What to visit in Zagreb?
Updated: Jun 30, 2022
Zagreb, located in the north of the country and the capital of Croatia, is often overlooked by the horde of tourists seen in Dubrovnik or Split. However, the city is perfect to appreciate the Croatian culture, its gastronomy with some places to visit. During your trip to discover Croatia or during a long weekend for a change of scenery, discover this extraordinary capital! What to do in Zagreb? Discover our selection of visits not to be missed for an unforgettable stay!
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What not to miss?
Saint Mark’s church
In the upper part of the Old Town of Zagreb, you will notice this church characterized by its red, blue, and white roof representing Zagreb. The building was built by Venetian masters, while the baroque bell tower is an addition from the 17th century. Why was it added after? Because an earthquake destroyed the bell tower in 1502, the present one was built later.
In its interior, there are Gothic vaults and a choir made by Ivan Mestrovic. The square of the same name, in which it stands, is a symbol of political life because it is here that the seats of Parliament.
Called the "Croatian Montmartre", the hilltop Strossmayer walkway has picturesque views and a romantic atmosphere. Named after Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, the walkway runs along with the remains of Zagreb's medieval walls. It is shaded by chestnut trees and, in the evening, illuminated by golden lanterns. During the summer months, it hosts festivals and open-air markets, where souvenir sellers, artists, street cooks, and musicians set up shop.
Good to know: the boardwalk has benches and telescopes if you want to relax and soak up the cityscape below.
Are you looking for emotions and thrills in contact with history and mystery? Don't miss to pass by the Tunel Grič! It is one of the major attractions of the Croatian capital. This 350- meter long tunnel was built during the Second World War as a shelter for the local population during the bombing. Afterward, this underpass served as a refuge for the inhabitants of Zagreb during the 1991-1995 war. Now, it is often used as a space for exhibitions and different types of shows, especially in December or in March during the Festival of Lights. During the Christmas period, this tunnel is transformed into a Christmas wonderland.
The most famous and attractive park is the one on the square of Nikola Šubić Zrinski, a stone's throw from the central square, called Zrinjevac. It has a beautiful landscape architecture, a remarkable music pavilion, several fountains, paths, benches, a meteorological column, and sculptures of famous people. It is always full of Zagreb citizens and visitors because it is also a gathering place dedicated to numerous cultural, sports, and social events: concerts, festivals, circus, exhibitions...
Major tourist stop in Zagreb, the Stone Gate is known for both its history and its divine associations. It is a covered entrance that was built in medieval times. It gained its sacred reputation in 1731 when a devastating fire swept through the area and destroyed all but a painting of the Virgin and Child that was on display. A chapel has since been built, and the faithful still come to pay homage to the painting, which is said to have miraculous properties. The Stone Gate is a popular stop on various sightseeing tours of Zagreb, including walking and cycling routes. It is also easy to visit as part of an independent day in the upper city.
What else to visit?
The Zagreb Cathedral on the Kaptol is a Roman Catholic institution and not only the highest building in Croatia, but also the most monumental sacred building in the Gothic style southeast of the Alps. It is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and the kings St. Stephen and St. Ladislaus. The cathedral is typically Gothic, as is its sacristy, which is of great architectural value. Its prominent spires are considered landmarks because they are visible from most parts of the city. Did you know that one of its two spires was damaged in an earthquake in 2020?
Croatian National Theatre
The Croatian National Theatre is an architectural masterpiece and a renowned performance hall. Several internationally renowned opera singers and ballet dancers have performed on its stage since its opening more than a century ago. After marveling at the splendor of its exterior, you can purchase tickets for a performance or for a guided tour to see the lavish decoration of the auditorium. The best thing is that ticket prices—event for the best seats—are considerably lower than those in Western European countries.
Maksimir Park is the oldest public park in Zagreb. In autumn, the trees along the main paths and in the forests of the park take on beautiful golden hues. This makes it the most picturesque place to walk and enjoy nature. On the hottest days of the summer, these same trees offer shade and a welcome respite from the hot sun. In the winter, snow lies on the branches and makes the paths glow; in the spring, flowers and animals take over. So, no matter when you find a vacation rental in Zagreb and no matter what time of year you come to visit the city, a walk in the park is a good idea!
