Meet the vibrant capital of Croatia – welcome to Zagreb! Where to stay, eat, drink, sightsee & party. Things to do in Zagreb, getting around, Zagreb Advent, festivals and more!

Trg bana Josipa Jelačića, the main square, in the heart of city centre Zagreb
Trg bana Josipa Jelačića, the main square, in the heart of city centre Zagreb

Welcome to Zagreb, Croatia’s most popular city destination for tourists

Visitors to Croatia have been falling in love with its Adriatic coast since the 1960s. However, Zagreb has only begun to be widely explored over the last 10 years. But there are good reasons an increasing number of visitors chose to.

Over the last decade, Croatia’s capital has become one of Europe’s more exciting city destinations. Moreover, Zagreb can now compete with most European capitals as the perfect place for a weekend break or a longer stay. Planning a stag do or business conference? There are too many great things to do in Zagreb. You’ll never bore of it. And, you’ll want to come back.

City overview

Croatia’s capital has a city centre full of incredible parks and spectacular Austro-Hungarian architecture. Zagreb cafe and restaurant culture vibrantly spill out onto every street. Forget about your watch. Here, you can lose yourself in the sights and atmosphere for an endless number of days.

In Zagreb, people often congregate outside bars on warmer nights. And even in winter, street life here still buzzes. Voted Best Christmas Market in Europe three years running, Zagreb Advent is one of the best reasons to visit in winter.

Zagreb food and drink

Štrukli is a famous local favourite in Zagreb © Bonč
Štrukli is a famous local favourite in Zagreb © Bonč

The Croatian capital’s food scene now competes alongside the best. Besides Michelin-starred and recommended restaurants, you’ll find a wide variety of international cuisine options. And, don’t forget the city also has the best grill restaurants in Croatia.

A city fond of a drink, it’s also a brilliant place to get to know Croatia wine. The country has some of the world’s best! And, an ever-growing craft beer scene has evolved over recent years. Visitors love to try Croatia beer. It can now satisfy any buff.

Museums and Sport in Zagreb

Art Pavillion Zagreb
Art Pavillion Zagreb

Responsible for preserving much of Croatia’s art and cultural heritage, the capital is brimming with museums and art galleries. And, as Croatia is famous for football, basketball, tennis, handball, rowing and waterpolo, the city also has excellent sports facilities.

If you’re more of a spectator than a participant, there are few better cities to come to watch. And, if your favourite rock and pop star is visiting, there’s few better places to catch them.

How to get to Zagreb and get around the city

Zagreb Franjo Tuđman Airport, international airport Zagre, Zagreb airport © VelikiMeshtar
Zagreb Franjo Tuđman Airport © VelikiMeshtar

Getting to Zagreb

Fly to Zagreb

300 million euro Franjo Tudjman airport is a huge upgrade on the previous terminal. And, airlines are noticing. Whereas a decade ago there were no intercontinental flights to Zagreb, today there are many.

Flight and carrier information has fluctuated consistently throughout 2020/2021. However, you can check out some of the latest flight news on Total Croatia News. And the airport’s website will tell you more. All you ever needed to know about the new airport terminal in this Total Croatia guide.

By train

Well-connected by train, you can travel direct from Zagreb to many capitals and countries. Belgrade, Budapest, Ljubljana, Austria, Germany and Switzerland are some. Furthermore, improvements to the pan-European train network are coming. These will soon see the city connected to southern Spain heading west and Greece heading east. Of course, the city is also the national rail hub. The most popular lines are to Split as well as to Rijeka. Learn more about getting around Croatia by train.

By bus

Zagreb is also the bus hub of Croatia. And, the 44 platforms of its intercity, international bus station are busy around the clock. For more info about Zagreb bus station’s national and international connections, here’s an excellent overview.

Zagreb trams network © ZET
Trams in Zagreb © ZET

Getting around town

Getting around the city couldn’t be easier. In fact, its integrated public transport network is one of Europe’s best for a city this size. Moreover, it’s reliable, affordable and easy.

