Visit Zagreb: discover the beauty of Croatia’s capital in 3 days

Visitar Zagrebe, a capital da Croácia.
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2024-01-25

Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is a city rich in history and culture. With a population of over 800,000, it is the largest city in the country and the political, economic and cultural center of the region.

In the country of more than a thousand islands with paradisiacal beaches and the Adriatic Sea, this city is sometimes forgoten!

It’s just that Zagreb has all the ingredients for the perfect city break, namely lots of things to see and do, including outdoor activities, cultural attractions, great food and shopping. In addition, it has good public transport, affordable accommodation and a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

Despite its size, Zagreb offers a unique blend of urban life and natural beauty, with many parks and gardens throughout the city, including the famous Maksimir Park.

Not to mention the security and the fact that Croatia joined the Euro in January 2023, which facilitated travel to this country! In other words, there is no excuse not to visit this region.

I particularly liked the old town, but if you’re interested in art, architecture or food, you won’t be disappointed in Zagreb.

So, in this article I will share my top recommendations for what to see and do in Zagreb, including out-of-the-box museums, delicious local cuisine and picturesque parks.

I also included a three-day itinerary, which was the time I spent in the city, but if you plan to stay in Zagreb for more days, check out the day-trip suggestions from Zagreb for a longer stay.

Anyway, I hope this guide is useful for planning your visit to this beautiful and historic city.

Best things to see and do in Zagreb Croatia

Street Art em Zagrebe.
Street Art in Zagreb.

First of all, you should know that the city is divided into two distinct parts: the upper city, known as Gornji grad, and the lower city, known as Donji grad.

It is in the upper city that the historic center is located, a place full of Gothic and Baroque architecture, while the lower city is a modern business district and the ideal place if you want to do more affordable shopping.

Here are some suggestions for what to visit and do in Croatia’s capital.

Explore Zagreb’s Old Town: A Walk Through History

Zagreb Welcomes You, no centro histórico.
Zagreb Welcomes You Monument.

Usually, it’s in the historic centers of European cities that the main tourist attractions are concentrated, and Zagreb is no exception.

So, to get to know the history and culture of the upper town of Zagreb, head to the old town.

You can start, for example, at Ban Jelačić Square, which is the main and most important square in Zagreb, named after Ban Josip Jelačić, a 19th-century Croatian governor and considered a national hero.

Ban Jelačić Square

Praça Ban Jelačić.
Ban JelačićS quare.

The square is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike and is surrounded by historic buildings, cafes and shops.

In the center of the square you can see the statue of Ban Jelačić, built in 1866. Many visitors stop by the statue to take pictures and it is often used as a meeting point. The square is also the place to various events throughout the year, including the Christmas market and the Zagreb Advent festival.

Then, go to Zagreb Cathedral, passing by Zagreb Welcomes You, a high-relief model built in bronze that recreates the city of Zagreb over the centuries.

Zagreb Cathedral and the Monument of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Catedral de Zagreb.
Zagreb Cathedral.

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as Zagreb Cathedral, is the most important religious building and the tallest structure in Zagreb, Croatia.

The cathedral is located in Kaptol, the historic religious center of Zagreb, and is a blend of Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance architectural styles. It was built in the 12th century, but has undergone several restoration works, as is happening at the moment, as well as additions over the centuries.

Zagreb Cathedral has been closed since the 2020 earthquake, as the structure was greatly weakened.

However, when possible, inside the cathedral, visitors can admire the stained glass windows, the organ and the altar, in addition to the statues and paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings. The Cathedral’s most valuable treasure is, however, the wooden altar from the workshop of Francesco Robba.

It has several chapels, including St. Mark’s Chapel, which contains the remains of Zagreb’s patron saint, and St. Catherine’s Chapel, which has a painting by baroque artist Francesco de Paula.

The cathedral is also the last resting place of many important figures in Croatian history, including bishops, politicians and cultural figures.

Continue to explore the historic center of Zagreb, this time towards Ulica Ivana Tkalčića.

Ulica Ivana Tkalčića, the bohemian street

O que fazer em Zagreb: ir a Ulica Ivana Tkalčića.
Ulica Ivana Tkalčića.

Ilica Street (Ulica Ivana Tkalčića) is one of the longest and most renowned streets in Zagreb. Located in the city center, it runs parallel to the main square, Ban Jelačić Square. The street is well known for its vibrant atmosphere, boasting a variety of national and international shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Ilica Street is also famous for its architectural diversity, featuring a mixture of Art Nouveau and modern buildings. Visitors are encouraged to admire the intricate details on the facades of the historic buildings, many of which have been preserved since the 19th century.

