The 5 Best Things to Do in Zagreb

Zagreb, the enchanting capital of Croatia, is a city of contrasts and captivating beauty. It’s a place where ancient history seamlessly blends with modern culture, where cobblestone streets lead to vibrant markets, and where the aroma of traditional cuisine mingles with the sounds of lively street musicians. 

In this article, we invite you to uncover the city’s hidden gems and explore its most iconic attractions. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler looking to dive deeper into this city’s offerings, this comprehensive guide will cover the best things to do in Zagreb, leading you to the must-visit places, the cultural treasures, and the culinary delights that make Zagreb a true Croatian gem. 

Things to Do in Zagreb: Explore the Historic Old Town

Zagreb

When visiting Zagreb, diving straight into its historic old town, also known as Gornji Grad, is an absolute must. This district is the heart and soul of the city, brimming with historical significance and architectural wonders that transport you back in time.

Gornji Grad, or the Upper Town, holds a special place in Zagreb’s history. It was once a separate medieval settlement, yet today, it exudes an old-world charm that contrasts beautifully with the bustling Lower Town. The Upper Town has witnessed centuries of evolution, from medieval fortifications to the vibrant hub it is today.

As you explore Gornji Grad, you’ll encounter several iconic landmarks that are a testament to Zagreb’s rich heritage. St. Mark’s Church, with its colorful tiled roof featuring the coat of arms of Zagreb and Croatia, is a sight to behold.

Lotrščak Tower, a historic fortress, offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city from its observation deck. The Zagreb Cathedral, one of the tallest sacral buildings in Europe, stands as a magnificent example of Neo-Gothic architecture. Each of these landmarks tells a story of Zagreb’s past and its enduring cultural significance.

To fully immerse yourself in the charm of Gornji Grad, we recommend a leisurely stroll through its enchanting cobblestone streets. Begin your journey at Ban Jelačić Square in the center of Zagreb, and make your way uphill to the Stone Gate (Kamenita Vrata), a shrine believed to possess miraculous powers. Don’t miss the chance to explore the Strossmayer Promenade, where you can enjoy scenic views of the Lower Town and Sava River. 

You’ll want to spend an equal amount of time in the often-overlooked Lower Town as well. Created at the end of the 19th century, it sits just below the more famous Upper Town. 

Here you will find the business, shopping, and cultural center of Zagreb, with plenty of shops, cafes, and museums dotted along the street to enjoy. A great highlight of this part of town is the architecture; the wide streets are lined with grand townhouses, rich in art-nouveau details, from when Zagreb was part of the Habsburg Empire.

Things to Do in Zagreb: Experience Croatian Art and Culture

Zagreb Upper Town
Zagreb

Zagreb is a city that pulsates with creativity, and a place where the past and present collide to create a thriving cultural scene. The atmosphere is a testament to the city’s commitment to preserving its heritage while embracing contemporary innovation.

Zagreb boasts an impressive array of museums, galleries, and theaters that cater to all types of culture enthusiasts. The city’s cultural offerings are as diverse as they are fascinating, providing a myriad of varied experiences for visitors.

Museum of Broken Relationships 

One of the most unique and emotionally resonant museums you’ll ever encounter is the Museum of Broken Relationships. Here, the remnants of love stories told through donated mementos are displayed with poignant stories that touch the heart. 

It’s a place that transcends mere art and delves into the complex dynamics of human relationships. A weird yet wonderful experience that should definitely be on your must-visit list! 

Croatian National Theatre

The Croatian National Theatre is a magnificent architectural gem and the epicenter of performing arts in the city. Attending a ballet, opera, or theater performance here is an immersive experience that allows you to appreciate Croatia’s rich artistic heritage. The extravagant interiors of the building alone are worth a visit.

Museum of Contemporary Art

For those who like to keep up to date with the modern art scene, the Museum of Contemporary Art is a must-visit. Its striking architectural design mirrors the avant-garde artworks that fill its halls. Explore cutting-edge exhibitions, featuring Croatian and international artists pushing the boundaries of creativity. This museum is a testament to Zagreb’s commitment to embracing the future while preserving its cultural identity.

The significance of these institutions lies not only in their entertainment, but also in their reflection of Croatia’s cultural identity. These spaces are where tradition meets innovation, where local artists and international talents mix, and where visitors can immerse themselves in the cultural essence of Zagreb.

Things to Do in Zagreb: Savor Zagreb’s Culinary Delights

traditional croatian food
zagreb restaurant

Croatian cuisine is a fusion of Mediterranean, Central European, and Balkan flavors. It’s a testament to the country’s diverse landscapes and cultural influences. 

Zagreb’s culinary scene is a reflection of Croatia’s history and regional influences. Here, you’ll find traditional recipes that blend harmoniously with modern culinary innovation, catering to all palates, from seafood lovers to meat connoisseurs.

When in Zagreb, there are several dishes you absolutely must try. Start with ‘čevapi’, grilled minced meat kebabs, served with pita bread and ajvar sauce. 

For a taste of Zagreb’s heritage, sample ‘štrukli’, a delightful pastry filled with cottage cheese, sour cream, and eggs, always baked to perfection. For the sweet tooths amongst us, you can indulge in traditional Croatian pastries like ‘kremšnita’ (a custard-filled cake) and ‘palačinke’ (thin pancakes) at local cafes.

To discover the very essence of Zagreb’s culinary scene, head to the bustling open-air Dolac Market. Often referred to as the ‘Belly of Zagreb’, it has stalls selling fresh produce, meat and fish, dairy and cheese, flowers, and local delicacies. It’s a great chance to engage with the locals and vendors as you jovially negotiate quantities and prices whilst indulging in the bountiful displays, vibrant colors, and sweet scents from their stalls. 