Zagreb trams

Zagreb trams are efficient, fast and comfortable, connecting almost every area of the city. They even visit suburbs some 40 minutes from the centre. However easy, getting to grips with Zagreb trams is essential, and here’s how you do it.

Bus

Zagreb bus network fills in everywhere in between. And, aside from local buses, the Croatian capital is the centre of a fast and efficient inter-city bus network that will get you from Zagreb to the coast in no time. Or Belgrade, Munich and Budapest. Also, find here an overview of how to get around Zagreb by bus.

Zagreb taxi and by car

The deregulation of taxis in Croatia brought about more choice and competitive fares. Cammeo was the first widely-recognized and trusted operator. Apps like Uber and Bolt are now also here. Similarly, this new competition ensures prices stay low. But, if you’re not an app user and just hail from the street, ask how much your ride will cost before you get in.

Driving around Zagreb? Here are a few things to ponder. And if you are looking for a parking spot, here is what you need to know.

Geography of Croatia’s capital

The latest estimates are that the Croatian capital has just short of 1 million inhabitants. In short, this is a big city. But, not too big. Of course, Zagreb centre contains many of the city’s key attractions. Although, not all. Within the surrounding suburbs, you’ll find unmissable highlights like Jarun Lake, Maksimir Park, Mirogoj cemetery and the Museum of Modern Art. However, all are very easy to find and reach by tram.

Gets to grips with Zagreb quick – the heart of the city is split into two separate sections. They are Upper Town and Lower Town.

Upper Town (Gornji grad)

St Mark's Church in Upper Town Zagreb (Gornji grad)
St Mark’s Church in Upper Town Zagreb (Gornji grad)

Upper Town Zagreb is where you’ll find some of the oldest parts of the city. Indeed, this is the historic centre of town. Today, you’ll find government buildings there, housed inside grandiose Austro-Hungarian palaces. Hidden parks and viewpoints here give a superb citywide vista. Additionally, you’ll find great museums, restaurants and bars in Gornji grad.

Lower Town (Donji grad)

Zrinjevac Park, lower town Zagreb © Zagreb Tourist Board
Zrinjevac Park, lower town Zagreb © Zagreb Tourist Board

The home of city-centre shopping, Gornji grad also contains great museums, the main train station and most central hotels. It is home to university buildings, the Croatian National Theatre Zagreb and the best-known city parks.

Top 5 things to do in Zagreb

To get the most out of any trip to Zagreb – even if you’re only here for 24 hours – visit both Upper Town and Lower Town. Each hold a special ambience, fantastic architecture and wonderful views. Try also not to miss the following

Tkalčićeva

Tkalčićeva © Zagreb Tourist Board

Tkalčićeva © Zagreb Tourist Board

Offering a more casual promenade than Lower Town’s Spica, buzzing bars, cafes, restaurants and gift shops line Tkalčićeva Street. Notably, the later it gets, the younger the crowd drawn here. Particularly over warmer months, visitors pack the street. Earlier in the day it’s a popular place to sit and eat or take coffee. The atmosphere is wonderful. Older dwellings line the street. They almost seem to overhang. Yes, people still live in them, so please try to keep the enthusiasm down after midnight

Lenuzzi’s Horseshoe

A section of Lenuzzi's Horseshoe / Lenuci Horseshoe © Ex13
A section of Lenuzzi’s Horseshoe / Lenuci Horseshoe © Ex13

Stretching in a U shape through the centre, Lenuzzi’s Horseshoe offers an extended green escape right in the heart of the city. Above all other options, you should walk its entire length. While city centre parks are not unique to Zagreb, it’s unusual to have such a conjoined grouping. Moreover, the grand Austro-Hungarian buildings serving as backdrop on the route make it a spectacular and unforgettable stroll. Don’t rush it. You’ll see Zrinjevac Park, Strossmayer Square, Tomislav square, Ante Starčević Square, Zagreb Botanical Gardens, Marko Marulić Square, Mažuranić Square and Republic of Croatia Square. The Croatian National Theatre Zagreb and University of Zagreb buildings stand proudly within the latter.

