Cobble-stoned streets are overflowing with avant-garde coffee shops and cafes. The Austro-Hungarian Architecture coupled with old communist buildings covered in graffiti. Green spaces, music venues and national monuments cover seemingly every corner of the city.
Croatia’s inland capital is a striking contrast to the Adriatic coast. Zagreb is a modern, hip, and less-crowded alternative to Prague or Vienna.
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The Ultimate Zagreb Guide
Roaming the streets of Zagreb is like walking through a living museum. Its well-kept and organized streets, paved walkways, and bike lanes blend effortlessly into the historic foundation. The Austro-Hungarian Architecture is mixed with cold-cut communist designs from former Yugoslavia.
Zagreb may look nothing like Dubrovnik or Split, but it still takes on the coastal mindset. Nothing in Zagreb is rushed. You won’t find people running to work, or worrying too much about the next step. Locals live frugally, but make it a priority to enjoy and relax. Zagreb is hip, functional, and affordable.
Zagreb is home to both an eclectic and historic culture. For every museum or art gallery, you’ll find a street market or funky cafe to match it.
Zagreb is most notable known for its Christmas festival, which was awarded best holiday festival in Europe two years in a row.
How long to stay: As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Zagreb, and simply spending a short day in the city would not do it justice. I would recommend staying at least three days.
Transport: You can easily fly into Zagreb from other parts of Europe. If traveling around Croatia it is the best place to start or end your trip here. You can easily get around the city by foot, and travel to the outskirts by tram. Take cabs or Uber here, but don’t let cabs overcharge you. For example, a trip from the airport to central Zagreb should only be around 100 Kunas (I once talked to a lady who said she was charged 225 kunas, which is unreal.)
Cost: Zagreb is extremely cheap compared to the rest of Croatia. Accommodations and found will only cost a fraction of what you’ll pay elsewhere in Europe. I stayed somewhere for 180 Kunas a night, and had large meals for 60 Kunas.
Currency: Croatia still uses the Kuna, but euros are still often accepted. Instead of exchanging money, I would recommend taking money out of an ATM for a better exchange rate.
First, central Zagreb is divided into upper and lower town. Upper Town is filled with cathedrals, markets, and museums, where café bars, parks, and theaters rule lower town.
Zagreb attractions: Upper town
You’ll find every color of the rainbow walking through the central square and streets of upper town. This is the more historic, residential part of Zagreb. You’ll find little boutiques, restaurants, and bars.
St. Mark’s Church
As the most popular Church in Zagreb, St. Mark’s displays the Croatian, Dalmatian, and Slavic coats of arms along with the Zagreb’s city emblem. If you arrive here around noon you can see the changing of the guards.
This gothic structure towers over Upper Town, and is just as beautiful inside as outside. Entrance is free and you are allowed to take pictures if you remain respectful.
Wake up early to get the region’s freshest produce and handmade souvenirs! Dolac Market is definitely one of the best places to get an authentic feel for Zagreb and grab food for making a meal.
Obviously the bananas wouldn’t be local, but keep your eyes peeled (get it) pumpkin oils and butter, “blitva” (similar to Swiss Chard), sweet potatoes, and cabbage. These items are all regional specialities!
On the way upper side of town is one of my favorite Zagreb attractions: Mirogoj Cemetery. Here you’ll find columns cloaked in emerald vines with checkered cobblestones. This enchanting hidden garden is worth the commute by foot or by taking the tram from central Zagreb.
Museum of Broken Relationships
Zagreb’s quirky culture shines through this fascinating and moving concept. The Museum of Broken Relationships displays several artifacts and symbols of past relationships from all over the world.
Each with a unique and expressive story, some are hilarious and other are somber. Even if you’re not a museum person, this is a must if you’re visiting Zagreb.
This place is for all the in-the-know hipsters in town. First you have to go through an underground tunnel, which leads to a secluded park mixed with people painting and playing in the park.
Lower Town Attractions in Zagreb
The Croatian National Theatre
When exploring through Lower town you can’t miss the bright bold yellow National Theatre. This area truly looks like a part of Vienna.
Zagreb’s Botanical Gardens
If you’re looking to get even further down to earth, the outdoor Botanical Gardens are a serene setting for nature lovers.
Music in the Park
You can also find several other parks located in central lower town, often with live jazz music or other festivities.
Zagreb’s Design District
On the cusp of lower town is right where Croatia’s progressive designs come to life. Croatian Design Superstore is a personal favorite, taking on a contemporary interpretation on Croatia’s culture.
