Many travelers avoid Zagreb or consider it a pit-stop on their way to the Adriatic Coast. I have to admit I was guilty of this as well – my primary motive for visiting was to catch a cheap flight to Dubrovnik.
Like the rest of Croatia, Zagreb has experienced an influx of tourism. New accommodation options were built to keep up with demand and the city has undergone a series of changes while maintaining its old-world charm. The New York Times recently featured Zagreb in their travel section, reaffirming the city’s role as an up-and-coming destination.
I personally preferred Zagreb to crowded Dubrovnik and I regret only allotting two days in my itinerary for the Croatian capital. If you find yourself in Zagreb with limited time, I recommend the following to make the most of your stay without feeling rushed:
Take a Specialized Tour
My good time in Zagreb can be greatly attributed to Hello Zagreb. Hello Zagreb’s tours emphasize experiencing Zagreb like a local, and the agency currently ranks second on the city’s TripAdvisor page.
Hello Zagreb offers eight unique Zagreb city tour options, all of which are cleverly color coded. For example, the Red Tour is the Zagreb Socialism Tour, and the Green Tour is the Zagreb Hiking Tour. Whatever you’re interested in, Hello Zagreb has a tour that will appeal to you.
If you are short on time, or just want a brief overview of the city before exploring on your own, I suggest the Blue Tour. The Blue Tour provides an intro to Zagreb, showing you all the classic sights on foot.
The travel agency’s founder, Damjan Beusan, goes above and beyond what one would expect from a tour guide. He is passionate about his work and seems to know everyone in Zagreb.
When I told him I was interested in a certain museum, he offered to put me in touch with a curator he knew there. I mentioned I liked coffee, and he arranged a visit with one of the city’s best coffee roasters. If you are in touch with Damjan, it’s impossible to have a bad time in Zagreb!
Zagreb is full of open green spaces and parks. The city center is framed by a string of small parks, forming what is referred to as Zagreb’s green horseshoe.
A stroll through the Zagreb horseshoe is a great way to further acquaint yourself with the city. The U-shaped outline will lead you directly to some of the city’s highlights, including the botanical garden, and Park Zrinjevac.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, venture over to Maksimir Park. The park is the largest and oldest in Zagreb, complete with a several trails, gardens, grassy lawns and a large lake. Maskimir Park also houses The Zagreb Zoo, which you can visit for only 30 Kuna (~4.45 USD).
If you’re an architecture or history buff, Mirogoj Cemetery warrants a visit. The cemetery is consistently ranked as one of Europe’s most beautiful cemeteries, and is the final resting place of numerous famous Croats.
The grounds serve as a park, and open art gallery in addition to a burial ground. With its overgrown greenery, stunning archways, and beautiful gardens, the cemetery offers a nice respite from the city.
Stroll Through the Upper Town
Zagreb’s Upper Town (Gornji Grad) consists of several small streets nestled between two hills. Most of the city’s top attractions are located here, along with the best views of Zagreb.
Tkalciceva Street, the upper town’s most vibrant corridor, is filled with cafes, boutiques, and galleries. At night, the street becomes an important hub for nightlife.
The popular Museum of Broken Relationships is also located in upper town. True to its name, the museum displays “artifacts” leftover from dissolved relationships, along with a story about the object’s significance.
My favorite aspect of this unique museum was that everything is curated by ordinary people, serving as a reminder that failed relationships are a shared part of the human experience. The museum’s cafe and gift shop are worth visiting as well.
For a comprehensive list of Zagreb suggestions, check out Time Out Croatia’s guide.