The importance of culinary traditions in Zagreb is highly regarded amongst locals. It’s a way for locals to celebrate their heritage and share their stories with visitors. Each bite tells a tale of generations past, of recipes handed down through time, and of the fusion of flavors from neighboring regions. 

So, whether you’re indulging in street food at a local market or dining in a charming cafe, Zagreb’s culinary offerings promise to take you on a delicious journey that will leave you craving more.

Things to Do in Zagreb: Relax in the Parks and Green Spaces

Amidst the urban buzz of Zagreb, tranquility awaits in the form of parks and green spaces that invite both locals and visitors to unwind and connect with nature. These verdant landscapes offer a respite from the city’s hustle and bustle, providing a glimpse of the serene side of Croatia’s capital.

Maksimir Park 

Zagreb’s pride and joy, Maksimir Park, is an expansive green haven that sprawls across 18 hectares. Established in the 18th century, it is one of the oldest public parks in Europe. 

Stroll along tree-lined paths, marvel at the scenic lakes, and admire the majestic oak trees. Sculptures and monuments are dotted across the park, resembling a little outdoor gallery which only adds to its historical charm. 

For those who enjoy taking their two wheels to the tracks, there are dedicated cycling paths for you to explore, including well-maintained lawns for when you want to hop off and recharge with a picnic.

Zagreb Zoo

Nestled within Maksimir Park is Zagreb Zoo, a hidden gem that offers a delightful escape into the animal kingdom, promising an exciting and educational experience for visitors of all ages. It’s home to a diverse range of animals; the most notable being big cats like lions and tigers, majestic giraffes, playful primates such as chimpanzees and orangutans, and herbivores like zebras and antelopes. 

Aside from just witnessing these magnificent creatures, the zoo also offers opportunities to get involved in feeding sessions, and join educational programs which focus on wildlife conservation.

Jarun Lake 

For those seeking a waterfront escape, Jarun Lake is the perfect destination. This vast artificial lake is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts, offering opportunities for kayaking, paddleboarding, and windsurfing. 

On the lakeshore, you’ll find sandy beaches where you can bask in the sun or take a refreshing swim. In the evening, Jarun transforms into a vibrant nightlife hub with cocktail bars and clubs.

These green areas not only provide a breath of fresh air but also offer a glimpse into the tranquil side of Zagreb, reminding us that even in a bustling city, serenity and natural beauty are never too far away. When you fancy taking a break from your urban adventures, Maksimir and Jarun invite you to recharge your senses and savor the simple pleasure of being outdoors in Zagreb.

Things to Do in Zagreb: Venture Beyond the City

While Zagreb itself offers a treasure trove of experiences, the surrounding region has its own set of enchanting destinations just a short drive away. Venturing beyond the city limits allows you to explore the diverse landscapes, historical wonders, and natural beauty that Croatia is renowned for. These destinations are easily accessible from Zagreb, making day trips a convenient and exciting option.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a natural wonder, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts. A scenic 2-hour drive from Zagreb takes you to this park, where you’ll discover a series of cascading lakes and impressive waterfalls, surrounded by lush forests and wildlife. Explore wooden walkways that wind through the park, providing breathtaking views of crystal-clear waters and verdant forestry.

Unforgettable Croatia provides numerous cruise and land tours that include a visit to the Plitvice Lakes. For a tour that delves deep into discovering Croatia and its breathtaking natural wonders, consider the Discover Croatia Cruise and Land Tour. You will have the pleasure of visiting a plethora of fantastic destinations including Zagreb and the Plitvice Lakes, with guided tours to uncover the secrets of each place.

Samobor 

A picturesque town less than 30 minutes from Zagreb, Samobor is known for its charming architecture and tranquil atmosphere. Stroll through the cobblestone streets, savor traditional pastries like ‘kremsnite’, and take a leisurely hike to the ruins of Samobor Castle for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Public buses and trains provide regular transportation options.

Trakošćan Castle 

Located approximately 80 kilometers from Zagreb, Trakošćan Castle is a fairytale-like fortress surrounded by a serene lake and lush forests, which you can arrive at within 2 hours after leaving Zagreb. Explore the castle’s interior, which has been transformed into a museum showcasing art, armor, and historical artifacts.

These day trips from Zagreb offer a refreshing change of scenery and a deeper insight into Croatia’s cultural and natural heritage. Whether you’re drawn to pristine lakes, historic castles, or charming towns, these nearby attractions add another layer to your Zagreb experience, showcasing the country’s rich diversity and inviting you to explore its hidden gems.

Summary

It’s fair to say that Croatia’s capital is an infinite well of history, culture, and natural beauty. Zagreb’s historic old town and iconic landmarks reveal the soul of Croatia, whilst its cultural scene, boasting museums, galleries, theaters, and a diverse cuisine offers an insight into Croatia’s artistry and creativity. Beyond the city’s borders, there are more natural wonders and historical riches that lie just a stone’s throw away, ready to be explored.

We hope this article has successfully highlighted the best things to do in Zagreb, leaving you with a clearer idea of the myriad activities to do and things to see in this beautiful European city. Whether you’re exploring the historical hub of Gornji Grad, or visiting the alternative Museum of Broken Relationships, there is something for everyone in Zagreb.

Planning a visit to Zagreb? Why not broaden your travel horizons and consider a cruise tour that delves deep into discovering the very best that Croatia has to offer? Unforgettable Croatia has carefully put together various cruise tour itineraries, including a stop at the capital city, which could offer you a more well-rounded Croatian experience.

Get in touch with us now to see if our travel experts can marry your Croatian dreams to one of our luxurious cruise tours!

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