When asked about Croatia, many people who are raving about this country think of its stunning coastline in the first place. Not many landlocked cities in Croatia are recognized by tourists though.
In addition to the translucent sea and sandy beaches, this European country is full of inland buzzing cities and historic towns. Just because those places don’t have direct access to the sea doesn’t mean they are not worth visiting.
Zagreb is one of the Croatian cities without access to the sea that we recommend visiting. It boasts lovely people as well as a vibrant culture and rich history. If you have no idea what to do in Zagreb, you are in the right place.
Here, you can find out about the 10 best things to do in Zagreb, get a better idea of what to see in Zagreb, and much more. This inspiring city offers a lot of attractions and activities to tourists who are keen to explore it. You won’t regret them!
Top 9+1 Awesome Things to Do in Zagreb
Have you ever heard of this Zagreb? If you are from Central or Southeast Europe, you probably know something about it. However, if you come from North America or other continents, you might be wondering: Where is Zagreb?
It is the largest and the capital city of Croatia. Zagreb lies along the Sava river in the northwest of Croatia. Situated at the foot of the Medvednica mountain, this beautiful city has many tourist attractions and sights waiting to be discovered.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s discover them right now! Here are the best things to do in Zagreb, Croatia.
1. Start Your Journey at the Zagreb Cathedral
Zagreb Cathedral is an excellent starting point for exploring the city. Located in the vicinity of the main square southeast of the Alps, this Roman Catholic institution is the landmark of Zagreb as well as the most monumental and tallest building in the city, reaching the height of 108 meters (354 feet).
The history of this sacral building is very interesting. It survived many empires, reconstructions, and earthquakes that make it transform and charge through time.
- Originally, there was a church at this spot. It was proclaimed as a cathedral by King Ladislaus in 1093 and rebuilt in the mid-13th century.
- The cathedral was surrounded by thick walls and fortifications in the 15th century when Croatia was invaded by the Ottoman Empire.
- On the south side of this masterpiece, a fortified watchtower has been constructed in the 17th century and the cathedral served as one of the military observation points.
- In 1880, the building was damaged heavily by an earthquake. Its reconstruction has been constant since then.
- The southern spire of the cathedral was taken down and damaged when it crashed on the roof of the nearby Archbishop’s Palace after an earthquake in 2020.
Despite a number of reconstructions, the Zagreb Cathedral remained Gothic architectural elements. It has two prominent spires that can be seen from just about every part of the city. There are a total of 8 bells — 3 on the South Tower and 5 on the North Tower.
The interior of this gorgeous Gothic cathedral is just as marvelous as its exterior. It’s full of inscriptions, statues, and paintings. Right behind the altar, there is Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac’s tomb. Enter the cathedral and admire the chandeliers, sculptures, and artwork.
2. Don’t Miss Old Town Zagreb
Whether you plan to stay just one day or all week, Old Town shouldn’t be missed while in Zagreb anyway. Take the time to wander its cobblestone streets and explore Gradec (the Upper Town) and Kaptol (the home to Zagreb Cathedral), two small towns that form the Old Town Zagreb.
These towns date back to the 12th century. They were established on the opposite banks of the streamlet.
Gradec is located on top of a hill. It was surrounded by watchtowers and city walls. The Church of St. Mark sitting in the heart of St. Mark’s Square is the main attraction of Gradec. There are also many ornate buildings, many of which house government offices.
By booking the Zagreb Walking Tour, you will learn more about the local culture and discover the main attractions in the Old Town and beyond. This is a great opportunity to acquaint yourself with both the present and the past of Zagreb while discovering the hidden gems of this city.
3. Wander the Streets of the Upper Town
With arrow-cobbled streets, historical landmarks, churches, art galleries, museums, pubs, and captivating buildings, the Upper Town charms visitors away. It’s the most romantic, most beautiful, and oldest part of Zagreb along with Kaptol.