The street is also home to several monuments, including a monument honoring Croats killed in World War II and a monument dedicated to Ivana Tkalčića, a renowned Croatian journalist and writer, after whom the street is named.

Throughout the year, Ilica Street hosts several cultural events, including the annual Advent on Ilica Street, featuring live music, food, and other festivities. After enjoying lunch (if available), continue to one of Zagreb’s iconic postcards, St. Mark’s Church, known for its colorful roof.

St. Mark’s Church in Zagreb Croatia

St. Mark's Church.
Saint Mark’s Church.

St. Mark’s Church is a stunning and historic church located in the heart of Zagreb, Croatia. It is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks and a popular tourist destination. The medieval church is famous for its colorful roof, adorned with coats of arms, and is not currently open to visitors. However, its interior is decorated with paintings and sculptures, including a statue of St. Mark, the patron saint of the church. Additionally, the church boasts beautiful stained glass windows, added in the 19th century.

Finally, head to another must-see tourist attraction in Zagreb: the Stone Gate.

Stone Gate, the only medieval gate in Zagreb

O que visitar em Zagrebe: Stone Gate.
Stone Gate in Zagreb, Croatia.

The Stone Gate is a historic gate located in the heart of Zagreb.

Anyway, it is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city and a symbol of Zagreb’s rich history and cultural heritage. The gate dates back to the 13th century and is the only medieval gate left in the city.

It is made of stone and has a gothic arch. The upper part of the gate is decorated with a painting of the Virgin Mary and Child, believed to have been painted in the 15th century.

Continuing with the historical theme in Zagreb, the next destination on the itinerary is the Grič – Radićeva Tunnel.

Grič – Radićeva, the former World War II bunker

O que visitar em Zagreb: Tunel Grič - Radićeva.
Grič – Radićeva Tunnel.

The Tunnel Grič – Radićeva is a historic underground tunnel located in the city of Zagreb.

During World War II, the Tunnel Grič – Radićeva served as an air raid shelter and spans approximately 350 meters, traversing through some of Zagreb’s historic areas.

It connects the neighborhoods of Grič and Radićeva and was originally built at the end of the 19th century as a way of giving people safe passage during bad weather.

The tunnel is very well preserved and is a different way to get to know the history of Zagreb.

Street Markets in Zagreb Croatia

The Dolac Market is a bustling and colorful open-air market located in the city center of Zagreb. It is one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations, known for its lively atmosphere and diverse selection of local products available for sale. Located just steps from Ban Jelačić Square, the market is open daily.

The Dolac Market is divided into two sections: the upper market and the lower market. In the upper market, you can find stalls selling fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and other local products. The lower market, on the other hand, is a more traditional market where vendors sell souvenirs, traditional Croatian clothing, and handicrafts.

In addition to shopping, the Dolac Market is also a great place to experience local Croatian cuisine, with several small food stalls offering traditional dishes

Visit museums outside the box

Ruas de Zagrebe.
Zagreb Croatia.

One thing that surprised me was the theme of some museums in Zagreb.

In addition to the more or less common themes of other European cities, such as the city museum, the archeology museum, the chocolate museum or the ethnographic museum, there are other intriguing museums.

So, for a different experience, put the following museums on your list of places to visit in Zagreb:

Museum of Broken Relationships

The Museum of Broken Relationships is a unique and enigmatic institution located in Zagreb, Croatia.

It’s mission is to preserve the memories and artifacts of failed relationships and give visitors an intriguing glimpse into the human experience of love and loss.

The exhibitions range from personal and intimate pieces, such as love letters and photographs, to the most eccentric, such as a collection of commemorative key chains and other memorabilia. Each artifact is accompanied by a brief written description, providing context and information about the history of each item and the relationship it represents.

The museum was founded in 2006 by artists Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic, and has since grown to become one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

It’s an opportunity for visitors to reflect on their own experiences, and in addition, the museum often serves as a healing process for the people who donated the objects.

Address: Ćirilometodska ul. 2, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.

Zagreb 80’s Museum

The Zagreb 80’s Museum provides a nostalgic experience for visitors to the city.

The museum preserves and showcases the culture and everyday life of Zagreb in the 1980s. It is therefore a journey back in time, to the days of long hair, neon colors and new wave music.

