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The Perfect Zagreb itinerary - best things to do

Updated: 5 days ago


view of Zagreb

Zagreb, Croatia's capital city,  is in the North of the country set between the Sava River and the slopes of the Medvednica Mountain. It is an interesting mix of history and culture with a modern flair. This is a great place to get to know Croatia, its culture, history, food and people. In this post we will go over all the ins and outs of visiting Zagreb including logistics, what to see, when to go and more.


Is Zagreb Worth Visiting?

The answer is an absolute yes! Zagreb is a city that should be on every traveler's bucket list. It has an atmosphere that is inviting and exciting and it offers something for everyone. Intriguing history, beautiful buildings and architectural wonders, a thriving culinary scene, opportunities for outdoor adventures, festivals, museums, and galleries are all available here. I feel like Zagreb often gets overlooked as Croatia is so full of amazing sights and cities but Zagreb is definitely deserving of your time as well.


Zagreb cemetery

A little history

The oldest known settlement in the area was the Roman settlement of Andautonia dating back to the 1st century. In the 11th century there were two separate towns: Kaptol, the ecclesiastical settlement inhabited mostly by clergy and housing the Zagreb cathedral, and Gradec, the secular town inhabited mostly by tradespeople and merchants. There were disputes between these settlements through the years resulting in the clergy in Kaptol excommunicating the citizens of Gradec twice. There were also massacres of the citizens as well as destruction of property. These two settlements gradually grew and in 1850 they were merged forming the city we know today. Throughout its history, Zagreb has endured numerous invasions, wars, and occupations, each leaving an mark on its architecture and culture. Luckily, it was able to escape the Croatian war of independence in the early 1990s without major damage. 


St. Mark's church Zagreb

Best time to visit Zagreb

Zagreb is a city that offers something for visitors throughout the year. The spring and fall seasons are particularly lovely, with mild temperatures and fewer crowds, making it an ideal time to visit. The average high in April is mid 60s and in May is mid 70s. In September the average temperature is in the 70s and October is in the 60s.


Summer in Zagreb is definitely when most of the visitors come making it busier, but not as mobbed by tourists as the Dalmation coast in the south of the country. Average temperatures in the summer months are in the mid 80s. There are several festivals that take place in the summer such as the famous Zagreb Summer Evenings Festival, which showcases a diverse mix of performances, concerts, and exhibitions.


Zagreb does get snow in the winter but the average temperatures, even in December and January, aren't bitter. The average high in December and January is around 40 degrees. Christmas is a fun time to be in the city as it is known for its festivities. The city is decorated with fairy lights and the annual Advent in Zagreb Christmas market is one of the best in Europe. This creates a magical atmosphere which is the perfect place to celebrate the holidays. 


Christmas in Zagreb

How Many Days in Zagreb?

You will be able to get a good taste of Zagreb and see most of its main tourists attractions in 2 days. With extra time consider staying for another day or two to explore a few of the wonderful day trips that are accessible from the city. In this Zagreb travel guide we will go over an itinerary for 1, 2 and 3 days


Main square Zagreb

Getting there

By air

Zagreb is easily accessible from various parts of Europe and beyond. The Zagreb airport, Franjo Tuđman Airport, serves as a major hub for both domestic and international flights. From North America the only non-stop flight is a seasonal flight from Toronto. The airport has a shuttle taking passengers into the main bus station in the city center. It runs every thirty minutes and costs 8 EUROS.


By train

Zagreb's main train station, Glavni Kolod is well connected to many European destinations making it an easy ride to reach the city. Once you arrive at the train station you will be close to all the sights but if you don't want to walk hop on tram #6 which passes the main square.


art pavilion Zagreb

By bus

Zagreb has an efficient bus system making it easy to find a bus to Zagreb from many places. Tram #6 will take you to Zagreb's main square.


By car

Croatia is a relatively easy place to drive, with a well maintained highway system. You will be fine driving in Zagreb as well except for the main tourist areas where you can just park your car and walk.


