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!
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.
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