When you think of a European vacation, I kind of doubt Zagreb, Croatia is the first destination that pops into your mind. Well, I’m here to tell you why it should! Croatia is a stunning country overall and much of the tourists’ attention goes to the famous Dalmatian Coast. These are the 10 best things to do in Zagreb, the nation’s capitol.
While I highly recommend going to Croatia for its coastline (more on that to come on the blog,) you may find yourself road tripping or planning an itinerary and wondering what more you could see of Croatia. There are a few reasons why Zagreb might be a good stop for you.
For one, it’s much cheaper than the Dalmation Coast. Croatia overall is considered a more inexpensive tourist destination than most of Western Europe. However, the coast can get just as pricey as somewhere like its neighbor across the sea, Italy. So, spending a few days in Zagreb can really be cost-effective.
The other bonus to Zagreb is that it’s nowhere near as touristy as other major European cities! If you’re someone who likes to seek out the authentic local culture of a place, then Zagreb is for you.
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Tips for Visiting Zagreb
Before I introduce the ten best things to do in Zagreb, I wanted to share a couple of tips for those traveling to the city!
- I highly recommend opting for apartment rentals through Booking.com or Airbnb when visiting Zagreb, as a lot of places are super inexpensive!
- Keep in mind that Zagreb isn’t a huge city, so your best option is going to be walking! Just make sure to wear comfortable shoes and light clothes, especially for the summer.
- Croatia’s currency is the kuna. Most places take cards but have a bit of cash in the local currency on you just in case.
And if you’re looking for some Europe budget travel tips you can apply to Zagreb, check out my budget-busting mistakes to avoid when traveling Europe.
Here are the ten best things to do in Zagreb for the perfect visit.
Visit the Cathedral
I don’t think any trip to a European city is complete until you have seen its cathedral.
Archaic churches can be found from the tiniest of towns to the biggest cities. They are often the centerpiece of a city and that is no different in Zagreb.
The Cathedral is tucked uphill from the main square off of a beautiful, cozy street with a sprawling plaza in front of it.
You couldn’t enter the Cathedral because one of its spires was damaged in a recent earthquake (March 2020.) But it’s certainly something you cannot miss seeing, even from just the outside, when visiting Zagreb.
I fell even more in love with Zagreb & its cathedral because I could see it from my window! For that reason, I loved the Airbnb where I stayed, only a few minutes walk from the center.
Stroll Around the Ben Jelačić Square
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who can’t pronounce those accents! I always find it so much more overwhelming when I’m in a country where I can’t make out anything of their language!
But it also just makes the whole experience more exciting and eye-opening to be in a place so different from your usual bubble!
Anyways, be sure to visit the main square in Zagreb. It’s quite large and can be more hectic towards the evening time when the temperature has cooled during the summer and the locals have all come out to stroll the city.
I found it to be quite hectic even during the day time because of Zagreb’s public transportation. Blue trams take people all over the city, right alongside the cars on the street and you can simply cross the tracks whenever you need! Definitely stay attentive to those when you are walking around Zagreb!
Anyways, the main square is like the busy downtown section of the city with quite a lot of stores and restaurants. As you walk further from the square, you see the quieter residential streets that are most of what the city is made up of.
Walk the Parks of the Lower Town
Which brings me to my next thing to do in Zagreb, which is to walk the areas of the Lower Town.
Zagreb is divided into an Upper and Lower Town. The Upper Town is more historic and it is in fact, upper! Meaning it’s the half of Zagreb that sits on a hill.
The Lower Town is more residential, streets lined with apartment buildings and small shops plus some beautiful parks.
I was so impressed and stunned by how beautiful the parks were. Zagreb actually has a lot of parks, but the must do is to stroll along the three main parks – Zrinjevac, Strossmayer Square and Tomislavac.
They are back to back and house some stunning buildings and squares, including the Art Pavilion of Zagreb. There are many benches and pathways to sit and stroll alongside the locals.
Eat Local Croatian Food
Can you really go to a new country and not at least try their food? Yes, they do have McDonald’s in case Croatian food is not your thing, but even as a picky eater myself I knew I had to try a dish!