Getting around

Once in Zagreb, navigating the city is a breeze thanks to its efficient public transportation system, which includes trams, buses, and taxis. The public transportation is called ZET. You can buy a ticket ahead of time from a tobacco stand. There is one on almost every street corner. You can also buy one directly on board the tram or bus. If you buy one on board they are slightly more expensive. If you get one ahead of time make sure you stamp it as you enter the vehicle. There are stamping machines at the front and back of the tram or bus. 


Most of the main sights in Zagreb are within walking distance so you may not need to use the public transportation system. . 


Zagreb one day itinerary

One day is not much time in this historic city but if that is all you have you will still be able to get a good taste of its offerings.  Zagreb is split into upper town and lower town. The two are connected by the world's shortest funicular that takes less than a minute. Zagreb's Upper town (Gradec or Gornji Grad) is where you will find most of the historic and religious sights with lower town housing the museums and theaters. Start your day wandering the historic streets of Upper town. 


national theater zagreb

One of the best places to begin your on your first day in Zagreb is at the Zagreb Cathedral. Also known as the Cathedral of St. Stephen or the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this church towers majestically over Kaptol Square. The Zagreb Cathedral has stood as a symbol of the city's religious and cultural heritage for centuries. It is the second tallest building in Croatia and its two towers which are 341 feet high are landmarks of the city as they are visible from many parts of Zagreb. One of the towers was damaged in an earthquake in 2020. Construction of this iconic Gothic cathedral began in the 13th century, and it underwent numerous renovations and expansions over the years, resulting in a blend of architectural styles. When the Ottomans invaded in the 15th century, fortification walls were built around the cathedral. Some of these can still be seen. The cathedral has witnessed numerous important events throughout Croatia's history, including the coronation of several Croatian kings and the burial of prominent figures. Admission is free, but there is an extra cost for guided tours or access to specific areas such as the Treasury. Right now the Zagreb Cathedral is closed for restoration. 


Zagreb cathedral

Just a short walk from the Cathedral is the famous red umbrellas of Dolac market. This is Zagreb's main open-air farmer's market. Traders from all over Croatia come here to sell their fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, cheese, pasta, sweets and other local products. You can also find souvenirs, flowers and other goods as well. It is open daily from the morning to early afternoon. Hours vary so check that out before you go. The red umbrellas covering the stalls have become an iconic symbol of the city.and one of its most recognizable landmarks. 


Dolac market

After you have explored the market, take a stroll on Tkalciceva street or Ulica Ivana Tkalčića. This is a beautiful street that is lined with shops, cafes, restaurants and boutiques. It is a great spot to do some shopping or grab a snack. At the turn of the 20th century prostitution was legal and this street was actually the center of the red light district. Brothels were located up and down this street. They were not allowed to advertise but could place an uncommon color of lantern outside. The brothels continued in this area up until WWII. 


Street in Zagreb

St. Mark's square and the iconic St Mark's church. The square holds important government buildings such as the seat of the government of Croatia, the seat of Croatian Parliament as well as the Constitutional Court of Croatia and the Old City Hall. In the centre of the square lies the famous St. Mark's church with its distinctive tiled roof. The roof, which is known as the "Croatian Roof," was constructed using over 16,000 tiles. They were meticulously arranged to create the medieval coats of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, Slavonia, and the City of Zagreb. St. Mark's Church is one of the oldest architectural buildings in Zagreb. Built in the 13th century in the Romanesque style, this church has been altered throughout its history blending different architectural elements and styles. The Gothic portal has 15 effigies placed in 11 niches. This church is one of the well known symbols of the city. It is free to enter.


Church of St. Mark

The Museum of Broken Relationships is a quirky museum that presents a thought-provoking collection of stories and memorabilia exploring love, loss, and the universal human experience of heartbreak. This unusual museum houses a vast collection of personal objects donated by individuals from around the world, each accompanied by a poignant story of a relationship that has ended. Items range from everyday items to more unusual ones but each is accompanied by someones real experience with lost love. Admission is around 7 EURO


Lotrscak Tower is a 13th century tower that was built to guard the southern gate of Gradec town. The tower lost its function in the 16th century when there was no longer a threat of a Turkish attack. In the centuries that followed the tower was used for various purposes such as storage, houses, and a coffee house. At the end of the 19th century a cannon was installed. Every day at noon it would be fired so all the church bell ringers could set the correct time. The cannon is still fired every day at noon. The first floor now houses a gift shop. The second and third floors house a gallery and the top floor offers an observation deck with great views. It is closed on Mondays but is open usually until 8 every other day. It cost 3Euro to go to the top. 


