Croatia's capital city opens up a whole new side of the country. After spending a month there, here are my 19 favorite things to do in Zagreb, Croatia! Be sure to subscribe for my FREE guide for even more to experience in Zagreb!

So many wonderful things to do in Zagreb!

I spent a month in Croatia’s capital, and I have to tell you, narrowing this list down to 19 things to do in Zagreb took a fair amount of editing. From cafés to beautiful parks, unique museums, and visiting some of Zagreb’s creepier spots, I loved my time there. I think you will too.

So, yes, this is an abbreviated list of things to do in Zagreb. The good news is that I’ve included absolutely everything in my Wonder & Sundry Guide to Zagreb. This FREE online guide is available now—subscribe today for access!

Things to Do in Zagreb

A fond farewell to the Adriatic coast

On the bus from Zadar, I turned one last time and bade farewell to the Adriatic. After nearly two months on this jewel of a coastline, my journey turned inland to Zagreb, Croatia. Over the next 285 kilometers (177 miles), the landscape changed, becoming more autumnal, until we arrived in Zagreb.

Arriving in Zagreb

My Uber driver was thrilled that I’d chosen to spend time in Zagreb, as not everyone who visits Croatia goes here, and he explained Ilicia as a dividing line between some of the older parts of the city and the newer Lower Town. His wife was from Los Angeles—so clearly I knew exactly where she lived, as Boston and LA are right down the street from each other.

He dropped me off on Demetrova 3 in Upper Town, and I saw some construction resulting from the 2020 earthquake. Soon after, my host arrived to let me into my apartment for the month, carved into the old city walls. My month in Zagreb had begun.

Zagreb isn’t what you think of when you think of Croatia

When you close your eyes and think of Croatia, you’re seeing Dubrovnik, right? Game of Thrones, Southern Europe, sparkling seas, those red tiled rooflines and light brown masonry. Open them, sweetie, because that’s not Zagreb. Not even close. Where the Dalmatian Coast reflects its Roman and Venetian past, Zagreb is the Austro-Hungarian Empire and more classic medieval Europe, with a stone gate and old city walls.

Zagreb has the grand squares, urban parks, and long streets familiar to continental Europe. While the Upper Town Gradec behind the old walls and some of the twisty lanes of Kaptol are distinctly medieval, and the closeness will feel familiar after wandering through Split, Dubrovnik, or Trogir, the rest bares nearly no resemblance at all.

Yet Zagreb is still Croatia

And yet, Zagreb is still Croatia. There’s bustle, yes—Zagreb definitely moves at a faster pace than Split—but it’s still Croatia. In Zagreb, people hang out in cafés for hours, smoking and talking with their friends. They will feed you to within an inch of your life. You won’t mind. The hearty fare is scrumptious.

There’s that gruffness, too, and the men wear those black sweatpants and sneakers distinct to the region. I didn’t detect as much teasing as I did in Split, but perhaps I just didn’t pick up on it.

Scars remain from the wars

And there’s an undercurrent of pain stemming from the wars  of the 1990s that led to the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. It’s hard to believe that a land so beautiful had so much bloodshed. 

Zagreb is where Croatia declared independence

Here in Zagreb is where the Croatian declaration of independence from the former Yugoslavia was read in 1991. What Croatia calls the Homeland War lasted until 1995. Approximately 40,000 people died. Croatia participated in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It remains a sensitive subject

The wars of the 1990s remain a sensitive subject, and it’s wise not to bring it up, but you will hear about it while you’re in Croatia. I made a decision at the beginning of my trip to do more listening than talking about this subject. I might not have known what to say anyway.

Rebuilding from the 2020 earthquake

Zagreb has had several serious earthquakes in its history. In March 2020, a 5.3 earthquake happened, and the city suffered significant damage (thankfully, there were very few deaths, perhaps thanks in part to Covid restrictions).

