Even though it’s the capital of the country, Zagreb is often missed by tourists in Croatia who mostly choose coastal destinations during the summertime. It’s true that Zagreb is nothing like Dubrovnik or Split, but it’s still a Central European city that really has much to offer. Whether it’s the mix of Austro-Hungarian and socialist architecture, many unique museums and galleries, beautiful parks and lots of restaurants and clubs to choose from – you will always have plenty of options. In the winter, it hosts one of the greatest Christmas markets in Europe, so it makes for a great winter destination, as well. This city shouldn’t be missed on any Central European trip, even if you only have one day to spend there!
What’s the best time to visit Zagreb?
There are a few seasons that make this city a really great place to visit. The first one is late spring when the temperature gets around 20 degrees C and the numerous city parks make Zagreb look lush, fresh and green. It’s the time of the year when you can enjoy many outdoor activities or simply enjoy some coffee in the sun. The second season that’s kind of special is the Christmas time. Zagreb’s Christmas market, Advent, is getting bigger and more exciting each year, and it has already been named one of the best in Europe.
One Day in Zagreb Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Zagreb.
Start your day at Trg bana Josipa Jelacica
The main city square – Trg bana Josipa Jelacica – placed just below the Old City is the best place to start your one day in Zagreb. It’s very well connected by public transport to all other city areas, so it is easily reachable no matter where you’re staying. Most of the tours start right here and if you are looking for the perfect one, be sure to take this one.
Check out the Ban Josip Jelačić statue as well as the fountain. While on the square, you can climb up the Observation Deck ‘Zagreb Eye’ and enjoy the greatest panoramic view of the city and a cup of morning coffee.
Visit the Croatian National Theatre
Very close to the main city square, about a 12-minute walk southwest from it is the building belonging to the Croatian National Theatre. A very impressive piece of architecture, it was built in 1895 by Ferdinand Fellner, an architect from Vienna, and represents a masterpiece of the neo-baroque period. In front of it stands the Well of Life (Zdenac života in Croatian), a sculpture by Ivan Meštrović, probably the most famous Croatian sculptor. Combine all that with generally very pleasant surroundings full of flowers and greenery and benches where you can take a breather, and you get a place very much worthy of your time.
Stroll through Ilica street and visit some of the many shops along
Ilica street is actually one of the longest streets in Croatia and it doesn’t make sense to walk the whole street if you have only one day in Zagreb. Still, it’s a great place to do some shopping, have some breakfast or simply watch the city’s busy atmosphere. Oranž Bistro & wine bar is a great place to have some amazing healthy breakfast, but they also serve some delicious cakes if you want to sweeten your tooth.
Visit the Antiques and Flea Market on the Britanac Square
On weekends, this tiny square next to the Ilica street hosts the Antiques and Flea Market. The vendors are usually locals who sell both valuable antique items as well as some cheap vintage accessories, books, clothes or pottery. You can find some pretty unique stuff, but don’t forget to bargain!
Visit the Museum of Illusions
The exciting Museum of Illusions, just around the corner from Britanac Square, is a great place for both children and all those adults who enjoy any kind of illusion. There are several rooms around the museum that have some sort of spatial illusion that can easily trick your brain. It’s quite a fun museum to explore and one of very few that get even more exciting with the camera, so don’t forget to bring your phone.
Take the Funicular Railway to the Upper Town
Take the Funicular Railway from Tomićeva ulica all the way up to the Upper Town. It is the city’s oldest part covered in narrow streets with many famous sights and attractions. Just after you exit the funicular, you’ll be facing the Lotrscak Tower where every day at noon a cannon is fired to commemorate Zagreb’s victory over the Turks.
Museum of Broken Relationships
Another original museum, the Museum of Broken Relationships, displays the collection of different things that keep the memory of failed relationships and the stories behind those relationships. It’s touchy and funny at the same time and more exciting than most of drama movies nowadays.
Visit the Dolac market and the Cathedral
Placed around the Upper town, the two great places to continue your day in Zagreb are the Cathedral and the Dolac market. Dolac is a great place to buy some fresh fruits, nice flowers and many Croatian products and souvenirs.
Take a lunch break at Tkalciceva street
The best place to relax, enjoy some drinks and delicious food is Tkalciceva street. There are numerous restaurants, bars and pubs to choose from. If you’re a beer lover who wants to have some basic meat or pizza dish, check out Mali Medo beerhouse. For a nice coffee and dessert place check out Cookie Factory. If you’re into some great Asian food street food– don’t miss Umami.