Mirogoj Cemetery

Mirogoj © Mateo Henec
Mirogoj © Mateo Henec

A cemetery is rarely among the must-see attractions of a city, but Zagreb’s main Mirogoj cemetery is. Oxidised copper domes sit above the central building and along its imposing outer walls. Actually, one of the most notable Central European architects of the time, Hermann Bollé, built these in the late 19th century. Graves of notable Croatians from the past 150 years line the route as you wander. And, if you find yourself in Zagreb on All Saints Day (November 1st), then join the masses visiting and witness the sea of candles left behind.

Jarun Lake

Jarun Lake © Ivo Biocina / Croatian National Tourist Board
Jarun Lake © Ivo Biocina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Rollerbladers whizz by on smotth lakeside surfaces, passing joggers and dog walkers. But, though purpose built for sports and recreation, Jarun Lake doesn’t have to make you break a sweat. Indeed, many go to stroll. Others arbecue in designated spots or just sit idly on a cafe terrace overlooking the water. Rowers might glide by.

Maksimir Park

Maksimir Park © Ivo Biocina / Croatian National Tourist Board
Maksimir Park © Ivo Biocina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Home to Zagreb Zoo, there’s much more to Maksimir Park than the monkeys, snakes, big cats and wolves who live there. Founded in 1787, Maksimir Park was the first large public park in South-Eastern Europe. Indeed, it holds a considerable 316 hectares of natural forest, lakes, sculpted lawns and pretty pathways. You can lose yourself for hours. Bring a picnic and a ball game you’ll not want to leave.

Where to stay in Zagreb: hotels, hostels, and private accommodation

Hotel Esplanade Zagreb © Esplanade Zagreb
Hotel Esplanade Zagreb © Esplanade Zagreb

As its reputation as a cool, contemporary capital spreads, Zagreb’s accommodation expands. From 5-star hotels to bargan backpacker hostels through gorgeous private apartments, Zagreb’s got the lot.

Young travellers fill the city’s hostels in warmer months. Similarly, Zagreb Advent causes a rush on city centre hotel rooms. Accordingly, if there’s a place you’ve set your on heart on staying, best to book in advance.

A gourmet capital: restaurants, wine, and craft beer

Restaurants

 Don't miss Zagreb's grill restaurants. Magazinska Klet, just behind Autobusni kolodvor is good © Magazinska Klet

 Don’t miss Zagreb’s grill restaurants. Magazinska Klet, just behind Autobusni kolodvor is good © Magazinska Klet

Compared to just ten years ago, the Zagreb food offer has exploded in its number of options. From Asia, you can find Japanese sushi, Chinese food, Indian food, food from Sri Lanka and Thai food. Alternatively, there’s authentic Levantine food, Mexican food, Lebanese, Arabic and Turkish food. Some of Croatia’s best burger joints and pizza restaurants are here. Combined, these excellent imports now rival the classic Balkan grill/barbecue joints for your attention. Zagreb is also home to more Michelin-recommended restaurants than anywhere else in Croatia. Restaurant Noel even has a Michelin star.

For pizza, try Basta. For grill, Batak has several outlets. Also, Magazinska klet, Sofra and Pivnica Budweiser are good. Pri Zvoncu in the suburbs has a wonderful ambience. Nav pushes the boundaries in an exciting way. Bistro at the Esplanade Hotel is excellent fine dining in grandiose surroundings. Zinfandel’s, Lanterna na Dolcu, Uspinjaca, the list we could recommend is almost endless.

Croatian wine

 © Korlat
© Korlat

Croatians are proud of their wine. And for good reason – Croatian wine is brilliant. As a result, Zagreb is full of excellent wine bars offering you the chance to try the best Croatia wines. In addition, they also increasingly carry an impressive selection of imports. Bornstein is a popular Upper Town wine destination. Alternatively, Pod Zidom, Basement, Bastion 19 and Pupitres are among Lower Town’s favourites.

