Although it is the capital of Croatia and the largest city in the country, Zagreb tends to get overlooked by visitors who are seeking out the picturesque Croatian beaches and warm waters of the Adriatic Sea. However, it is starting to increase in popularity, and for good reason. Zagreb is home to all kinds of restaurants, cafes, architecture, bars, and museums. It is an easily walkable city, and it has a rich culture and history dating back as far as 1094 A.D.
The city as we know it today was previously divided into two parts: Kaptol and Gradec. Since they were neighbors, they could see each other from the high points on either side and they did not get along at all. The bridge connecting the two towns was accordingly named the “bloody bridge” because of all the fighting that took place there.
Zagreb is a great place to fly into, stay for a few days, and then be able to easily access your next Croatian destination. Get ready to start your planning and dive into this travel guide to Zagreb for everything you need to know about spending a weekend in Zagreb, Croatia!
Snag your own downloadable Zagreb guide of this post to take with you, or get the Lonely Planet Zagreb guide for 10% off when you use the code LITTLETHINGS10!
Don’t speak Croatian? No problem! You will quickly find that you’ll easily be able to communicate with most people in English. Of course, it never hurts to brush up on some common Croatian words and phrases and use them when speaking with locals from time to time!
Free Spirit Walking Tour
If you take anything away from this post, make sure it’s this walking tour. Especially if you are only in Zagreb for a short amount of time, the Free Spirit Walking Tour is packed full of everything you need to know about this Croatian city. No, the “free” part is not a typo. This tour technically costs 1 kuna because of restrictions under Croatian law, but other than that it will only cost you however much you choose to tip your guide. They are #1 of 91 tours in Zagreb on TripAdvisor!
You will have the chance to see Zagreb through the eyes of a local, who will explain in detail the history of the city and popular attractions along your walk through Gornji grad (Upper Town) while also pointing out the best restaurants, bars, and more. My favorite part of the tour that I think makes it the most worthwhile is the insight into the local culture and the stories about the different attractions (see Zagreb Cathedral) that you would never learn about without the help of a local. How else would I have learned that the locals have an unwritten policy of staying loyal to “your bar”?
I recommend doing this tour as soon as you can after arriving in Zagreb (or the next day if you’re jet lagged) as it provides a fabulous overview of the city that will help you get your bearings and gain some extra knowledge about the sites and attractions you’ll pass throughout the city.
Tours run daily at 11:00, 14:00, and 17:00. While the tours are listed as 90 minutes, I would allow at least 3 hours so you can take your time in case you aren’t able to cover everything in the allotted time period. The slow pace, “no rush” mentality is one of my favorite parts of Croatian culture!
St. Mark’s Church
During the walking tour, you’ll pass by the 13th-century St. Mark’s Church, one of Zagreb’s most recognized buildings. The colorful tiled roof proudly display’s the emblem of Zagreb on the right and the Croatian, Dalmatian and Slavonian medieval coat of arms on the left.
Ban Jelačić Square
As the central square of the city of Zagreb, Ban Jelačić Square is a popular meeting place with the most common being “under the clock” or “under the horse’s tail”. As you might imagine, with so many people meeting in the same place it can be quite confusing, especially if you are meeting someone for the first time! Although you will walk through the square along the tour, I suggest returning for a cappuccino or some gelato and to enjoy people watching.
This Gothic-style cathedral is the tallest building in Croatia, and you can easily see its spires poking into the Zagreb sky from most places around the city. You will have the chance to stop here during the walking tour and learn about the story of how one Zagreb citizen achieved his dream job thanks to the cathedral and a few stunts not for the faint of heart. Be sure to return back here after the tour to see the inside of the Zagreb Cathedral!
In 1932, a man named Matija Jurkovic climbed up the cathedral to the top of one of the spires. He casually began doing handstands up there, and people walking by down on the ground quickly began to take notice. As they stopped to watch, the police were called and the fire department soon arrived to get him down. The firemen asked him what on earth he was doing, the question on everyone’s minds. He explained to them that he was turned down when applying to his lifelong dream of being a firefighter. He told them he was proving he did not have a fear of heights, and agreed to get down if they would hire him. They decided Matija had earned it and he was hired for the job!
Museum of Broken Relationships
This was certainly the most unique and quirky museum I have ever visited. An entire museum dedicated to failed relationships. It is a strange concept, but also happens to be a really popular tourist attraction.
