things to do in zagreb

Things to do in Zagreb

Unlike most capital cities in Europe, Croatia’s Zagreb is hardly on the top of anyone’s travel list. But even if you’re visiting the country’s more popular coastal towns, you’ll probably at least have a short stay in Zagreb given its international airport. If you’re looking for some guidance on things to do in Zagreb while you’re in town, look no further.

Sightsee in Upper and Lower Town

The heart of Zagreb is divided into two distinct areas: Upper Town, comprised of the oldest parts of the city; and Lower Town, which is the newer and more modern part of the city. Upper Town is also literally located on a hill overlooking Lower Town, so in addition to being architecturally the more interesting part of the city, it also offers great views of the rest of Zagreb. If you’re not up for the walk you can take a funicular uphill. It’s notably the shortest funicular on earth, taking you just 66 meters up.

One of the most popular things to see as you make your way around Upper Town include the 13th century Lotrščak Tower, which you can climb to the top of as long as you don’t mind a tall spiral staircase. From the top of the tower, a cannon is fired every day at noon.

See Zagreb’s churches (from the outside)

zagreb must-sees

Despite being an iconic part of the city’s skyline, Zagreb evidently doesn’t draw a lot of tourists for its religious architecture because it doesn’t work very hard to make its churches accessible to tourists. The Zagreb Cathedral, which is the tallest building in the country, was damaged by an earthquake in 2020, so it’s been closed for renovation since then. But I’m pretty sure it was also being renovated when I last visited Zagreb in 2016, so this maybe isn’t really something they are in a rush to fix.

St. Mark’s Church is probably the most well-known and most photographed emblem of Zagreb because of its tiled roof that depicts the coat of arms of Zagreb as well as the coat of arms of the (former) Kingdom of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia. It is also not accessible to tourists. It only opens for mass, and people can’t even get close to the structure’s facade as it’s often surrounded by a barricade.

things to do in zagreb

Just a few steps down the street from St. Mark’s Church, you’ll find the Stone Gate, which was once part of the city’s walls. The stone gate functions as an open-air church because in 1731, a fire destroyed the gate, leaving only a painting of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Even today, people come pray and light candles at the Stone Gate like an altar.

Visit the city’s unique museums

Zagreb is home to some of the world’s most interesting museums, though you’ve probably never heard of them. One of the most visited is the Museum of Broken Relationships, which contains stories and objects representing breakups and divorces. You can enjoy the exhibit of other people’s awful break-ups, and you can leave your own experience.

Another quirky Zagreb museum is the Museum of Hangovers, an ode to the wild night out. The museum features fun drunken and hangover stories, but it’s also interactive, inviting visitors to simulate drunk driving and play drunk darts. Of course, you can also do this at any of the busy bars in Lower Town for the cost of a few drinks.

Enjoy the events in city center

The center of Zagreb is Ban Josip Jelačić Square, where you’ll find a statue of the national army hero and former governor of Croatia on a horse. Since this is one of the largest open spaces in the city, it’s a popular meeting place and the locale of important events like seasonal festivals. During our visit, the Euro matches were being broadcast on a massive TV in the square, bringing fans from all over Europe out to cheer their favorite team. During Christmas, the square also hosts Advent markets and daily live entertainment.

sightseeing in zagreb

Just a few minutes away from Ben Jelačić Square, you’ll find Market Dolac, which is an open-air market where you can buy produce, fresh bread, meat, and flowers. If you enjoy an edible souvenir, this is a great place to find local wines, cheeses, and honey.

The market is a perfect jumping off point for a stroll up Tkalčićeva Street which leads from Lower Town to Upper Town. The huge pedestrian avenue has a ton of buzzing restaurants, cafes, and bars. It’s very popular with tourists so it’s crowded all the time. But the laid-back outdoor dining extends to several adjoining streets like the equally long Pavla Radica Street. Ultimately, this is the best thing to do in Zagreb. Chill out on some large terrace enjoying local flavors and people-watching. You’ll fit right in!

sightseeing in zagreb

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