How to travel there?
It is very easy to arrive in Zagreb since there is an airport in the city. You only need to book a flight to Franjo Tuđman Airport Zagreb, which is about 2 hours and 30 minutes. It will only take you 20 to 30 minutes by cab, bus or private transfer.
The car is a more economical solution for a group, because the freeways on the eastern route are quite inexpensive thanks to the vignettes, if not free as in Germany. It is possible to rent a car and drive to Croatia as long as you do not include a passage through Bosnia Herzegovina (to reach Dubrovnik).
The bus is a long and quite economical alternative solution, although you have to accept to spend more than 20 or even 30 hours on a bus! Since the covid epidemic has had its way with the Eurolines company, there is only Flixbus left from France, Germany, or Belgium. For a trip between European cities, this can be more relevant than going there in one go.
Traveling by train to Croatia is possible thanks to the Interrail Pass but it is almost as long as the bus!
When to travel there?
It is preferable to go between May and September. The harshness and coldness of the continental winter, often marked by episodes of snow, can put off those who are chilly, except during the very lively end-of-year celebrations. But the Christmas and New Year festivities are still very pleasant and friendly with a Christmas market that has been awarded the title of "best Christmas market in Europe" for two years.
The end of spring and summer until the beginning of autumn is perhaps the best period to avoid the heavy and dry heat that hits in summer... From October on, night falls much earlier so the city appreciates itself in shadow and light. The climate in Zagreb is more variable than on the coast, so good weather is less guaranteed.
Zagreb remains a very attractive destination compared to Dubrovnik which has become the most expensive city in the country. The prices of everyday products, outings, and visits are cheaper in the capital, compared to ultra-touristy cities like Dubrovnik or Split. You can eat for 2-3 € on the go, about 5-7 € at lunchtime in a restaurant, and about 15-20 € in the evening.
A budget of 55-60€ per day should be a good basis for accommodation and two simple meals and a museum visit. Count on about 75-80€ for a slightly higher level of luxury. In economy mode, off-season, you can get by for about 40€.
Where to eat?
If you’re on a budget and looking for cheap food in Zagreb, we recommend Nokturno. It is an excellent restaurant with a wide menu and quality dishes. They offer salads, pasta, pizzas, risottos, and some very interesting mixed dishes. And all this at very affordable prices. To give you a reference, a plate of spaghetti carbonara is 36 kuna (about 5€).
Near the wonderful Church of San Marco, in the upper town, there is this typical Konoba, a tavern with a rustic flavor. We recommend you book because it is almost always full. It is also one of the best quality/price restaurants in the city. You can find all the Croatian specialties here. The Dalmatian cured ham is homemade and served with fried potatoes, while another dish to try is the fried frog legs wrapped in smoked ham.
Enjoy a plate of Cevapcici, or a dessert in the afternoon while watching the constant coming and going of this corner of the city. Mali Medo is a cozy place with a very pleasant outdoor space in summer. The list is long, but if you prefer typical dishes, you will find all the Croatian specialties. Recommended grilled meat, accompanied by potatoes, or goulash with pasta.
If you want to discover more about Croatian cuisine we recommend you to read our article on food in Croatia to get in touch with a lot of traditions! Follow us @thewalkingparrot to be always updated on new destinations.
Zagreb film festival (October)
35 000 spectators are captivated by the film festival in Zagreb. It is one of the most awaited events in Croatia. The audience will find all styles of film in the program. From fiction films to short films and documentaries, the audience will be spoilt for choice.
This is the end of our article on Zagreb, hoping that you have enjoyed the reading, take a look at our other articles on the different destinations of Croatia like Dubrovnik or Split. If you're interested in knowing the many Croatian specialties, check out the article on what to eat in Croatia. Do not forget to follow us @thewalkingparrot to be always updated on the new releases.