Top 15 Best Things To See and Do In Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb, a vibrant city full of surprises. While Dubrovnik, Split and Hvar have become popular Croatian destinations with their beaches and promenades lining the Adriatic Sea, the inland city of Zagreb is often overlooked which is a shame. Here’s why –
Firstly, Croatia is affordable. Although a member of the European Union, it has remained on the Croatian Kuna (HRK, HRN, Kn) although that will change beginning 2023 when it will transition to the Euro. Exactly what effect that will have on affordability is yet to be seen, but with wages in Croatia lagging behind many other European countries, it is likely to remain an affordable destination. So, what is there to do in Zagreb? Plenty!
Ride Zagreb’s ZET (Zagreb Electric Tram)
Although being the largest city in Croatia, Zagreb is exceptionally easy to navigate. The Zagreb Electric Tram (ZET) is an efficient and cost effective transportation system.
Multiple fare options are available from 30 minute to multi-day passes. Paper tickets can be purchased at any TSAT kiosk found around the city, but remember to validate your ticket once you step on to the tram and keep it with you. Inspectors routinely check passengers for validated tickets and if you can’t show one, the fines can be quite steep ranging from 500 HRK to 800 HRK. Being a tourist is not considered an excuse!
Tip: We found the Day Ticket (30,00 HRK) the best option if we were going to be exploring the city for the entire day. If only going into the city centre for dinner or to shop for a few hours, the 30-minute paper ticket was the best option at a cost of 4,00 HRK. We typically bought ten 30 minute tickets to carry with us.
Feel The Pulse Of Zagreb’s Ban Jelačić Square
Ban Jelačić Square has been Zagreb’s main marketplace since 1641. On the eastern end of the Square you will find the Manduševac Fountain, the namesake of Zagreb.
Today, it is the dividing point between the Upper Town (Zagreb’s historic old town section) and Lower Town (Zagreb’s commercial section). By day the Square is the city’s commercial heart …
… but at night it stands at the centre of Zagreb’s social life with the two most popular meeting points being “under the clock” or “under the horse’s tail” referring to the statue of Ban Jelačić.
Take The Funicular To Zagreb’s Old Town
Situated a short walk from Ban Jelačić Square, Zagreb’s Funicular may be the world’s shortest funicular, but at only 5 HRK it’s a fun ride!
Visit Zagreb’s Saint Mark’s Church
Famous for its tile roof, Saint Mark’s Church was constructed in 1880 by Fredrich Schmidt and Herman Belle. The medieval coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia can be seen on the left side and the emblem of Zagreb on the right side.
View Zagreb’s Stone Gate and Virgin Mary Shrine
The only remaining entrance of Zagreb’s old fortifications is the Stone Gate built in the 13th century. It was originally one of the four main gates leading into the town. A great fire in 1731 destroyed the wooden gate with the exception of a painting of the Virgin Mary and Child which is now a shrine.
According to legend, the painting possesses miraculous powers. Although a popular attraction, always remember to be respectful, it’s not uncommon to see people lighting candles and praying in the pews facing the shrine. The square stone slabs surrounding the shrine are engraved with praise to the Virgin Mary.
Visit Zagreb’s Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Contruction of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary began in the 13th century. On 9 November 1880, an earthquake caused severe damage to the Cathedral and stopped its wooden clock at 7 hours, 3 minutes and 3 seconds. It continues to show the time the earthquake struck 142 years later.
The Cathedral again sustained damage in another earthquake that took place on 22 March, 2020. While the Cathedral continues to be under renovation, it gives an opportunity to get a closer view of one of the damaged spires.
View Zagreb’s Statue of the Holy Mary
With the four angels symbolizing the virtues of Faith, Hope, Innocence and Humility the Statue of the Holy Mary stands majestically in front of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Go Back In Time At Zagreb’s Black Eagle Pharmacy
Located at Kamenita ul. 9 in a small building next to the Stone Gate, the Black Eagle Pharmacy has been in constant operation since 1355 and is one of the oldest in Europe.
While the exterior has been renovated several times (the last renovation being in 1823) …
the interior is preserved in as close to its original form as possible.
Visit Zagreb’s Dolac Markets
Located just off Ban Jelačić Square, the popular indoor/outdoor market features fresh produce and flowers. Known for the myriad of stalls sheltered by red umbrellas, the Dolac Market has been a favorite of locals for over 80 years.
Early morning is the best time to enjoy the market while vendors are busy before the temperatures rise. Enjoy a cup of coffee while people watching!
Explore Zagreb’s Grič Tunnels
Zagreb has a large network of underground tunnels many of which remain unknown even to locals. The Grič Tunnel which recently opened to visitors was built in 1943 as an air-raid shelter. It once more served as a shelter during the Croatian War of Independence from 1991 – 1995.
Entrance is free. Located at Radićeva ul. 2 just off Mesnička Street.
Enjoy Zagreb’s Green Spaces
Zagreb is consistently rated one of the greenest cities in Europe and with over 30 parks within walking distance from just about anywhere in the city. Among the highlights is Lenuci’s Horseshoe, a series of seven interconnected parks designed by the 19th century urban planner Milan Lenuci.
