The capital Zagreb is the largest city in Croatia. It has a population of 800,000 and is located in central Croatia. Zagreb is at the heart of the country’s culture and economy and is also the administrative and political center of the Republic of Croatia. The Croatian Parliament and Government are located in Zagreb.
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Zagreb’s excellent geographical location, at the crossroads of the Adriatic coast and many other central European cities, makes it an exceptional destination. Not to mention the city’s appeal due to its history and culture.
Zagreb has all the characteristics of a Central European city, but it also has a Mediterranean charm. The modern highways that serve Zagreb allow it to have excellent connections with the coastal cities. This makes it an alternative to seaside destinations during your stay in Croatia.
The capital is located on the banks of the Sava River, 170 kilometers from the Adriatic Sea, and is 122 meters above sea level. The city has a Continental climate with average temperatures of 20°C in the summer. The weather can reach 0°C in winter.
Zagreb’s appeal comes from its characteristic Austro-Hungarian architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries. There are many beautifully preserved buildings from this period that add character to the Croatian capital. The city’s history has left its mark, but its people have also left an important legacy. This industrial city still has important production sites. Zagreb is at the crossroads of Central and Eastern Europe and is an international commercial and business center.
What can you visit in Zagreb?
Zagreb can be visited over a weekend. You can do many activities in two or three days. The city center is located north of the Sava River. The area north of the railroad is the most attractive. Besides museums, you can also discover the city’s cuisine or enjoy the entertainment. There are two main walks to discover and visit Zagreb.
Stroll in the upper city
You shouldn’t miss a visit to the Upper Town (Gornji grad). This is the historical part of the city. It can be reached by foot (for the athletic ones) or by cable car.
There are several attractions in the upper city. The first place not to be missed is Saint Mark’s Square with its 13th century church. The church has a typical bulbous bell tower and a roof with colored tiles representing the city’s crest and a symbol of the unification of the kingdoms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia. The Ivan-Tkalcic pedestrian street is one of the nicest in the capital with its pastel-colored facades, bars and restaurants. Finally, the imposing Zagreb Cathedral, which took 800 years to build, is worth a visit.
Museums in Zagreb
The country’s and the city’s historical heritage is preserved and exhibited in the museums of Zagreb. Zagreb’s museums display art collections from all over the world, as well as pieces related to the city’s history (especially in the City Museum). Strolling through the museums and galleries is a unique opportunity to discover works of great historical and artistic value.
Museum of Naive Art
The Museum of Naive Art (HMNU) features some very special works. This small and original museum has typical paintings of the naive movement. They are characterized by a childish and colorful graphic universe. Read more…
The museum has collections of Ante and Wiltrud Mimara. There are more than 3500 works of art in total. 1500 of them are in the permanent exhibition featuring paintings, sculptures and other artifacts dating from prehistoric times to the 20th century. Read more…
The City Museum tells the story of the Croatian capital. Several periods are presented and allow you to understand how Zagreb evolved over the centuries. Read more…
Museum of Broken Relations
The Museum of Broken Relations (MBR) is less cultural, but just as fascinating. It is a popular museum for visitors. The Museum’s name may turn some people off, but it should be added to the list of things to do with your partner in Zagreb. Read more…
Nikola Tesla Museum of Technology
The Nikola Tesla Technical Museum is one of the most visited museums in Croatia. It displays various objects and vehicles and how they evolved technologically over time. Read more…
Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MSU) exhibits more recent works. Its architecture and singular works will delight modern art lovers. Read more…
The Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters is a small museum with a permanent exhibition of European paintings from the 14th to the 19th century. These paintings from the Renaissance period mostly depict religious figures.
Studio Mestrovic, named after the greatest Croatian sculptor, showcases sculptures, drawings, maps and other lithographic material.
Klovicevi Dvori Gallery
The Klovicevi Dvori Gallery regularly organizes exhibitions featuring works by world-renowned artists. It is named after Juraj Julije Klović, a painter and miniaturist who presented a retrospective of the greatest German Expressionist masters titled “The Quiet Rebellion” in 2008 and 2009.
Archaeological Museum of Zagreb
The Archaeological Museum of Zagreb exhibits many ancient pieces from the Greek and Roman periods. The Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age periods are also featured. The highlight of the show: Zagreb’s mummy wrapped in the longest Etruscan inscription in the world.