Construction

There’s construction going on everywhere, especially in the older parts of the city in Upper Town. While there’s a lot more open now, not everything may be operational. Make sure to confirm that an attraction is open ahead of time, as construction schedules can change.

Still very much worth visiting

Zagreb is still very much worth visiting and knowing what to expect will help make sure that you have a fantastic time.

19 Wonderful things to do in Zagreb

I fell in love with Zagreb in my month there, and I miss it. Without further ado, here are my 19 favorite things to do in Zagreb. 

1. While away the hours at a Zagreb café

Miss cafés in Zagreb, and I daresay you missed the whole thing. Zagreb takes its café culture to new heights, with Saturday late mornings designated as the Špica (“the peak”), when everyone comes out looking their best and heads to Flower Square and surrounding cafés to see and be seen over coffee. Make sure to make time to hang out on terraces and in cafés, because it really is something special.

A month isn’t nearly enough time to visit every Zagreb café, but I found some ones that I loved and highlighted them in a post.

2. Stock up on produce at the Dolac Market

You know me and how much I love a good public market, so believe me when I tell you that Zagreb has one of the best. Producers from all over the region gather at Zagreb’s open-air Dolac market. If it’s in season, you can get It here. The market, in the shadow of Zagreb Cathedral, is huge and ringed with cafés, shops, and souvenir stands. Everyone comes here.

Cash only

Bring cash, don’t expect English, and, if you can, go on Saturday morning, as that’s the best time. Make sure to head down the steps to the flower market. Not around Saturday morning? Never fret—it’s open six days a week until about 14:00. Just don’t miss it.

3. Feast on štrukli at La Štruk

My Airbnb host in Zagreb was fantastic, and she gave me a great list of restaurants and bars to try in the city. Right at the top of the list? La Štruk.

A traditional Croatian comfort food

Think of štrukli as a traditional Croatian version of lasagna, without the tomato sauce. Traditionally made with thin layers of pasta and cottage cheese, there’s as many recipes for štrukli as there are grandmothers in this part of Croatia.

You can only get štrukli at La Štruk

La Štruk kicks things up a notch. They only serve štrukli, but they make it really, really well. They can be either savory or sweet (I prefer the savory ones), and you can get it steamed (more traditional), or gratined (tastier, in my opinion). Either way, it’s delicious, and you won’t be sorry you came. In fact, you’ll probably go back for more. I certainly did.

TIP: If the day is fine, ask to sit out on their back terrace. It’s something special indeed.

4. Wander the British Square (Britanski trg) antique market on a Sunday morning

In addition to a good cemetery, I love an outdoor flea market or antique market. There’s nothing like one to learn about a place. What do the grandmothers have in their homes? Check out a flea market. Zagreb’s antique market straddles between a proper antique market and a flea market, and the spirit of it is not to be missed. Held each Sunday morning in Britanski trg (British Square) (there’s a quieter farmer’s market than the rush of the Dolac there during the week), vendors set up tables, and everyone wanders around.

Have a coffee

After you’ve wandered the market, perhaps picking up a little something that will fit in your carry-on, have a coffee at one of the many outdoor cafés that line the square and watch the world go by. It’s a dream of a Sunday morning.

5. Ride the world’s shortest* funicular

If you love a good funicular, the Zagreb Funicular (Zagrebačka uspinjača) will make you so happy. While I am not 100% certain it truly is the *world’s shortest funicular, they say that it is, and it certainly is a tiny thing. Two blue cars ride up and down the steep, 66-meter/216.5-foot track, dropping you off on Strossmayer Promenade at the top and just off Ilicia at the bottom.

While it’s mostly fun, it’s sometimes handy

While you’ll likely spend more time waiting for the funicular to run (it runs every ten minutes) than it would take you to hoof it up the stairs, the funicular is fun (and very handy when you have groceries or are just plain tired out). The Zagreb funicular is part of the public transportation system and costs less than a Euro to ride, so why not?

