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, it’s only over the last 10 years that lots of tourists decided to explore Zagreb. And there are very good reasons they chose to.

Over the last decade, the Croatian capital has become one of Europe’s most 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? Well, there are many great things to do in Zagreb, you’ll never be bored. 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 spills out onto every street. Forget about your watch. here, you can lose yourself in the sights and atmosphere of the city 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 is 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 will 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 and watch competitions. And, if your favourite rock and pop star is visiting, there’s also no better place to catch them performing.

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, with the most popular lines being 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 – including suburbs some 40 minutes from the centre. However, getting to grips with Zagreb trams is essential, and here’s how you do it.

Bus

Zagreb bus network fills in everywhere 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 – or Belgrade, Munich and Budapest – in no time. 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 bigger choice and competative fare reductions. Cammeo was the first widely-recognised 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. But, not all. Within the suburbs that surround, 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; recognise the heart of the city is split into two separate sections – 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 the 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 also 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 – you simply must 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 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. Along the route you’ll see Zrinjevac Park, Strossmayer Square, Tomislav square, Ante Starčević Square, Zagreb Botanical Gardens, Marko Marulić Square, Mažuranić Square and finally Republic of Croatia Square. The Croatian National Theatre Zagreb and University of Zagreb buildings stand proudly within the latter.

Mirogoj Cemetery

A cemetery is rarely among the must-see attractions of a city, but Zagreb’s main Mirogoj cemetery is one of those. Amazing central building (often called Arkade by the people of Zagreb, which might give you a completely wrong idea of what goes on there) was created by one of the most notable Central European architects of his time, Hermann Bollé and built in the late 19th century. There you can find the graves of many, or even most notable Croatians from the past 150 years, and if you find yourself in Zagreb on the All Saints Day (November 1st), then you just have to go to Mirogoj and feel that atmosphere.

Jarun Lake and Maksimir Park

Maksimir Park and Jarun Lake are not close to one another, but they’re listed here together as they are both places where you’d go to get out in nature, while still staying firmly within the city. Jarun is a lake with several islets, near the Sava river in the Western part of the city, very popular for all types of recreation for people of Zagreb, line-skating, bikes, rowing, jogging, volleyball, basketball, or just taking a nice walk, which always ends with a coffee in one of the bars (or even lunch in one of the several restaurants). Maksimir is a large park in the Eastern part of town, that also hosts the Zagreb Zoo, and is also an amazing spot for a leisurely afternoon walk.

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

Accommodation options in the capital are improving all the time. With the city’s new reputation as a cool destination, more backpackers are putting the Croatian capital on their bucket lists.

As such, there has been an explosion of hostels in recent years, a nice budget selection. Hotels are also upping their game with an eye on quality. And the private rental market has never been busier.

If you plan to come to Zagreb for the Advent festivities, make sure to book well in advance. Prices for accommodation anywhere near the city centre will be higher in that period, as can be expected.

A gourmet capital: restaurants, wine, and craft beer

While it is true that there is a long tradition of good restaurants in Zagreb, as well as bars (known in Zagreb in the past as ‘kavane‘, which is a name some of the traditional ones still use), recent years have brought us many new, exciting, original and popular restaurants in the Zagreb city centre. You won’t have any problems finding more traditional Croatian cuisine, or restaurants offering more international dining options.

Croatians are proud of the wine they make, and in recent years the quality of wines has been drastically improving, so numerous wine-makers in Croatia have been winning medals at the best competitions worldwide. Many excellent wine bars in Zagreb, most of which are located in the city center offer the best of Croatian wines, but also increasingly impressive selection of imported wines. Bornstein is a popular Upper Town wine destination, Pod Zidom, Basement, Bastion 19 and Pupitres are among popular downtown locations, and we’re certain many more wine bars will be opening in Zagreb in years to come.

There was also another revolution taking place in Zagreb at the same time: the craft beer revolution. All beer in Croatia used to come from large breweries, which were acquired by international beer giants. Small craft beer producers started taking their share of the market in the past 5 years. Today, there are over 40 breweries producing a lot of really good craft beer in Croatia. The popularity and quality of those beers made many bars in the center offer them to their guests. Don’t miss the opportunity to try beers made by Zmajska pivovara, Nova runda, Varionica or Garden Brewery (although not really in the city center, their tap room might be worth a visit if you’re a true beer fan).