Lots of Croatian food is seafood, which is not really up my ally, but I opted to try Punjena – ground beef steak, stuffed with cheese, with flatbread and onion.
It seemed like a fairly safe option to me, and thank god it was delicious!
The flatbread was especially amazing, so if you have time to visit a bakery in Croatia, I highly recommend it.
Enjoy the Botanical Gardens of Zagreb
The Botanical Gardens of Zagreb were a completely wonderful surprise as I walked and explored the city! Located in the lower town is this oasis of greenery and lush forest.
Also should I mention it’s completely free!
If you’re a budget traveler trying to see as much a city can offer, free activities are always the best activities!
I highly recommend a visit to soak in nature in the middle of the city and reset from the stress of travel. You don’t have to believe my word here that the gardens are gorgeous, the photos speak for themselves!
Walk on Up to Upper Town (Or Take the Funicular)
One thing you are going to do in Zagreb a lot is walk. Mainly because it’s a very walkable city. Secondly, because parking around the city is just not a solid option (even if you found parking, you’d still be doing a lot of walking).
The good thing is walking will give you some unexpectedly stunning views when you trek to the Upper Town. It is a bit of a hike if you’re down for that, but it’s scenic and cute and you end up at a beautiful view over the city!
Your other option is to take the funicular (something I only noticed after I had made it to the top of the hill, oh well.) The funicular is a little moving car that takes you to Upper Town and is honestly adorable in itself.
Visit the Museum of Broken Relationships
Once you’ve made it to the Upper Town, you will fall in love with the cobblestone streets and the antique stone buildings.
You may fall out of love with love though if you visit the Museum of Broken Relationships!
At 40 kuna for an entrance fee (around $7,) I think this museum is an adorable and inexpensive (plus, air-conditioned) stop during your day of exploring.
The unique concept showcases people’s items that they have sent to the museum along with a little description, which could be either be heartbreaking or hilarious.
Wonder at St. Mark’s Church
Just another little stroll uphill from the Museum of Broken Relationships and you’ll enter the wide plaza with a gorgeous church as its centerpiece.
One of the oldest architectural structures of Zagreb, St. Mark’s Church brightens up the Upper Town. I mean it literally brightens it up – the roof is dazzling, vibrant colors that you can immediately recognize from the foot of the streets below.
The wonderful thing about the Upper Town (and as I said Zagreb in general) is that there are very few tourists and people. You get an up-close and intimate experience with every building and monument, which anyone seeks as a traveler.
Shop with the Locals at Dolac Market
Something I sadly missed on my trip to Zagreb is their most famous market, right next to the Cathedral and above the main square. Dolac Market is where all the local restaurants shop for fresh goods and where you can again experience a local tradition of the city.
I always passed the market at night, so I missed seeing all the structures sprawled out selling produce and goods. But it’s surely an experience to do in Zagreb for any traveler seeking out what local life is like.
Visit One of the Most Beautiful Cemeteries In Europe
The last and final thing you must do in Zagreb is to visit the Mirogoj Cemetery. Yes, it’s a bit cryptic to visit a cemetery as a tourist per se, however, this is no usual cemetery.
It’s actually one of the most beautiful cemeteries in all of Europe. Its main building is what makes it so special, decorated with cupolas, green ivy, and long hallways with grand arches. It also houses a lot of art.
Unfortunately, on my recent visit, the building was closed off, but you could still see its grand and majestic beauty from the outside.
So, those are the top ten things to do in Zagreb. Plan more of your perfect trip to Croatia using some of my other posts as resources!
- Tips for Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park
- The Perfect 3-Day Istria Itinerary
- The 10 Best Day Trips from Split
- How to Go Grocery Shopping in Croatia
Have you ever wanted to visit Croatia? Be sure to tell me in the comments!
Pin this post so you don’t forget to add these must-dos to your itinerary!
I’ve been loving Croatia so far and have so much more to share. Can’t wait to show you what new destinations I have next up my sleeve!