6. Search for street art

Zagreb has some incredible street art, and you don’t need to go too out of your way to find it. Indeed, one of my favorite pieces graced a viewpoint at the end of my street that I visited almost every day. Even in one of Zagreb’s most graceful parks, the city embraced street art, with murals along the walls in Zagreb’s Art Park.

Helpful sources and tours

Where Goes Rose has an excellent post on Zagreb street art, and Croatia Honestly has another helpful post. I rather love that I found some of these quite by accident. Murals by Boris Bare & Dominik rank high on my list of great street art in Zagreb—you can find the mural of Gulliver in Park Opatovina. I have more in my Zagreb guide. Subscribe to get it!

There are street art tours that you can book through GetYourGuide. I didn’t go on these—I’d gotten a bit toured out, but I’ve heard that they’re great. Paste-up and sticker fans should look out for the new Zagreb Street Art Festival, held in September (they still have the 2023 festival up, but check back for 2024 dates).

7. Visit an active shrine in the Old Stone Gate

Zagreb’s Stone Gate, the last remaining thirteenth-century gate in Upper Town is fascinating. At the top, it has a mace to keep out witches. Inside, however, it has a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Petitioners come and pray to a painting, encased in an ornate metal framework, that is said to have survived a great fire and now is a place where prayers are answered.

You’ll see people praying and lighting candles

Pass through the gate, and you are likely to see people standing or kneeling before the painting, praying. You’ll see plaques in the gate with people’s names and sometimes “Hvala Ti” (thank you in Croatian).  These are left in thanks for answered prayers.

Petitioners light candles and sometimes sit on the benches off to the side within the gate itself. One night, I came across a service, where people held banners and candles, and chanted prayers.

It’s OK to walk through

This goes without saying, but show respect to people praying. There is a path for people to walk through the gate, and it is perfectly acceptable to do so, but pass quietly. Stand back to take photos, and, if you’re with someone, refrain from talking.

Visit unique museums

As a capital city, Zagreb boasts some outstanding museums. I didn’t get to all of them, but in the ones that I did attend, two really stood out to me. There was more going on than what met the surface, and I find myself still thinking about them.

8. Museum of Broken Relationships

The original Museum of Broken Relationships (there’s outposts in other parts of the world), is, as the name suggests, devoted to the aftermath of a relationship’s end. Artists Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić the artists had asked people to donate tokens of their relationships past, and the Museum of Broken Relationships is what came out of it.

This museum will make you howl with laughter and weep with loss

Each artifact contains a card explaining its significance in a broken relationship. Some of these will make you howl with laughter. A few will make you weep at the loss. Sometimes you may find yourself weeping and laughing at the same time.

While there are other locations of this award-winning museum throughout the world, this original Zagreb location is not to be missed. I would allow a little time to process afterwards. The Broken Ships café inside the museum is a good place to collect yourself.

9. Zagreb 80s Museum

When I tell you that there’s a serious undercurrent to the Zagreb 80s Museum, you’re going to think that I must not have visited the same place. Hear me out. This delightful museum of a typical Zagreb apartment in the last years of Yugoslavia is a hoot.

You can try on the clothes

Nothing is off limits. You can try on the clothes. You can sit on the furniture. You can play the games. I do not advise trying to open the old jars and cans of food, but you could always ask.

It’s all gloriously tacky. It’s funny.

The heartbreak of Yugo-nostalgia

And I think it’s also heartbreaking, because of what came next. Yugo-nostalgia is very real in this part of the world, in large part because there’s a lot of trauma from the wars that remains unprocessed. 

10. Use a WII-era bunker as a shortcut—Grič Tunnel

Built during WWII as a bunker, Grič Tunnel had never been used and had fallen into disrepair. During the wars in the 1990s, a legendary rave was held in this tunnel. This 90s gal is thankful that she didn’t live through a war, but she’s a teensy bit jealous that she missed this party.