Craft beer Croatia

© Varionica

Craft beer in Croatia has taken hold. Indeed, finding now any notable city centre bar without at least one choice is hard. Don’t miss trying beers made by Zmajsko, Nova Runda, Pri Marius, Beckers, 5th Element, Križevačko, Medvedgrad or Varionica. Additionally, the award-winning Garden Brewery has a tap room in the suburbs that’s worth visiting.

Museums and art galleries in Zagreb

The Mestrovic Pavilion aka Home of Croatian Artists, Zagreb. Locals call it Džamija - it was once a mosque
The Mestrovic Pavilion aka Home of Croatian Artists, Zagreb. Locals call it Džamija – it was once a mosque

Fine art

You’re walking in the footsteps of David Bowie, no less, when you wander round the Zagreb Atelier of sculptor Ivan Mestrovic. Similarly, the great and good of European high society has visted the city’s fine art collections for at least a century. Mimara Museum holds one of the largest art collections in this part of Europe. At the same time, the Art Pavillion and Home of Croatian Artists also have their share of greats.

More museums and galleries

The city’s striking Museum of Contemporary Art is located in Novi Zagreb. Museums dedicated to chocolate, model trains, torture, hangovers, war photography, architecture and the police all vie for your attendance. Similarly intriguing are the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum, Museum of Broken Relationships and the Museum of Illusions. Although currently closed, the Croatian Museum of Naive Art in Zagreb holds a collection of incomparable national importance. Accordingly, one of the city’s best galleries, Klovićevi Dvori will showcase the collection in 2021.

Day trips from Zagreb

The Old Town of Ozalj in Karlovac County © Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Roads extend in every direction from Zagreb. For the most part, you can reach everywhere in Croatia in less than half a day. But, if you want to make the most of a day trip, choose somewhere nearer. Overlooking the capital, Medvednica mountain is an untaxing climb. Additionally, it’s in a Nature Park and holds great views. A gem largely undiscovered by mass tourism, continental Croatia is right on your doorstep. Most of Croatia’s incredible castles are here.

Zagreb County


Zagreb County © Zagreb County Tourist Board

Hugging the capital on almost every side, Zagreb County is an escape into a starkly different world. Compared to Zagreb, life here often has a slower pace. And it is more traditional. Coupled with wild areas of forest and nature, agricultural land rolls across this green landscape. Follow the wine routes and try some of Croatia’s best sparkling varieties. Pick up some handmade arts & crafts. Or go hiking in the picturesque hills of Samobor. Before picnicking by a peaceful lake, explore a castle.

A new website, launched in 2020, brings the considerable offer of Zagreb’s surroundings ever close. Check out the Around Zagreb website here.

Zagorje

Zagorje  © Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board
Zagorje © Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Literally meaning ‘over the mountain’, Zagorje is the traditional region north of Medvednica. In many cases, you’ll have seen it as you flew in. It’s the pretty landscape of gently rolling hills you pass over immediately before landing. Largely rural, it’s a place of pristine nature living side by side with agriculture. Vineyards climb the hillsides. Blissful holiday homes sit by their side. Rustic restaurants lie within view of ancient castles. A magical vista.

Karlovac County

Beautiful Rastoke © Croatian National Tourist Board
Beautiful Rastoke © Croatian National Tourist Board

City of 10, 000 trees, beautiful county capital Karlovac fills your vision with parks and greenery. The city of four rivers, they call it. As a result, the town’s cuisine and recreational options are distinct. Cool off in summer by swimming beneath gentle waterfalls. Try a canoe or take a tour on a grain ship. Although, if water features are your thing you might head to the charming village of Rastoke. There, you can dine atop gushing streams. Furthermore, Plitvice lakes is just on the other side of the county line. It’s Croatia’s most famous National Park. Karlovac county has its share of great castles to find too.

The Monument to the Revolution of the people of Moslavina  © Secret Mapping Experiment
The Monument to the Revolution of the people of Moslavina in Sisak-Moslavina County © Secret Mapping Experiment 

A look at the best Zagreb tours

As in any city, there are many tours you can take. The city centre is quite compact. Subsequently, taking a guided tour will ensure you don’t miss any special nuggets of history as you walk. Although, on some tours you don’t even have to walk. Try something different, and go on the Ghosts and Dragons Tour. You’ll learn a lot about the history of the city. Take a tour that will teach you some Croatian. It might also bring you closer to the city’s history and culture. If you’re not that into walking, go for the Blue Line Tour. It takes you to some of the most remarkable places in Zagreb using public transport.