Zagreb tower

Grič Tunnel is a group of underground tunnels located in the city centre. It was built in WWII to serve as a bomb shelter and a promenade.The tunnels span almost 1200 feet and consist of 6 passageways.  It fell into disrepair after the war but was remodeled in 2016 and now serves as a tourist attraction. It also hosts cultural events.  


Zagreb itinerary - 2 days

On your second day, take the quick funicular ride to the lower town. Known locally as "the old lady", this funicular was the first means of public transport in the city. Beginning in the 1890s, the funicular has been transporting visitors and citizens from the upper town to the lower town in under a minute. Originally powered by steam engines that were not reliable, it wasn't uncommon for passengers to have to get out and push the carts. This earned it the nickname Stucker. Luckily, the steam engines were replaced by electric engines in 1934. The rides depart every 10 minutes and run from 6:30am to 10:00pm. The cost is about a EURO.


Zagreb funicular

Ban Jelačić Square, often referred to as the heart of Zagreb, is a bIt ustling central square that serves as the most popular meeting point and a hub of activity. This lively square is surrounded by impressive architectural landmarks, cafes, and shops, making it a great option to soak in the city's vibrant atmosphere.The square has been a gathering place for locals and visitors alike since the 17th century and has witnessed numerous historical events and demonstrations throughout Zagreb's history. It features a prominent equestrian statue of Ban Josip Jelačić, a revered Croatian military leader and ban (viceroy) of Croatia, who played a pivotal role in the country's history. Ban Jelacic Square is pedestrianized but is the main hub for the tram line. During Christmas it is decorated with numerous trees and lights making it a fun place for the holidays. 


Main Zagreb square

The lower town is home to the "green horseshoe". This is a U-shaped route of city squares and green spaces that pass by many of the main attractions. After visiting Ban Jelacic Square, head to the art pavillionEstablished in 1898, it is the oldest art gallery in Southeast Europe. It does not have a permanent display only housing rotating exhibits and has displayed over 700 exhibits. Admission price varies depending on the exhibit.


Directly in front of the Art pavilion is King Tomislav Square. This square commemorates the first king of Croatia who was crowned in 925​There is a pretty grassy area to relax and have a rest. The Glovni Kolod or main central train station of Zagreb is located at the end on this square. This historic building was built in 1892.


art pavillion

The Botanical gardens of the faculty of Science at the University of Zagreb was founded in 1889 by a professor at the University. It first opened to the public a few years later in 1891. It covers 12 acres and has 10,000 plant species. It is free to wander around this gorgeous garden but it is closed during the winter. There are also guided tours available. 


botanical gardens

The Nicholas Tesla Technical museum  is another wonderful museum available. This museum opened to the public in 1963. It features a one thousand foot underground recreation of a coal mine, a recreation of Tesla's laboratory and a planetarium. Cost of admission is around 5 EUROS. It is open from 10- 8 every day except on Mondays when it closes at 6:00.


The Croatian National Theatrecommonly known as HNK Zagreb is a magnificent neo-baroque building that serves as the home of opera, drama, and ballet performances. This cultural institution is a true architectural gem that has graced the city since 1895. The theatre's auditorium features an intricate ceiling fresco depicting allegorical figures and scenes from Croatian history and mythology, painted by renowned Croatian artists.Ticket prices vary based on the performance, ranging from approximately 50 to 200 Croatian Kuna ($7 to $30 USD). You can also go on tours of the theater. The one hour tours are guided by actors. You get to see hidden passages, the auditorium, the stage, the royal box, costume workshops, ballet studios and more. The tours cost 8 EURO and you can get tickets at the box office. 