Exhibits include clothing, furniture, and technology, as well as photographs and footage that give visitors a glimpse into everyday life at the time.

The museum also has several interactive exhibits that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the culture of the time, such as a recording studio where tourists can record their own songs in 80s style.

The museum was founded by a group of enthusiasts and collectors, who wanted to preserve and share the memories of their youth and the cultural heritage of the city.

Anyway, visiting this museum is a unique and fun way to get to know the history and culture of Zagreb in the 1980s.

Address: 1st floor, Radićeva 34, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.

Museum Of Selfie & Memories Zagreb

Museum Of Selfie & Memories Zagreb
Museum Of Selfie & Memories Zagreb.

The Museum of Selfie & Memories in Zagreb Croatia showcases the art of the selfie and the power of memories.

It has several exhibitions and installations that explore the social and cultural meaning of the selfie and its role in modern society.

The museum’s exhibits include antique cameras and allow visitors to take their own selfies, along with a wide range of frames, backdrops and props.

In addition, the museum also has a collection of historical and contemporary self-portraits from around the world, showing the evolution of the selfie throughout history.

That is, the museum’s mission is to explore the history, culture and psychology behind the selfie and how it became a part of our lives and how it changed the way we interact with others and remember our experiences. The museum also serves as a platform to showcase various photographers and their work.

Address: Radićeva ul. 14, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.

(Note: Museums in Croatia are usually closed on Sunday afternoon and all day on Monday.)

Dinamo Zagreb for football fans

Autobusni Kolodvor Zagreb (estação de autocarros).
Autobusni Kolodvor Zagreb (bus station in Zagreb).

Dinamo Zagreb is a professional football club based in Zagreb, Croatia and is one of the most successful and popular teams in the country.

Stadion Maksimir, the stadium where Dinamo Zagreb plays its home games, is located in the Maksimir Park of the city and boasts modern facilities

If you’re a football fan, visiting the Stadion Maksimir is a must-do in Zagreb to immerse yourself in the local football culture. Make sure to check the team’s schedule ahead of your trip.

Aside from attending a match, you can also take a tour of the stadium and get a behind-the-scenes look at its facilities, including the changing rooms, press room, and VIP areas. You will also learn about the club’s history and accomplishments.

The best way to reach Stadion Maksimir is by taking a bus or tram to the Maksimir station, which is a short walk away from the stadium. There is also an option to park for those who prefer to drive.

Accommodation in Zagreb

Apartments Lisinski em Zagrebe.
Apartments Lisinski.

When it comes to choosing hotel in Zagreb, first of all, you should keep in mind that the city is relatively small. This means, in practice, that the accommodations on the outskirts are “near” the center.

I usually prefer to pay extra to stay in the center of cities, however, in Zagreb I decided to stay on the outskirts and it went very well.

I stayed at Apartments Lisinski, a guest house run by a young couple with three children, about a 10-minute walk from Zagreb’s bus station. They were super friendly and helped us with local restaurant tips, which usually don’t appear in guidebooks. As they live close by, the logistics of handing over the apartment key was very easy.

The apartment has a kitchen and on the street there is a bakery/pastry shop that is a delight and is open from 6 am until around 10 pm. That is, every day we went to buy bread and cakes for breakfast.

In the kitchen there was also coffee, tea and sugar that were used in our breakfasts.

Honestly, when I return to Zagreb I will probably stay in this apartment again, however, if you want to check out other alternatives to stay overnight in the center of Zagreb, at the time I did the research Timeout Heritage Hotel Zagreb and Best Western Premier Hotel Astoria they looked very good to me.

If none of these suggestions appeal to you, then I suggest you check out the other accommodations in Zagreb below.

Itinerary for three days in Zagreb

O que visitar em Zagrebe: Parque Nacional dos Lagos de Plitvice.
Plitvice Lakes National Park.

If you’re visiting Zagreb for three days, I suggest dedicating two full days to exploring the historic center and its museums and green areas.

Day 1: Start by visiting Ban Jelačić Square, the Cathedral of Zagreb, and Ulica Ivana Tkalčića for lunch. In the afternoon, visit the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Day 2: Explore the Church of Saint Mark, the Stone Gate, and the Tunel Grič-Radićeva. In the afternoon, consider going to the Dinamo Zagreb stadium or the Museum of Selfies.