Zagreb’s Coffee Culture
For an authentic way to experience Zagreb, simply sit down at one of the numerous coffee café bars. At every street corner you’ll find a packed coffee shop, each taking pride in its custom funky décor. You’ll learn more about the laid-back lifestyle surrounding yourself with locals sipping lattes than you would from any guided walking tour.
Here are a few of my favorite coffee bars:
Divas Cafe Bar
A Most Unusual Garden
Velvet Cafe Bar
Caffe Bar Finjak
Vegetarian and Gluten-Free Eat
I don’t eat a ton of meat, which is not always welcomed in Croatia’s carnivore diet. However, Zagreb welcomes vegetarians, vegans, and Celiacs with open arms. I was happy to find more than enough gluten-free and vegetarian options during my trip, and I didn’t have to settle for a plain salad or rice this time.
Here are a few of my favorite restaurants:
Mundoaka Street Food
Zagreb is by far one of Europe’s most livable cities, with an appeal that I still can’t shake. With the combination upbeat, modern city life and the added laid-back Croatian mentality, Zagreb is in a league of it’s own.
32 thoughts on “The Ultimate Insider’s Zagreb Guide | Zagreb Travel Blog”
Zagreb looks amazing! I love the colourful buildings and the coats of arms on the roof of the church! I would love to visit the botanical gardens, the art park, the market and the museum of broken relationships!
It’s truly a magnificent and unique city that I hope you get to visit someday, because it’s truly one of a kind!
I visited Zagreb as a brief overnight trip on the way to the Plitvice Lakes from Slovenia, and I immediately wished I had allowed myself longer to explore the city. Great post that I hope to refer to when I get the chance to return 🙂
I hope you come back to explore the city as well! Thank you for reading 🙂
Wow, I’ve never seen Zagreb in this light before. It looks so beautiful! I have been in the bus station several times transferring and never once went into the city. It’s because my bf is Croatian from Split and most people in Dalmatia have told me that Zagreb sucks. Haha I guess they are wrong! I’m not sure why they dislike it so much, but so many people in Dalmatia have told me that! I wont listen any longer. Honestly, your post has convinced me to go next time!!! Great post and love the colorful pics!! 🙂
There is this, sorry to say but – idiotic feud between the continentals (mostly people from Zagreb) and Dalmatians (mostly from Split) that has no sense and it’s fueled by bitter people. They’ll say only the bad things about the others, but secretly be bitter and envious of some other things that they won’t tell you about. Just ignore such people.
I have only passed through myself, but boy it does look a lot more charming than my bus trips made it seem! Beautiful!
It is indeed very charming, and I hope you get to see it more one day! Thank you for reading!
Croatia has long topped my European bucket list, but this post makes me even more excited about it! Love the coffee recommendations! And I am a new vegetarian as well, so the fact that there are veggie places in Zagreb is a huge plus. Can’t wait to make it here!
Zagreb is an amazing hub for vegetarians and coffee lovers, so you HAVE to visit! Let me know if you need anymore travel recommendations!
WOW, Zagreb looks soo good. Love the colourful architecture! Definitely, a place I would like to visit. Off to add this to my bucket list :).
Nice round up post. It would be lovely to visit Zagreb, since we are pretty close. I’ll bookmark this post for future reference.
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very nice article about my home town 🙂
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This was a great review. You are awesome!
Thank you so much Roberto!
I didn’t realize Zagreb had a Christmas festival — or so many veggie-friendly restaurants! Thanks for the tips.
Yes! It was voted the best Christmas festival in Europe!
Thank you for such a detailed guide covering what to see/do in Zagreb! Your photos are beautiful and I can totally see why the city is Europe’s up-and-coming city!
Thanks so much!
Zagreb is a beauty! I would always think of Dubrovsnik when someone spoke of Croatia but now I’m going to keep Zagreb in mind. I love those pink and yellow buildings..so vibrant!
Zagreb is much more similar to Vienna or Budapest than Dubrovnik, and it’s so crazy how a country can be so different! Zagreb is worth visiting I’d say for sure 🙂
Your photos are so beautiful! Zagreb looks like a wonderful city. It definitely sounds like it would be my style. I’m surprised there are actually less people in the summer. It would be neat to also see the winter festivities though. I keep learning about more and more amazing places in Croatia!
Zagreb is such a cool city and in such a contrast to coastal Croatia! I’m going in a few weeks to the christmas festival and I can’t wait!
That’s awesome! Hope you have a wonderful time!
Isn’t Zagreb so cool?! I lived there for a few months and think people often underestimate it! Definitely really up and coming 🙂
Isn’t Zagreb the coolest?! I lived in Zagreb for a few months and loved it! People definitely underestimate it at a city 🙂
I completely agree! (Also, so sorry, I’m not sure why your comment was pending for so long!)