The Croatian capital of Zagreb is a wonderful destination for a city break. Whether you spend a day there as part of a larger trip, visit a festival, or book an entire week off to explore the city, you’ll find plenty of sights to explore.
Let’s look at 14 spots and attractions in the city.
Table of contents: ()
- Zagreb: Basic Facts
- Lower Town
- Upper Town
- Zagreb Cathedral
- The Stone Gate
- Lotrščak Tower
- Ban Jelačić Square
- Tkalčićeva Street
- The Cat Cafe
- The Museum of Broken Relationships
- The War Photography Museum
- Zrinjevac Park
- Dolac Market
- INmusic Festival
- The Christmas Market
- Where to stay in Zagreb
Zagreb: Basic Facts
Before we dive in, let me give you a basic overview of the city:
- Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and its largest city. It is thus home to the most important government buildings, a bustling university, and around a million and a quarter citizens.
- You can get to Zagreb by air and land at Franjo Tuđman airport. You can easily find cheap flights to the city from most major airports, so the trip shouldn’t come at a high cost. You can also arrive by train, which I highly recommend, especially if you are doing a tour of European capitals.
- The city is very clean and well-organized. You can take a tram or a bus to anywhere in the city, but you can also reach most of the major sights on foot. You’ll find that most people speak at least basic English. You might have a bit of trouble communicating with older locals in the markets, though.
Zagreb has two distinct areas: the Lower Town (Donji grad in Croatian) and the Upper Town (or Gornji grad).
The Lower Town is the city’s business and shopping center. This is where you’ll find a lot of the major museums and shops. It is also home to the main train station and the famous Ban Josip Jelačić Square. But the best part about Lower Town is the architecture. Practically all the buildings are stunning and feature some detail or other that you will not want to miss. If you are into photography, this is your perfect hunting ground.
This area of the city has a vibe similar to a lot of central European cities, like Vienna, Bratislava, or Budapest.
The Upper Town is the oldest part of the city. It stretches between two hills called Kaptol and Gradec. It is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets and provides some of the most stunning views of the entire city.
This is where you can find Tkalčićeva Street and the Dolac market, as well as the Zagreb Cathedral, Saint Mark’s Church, the Stone Gate, and Lotrščak Tower.
Upper Town is still lit by gas street lamps, so the atmosphere at sunset and in the early evening is truly magnificent. I recommend grabbing a drink to go and climbing one of the sightseeing spots. You’ll stumble upon many of them as you walk around this area.
If you are in Upper Town during the morning, you can attend mass at the Zagreb Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Or, you can skip mass and enter when it is less crowded and enjoy its neo-Gothic style.
The original cathedral dates back to the 13th century but was damaged in an earthquake in 1880. It has since been rebuilt in its present form.
The cathedral is also the tallest building in the city, so you can use it as a landmark while strolling around.
The Stone Gate
The Stone Gate is the eastern gate to the former medieval town. It is the only one of its kind preserved to this day. It is also one of the city’s most important shrines. You will always find people here praying, lighting candles to the Virgin, or chatting to each other.
The gate houses a shrine and stone slabs praising the Mother of God. There are also a lot of stone slabs expressing thanks and praise to the Lady. Make sure to show some respect as you walk past, as this is a holy space.
The Stone Gate is also a border between Upper and Lower Town. You’ll know which is which, as there is a definite slope.
Lotrščak Tower is one of the oldest buildings in Zagreb. It has been standing since around 1266. It was once a part of the southern gate to the town and was built as part of the fortifications and defenses against the Turks.
It houses the Grič cannon, which fires every day at noon. You can set your watch to it – it’s so accurate. Don’t be alarmed by the noise if you are in the area at midday. The cannon fire commemorates Zagreb’s victory over the Turks.
Lotrščak Tower is one of the best spots for gazing at the city of Zagreb. If you climb to the top, you will have a magnificent view of all the famous landmarks.
Ban Jelačić Square
Ban Jelačić Square is the central square in the city. It features the statue of Ban Josip Jelačić, a famous general and leader of Croatia and Slavonia.
The square is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and has seen lots of amazing concerts and events in its time. It isn’t usually too crowded, but you should beware of pickpockets, as in any other major tourist attraction anywhere in the world.
This is a great place for people-watching and soaking in a bit of the local atmosphere. You can sip a coffee in one of the cafes and watch Zagreb rush past you.
Tkalčićeva is Zagreb’s main spot for grabbing a great bite or having a great pint. The locals call it Tkalča, which can be a bit difficult to pronounce if you are not from the Balkans.
It is home to lots of restaurants and bars, but you can also find lots of souvenirs here. In the evenings, there are a lot of live music events, and the street truly comes to life. It’s a bit calmer during the day but undoubtedly one of the best places to try some local dishes.