Day 3: Visit the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is a must-see attraction in the area.

If you have less than three days, consider taking a 2.5-hour guided guided tour of the city center, which covers the main tourist attractions and costs around €20.

How many days to see Zagreb?

AMZ - Archaelogical Museum in Zagreb.
AMZ – Archaelogical Museum in Zagreb.

Two to three days are usually sufficient to visit Zagreb, but the amount of time needed can vary depending on your interests.

My previous itinerary for three days covers the main attractions, but you may want to spend more time relaxing in the city’s parks or cafes if you have extra days. However, some attractions, such as the Cathedral and the Archaelogical Museum in Zagreb, may be temporarily closed for renovations.

Gastronomy and restaurants in Zagreb

Food is an important part of our travels, and I must say that Zagreb has become one of our favorite cities in Europe when it comes to gastronomy.

Generally speaking, the food is a bit on the heavy side, but as I visited Zagreb in winter, it tasted good. Also, the servings are big and the prices are acceptable.

Another thing it’s important to say is that in all the restaurants we went to, the bottles of soft drinks like coca cola, fanta and ice tea were small (250 ml) and costed the same as 500 ml of beer.

I should also mention that I asked for restaurant suggestions at the accommodation where I was staying, and are almost all located in the downtown area of the city, that is, outside the tourist areas.

If you prefer to order food to be delivered to your accommodation, both Globo and Wolf are operating in Zagreb.

So here are some suggestions for restaurants in Zagreb.

Tajer Restoran

Restaurante em Zagrebe.
Restaurant in Zagreb: Tajer.

Tajer is an upscale restaurant serving traditionally inspired food with a twist.

We started the meal with PLATA SIREVA (cheese selection), then the delicious DOMAĆA PATKA S RAŽNJA, MLINCI (duck confit) and MEDALJONI ZAPEČENI MOZZARELLOM U TAMNOM UMAKU, POPEČCI OD KRUMPIRA (pork medallions).

Of course, there was no appetite left for desserts, but it was an excellent introduction to the cuisine and flavors of Croatia.

Sofra Restaurant

Another suggestion is Sofra, an eastern European food restaurant that unfortunately we didn’t get to try because it was full. So if you decide to go there, make a reservation in advance.

But I’ll tell you one thing, I wanted to cry when the employee told us that he didn’t accept more people, because the aroma in that restaurant was divine!

We left Sofra very upset, but found another restaurant not far away.

Restaurant & Bar Piccolo

Restaurante italiano em Zagreb.
Italian restaurant in Zagreb Croatia.

Restaurant & Bar Piccolo is an Italian restaurant usually frequented by Croatians, that is, they don’t even have a menu in English. When we entered the restaurant, everyone was looking at us, because it’s one of those neighborhood restaurants that only the locals know about.

In any case, the food was delicious and the employee made an effort to explain the dishes to choose from.

These restaurants are a bit far from the center, but if you are looking for options in the center of Zagreb, I can only recommend Nokturno, which was the only one I tried.

Nokturno Restoran

Nokturno Zagreb.
Where to eat in Zagreb: Nokturno Zagreb.

Nokturno Restoran is a restaurant for tourists, with a menu that is too long. We chose the cheese and sausage board to start, and then the ribs and chicken fillet with mushroom sauce.

The food was good, the portions were huge and the prices acceptable, but there were so many people that it took a long time to bring the food. That is, after the starters, and as we waited a long time, we didn’t feel like to eat anything else.

But if you want to try different traditional foods, you can take a gastronomic tour in Zagreb, which can go through six restaurants and cost about €59.

Do I need travel insurance for Zagreb?

Monument of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Monument of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Although it is not mandatory for most of european citizens to take out travel insurance to travel to Croatia, I recommend that you do.

This is because travel insurance prices are so affordable that it makes no sense to risk your health. I personaly use IATI Travel Insurance and I recomend it without reservations.

If everything goes well during the trip, you don’t need travel insurance, but if you get sick or fall and hurt yourself, you just need to call the insurance company and they will indicate where you will be attended to.

You don’t need to worry about speaking a foreign language in a stressful situation (they speak english), nor do you need to pay for the on-site consultation and then ask for a refund.

It is really very comfortable for a very low price!

Get your travel insurance here (European Countries | Rest of The World).

How does public transport work in Zagreb?

ZET - Zagreb Electric Tram (elétrico).
ZET – Zagreb Electric Tram.