Try štrukli, a traditional local dish
Since you’re in Zagreb, you absolutely must try the so-called štrukli, a local delicacy and a dish that is almost synonymous with Zagreb when it comes to food. Štrukli are actually pieces of very thin dough, traditionally filled with cheese and cream, but La Štruk, a restaurant near Tkalčićeva street offers all kinds of toppings and fillings, so you can mix and match everything from pesto to blueberries. The place is in Skalinska street, so do check it out.
Relax at the Zrinjevac park
The lovely Zrinjevac park in the very center of the city is where people come to relax from an exhausting day, especially during the warmer months when it becomes a perfect green oasis in the middle of the city. During Christmas time, it’s where the most iconic part of the Christmas market is held. The whole park gets covered in lights that create a super romantic winter atmosphere.
It’s time for a night out
If you’re still into partying after this quite exhausting day, the good news is that in Zagreb there are lots of clubs to choose from. Tesla in Varšavska is a nice place to get things started, but Katran also offers a great night out and 4 dance floors inside one club, and it’s not that far from the main square. Opera Club is also in the city centre, often with some great guests.
Where to stay in Zagreb?
Esplanade Zagreb Hotel
Mihanovićeva 1, Lower Town
The Esplanade Zagreb Hotel is an exquisite 5-star hotel in the very city center. This lovely vintage hotel was built in 1925 in Art Deco style and was beautifully restored in 2004. The rooms are very classy and present a delicate combination of vintage and contemporary.
Ljudevita Gaja 1, Lower Town
Hotel Dubrovnik is located right next to Ban Jelačić Square, so booking a room here means being right at the very heart of the city. Although open in 1929, this is a modern hotel with absolutely everything you need for a very comfortable stay.
Miramarska 24, Zagreb
Just outside the city center, but still well within the walking distance, Hotel International is a modern large hotel with extremely comfortable rooms and great food. It has its own sauna, fitness center and several conference rooms.
Swanky Mint Hostel
Ilica 50, Lower Town, Zagreb
The Swanky Mint is a hostel placed in a renovated textile-dye and dry cleaning factory that dates back to the late 19th century. Its unique appearance is a combination of industrial machinery, modern design and technology and an eco-friendly sustainable environment.
Day trips from Zagreb
Ok, so now you have explored Croatia’s capital. Would you like to see more of this lovely country? If so, day trips from Zagreb are in order. Great destinations abound and you simply can’t go wrong.
Without doubt, Plitvice Lakes are Croatia’s most famous national park. 16 incredible and unique lakes form a mesmerizing chain of natural wonders, each completely different from the other. In fact, this place is so incredible that UNESCO put it on its World Heritage list way back in 1979. Around the national park you will find plenty of quaint and charming villages which offer some great food and are therefore an excellent place to have lunch. Incredible nature, great food and a day out in the sun. What more could you ask for?
Only about two hours away from Zagreb is Ljubljana, another capital city. So, why not hop over to Slovenia and see what they have to offer? You’ll see quite a lot, especially when it comes to interesting high-quality architecture, but there are also some tasty dishes to try. Near Ljubljana is the resort of Bled, a beautiful lake that hides Slovenia’s only island. Hop on a boat to get to it and visit the local castle for some truly spectacular views of the area. A great way to visit a new country.
Varaždin is a beautiful little city on the northern edge of Croatia. Known also as Baroque City, Varaždin was even Croatia’s capital in the second half of the 18th century, but a terrible fire in 1776 caused it to lose that status. Today, the place is brimming with culture, and its graveyard is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe. Last but not least, you absolutely must set some time aside for a visit to Trakošćan Castle which also serves as a fascinating museum these days.
Extra tips for visiting Zagreb
-Should any kind of accident befall you, having travel insurance can be an absolute lifesaver. And when it comes to travel insurance, World Nomads are the best of the best. They themselves are a group of travelers, so they know very well how important it is to react quickly in this kind of situations. They also have a team versed in several different languages standing by every second of the day ready to react and help you get the help you need. With World Nomads, you are always in great hands.
– Public transportation is pretty cheap and very efficient. However, Uber and Cammeo Taxi offer super cheap prices and it’s recommended to use them whenever you need fast and cheap transport.
– Euro is not a viable currency in Croatia. You will have to visit an exchange office when you arrive.
– Tips are not a part of your price here when you eat or drink out. Still, a 10% tip is fairly standard.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).
Thanks for the information. Just one comment, sangrias and tapas are from Spain. In Mexico we drink tequila and tacos 🙂
Thanks for sharing that! I have 8 hours in Zagreb and this really helped plan my route!
It is an informative article, but also would like to add a few things, instead of eating Mexican food in Croatia, maybe tourist would try some traditional food, like Strukli 🙂
I would like to share with you my experience of Zagreb: https://www.momthemuse.com/zagreb/
Thanks for the comment! We will add that as well 🙂
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