Fun fact: in the early 1900s, every house in Tkalčićeva was a brothel, and every window had a red lantern. This is why Zagreb can be considered the first European city with a red-light district. There is not a single brothel in sight today, so this is a great place to visit as a family, especially during the day. If you are looking for a fun evening or night with friends, this is the best destination, too.
Some of the spots I can personally recommend include Bonn, which is a veritable institution in the street and where the locals come to have their cup of coffee. The Oliver Twist Pub is a proper Irish pub worth checking out. If you are a fan of jazz, definitely check out Melin, which looks like a retro living room and is quite a secluded and peaceful spot.
The Cat Cafe
This is quite a niche recommendation, but if you love cats, you have to check out the Zagreb Cat Cafe. Located in Dragutina Kušlana Street, it’s home to at least a dozen cats and a perfect place to unwind.
They offer all kinds of very tasty drinks – the hot chocolate was my favorite. But what you drink will not be nearly as important as which cat chooses to come say hello.
Make sure to wash your hands when you arrive, and don’t bother the cats. All of them are used to people and very friendly, but they also need their nap and alone time, so don’t wake them up. One of them is practically guaranteed to want to come and play.
You can also grab a game from the bar. We played Crazy Cat Lady, and it was a lot of fun.
The Museum of Broken Relationships
Zagreb is home to lots of interesting museums. One of the most unique ones by far is the Museum of Broken Relationships in Upper Town, right next to Lotrščak Tower.
The museum has collected donations from people all over the world and tells the stories of their broken relationships. Some of them are quite ridiculous, but some of them are truly heartbreaking, so you may even end up shedding a few tears.
Note that it can get quite busy, so you may want to book a ticket in advance to skip the line.
The War Photography Museum
Another unique museum you can see in Zagreb is even more heartbreaking than the Museum of Broken Relationships. The War Photography Museum exhibits photos from the Yugoslav war in the 1990s.
You can see testimony from Vukovar, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb itself, and be faced with the true price and tragedy of war.
It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth a visit if you want to learn more about the wars in the Balkans.
When you need a break, there is no better place to grab a bench than in Zrinjevac Park. It hosts the annual Zagreb Advent, and it’s a relaxing and romantic corner. A real oasis in the middle of a bustling city, it’s a very quick stroll away from Ban Jelačić Square.
You can check out the music pavilion and the gorgeous fountains, as well as the old weather station. There are plenty of statues of famous Croatians all around the park, too, so you can learn a bit more about the local history while taking a break.
I highly recommend taking a breather here, especially if you are visiting in the summer. It can get quite hot in the streets, so escaping to a bit of greenery can be quite a welcome respite.
Dolac Market is an open-air farmer’s market you definitely want to see. It is loud, it is colorful, and it smells divine.
Note that it will be quite crowded, as this is where locals come to do their shopping too. Everything there is fresh and grown locally, so you can try a lot of local bread, fish, and cheese. There are also scrumptious fruits and veggies.
While the market is technically open until 3 PM, your safest bet is to arrive before noon, as most stalls sell out by then.
You will also find a section dedicated to flowers, and there are also plenty of stalls selling local souvenirs and hand-made items.
Zagreb is also home to the INmusic Festival, which usually takes place in June on the lake of Jarun.
If you are a festival goer, you might be a bit disappointed, as INmusic is not nearly as magnificent as Glastonbury. Even Sziget and Exit are much bigger and better organized, at least in my experience.
If a band you want to see is playing, though, it can definitely be worth booking a trip. Give yourself a couple of non-festival days in Zagreb for exploration and sightseeing.
Make sure to take a good look at a map before you arrive, as where you need to go is not very well marked. There’s quite a bit of a walk involved, too, so wear comfy shoes.
The Christmas Market
On the other hand, if you want to see Zagreb at its best and you don’t mind the cold, you should definitely come to Zagreb Advent, the Christmas Market that is open throughout December.
Much like other Christmas markets in central Europe, it offers plenty of local delicacies to try, as well as plenty of festive activities and performances. Strolling around the decorated streets with festive music all around, perhaps with a cup of mulled wine in your hand, is a magnificent way to experience this wonderful city.
It can get pretty cold in the city in December, so pack your warmest hat and scarf.
Where to Stay in Zagreb
|Lower town, 250 feet from center
|Villa Vino & Grad
|1.2 miles from center
|1.2 miles from center
|Lower town, 0.2 miles from center
|3.1 miles from center
|3.7 miles from center
Whether you come to Zagreb for a day or a week, you can easily get lost in its gorgeous streets. The food is good, the wines are great, and there is so much gorgeous scenery to soak up you’ll want to keep walking around all day.