Advent in Zagreb

Advent in Zagreb © Julien Duval / Zagreb Tourist Board
Advent in Zagreb © Julien Duval / Zagreb Tourist Board

A spectacular theatre of a million lights and festive cheer. Experience the sights, sounds and scents of Zagreb Advent for yourself. Not for nothing was it voted Europe’s Best Christmas Market three years consecutively. Parks and squares, streets and tunnels undergo transformations beyond normal recognition. Notwithstanding the cold temperatures, the city is alive with al fresco dining and live music. Check out the official Advent website.

Festivals in Zagreb

InMusic Festival at Lake Jarun, Zagreb © InMusic
InMusic Festival at Lake Jarun, Zagreb © InMusic

Music festivals

Inviting a wealth of top-flight international rock and pop stars, InMusic is probably the most recognizable of Zagreb music festivals for outsiders. Compared to others with similar billings, it’s a bargain. Furthermore, it’s a great excuse to visit the city in summer. Interestingly, it takes place on an island in Jarun Lake, usually each June. And it is Croatia’s largest open-air music festival.

InMusic may be the city’s most famous music festival, but it’s far from the only one. You’ll find many more musical happenings. The Croatian National Theatre Zagreb (HNK Zagreb) regularly brings world-standard opera and classical music onto Zagreb streets. These are spectacular free shows.

Crossover Festival takes funk, soul and jazz sounds to Ribnjak Park. Rock and pop performers appear at almost every social event in the centre. In fact, you’ll find Zagreb’s squares and parks filled with melody and sound throughout most the year.

Film festivals

Tuškanac Summer Stage Zagreb © Nikola Madunovic / Tuškanac Summer Stage
Tuškanac Summer Stage © Nikola Madunovic / Tuškanac Summer Stage

One of Europe’s biggest, Animafest is the continent’s second-oldest animation film festival. It usually takes place in early June. It attracts just about all the best-made animated films of the year.

ZagrebDox is an international documentary film festival in early spring. It consists of two programmes, regional and international. They present the best creative documentaries of the year.

Zagreb Film Festival is an 18-year-old event of national significance. Above all, it concentrates on promoting new works and talent. However, within its city-wide programmes, you will find several different themes. Among them are well-chosen career retrospectives.

Folklore

LADO,  the Croatian National Folk Dance Ensemble © LADO
LADO, the Croatian National Folk Dance Ensemble © LADO

The International Folklore Festival and is a presentation of folklore traditional to Croatia. It boasts international guests. Croatia’s many folklore societies preserve dance, songs, costumes and even musical instruments. These are part of regional and national heritage. Moreover, Croatian folklore is an enchanting spectacle. Furthermore, it’s a valuable insight into the past of the country’s everyday folk. You can see festival events all around the city during July, in the Upper Town, Ban Jelačić square, and elsewhere.

However, if you’re not in the city at this time, not to worry. Luckily, Zagreb is home to the Croatian National Folk Dance Ensemble, LADO. Dedicated performers, singers and musicians all, they are famous across the world. If you get a chance to catch them, you simply must.

Zagreb food and drink festivals

Zagreb Burger Festival 2020 © Mateo Henec
Zagreb Burger Festival 2020 © Mateo Henec

From sparkling wines and smoked meats to regional cuisine, burgers and olive oil. Zagreb streets celebrate all of Croatia’s best food and drink. The city’s connoisseur wine events regularly attract international visitors. Other specialty products also have their own festivals. However, mixed markets pop up all the time across Zagreb. In particular, these celebrate homemade and regional produce alongside traditional arts & crafts. The stalls are wonderful to walk around. Moreover, you can usually try before you buy.