For an amazing panoramic vista, walk along the winding shaded path next to the Lotrščak Tower located in the Upper Old Town to the small charming park overlooking the city below. While it may appear unassuming, the park is actually steeped in history as well as being an archaeological site where the remains of a medieval defense wall and palace were excavated. It is also anchored by the now abandoned Hydrometerological Institute building where in 1910, Andrija Mohorovičić, a world-renowned researcher discovered the layer between the Earth’s crust and mantel that causes earthquakes.
Browse Zagreb’s Flea Markets
The Britanski Trg Flea Market opens every Sunday with vendors displaying collectibles, antiques and primitives. Located on Ilica Street a few blocks west of Ban Jelačić Square.
While the Britanski Flea Market is only open one day a week, local vendors selling everything from books and jewelry to former Soviet and Yugoslavian military medals can be found everyday among Zagreb’s street flea markets. Prices are negotiable so don’t hesitate bargain!
Take A Leisurely Walk Through Zagreb’s Mirogoj City Cemetery
Among the most beautiful cemetery parks in Europe, Zagreb’s Mirogoj Cemetery is situated on the slopes of the Medvednica Mountain. The nondenominational cemetery encompasses all religions: Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant and Latter Day Saints. It’s exterior resembles a fortress intertwined with rich vegetation …
… but once inside you will find a beautiful park filled with majestic sculptures and domed arcades.
Explore Zagreb’s Architecture
Influenced for over 900 years by both east and west, Zagreb features a blend of contemporary, classical, brutalist, eccentric and esoteric architecture all coming together to make it a delight to explore.
Zagreb’s Art Pavilion, established in 1898, is the oldest gallery in Southeast Europe. Although temporarily closed due to damage from the 2020 earthquake, the Pavilion remains a beautiful example of Art Nouveau architecture. Located at Kralja Tomislava trg directly across from the Zagreb Central Station.
Opened in 1895, the Croatian National Theatre, home to Zagreb’s opera and ballet, is well worth a visit if for nothing more than its Baroque Revival Architecture.
The Contemporary Architecture of the University of Zagreb’s Academy of Music stands in stark contrast to the Art Nouveau, Neoclassical and Baroque styles of the surrounding structures. A reminder that Zagreb, while proud of its history, is committed to the its future.
The Meštrović Pavilion, built in 1938, is an example of Stripped Classicism. Located on Žrtava Fašizma Square (the Square of the Victims of Fascism), it serves as the home of the Croatian Association of Fine Artists.
Throughout Zagreb, you will find examples of Brutalist Architecture popular during the Socialist era. Yet, behind the seemingly neglected facades lie beautifully renovated apartments and lush gardens in the middle of a busy city.
Where and What To Eat In Zagreb
From street food to Michelin starred restaurants, Zagreb offers a little bit of everything.
Start the morning with a robust cup of Italian espresso or cappuccino. Add a freshly baked pastry from a local boulangerie and your day will begin perfectly!
Craving a hamburger? Good Food, located at ul. Nikole Tesle 7, has some of the best comfort foods in Zagreb. Order the Double Trouble and you will be in hamburger heaven! But don’t expect ‘fast food’, everything is fresh and made to order.
Franko’s Pizza & Bar is a pizza lovers haven. Located at Branimirova ul. 71a, Franko’s has been awarded Top Pizza In Croatia in both 2021 and 2022 as well as being recognized as one of the Top 50 Pizzerias in Europe two years in a row. One bite of their brick oven pizzas will have you convinced why Franko’s continues to receive awards after awards.
Take an evening stroll on Tkalčićeva Street, sit and enjoy a cocktail at the History Bar & Club and then decide what you want for dinner at the myriad of outdoor restaurants. Located in Zagreb’s Upper Old Town just above the Ban Jelačić Square, this is one of the most popular areas for locals to congregate in the evenings.
Who doesn’t like desert? And, even if you don’t, you will be hard pressed to pass up the selection at Slastičarnica Zagreb. Located at Masarykova 4, this pastry shop has been serving delectable creations since 1950.
Flying Into Zagreb
Zagreb’s International Franjo Tuđman Airport Terminal, opened in March 2017, is sleek, modern and exceptionally well designed.
Situated n Velika Gorica, just 10 km (6 miles) south-east of Zagreb’s Central Station, several transportation options are available for getting into the city.
The Airport Shuttle service runs from 04:30 to 22:30 and takes you to the Zagreb city centre, stopping at the Zagreb Bus Station. A one-way ticket is 30,00 HRK and can be purchased online.
ZET ELECTRIC BUS
Zet Electric Bus (Line 290) stops at 20 stations on the way to Zagreb’s city centre. It departs every 35 minutes, Mondays to Saturdays from 04:20 am to 00:15 am and Sundays from 05:20 am to 00:15 am. A one-way ticket costs around 6,00 HRK, depending on your final destination.
Uber is a great option. Fares are around 100 HRK depending on your destination. Download the Uber App here.
Four taxi companies are authorized to serve the airport and can be identified by a yellow sign. One way fares average between 150 HRK to 250 HRK and are more expensive in the evening, on Sundays and holidays.