The idea for the Museum of Broken Relationships began when two artists based in Zagreb broke off their four-year relationship. They then had to go through the process of returning the other’s belongings, and sometimes even gifts that just reminded them of their relationship. They joked about how they should start a museum for all the items they were getting rid of. A few years later, they actually went through with this idea and their friends helped out by donating objects from past relationships. Today, the museum is one of the highest rated attractions in Zagreb.
The museum is quite an emotional place. Each story can be sad, funny, depressing, inspiring, weird, or unbelievable. The stories are everywhere from bitter to heartbreaking to hilarious, and some that are just plain crazy. Most importantly, they are are real life stories by actual people that many visitors can relate to. The exhibits are submitted by people all over the world just like you and me.
There are loads of other museums in Zagreb that I didn’t have the chance to visit, so be sure to check some of those out if you have extra time! Zagreb is known as the “city of museums,” which should give you an idea of how many options there are available.
Where to Stay
I suggest going the apartment route when it comes to accommodation in Zagreb. There are plenty of options that are comfortable and affordable, while also being nearby the city center. We stayed at one of the Centroom Apartments, which I highly recommend. We were surrounded by many cafes and restaurants and were just a 5-minute walk away from Ban Jelačić Square. We were also warmly greeted upon arrival and provided with plenty of suggestions to keep us busy during our time in Zagreb. Search for your perfect Croatian accommodations below!
Zagreb is a very well connected city that you can visit as a short stop before traveling around more of Croatia, or you can stay longer and take advantage of the many day trips available in the area. Regardless of the length of your visit, I think you’ll enjoy all that Zagreb has to offer and will find that it is well-worth escaping the coast to spend at least a few days in Croatia’s capital.
Get your downloadable Zagreb guide here!
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Trenton A. JohnstonFebruary 17, 2022 at 5:52 am
What a lovely, impressive sight! Can you tell me anything about festivals and markets?
Karen CollerJanuary 28, 2022 at 3:53 pm
Thank you for nice review…One day I will go to Zagreb…
CijenaJune 16, 2020 at 3:11 am
Very nice guide! Zagreb is the first city to visit as a tourist after quarantine cancellation.
Ocean Scuba DiveFebruary 15, 2018 at 8:43 am
Great blog post Marissa, thanks so much for putting this together. I would love to visit this country and now you have given me even more reasons to get moving and book it! I would love to scuba dive here. Thanks again 🙂
Marissa SuteraFebruary 15, 2018 at 9:11 pm
You are very welcome, I hope you have the chance to visit soon!
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AndreaNovember 13, 2015 at 4:25 am
I enjoyed your post and really loved the anecdote about Matija, the firefighter. This is something you don’t get to learn without a local guide – so spot on for doing one of the walking tours in Zagreb. You’ve nailed down the Zagreb life attitude – no rush mentality!
Marissa SuteraNovember 23, 2015 at 8:25 pm
Absolutely, thanks Andrea!
EmmaleneSeptember 11, 2015 at 6:57 am
Thank you so much for this Marissa; we are considering doing a Croatian tour next year and was trying to work out whether to include Zagreb or not… this has made up my mind 🙂
Marissa SuteraSeptember 12, 2015 at 9:29 am
Glad you’ve decided to visit Zagreb, you’ll have to let me know what you think! Hope you have a wonderful trip to Croatia!
elaine schochSeptember 2, 2015 at 11:17 am
I love that there is an entire museum dedicated to failed relationships. I can only imagine the items that are included. I do wonder about the “couple” who started the museum…if it helped them get back together. Regardless, it seems like it could be a good place to visit after a breakup, a way to help you heal by knowing so many other people have been then too.
Marissa SuteraSeptember 2, 2015 at 11:37 am
There are SO many different random objects from failed relationships in the museum. A garden gnome, a box of popcorn, an axe, an iron… just to name a few. From what I’ve heard I don’t believe the couple has rekindled their relationship, but at least they have been able to make the business relationship work out!
SJSeptember 2, 2015 at 7:51 am
Great read!! Zagreb really is a neat city. I’ll be sure to the share this next week on Facebook!
Marissa SuteraSeptember 2, 2015 at 8:04 am
Thanks SJ! I think Zagreb is the perfect city to begin an adventure through Croatia 🙂 I appreciate the share!