There are well-preserved remains of towers and town walls dating from medieval times. Most of Zagreb’s top sights are located here, including:
- St. Mark’s Church
- Stone Gate Chapel
- Lotrscak Tower
- Mestrovic Atelier
- Museum of Broken relationship
The Upper Town is not overcrowded thanks to the limited traffic. It can be reached by funicular or stairs. The up-the-hill trip is worth the hike either way. Join the Private Walking Tour to feel the pulse of the city and see the top attractions of the Upper Town.
4. Explore Downtown Zagreb
This is the place where tourists spend most of their time during their visit to Zagreb. They usually limit themselves to Ban Jelačić Square as well as a couple of streets around it like Tkalciceva Street, Bogoviceva Street, Vlaska Street, and Marticeva Street. A lot of trams pass through this central square of Zagreb connecting its most popular neighborhoods.
As the main square, Ban Jelačić Square (locally known as Trg Bana Josipa Jelačića) is an ideal place to begin exploring Downtown Zagreb. This huge square is home to old, historic buildings that feature a variety of architectural styles, such as Biedermeier, Art Nouveau, and postmodernism.
The best way to explore the downtown and Zagreb highlights is to go on Zagreb Half-Day Tour. You will see many points of interest, go to the candy store Kraš for some sweets, admire old buildings, throw a coin in the Mandusevac fountain to make your wish come true, and much more.
5. Shop at the Dolac or Other Green Markets
Follow Zagrebians to farmers’ or green markets and gather some picnic items and fruits. Lively, vibrant, and noisy, these open-air markets are the ideal sites to feel the city’s vibe. Dolac is the most visited one, but there are about 30 green markets across the city where the locals have been shopping for more than 100 years.
Centrally positioned behind Ban Jelačić Square, Dolac is spreading on 2 floors. The top floor houses restaurants, and bars as well as a fish market and an outdoor farmers’ market where you can buy everything from clothing and souvenirs to fast food. Colorful striped umbrellas provide shade during hot summer days.
The enclosed ground level features a dairy section (where women sell different dairy products and homemade cheese), bakeries, butcheries, and food stores that offer seasonal vegetables and fresh fruits.
Aside from Dolac, other popular outdoor and farmers’ markets in Zagreb include:
- Cvjetni Trg
- Dubrava (Yellow Market), and
6. Drink Craft Beer and/or Sip Coffee in Bars
More things to do in Zagreb? It boasts a craft beer scene that compromises a huge selection of Croatian beers. As new taprooms and breweries continuously come on this exciting scene, the number of craft beers is on the rise. Consequently, there is a growing number of beer bars in the city.
If you like craft beer, we recommend visiting the beer bars and pubs on Opatovina Street, such as Tolkien’s House and Craft Room. Other craft beer bars worth checking include Pub Na Kraju Svijeta (in Zagreb Upper Town) and Hop In (near the main bus station).
Maybe you prefer coffee to beer. The good news is that Zagreb features a strong coffee culture. When starting to explore the city, you will be surprised by how many spots it offers to people who want to sip a cup of coffee.
Most of them are located on Cvjetni Trg, Tkalčićeva Street, and Bogovićeva Street. Outdoor terraces are full of coffee drinkers throughout the day. Some of the best cafes that serve great coffee besides other beverages include:
7. Indulge in Delicious High-Calorie Croatian Food
It is not possible to speak about bars and cafes without mentioning food and cuisine, right? While not that healthy, as it’s heavy on carbohydrates and meat, Croatian cuisine is very popular with many tourists.
You are advised to try Cevapi, Strukli (a cheesy, doughy pastry), and Burek, high-calorie dishes that are served in most of Zagreb’s restaurants.
This city has an outstanding restaurant scene. Bistro-style small restaurants that serve fresh food consisting of various seasonal ingredients have gained increasing popularity in recent times. Gourmet burgers are in fashion too.
