Zagreb – A Compact City Guide to the Croatian Capital

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and is home to a beautiful medieval city centre with impressive architecture and atmospheric cobbled streets, reminiscent of cities like Vienna and Prague. Zagreb is one of the smaller European capital cities, with only 800,000 people living in its historic buildings. Despite being the capital, Zagreb does not receive many visitors compared to the country’s spectacular Dalmatian Coast. While Croatia is most famous for its shores, why not experience something different?


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Best Time to Visit Zagreb


With spring rains making periodic appearances with warm summers, April to September is considered the most favourable time to visit Zagreb. Months between May and June witness warmer temperatures with days longer in duration.


Getting to Zagreb


For most international travellers, the air is the best way to get to Zagreb. The nearest airport to the city is Zagreb (ZAG) international airport. Conveniently, Pleso Prijevoz operates a bus from Zagreb Airport to Hrvatske Bratske Zajednice every 30 minutes. Tickets cost 34 kn – 35 kn, and the journey takes 27 minutes. You can also reach the city by train or road with many train and bus services operating from major European cities.


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Where to Stay in Zagreb


It can be overwhelming figuring out where to stay in Zagreb with so many options. The Lower Town is generally regarded as the best place to stay as a first-time visitor. The Ban Jelacic Square is the beating heart of central Zagreb. Characterised by Austro-Hungarian architecture and several fascinating museums, this is where the majority of hotels in central Zagreb are located, giving you optimum access to the top tourist sites.


What to Eat in Zagreb


Croatia is better known for its Mediterranean seafood dishes. But its continental heartland has many traditional offerings to get your tastebuds salivating. There are few things better than immersing yourself in local cuisine, so here are five Croatian classics you should keep an eye out for on your Zagreb trip:


  1. Sir i vrhnje – cottage cheese and sour cream
  2. Štrukli – dough filled with cottage cheese and sour cream
  3. Cuspajz – meat and vegetable stew
  4. Knedli – sweet potato dumplings
  5. 505 s crtom – typical Croatian candy


Grabbing a bite to eat at Dolac Market is the ideal place to find these Croatian delicacies and spot what else takes your fancy – it’s an excellent place for people watching too.


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Where to Visit in Zagreb


While Croatia’s coastline often basks in the attention of international tourists every summer, the savvy traveller wouldn’t overlook venturing further inland. The coast can be pricey, packed with tourists and foreign hotel chains, whereas Zagreb offers authentic local culture and no blatant consumerism.


Zagreb has a turbulent past, but you wouldn’t know it at first sight as the city enjoys a relaxed and laidback vibe. Meander through the historic streets, and you will find temptation at every turn. Coffee is popular here, and street corners are populated with charming cafes and bakeries that exude a sweet aroma of freshly ground coffee and baked pastries. The perfect backdrop after taking in the idyllic architectural sights!


Soak Up History


Start your Zagreb adventure by catching the short funicular ride from Ilica to the Old Town and wandering through the Stone Gate – the only remaining gate from the original town. In this easy-going city, you can take your time to appreciate the sights, sounds and smells at your own pace. After exploring the Old Town, you can either return to the funicular or take a scenic hike up to the Upper Town. 


No visit to a European city is complete without checking out the cathedral. The cathedral in Zagreb towers above the skyline and is the second-tallest building in Croatia. It is an exquisite example of Gothic architecture that stirs the soul. St. Mark’s church is another not to miss – and how could you with the shields of Zagreb and Croatia adorn its roof?


Relax in Nature


Zagreb is filled with natural beauty. The Botanical Gardens of Zagreb are free to enter and are a welcome break from the walk through the city’s streets – especially on a warm day. Find a bench amongst the greenery and watch the world go by to press the reset button. Other options for appreciating nature include Maksimir Park, which is a great choice for unwinding or enjoying a hike – it’s close to the town’s zoo too. Jarun Lake is the hotspot for adrenaline junkies with an array of watersports on offer, but there’s lots of fun to be had bar hopping along its shingle beaches. If you fancy a challenge, hike Medvednica for sweeping views of the city. There’s a selection of restaurants and cafes to recuperate and enjoy the scenery before your descent back to the historic city.


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Cool and Quirky


Zagreb is a unique city. Aside from the quintessential architecture and romantic views, there are some memorable places that you should add to your must-do list. The Museum of Broken Relationships is a one-of-a-kind experience. Here you can see mementoes and messages from departed unions – some are hilarious, others are heartbreaking, but all are individual and share what it means to be human.


Zagreb Top Tips


  • Opt for an apartment rental when visiting Zagreb to maximise your money and experience
  • Enjoy the global influences that mix and match in Zagreb. It’s a place where East meets West.
  • Croatia’s currency is the Kuna. Most places accept card payments but take a bit of local currency just in case.
  • Zagreb isn’t a huge city, so it is accessible on foot, and parking is virtually impossible to find, so make sure you pack comfortable footwear.


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