If you’re searching for the perfect European city to spend a long weekend, Zagreb might be just what you’ve been searching for… ‘the one’ as they say! Why? It’s perfectly sized meaning that seeing all of the main sites in just one weekend is achievable, it has a buzzing yet relaxing atmosphere, fantastic food and wine, and countless layers of history. This means that whether you want to spend your time visiting historical sites, exploring every inch of the city, eating and drinking to your heart’s content or simply sitting back and watching the world go by from a sunny café terrace, Zagreb will deliver.
There are plenty of things to do in Zagreb, and you’re likely to stumble upon some of these attractions by accident whilst exploring on foot. But if you prefer to not to just wander around hoping you’ve seen all of the best bits, read on to learn about the top things to do in Zagreb.
I know it looks like I’m cramming three things into one here, but they go hand in hand! Zagreb is split into an Upper and Lower town, and both have distinct personalities. The Upper town is quieter, and it’s cobbled streets and beautiful buildings give it wonderful old town charm. Take the funicular (free with a Zagreb card or 4 Kuna without) from near Ban Jelačić square and admire the views back over the Lower town when you reach the top before slowly heading towards St Mark’s Square.
You’ll be immediately drawn towards St Mark’s Church, which stands in the centre stealing the limelight from the its neighbouring buildings of the Croatian Government, Parliament and Constitutional Court. Whilst these buildings are grand and beautiful, they can’t compete with the bright red, white and blue coloured roof of St Mark’s Church.
Try to time your visit to the Upper town so that you’re up there at midday – the Lotrscak Tower houses the Gric cannon which is fired everyday at this time.
Dolac is Zagreb’s biggest and most charming farmers’ market and is a treat for the eyes with its colourful sea of local fruit and vegetables. It’s not just the place to get one of your five a day though, it also showcases produce from all over Croatia such as cottage cheese from Zagorje, Istrian olive oil, Zadar cherries, mandarins from the Neretva Valley and lemons from Vis. Whilst you’re in the Upper town take some time to get lost amongst the bright red parasols and pick up some Croatian delicacies at the same time.
This cathedral is the largest sacral building in Croatia so it’s definitely worth a look around! It dates back to the 13th century but has been rebuilt multiple times since for a variety of reasons including damage by fires and earthquakes, and currently has a Neo-Gothic style which dates back to the 19th century.
This is an absolute must-see in Zagreb, even if you’re not usually a museum fan. It’s home to a wide variety of donated relics and memorabilia, each with a unique story relating to a broken relationship. This could be romantic relationships, family relationships… there’s even a box of pizza mix representing one individual’s broken relationship with pizza thanks to a gluten intolerance. The museum successfully toured the world before becoming a permanent resident of Zagreb’s Upper town.
If the Museum of Broken Relationships has given you a taste for slightly unusual exhibitions, you might enjoy learning about the torture and execution instruments from different epochs or perhaps about different species of mushrooms! Or maybe you’d like to experience the Museum of Illusions, where not everything is what it appears to be…
Just a short tram ride away from the centre, this park is the perfect place to relax away from the buzz of the city centre. The English-style park is the oldest public park in Zagreb and boasts five lakes and a number of pretty steams as well as the Maksimir Belvedere and the Pavilion of Echoes. It’s almost as big as New York’s Central Park, so make sure not to get lost!
Another reason to head out to Maksimir Park is that it’s home to Zagreb Zoo! A short walk through the park will take you to the entrance, and I have to say it’s the best value-for-money zoo I’ve ever been to. For just 30 Kuna you can spend your afternoon amongst almost 300 species of animals including bears, lions, sea lions, snow leopards, zebras and pygmy hippopotamuses!
You’ll have to take the bus to get here (10 minutes from Kaptol) but you get two attractions in one, with the largest cemetery in Zagreb AND an open-air sculpture park. It serves as a burial ground for various religions and segregation is strictly forbidden, therefore representing religious tolerance. There are plenty of paths and you could walk around here for hours.
If you want to experience Zagreb from above, you can head up to the top of the Zagreb Skyscraper for incredible views of the Ban Jelačić square, Manduševac fountain, Kaptol, Gradec, the Upper and Lower towns and the beautiful parks of Zagreb. The Zagreb Skyscraper is situated in Ban Jelačić square and is free to visit with a Zagreb card or 60 Kuna without.
These are of course just some of the things to see in Zagreb, and there are plenty more if you have the time! For example, you could visit the Technical Museum of Nikola Tesla, the Ethnographic Museum, the Botanical Gardens, the Lenuci Horseshoe and the Croatian National Theatre. However, these are my top picks and I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! Author: Ellen Miller