Zagreb national theater

The Mimara museum is located in a Neo-classical former school. This is the private art collection of Ante Topic Mimara, who donated almost 4000 works of art to Zagreb. The collection spans thousands of years and includes pieces from all over the world. Glassware from Alexandria, Jade from the Qing dynasty and paintings from the masters such as Renoir and Degas are all included in this museum. Closed on Mondays it cost 5 EUROs


Mimara museum

If you have time there are a couple other amazing sites to see in Zagreb. The first is Mirogoj Cemetery. Mirogoj Cemetery is a renowned necropolis that showcases beautiful funerary architecture and serves as a stunning open-air museum. Established in the late 19th century, this vast cemetery features elaborate tombs, sculptures, and intricate metalwork. Mirogoj Cemetery is the final resting place of many notable Croatians, including artists, writers, politicians, and influential figures who have shaped the nation's history.The cemetery's arcades, designed in the Neo-Renaissance style, stretch for over 1.5 kilometers and are adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures. It is free to enter. To get there you will probably want to take public transportation or drive. If you want to walk it will take about an hour. Driving will take 10 minutes and public transportation will take about 30 minutes. To get there with public transportation you can either take the 201 bus from the Kaptol bus station to the Srebrnjak stop or the 14 tram from Trg J. Jelačića station to Radić. šetalište station. 


Zagreb cemetery

South of the city center, Jarun lake is a great way to get out of the bustling city and enjoy nature. The lake is part of the Jarun sports and leisure center where you can run, bike, paddle, swim, sail, and row. There are also football courts, outdoor gyms, tennis and squash courts, a running track, dozens of outdoor ping-pong tables, and even a horse-riding plot. One side of the lake is for swimming and the other for paddling, rowing and sailing. Tram 17 can take you from Vodnikova stop to Vrbani. Just be aware though that the park is huge so you may still have to walk once you get there. If you have a car it is a 20 minute drive. 


Zagreb itinerary - 3 days

With another day in this gorgeous areas, one of the best things is a day trip to the surrounding area. There are plenty to choose from. 

Located an hour drive from Zagreb is Varaždin. Often referred to as "Little Vienna,"Varazdin is a charming Baroque town that exudes an air of elegance and history. Strolling through the picturesque Old Town, admiring the well-preserved palaces, churches, and 16th century fortifications is the best way to enjoy this town.Don't miss the iconic Varaždin Citadel, a magnificent fortress that now houses a museum and offers stunning views of the city. You can take the train from the main station in Zagreb to Varazdin which takes 2 hours. 


varazdin croatia

Samobor is approximately a 30-minute drive from Zagreb. This quaint town is a popular day trip destination for its charming historical center, traditional architecture, and vibrant cultural scene. Wander through the narrow streets, admire the colorful houses adorned with intricate floral motifs, and indulge in the local cuisine, including the famous Samobor cream cakes (kremšnite). The bus company samoborcek runs buses between Samobor and Zagreb regularly. 


Samobor

The Zagorje region, renowned for its picturesque landscapes, offers a delightful escape into the heart of Croatian countryside. Located an hour from Zagreb, this area is full of quaint villages dotted with vineyards and rolling hills. There are a few castles to enjoy in this area as well. Veliki Tabor Castle, a beautifully preserved medieval fortress. Trakošćan Castle is perched atop a hill and surrounded by a picturesque lake and beautiful forests. It is a remarkably well-preserved 13th century castle offering visitors a glimpse into the lives of Croatian nobility. This area is going to be more difficult to explore without a car. If you don't want to rent a car your best option would be to hire a private driver or local guide. 


Croatian countryside

Whether you have a short time in Zagreb or you slow traveling, you will not be disappointed with all it has to offer. Beautiful parks, cobblestone streets, gorgeous architecture, picturesque squares and fascinating museums are all available in the Croatian capital. 


Ready to travel to Zagreb? Contact us at eurotravelsbydesign@gmail.com and we will custom design the perfect itinerary for you.


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