come here for the theater or opera play as well as the ballet show – not only you will attend a great event but also will be able to see the real beauty of this place. The tickets have affordable prices and can be bought online or at the theater.
Visiting the theater without attending a show is possible only for groups of 25 and more people.
Go for day trips
When planning your trip be sure to allocate more time in your Croatia itinerary to also go for some day trips from Zagreb. There are some really great places you can visit as side trips from the capital and you can reach them by car, public transport or with a tour!
The closest one is Samobor, located just a short ride from the city. The town is known for its beautiful location, numerous monuments and delicious cream-cake.
You can also easily go from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes and visit this spectacular place, one of the highlights of Croatia. The numerous lakes and waterfalls are really impressive and worth seeing!
You might even hop across the border and visit Slovenia, it’s not too far away!
I wrote the whole article dedicated to the ideas of day trips from Zagreb – click here to read it!
If you would like to an organized tour, here are some recommended ones:
- Rastoke & Plitvice Lakes National Park Tour from Zagreb
- Istria Day Tour From Zagreb
- Enchanting Slovenia, Ljubljana and Postojna Caves Small-Group Tour from Zagreb
- From Zagreb: Ljubljana and Lake Bled Tour
- From Zagreb: Varazdin Baroque Town & Trakoscan Castle
Final thoughts on visiting Zagreb
As you can see, Zagreb really has a lot to offer and is such an interesting city to visit. This can be a perfect starting or ending point of your Balkan trip, a great place to learn more about Croatia and the region.
While the seaside destinations in Croatia are amazing, give Zagreb a chance too, you will not be disappointed! I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Zagreb!
As you might know, the Balkans are one of my absolute favorite places to visit. I go there a few times per year, trying to find new interesting places or returning to well-known ones, like Zagreb.
I wrote many articles about Croatia and the Balkans, here are some that you might find useful or interesting when planning your own trip to this fascinating region:
- How to visit Krka National Park in Croatia
- 35 Split pictures that will inspire you to visit Split, Croatia
- 23 Amazing Things to Do in Dubrovnik, Croatia
- 6 amazing things to do in Zadar, Croatia
- Top 15 Things to Do In Istria, Croatia
- Slovenia itinerary – places to visit in Slovenia in 3 – 10 days
- Best Places to Visit in Serbia
- 22 Amazing Places to Visit in Montenegro
- 17 best places to visit in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- and more!
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- Sign up to my newsletter or follow me on Bloglovin to get updates about the new posts
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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 Zagreb 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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