Museums and art galleries in Zagreb

Zagreb has long been recognized as a city of culture, with many valuable and important museums and art galleries. Mimara Museum in downtown Zagreb, close to the Croatian National Theatre holds one of the largest art collections in this part of Europe, gathered by one collector. Museum of Contemporary Art is located in Novi Zagreb, across the Sava river. You should consider visiting it, if time permits you to go exploring outside of the city center. Klovićevi Dvori gallery in the Upper town produces around 30 exhibitions each year. Other interesting, more niche museums include Nikola Tesla Technical Museum, Museum of Broken Relationships (which has achieved international acclaim and has a franchise in Los Angeles), Dražen Petrović Museum, Museum of Illusions etc.

Day trips from Zagreb

Being central to Croatia, Zagreb offers you many wonderful opportunities for day trips. A visit to Plitvice lakes will always be the first on everyone’s mind and for a good reason. The amazing scenery of the lakes and waterfalls just an hour away is something you shouldn’t miss. Rastoke are much smaller, more intimate, less wild and much less overcrowded. Medvednica mountain, situated just North of the city often gets overlooked, by tourists and Zagreb folk alike. It’s a shame, as it is a location for a great day hike and to cool off in the summer heat. A bit to the north of Medvednica is Hrvatsko Zagorje which has a lot to offer. There are many castles located there, with the most famous being Trakošćan Castle. But, it’s certainly not the only one worth the visit.

A look at the best Zagreb tours

As in any tourist-oriented city in the world, there are many tours you can take around Zagreb. The city center is quite compact, so it makes sense to take a guide to show you around the Upper town, for instance, and you will get to experience most of it quite fast with an experienced guide. Some of the tours will even allow you not to walk at all! You can try something different, and go on the Ghosts and Dragons Tour where you will learn a lot about the history of the city. You can take a tour that will teach you some Croatian, while also bringing you closer to the history and culture of the city. If you’re not that into walking, go for the Blue Line Tour, taking you to some of the most remarkable places in Zagreb using public transportation.

Advent in Zagreb

It started from nothing and just kept on growing. Not once, not twice but three times voted the Best Christmas Market in Europe, Advent in Zagreb is a shining example of how Croatia can extend its tourist season and move beyond the common stereotype of being merely a sea and sun destination. Check out the official Advent website.

Not everyone is happy with Advent, however. Take a look behind the scenes at the issues tourists never get to hear about.

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. In addition to the farmers’ markets, gastro and cultural festivals taking place on Zagreb streets, you 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 brings funk, soul and jazz sounds to Ribnjak Park. Rock and pop performers appear at almost every social event in the city centre. In fact, you’ll find Zagreb’s squares and parks filled with melody and sound throughout most of 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 animated film festivals, Animafest is the continent’s second-oldest animation film festival. It usually takes place in early June and attracts just about all the best animated films of the year.

ZagrebDox is an international documentary film festival taking place in early spring. It consists of two programs, regional and international, which present the best creative documentary films of the year.

Zagreb Film Festival is an 18-year-old event of national significance. Above all, it concentrates on promoting new works and new 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 cultural presentation of folklore traditional to Croatia, with international participation. Croatia’s many folklore societies preserve dance, songs, costumes and even musical instruments that 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 celebrates all of Croatia’s best food and drink on its streets. The city’s connoisseur wine events regularly attract international visitors. Other specialty products have their own festivals. However, you’re just as likely to see mixed markets pop up all over Zagreb. In particular, these celebrate a range of homemade and regional produce alongside traditional arts & crafts. The stalls are wonderful to walk around. Moreover, you can try before you buy.

Please note: Many 2020 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, Croatians still eat a seasonal diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats and fish. And at Dolac, you can see the season set out before you in full display. Go before midday. 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. Later, you’ll likely be reminded of what you’ve seen. 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 city centre at 12 o’clock 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 found in the 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 and thereafter, 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 with a friend or friends. Of course, this is more than just coffee and catching up. It’s also for people watching and being seen.

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 some of the most popular 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, it’s become a unique thoroughfare across the city by both day and night. 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, Vukovar, Sisak, Bjelovar and Rijeka among them. However, Zagreb’s facelifts are the most frequently occurring. Several of the city’s best street art projects are helmed by Okolo and Pimp My Pump. The latter are connected to a summer-long Art Park event in Ribnjak park. 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. And, since Croatia changed its legislation 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 in its navbar 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.