Today, Grič Tunnel is used as an artspce, especially during Advent Zagreb. It’s also a super convenient shortcut to get from one end of the hill to the other without having to go over or all the way around.

11. Take the stairs

Throughout Upper Town, you’ll find these staircases. Sometimes they’re obvious, but other times, they’re through gates (I got used to following people at a distance to see if they were taking one). The stairs often lead somewhere interesting. Sometimes to street art, sometimes to a lovely little park, other ways to unique vistas.

Take care on them, especially with all of the construction going on (if there’s a barrier, turn back), but definitely explore them. You’ll feel like a detective. I’ve indicated some of my favorites in my guide.

12. Who’s that? Zagreb’s literary statues

I’ll admit it—most of the time, I tend to ignore statuary when I’m visiting someplace. Unless there’s a bird or twenty on it, and then I snap a photo. I’m not religious, and I’m not into war, so the most common statue subjects are just not my jam.

Zagreb’s are different. Zagreb has a lot of statues devoted to writers and inventors. Croatia Honestly has a great roundup of them. I discovered the article when doing an image search for the statue of Miroslav Krleža, which was at the bottom of the hill behind the building where I stayed.

13. Wander Tkalčićeva Ulica—Zagreb’s old Red-Light district

Yes, it’s touristy, but you’re going to miss something if you miss Tkalčićeva Street. The street covers what was once a stream, and it separated Old Gradec (the walled part of Upper Town) from Kaptol.

Most of the adorable houses on the street were brothels until World War II. Today, the charming old buildings house cafés and bars, and it’s a great place to grab a drink and watch the world go by for a while.

14. Head to the center of it all at Ban Jelačić Square

You can’t miss Ban Jelačić Square if you visit Zagreb, literally. Zagreb’s city center square is a destination in its own right, surrounded by impressive buildings and anchored with a statue of Ban Josip Jelačić, but it’s also a major tram stop.

During Advent Zagreb, the advent wreath is lit around the Manduševac fountain, and throughout the year, festivals take place here.

15. Stroll Zagreb’s Green Horseshoe

Lower Town in Zagreb boasts a glorious series of graceful parks known as the Green Horseshoe. The parks, shaped in a u-shape (hence the “horseshoe”), were designed by Milan Leuci, and include the majestic King Tomislav Square, the Botanical Gardens, and are home to buildings like the Croatian National Theatre.

Park Zrinjevac is a standout

Of these parks, Park Zrinjevac is, to my mind, the most beautiful. And also, the most interesting with the Meteorological Post, a nineteenth century weather station that gives the temperature, pressure, and humidity, and has a twenty-four hour clock. It has become a popular meeting spot.

Walking the Green Horseshoe is a great way to explore Lower Town, and don’t miss it!

16. Stroll one of Europe’s prettiest cemeteries

As a graduate student, I lived across from a cemetery on a riverbank. It was a large and peaceful cemetery, and people walked there as though it was a park. It was there that I learned to love cemeteries and to seek them out in my travels.

Mirogoj is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever visited

Zagreb’s Mirogoj cemetery is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever visited. Even with the damage to the galleries sustained in earthquake (expect ongoing restoration work), this nineteenth-century cemetery with its graceful lanes, trees, and mausoleums, invites reflection. I still feel my shoulders relax, thinking back to my time there. Even if you don’t seek out cemeteries in your travels, make time for this one.

All Saint’s Day is an ideal time to go

I had hoped to visit the day I arrived, on All-Saint’s Day, as there is candle lighting and ceremony, but my Airbnb host wanted to make sure to give me a thorough introduction to Zagreb (well worth the time), and by the time we were finished, I’d missed it.

A municipal, as opposed to religious, cemetery

Mirogoj is unique in that it is a municipal cemetery, as opposed to a religious one—you will find all faiths and denominations resting here. I rather like that. When it opened in the late 1870s, the graves from earlier Zagreb cemeteries were relocated here—except for some of them (see below), and Mirogoj became the resting place of Zagreb.

