Zagreb, the capital and largest city of Croatia, is nestled in the northwest of the country along the Sava river, with the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain as its backdrop.
A city with a rich history dating back to Roman times, Zagreb is a blend of tradition and modernity. Its urban core consists of the medieval settlements of Gradec and Kaptol, which were united in 1851. Today, Zagreb is a global city with a ‘Beta-‘ rating, known for its diverse economy, high quality of living, museums, sporting events, and entertainment.
The city’s unique geography, extending over 30 km east-west and around 20 km north-south, offers a diverse landscape, from low elevation along the river valley to the foothills of the Medvednica mountain. Whether exploring the historical Upper Town (Gornji Grad) or enjoying the vibrant life of Donji Grad, Zagreb offers a captivating experience for every traveler.
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Attractions & Things to do in Zagreb
1. Ban Jelačić Square
Ban Jelačić Square is the central square of the city of Zagreb and is named after Ban Josip Jelačić. It’s a bustling hub of activity, with numerous events, gatherings, and celebrations taking place throughout the year. The square features a prominent statue of Ban Jelačić on horseback and is surrounded by historic buildings and cafes.
Travel Tip: Visit the square in the early morning to experience a quieter atmosphere and enjoy a coffee at one of the surrounding cafes.
2. St. Mark’s Square
St. Mark’s Square is known for its iconic St. Mark’s Church, which boasts a colorful tiled roof depicting the coat of arms of Zagreb and Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia. The square is also home to important government buildings and is a significant historical and political center.
Travel Tip: Don’t forget to check out the changing of the guard ceremony that takes place on weekends.
Mirogoj is not just a cemetery but a beautiful park and open art gallery. With its lush greenery, arcades, and ornate tombs, it’s considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Europe. Many notable Croatians are buried here.
Travel Tip: Visit during All Saints’ Day to witness a sea of lit candles, a touching tribute to the departed.
4. Art Pavilion
The Art Pavilion in Zagreb is an impressive yellow building located in King Tomislav Square. It hosts various exhibitions of contemporary and classical art, both from Croatian and international artists.
Travel Tip: Check out the exhibition schedule ahead of time to see if there’s something that piques your interest.
5. Croatian National Theatre
An architectural masterpiece, the Croatian National Theatre is a must-visit for lovers of performing arts. It hosts opera, drama, and ballet performances, showcasing both classical and contemporary productions.
Travel Tip: Even if you don’t catch a show, the building itself is worth admiring. Consider taking a guided tour to learn about its history and architecture.
6. Zagreb Cathedral
The Zagreb Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, is one of the most prominent landmarks in the city. Its towering spires can be seen from various parts of Zagreb. Inside, you’ll find stunning stained glass windows and intricate artwork.
Travel Tip: Attend a mass for a spiritual experience, or simply visit during the day to admire the architecture. Don’t forget to dress modestly as it’s a place of worship.
7. Upper Town – Gradec
The historic Upper Town, or Gradec, is a charming area filled with cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and beautiful views of the city. Key attractions include the Lotrščak Tower, Stone Gate, and St. Catherine’s Church.
Travel Tip: Take the funicular from Lower Town to Upper Town for a unique and scenic ride.
8. Museum of Broken Relationships
This unique museum offers a fascinating look at failed relationships through personal objects and stories. It’s a touching and sometimes humorous exploration of love and loss.
Travel Tip: Allow yourself time to read the stories behind the objects; they add depth and context to the exhibits.
9. Jarun Lake
Jarun Lake is a popular recreational spot for both locals and tourists. You can enjoy activities like rowing, cycling, rollerblading, or simply relaxing by the water.
Travel Tip: Visit during the summer months to take advantage of the lake’s beaches and outdoor cafes.
10. Medvednica Mountain
Located just north of Zagreb, Medvednica Mountain offers a natural escape from the city. With hiking trails, picnic spots, and beautiful views, it’s a great place for outdoor enthusiasts.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable hiking shoes and bring a packed lunch to enjoy a full day in nature.