Image of War
The Image of War Museum displays striking images of Croatia’s recent past and the 1990s wars in the Balkans.
Museum of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions is a nice family attraction. Experience unusual situations and take amusing pictures.
Walk through Zagreb’s parks
Zagreb has many green parks with fountains, tree lanes and flowers. A series of parks arranged in the shape of a horseshoe allows you to get some fresh air and rest on a bench in between your visits.
The series of parks starts from the city center with the Zrinjevac Park. Next is the Josipa Strossmaeyra Park and the King Tomislav Park in front of the train station. The walk continues to the Zagreb Botanical Garden. As you walk up to the city center to the Croatian National Theater, you will pass through new gardens with trees and several monuments and statues.
The incredible Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb is located in the north of the city and is considered Zagreb’s Père Lachaise. Read more…
A huge area dedicated to water leisure activities in the west of the capital. Read more…
Bundek Park lake is a relaxing water area for peaceful walks. Read more…
One of the largest and oldest in Europe, with lakes and a zoo, but above all a real haven of nature in the heart of the city. Read more…
Cultural and entertainment events
Zagreb offers a wide range of cultural and entertainment events, with more than 30 venues dedicated to arts and culture. These include classical arts (theater, opera and classical music) as well as many shows and concerts with most of the big names.
When it comes to sports, Zagreb has a lot to offer: football and basketball fans can cheer on the best athletes in the country, whether they play for Dinamo or Cibona. There is also a ski resort only 30 minutes away, where the World Cup, a rally race and an international marathon are held every year.
Finally, the Christmas period is special in Zagreb: decorations, nightly entertainment, Christmas spirit and hot drinks warm the throats and hearts. Zagreb has one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe.
Historical events in the city of Zagreb
The Zagreb Time Machine takes you back in time from late spring to late summer. Jugglers, troubadours, singers and other circus performers (they were called bohemians in those days) perform in Zagreb’s upper town. The contrast between the modern world and the not-so-distant past is striking. There are also comedians who tell some key moments of the country’s history or introduce a national figure. The best part of this folkloric event is to see people dressed in the style of the past. You can experience this event in the historical landmarks of the upper city/old town.
The Changing of the Guard in Zagreb is held on Sundays in the summer and on some historical days. There are between 15 and 40 participants (infantry and cavalry) in historical costume who re-enact the Changing of the Guard ceremony. You can see it between St. Mark’s Square and the statue of the Virgin Mary on the Kaptol.
Restaurants and cuisine in Zagreb
Enjoy duck or goose, pasta gratin, štrukli (cheese cooked in water), cream cheese and the traditional orehnjača (walnut cake). Zagreb is located quite close to the coast, so you can enjoy seafood dishes in the capital’s restaurants.
The Dolac market and its red umbrellas is the perfect place to find local products. This market has an authentic atmosphere and is open every day.
After visiting the city, there’s nothing better than to take a break in a restaurant. Whether you want to enjoy world cuisine or traditional restaurants, lunch or dinner in Zagreb will only enhance your visit. Do you need to cool down? Why not sit on a terrace on the pedestrian square Ban-Jelacic?
What can you bring back from Zagreb?
The souvenirs you can bring back from Zagreb include the world-famous fountain pen, invented by Slavoljub Penkala 80 years ago in Zagreb.
Another typical gift to bring back from Croatia is the necktie. It is named after Croatian cavalrymen who fought on European battlefields from the Thirty Years’ War to the French Revolution (17th to 18th century) wearing a scarf tied around their necks. Zagreb is nicknamed the capital of the necktie.
Other souvenirs made of crystal, ceramics, porcelain, straw or wicker will make you think of the Croatian capital once you return home. Food lovers will want to try the best Croatian wines and traditional gastronomic products (no need to worry about getting them through customs).
Vacation accommodation in Zagreb
There is a wide range of accommodation available. There are many hotels, but they are not the most common type of accommodation in Croatia. There are also youth hostels in the colorful buildings of the city. Prices are rather high compared to nearby cities, regardless of the season. However, the price of accommodation in Zagreb is still very competitive compared to other European capitals.
Where can you stay in Zagreb?