You can find a memorial to the dead from the Croatian Homeland War (how Croatia refers to its war of independence from the former Yugoslavia). I didn’t go see it, but you can find it and other points of interest on Google Maps.

Haunted Zagreb graves in Groblije Jurjevesko

17. And stroll one of the creepiest cemeteries—Groblije Jurjevesko

Stay in Zagreb long enough, and you might pick up on its creepier side. Sometimes it’s closer than you think—my Airbnb had a grave in the courtyard around which rumors swirl. I had some spooky fun exploring Zagreb’s scary sites, but Groblije Jurjevesko (Old Jurjevsko Cemetery) gave me a legit fright.

This cemetery dates back to at least the fourteenth century and was abandoned in the 1870s with the opening of Mirogoj. The spirits left there are said to feel abandoned. Some say they see a Lady in White, and others a four-year-old boy who became a vampire. I didn’t see anything, but I was very grateful to be there on a gray day, because this place is unsettling!

You can visit, too, if you dare. I wrote about this cemetery and other spooky places in my Haunted Zagreb post.

18. Take a city break head up into the mountains on the Žičara Sljeme (Zagreb Cable Car)

When you need a city break, ride the Žičara Sljeme (Zagreb Cable Car). Easily accessible from downtown Zagreb, this cable car takes you into the mountains. Have a bite and a drink at one of the restaurants at the top, wander around, and enjoy the ride!

Find out more about what to expect and to see some of my exactly one gagillion photos in my post.

19. Take a day trip to Lake Bled and Ljubljana, Slovenia

A few years ago, a friend of mine went on a trip around Europe hitting most of its greatest hits. I followed along on her Instagram stories, but stopped in my tracks when she posted pictures of Lake Bled. I’d heard of this stunning Slovenian lake, but when your friend’s posting photos of something straight out of a fairy tale—you take note.

I need to go back to Slovenia

As I had decided on a slower pace for my trip, indeed, I wanted to get to know where I was staying more than I would on a whistle-stop tour, I decided that I would not stay in Slovenia. However, I knew that I could easily get there from Zagreb.

So I did, and it was everything I ever dreamed of. Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, charmed me so much that I have designs on living there for a while someday. Find out more about this can’t miss day trip in my post.

Plan your visit to Zagreb!

I’m so excited for your trip to Zagreb! Here’s helpful of information to help you plan your trip!

Know Before You Go!

My new Know Before You Go series provides you with:

  • Practical information (think entrance requirements, transportation, money matters, where to stay/when to go, health & safety, and more)
  • Highlights of what to look forward to, including cuisine notes
  • A roundup of blog posts sharing what I loved most about Zagreb
  • A link to my detailed Wonder & Sundry Guide to Zagreb, Croatia, FREE for subscribers!

Be sure to visit the tourist office

Zagreb has loads of festivals, markets, and things to do. I hardly ever recommend this, but Zagreb’s tourist office in the main square is really good. They put out a monthly guide of all the goings on in the city. Make sure to pick one up! I went to a silent film festival while I was in town, among other things, as a result of that guide. They also provide free paper maps and can answer questions.

Book Tours

I used GetYourGuide to book my day trip to Lake Bled, Slovenia. Book that trip and more below!

Map of things to do in Zagreb

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FREE! The Wonder & Sundry Guide to Zagreb Croatia!

Here is is. Absolutely everything I loved about Zagreb! It’s absolutely FREE for subscribers (also free, and includes loads more goodies).

The Wonder & Sundry Guide to Zagreb, Croatia includes:

  • Neighborhood Guides: Discover what makes an area unforgettable, including things to do, food & drink, and points of interest.
  • Detailed Listings: Why you’ll love it, practical details, my personal rating, and more.
  • Annotated Map: Use to plan and on the go, this map has everything you’ll need, including website links

What are your favorite things to do in Zagreb?

Please share in the comments below about your favorite things to do in Zagreb!