The ZET (Zagreb Electric Tram) is the surface tram and runs from 4 am until midnight. However, between midnight and 4 am there are night buses that make more or less the same route.

In total there are 15 ZET lines that connect different areas of the city of Zagreb and tickets can be bought at the automatic machines next to the stations, but when getting on the tram you have to validate it.

Buses are the most convenient way to get around Zagreb. There are 129 lines, meaning you can go anywhere. Bus tickets can be bought at kiosks or directly from the driver, in the latter case the price is a little more expensive.

In addition, taxis are very popular and there is competition between them, meaning that it is sometimes cheaper for a group of 3 or 4 people to use a taxi instead of a bus. There is no Uber but there is Bold in Zagreb.

Anyway, I still think that walking is the best way to get to know a city, and in Zagreb you can perfectly walk.

But if you go outside Zagreb, for example to Plitvice Lakes, Trieste, Ljubljana, Pula or Zadar, the cheapest way is the Flixbus.

Rent a car and drive in Croatia!

Autocarros Flixbus na Croácia.
Flixbus in Croatia.

Although taking the bus is convenient and cheap in Croatia, if you prefer to visit places at your own pace, then renting a car may be a good idea.

To see car rental prices in Zagreb, you can do a quote on a website such as Discovercars, but keep in mind that the earlier you book, the lower the prices you may find.

To rent a car in Croatia, you will need a credit card. If you plan to cross the border into Slovenia, Hungary, or Austria, it is advisable to notify the car rental company in advance to ensure that your car insurance is in order.

The traffic rules in Croatia are similar to those in Europe, but you should still take the following into account:

  • It is recommended to drive with the headlights on low beam 24 hours a day, but it is mandatory to do so between the last Sunday in October and the last Sunday in March.
  • Pay attention to blood alcohol limits while driving, as rates above 0.05% can result in a fine and the revocation of your driver’s license.
  • Also be mindful of speed limits, which are 50 km/h in towns, 130 km/h on motorways, and 90-110 km/h on other roads, unless otherwise indicated.
  • The police have the authority to collect traffic fines on the spot and seize your driver’s license until the fine is paid.
  • The motorways have tolls that can be paid with cash or an ATM card when you pass through the gate.

Where is Zagreb and how to get there?

Glavni kolodvor: estação de comboios em Zagrebe.
Glavni kolodvor: train station in Zagreb.

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and is located in the northwestern part of the country. It is bordered by Slovenia to the north and northwest, Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the southeast, and Montenegro to the south.

The city is well connected to various European capitals by air. Popular airlines such as Croatia Airlines, Lufthansa, and Air France offer non-stop flights from cities including London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and Rome. These flights usually take 2-3 hours.

Zagreb’s main airport, Franjo Tuđman International Airport (ZAG), is located about 10 km from the city center. From the airport, travelers can reach the city center by public transportation, including bus number 290 to Heinzelova and then tram number 2 to Glavni Kolodvor station. This trip can take over an hour and costs approximately €0.93.

Another option is the Croatia Airlines shuttle, which directly connects the airport to Autobusni Kolodvor Zagreb in about 30 minutes, but costs around €6. This option is more convenient, but also more expensive.

Travel tips tips you need to know before traveling to Zagreb

Air Croatia Shuttle.
Air Croatia Shuttle.

There is free wi-fi in Zagreb, to use it you just need to connect to the Grad Zagreb network.

The word “tie” has Croatian origins, and the oldest shop in operation is Kravata Zagreb.

Since January 2023, Croatia has joined the Euro, that is, payments are easier for European Countries. The Revolut card works and is accepted in most tourist places in Croatia, both for card payments and for withdrawing money from ATMs.

People are very kind and even those who don’t speak English will try to help. Zagreb is a safe city with surveillance cameras in the center and surroundings of Zagreb.

There are many families walking their dogs in the parks, even after dark, which helps to create an environment of trust and safety.

Many people travel by bicycle, even to go shopping or transport small children.

The main supermarkets in Zagreb are from the Spar and Konzum chains, and they are open from 7 am to 9 or 10 pm. The prices practiced in supermarkets are reasonable. Plastic and paper shopping bags are usually free.

If you like to shop while traveling, traditional souvenirs can be found in the tourist shops in the upper town, but for clothes, wallets and other items, it’s best to browse the shops in the lower town.

Please remeber that prices in the lower city, which is less touristy, are usually cheaper, including restaurants.

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