To really feel like you’re on holiday, the best place to stay is in the upper town or between the station and the upper town. Prices are higher there, but the atmosphere and environment are more pleasant and a change of scenery. Novi Zagreb (south of the river), on the other hand, is neither beautiful nor practical for visitors.
What hotel services are available in Zagreb?
Near the railway station, there are a large number of large hotels offering high-quality services. Most of the accommodation is rated 3 or 4 stars.
The guest houses are geographically further away, but there are some lovely nuggets with sometimes surprising decoration.
Is it possible to rent a whole flat in Zagreb?
Zagreb has a wide range of accommodation for temporary rentals and tourism, whether you are looking for a whole flat or a room to rent from a local.
How do I book accommodation in Zagreb?
Like all European capitals, Zagreb has a comprehensive range of accommodation on offer. The major booking platforms all offer a wide range of properties. To put your mind at rest and go direct, the city’s tourist office lists local professionals.
How long can I stay in Zagreb?
Zagreb can be visited in just one weekend. It’s even possible to spend just a day there if the capital is only a stopover on your route.
For more than 2 days, it’s worth leaving the centre to visit the surrounding area.
What should I visit in half a day in Zagreb?
For half a day, a stroll around the upper town, taking in the old quarters and the views over the city, will do the trick. However, this is the capital and it’s better to stay longer to avoid getting frustrated.
What can I see in 1 day in Zagreb?
As well as a stroll around the upper town, a day in Zagreb gives you time to discover a museum. You’ll need to choose the right one and target a museum close to the city centre.
What can you see in Zagreb over several days?
For more than 2 days, Zagreb is worth doing a little more than just museums. The main museums are vast and easily take up half a day each.
As well as strolling through the city’s parks and eating out, you can escape to the nearby mountains to go skiing (in winter) or enjoy the fresh air (the rest of the year).
What should I check before booking my holiday in Zagreb?
There are several major events during the year in Zagreb. Football attracts a lot of people on match days, and the Advent period is popular with holidaymakers. Apart from these 2 points, the tourist calendar is busier in summer than the rest of the year.
When should you visit Zagreb?
Unlike seasonal destinations, Zagreb can be visited all year round. In summer, tourists don’t linger long in the capital. In winter, during Advent, the city is well worth a visit, even if the temperature is close to 0 degrees.
What to do on a rainy day in Zagreb?
There are plenty of things to do indoors, including shopping, culture and heritage activities, all of which provide a fallback solution in the event of inclement weather.
What to do when it’s very hot in Zagreb?
Lake Jarun is a great place to go swimming in Zagreb. It’s an artificial lake, but it has bathing facilities and is supervised. Smaller and closer to the centre, the lake in Parc Bundek is the second best place to go swimming in the capital.
Discover Zagreb in winter?
Just 30 minutes from the capital, you can go skiing on the snowy slopes of Slijeme. The slopes are simple, but a day’s skiing is always fun.
Do prices fluctuate greatly depending on the season in Zagreb?
Unlike on the Adriatic coast, holiday accommodation prices do not fluctuate greatly between summer and winter in Zagreb. However, you should be wary of major sporting events.
Coming to Zagreb
Flying to Zagreb
The Franjo-Tudman airport (ZAG) is an international airport located less than 20 km southeast of Zagreb. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the center of the city by public transport or taxi.
The airport was renovated a few years ago and has regular flights to Croatian and European destinations.
Driving to Zagreb
Zagreb is accessible by freeway and there’s no problem to come from France by car. The journey is a bit long: 14h from Paris through Germany, Austria and Slovenia; 11h from Lyon through Italy and Slovenia. However, there are bus connections from all major cities in France and from all tourist destinations in the country.
Coming to Zagreb by train
Zagreb can be reached by train from all over the country and from several major European cities. The 1890 train station is a monument in itself: when you get off the train, you are in the heart of the city in the King Tomislav Park.
It takes about a day to travel from France or from Germany and you can choose to take a sleeper train.
How to get around Zagreb
The city center, known as the upper town, can easily be visited by foot. There is a cable car that allows you to get there easily. If you are tired, you should use streetcars and buses in the Croatian capital.
We do not recommend using a car to get around Zagreb. Renting a car or taking your own vehicle is not very practical, as there are few parking spaces and the streets are narrow and one-way. Read more…