Please note: In 2020, many public events and festivals were put on hold for epidemiological reasons. However, Zagreb’s cultural life continued. Events took place online. 2021 may be too soon to see the return of every indoor event in Zagreb’s regular calendar. But many outdoor events, although not yet officially announced, will most probably return this year.

5 things many tourists don’t know about Zagreb

Dolac market

Dolac market, Zagreb © Marc Rowlands
Dolac market, Zagreb © Marc Rowlands

Running seven days a week, guide books often mention Dolac market. Still, you really need to go there to fully appreciate all the wonderful colours and atmosphere. For the most part, Croatia still eats seasonal fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats and fish. And at Dolac, you can see the season set out before you in full display. To begin with, try to go before midday. Also, don’t miss the fish market in the corner of the outdoor area. Moreover, the cheese and dairy section is a little hidden downstairs. But it’s a fascinating find. A reminder of what you’ve seen will probably come later. The same produce frequently ends up on local restaurant menus.

Boom! Grički top

Grički top © Tomislav Reskovic, Youtube screenshot
Grički top © Tomislav Reskovic, Youtube screenshot

The sound is something you’ll notice as soon as you arrive in Zagreb. In fact, if you’re in the centre at midday on your first day, you might jump out of your skin. Certainly, the pigeons do. It’s a ceremonial cannon that has been fired at this time every day for the past 140 years. In addition, it sits right next to Zagreb’s funicular. They’re two of the city’s more intriguing idiosyncratic features. Both are in Upper Town.

Špica

Spica in Zagreb city centre © Zagreb Tourist Board
Spica in Zagreb city centre © Zagreb Tourist Board

Špica is a cultural phenomenon worth noticing. Likewise, it’s one you should get involved in. Every Saturday, around 10 am, city residents put their coolest clothes on. Thereafter, they come to Donji Grad for a cup of coffee. After strolling the streets, they sit in full view on a cafe terrace. Usually with a friend or friends. Of course, this is more than just coffee and catching up. Above all, watching people and being watched are why you’re here.

Tunnel Grič

Tunnel Grič Zagreb © Miroslav Vajdic
Tunnel Grič © Miroslav Vajdic

Built during the Second World War, Tunnel Gric’s 500 metres of tunnel connect opposite parts of the centre. To begin with, its revival as an events space came when it hosted a 90s rave party. Since then, it has been renovated. Subsequently, this unique thoroughfare across the city is now open day and night. Ultimately, it has also become a part of Advent in Zagreb.

Zagreb street art

Opatovina Park, Zagreb © Ernest Mazarekić / Art Park / Zagreb Tourist Board
Opatovina Park, Zagreb © Ernest Mazarekić / Art Park / Zagreb Tourist Board

Street art has given modern overhauls to several Croatian cities. Specifically, Vukovar, Sisak, Bjelovar and Rijeka are notable. However, Zagreb’s facelifts are the most frequently occurring. Notably, several of the city’s best street art projects are helmed by Okolo and Pimp My Pump. Interestingly, summer’s Art Park in Ribnjak park has ties to some of the movers and shakers. Check out too Opatovina park, just above Tkalčićeva. Painted works surround on all sides.

Expat life and moving to Zagreb

This could be the kind of morning view from your Zagreb balcony © Lucija Luc Babić / Tourist Board Zagreb
This could be the kind of morning view from your Zagreb balcony © Lucija Luc Babić / Tourist Board Zagreb

Croatia’s capital has become truly international over the last decade. You can meet people from all over the world on its city streets. And they’re not all tourists.

EU entry in July 2013 brought a number of expats and their families. Also, after legislation changed in 2020/2021, digital nomads are increasingly looking at the city. Since Croatia has the best lifestyle on the continent, who can blame them?

For more on moving and living Croatia and beyond, check out the Total Croatia introduction to life here. And the Total Zagreb portal has a useful section for all you need to know about making the big move and settling in.

Useful contacts and for more information

The Zagreb Tourist Board has a comprehensive website, which covers all tourism aspects of the city.

You can also keep up with the latest from the capital via the TCN dedicated portal for Zagreb.

And for 25 things to know about the city, check out Andrea Pisac’s guide.