You can find and eat them throughout the city. Alternatively, you can go to restaurants that serve sushi and Asian fusion.
Listed below are the best restaurants in Zagreb to have lunch:
- Vallis Aurea
- Žlica i vilica
- Lari i Penati
You can feast on local specialties and try a wide variety of delicacies on a Zagreb food walking tour. This is a great way to get a feel for the restaurant scene of the city while eating your way through it.
8. Enjoy the Panoramic Views of the City From the Observation Deck (Zagreb 360°)
As the name suggests, the Zagreb Eye (also called Zagreb 360°) is an observation deck which you can get 360-degree views from. If you are a lofty view seeker, this will be visual heaven for you. It is situated on Ban Jelačić Square in the heart of Zagreb, so it’s really easy to reach.
To enjoy panoramic views of the city and take the most beautiful photos, you will have to climb to the observation deck on the sixteenth floor of a skyscraper. It stands 182 meters (about 600 ft) above sea level.
Once you get here, you’ll be able to see the entire panorama of Zagreb while feasting your eyes on parks, squares, modern skyscrapers, historic structures, and more.
The outdoor open-air walkway lets visitors take pictures and enjoy bird’s-eye views at the same time. There is also a bar where you can sit at an alfresco table while sipping a cocktail in the clouds.
Multiple re-entries are possible in a single day. There are family tickets, tickets for adults, and tickets for children. Kids under 3 years of age receive free admission.
9. Head to Zagreb Cemetery
We are serious. This is not a joke. It is a quirky thing to do in Zagreb that may sound weird, but it’s worth visiting. Mirogoj Cemetery was established about 150 years ago. Today, it is one of the top attractions and landmarks of Zagreb. That’s because it looks like a park with plenty of monuments rather than a typical cemetery.
Once you pass through a monumental entrance, you will shortly get to the central part of the cemetery. It features lots of sculptures, ornate arcades, and gravestones. Since the cemetery is designated to various religions, there are Star and Moon as well as Star of David symbols on graves beside the Christian Cross.
You can see the graves of many famous people at Mirogoj, including Croatian presidents, sportsmen, composers, actors, and so on.
10. Bonus: Visit Museums, Galeries, and Castles
There are a lot of galleries, ateliers, and museums in Zagreb that allow visitors to spend hours outdoors or indoors. Some of the most popular ones include the Meštrović Atelier, War Photography Museum, Lauba Gallery, Zagreb 80s Museum, Museum of illusions, Klovicevi Dvori Gallery, and Museum of Torture.
Museum of Broken Relationships is another venue worth visiting. It is located in Upper Town.
Here, you’ll see heartbreaking and compelling stories told by past lovers’ personal belongings. Mementos displays tell the stories of broken relationships and love – some are said, others funny.
That makes this place quirky and appealing. There’s a bar where guests can have a drink.
Do you have enough time for another tour? Great! Plan your visit to Varaždin (a baroque town 50 miles north of Zagreb) and experience Trakošćan Castle. This 13th-century castle lies near Trakošćan Lake, housing a museum with a valuable collection of books, photographs, paintings, weaponry, and furniture.
Varaždin is one of the most beautiful cities in Croatia. Its streets are rich with villas, palaces, and old buildings. Trakošćan Castle is no doubt the most popular tourist attraction in this lovely city.
You can see this magnificent castle while enjoying the surrounding nature and having a walk around the picturesque Trakošćan Lake on the Small-Group Day Trip from Zagreb. Don’t miss it!
Zagreb is definitely made for strolling. Wander through the Upper Town’s red-roof and cobblestone glory, peppered with church spires. Feel free to see the domes and ornate upper-floor frippery of the Lower Town’s mash-up of secessionist, neo-baroque, and art deco buildings. Search out the grittier pockets of town where ugly-bland concrete walls have been transformed into colorful murals by local street artists. Special markets, tasty food and so many things to do in Zagreb make it the best destination for you.