11. Zagreb Zoo
Located in Maksimir Park, Zagreb Zoo is home to various species of animals and offers an educational experience for families and animal lovers.
Travel Tip: Combine your visit to the zoo with a stroll through Maksimir Park, one of the oldest public parks in Europe.
12. Dolac Market
Dolac Market is the city’s main open-air market, offering fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and local specialties. It’s a vibrant place to experience local life and flavors.
Travel Tip: Visit early in the morning for the freshest selection and to avoid the crowds.
13. Technical Museum Nikola Tesla
Dedicated to the work of the famous inventor Nikola Tesla, this museum showcases various technological achievements, including vintage cars, planes, and interactive exhibits related to Tesla’s inventions.
Travel Tip: Great for families, this museum offers hands-on experiences that are both educational and fun.
Unique Activities in Zagreb
1. Sherlock Holmes Murder Mystery Game
Dive into a thrilling murder mystery game set in Zagreb. Channel your inner detective, follow the clues, and solve the intriguing case inspired by Sherlock Holmes.
Day Trips from Zagreb
1. Plitvice Lakes National Park
Discover the breathtaking beauty of Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its cascading waterfalls and vibrant turquoise lakes.
Travel Tip: Start your exploration early in the morning to avoid crowds and make the most of your day among nature.
2. Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Immerse yourself in the charming city of Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, with its picturesque riverside, historic architecture, and vibrant cultural scene.
Travel Tip: Climb up to Ljubljana Castle for panoramic views of the city and enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Ljubljanica River.
3. Trakošćan Castle
Step back in time at Trakošćan Castle, a romantic hilltop fortress surrounded by lush gardens and a serene lake, offering a glimpse into Croatia’s rich history.
Travel Tip: Bring a picnic to enjoy by the lake and explore the castle’s museum to learn about its captivating past.
Where to stay in Zagreb
Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, offers a diverse range of hotels that cater to various needs and preferences of travelers. From luxurious establishments to budget-friendly options, the city boasts accommodations that promise comfort, convenience, and a taste of Croatian hospitality. Whether you’re traveling solo, with a partner, or with family, Zagreb ensures a memorable stay with its rich history, vibrant culture, and scenic beauty.
1. Best Reviewed Hotel
Best Western Premier Hotel Astoria (★★★★)
- Description: Located in a quiet area in the centre of Zagreb, just 300 metres from the Main Train Station, this elegant hotel offers free private parking and free Wi-Fi.
- Price: €110 per night
- Rating: 8.8 (Fabulous)
2. Most Luxurious Hotel
Esplanade Zagreb Hotel (★★★★★)
- Description: Situated in Zagreb city centre, right next to the Zagreb Main Railway Station, this 5-star hotel offers a fitness centre and sauna. Free WiFi access is available throughout the hotel.
- Price: €184 per night
- Rating: 9 (Superb)
3. Budget Hotel
Timeout Heritage Hotel Zagreb (★★★★)
- Description: Boasting a terrace, a restaurant, and a bar, this hotel is situated in the centre of Zagreb, just 300 metres from the Museum of Broken Relationships.
- Price: €63 per night
- Rating: 7.6 (Good)
4. Hotel for Family
Sheraton Zagreb Hotel (★★★★★)
- Description: Set in the heart of Zagreb, this elegant 5-star hotel is 500 metres from the Main Train Station and 1 km from the Main Square. It offers air-conditioned rooms with minibars, cable, and satellite TV.
- Price: €120 per night
- Rating: 8.5 (Very good)
5. Hotel for Couples
The Westin Zagreb (★★★★★)
- Description: This 5-star hotel in Zagreb is within walking distance to the centre and outdoor cafés. The Westin offers free internet access and houses the World Class Health Academy spa centre.
- Price: €106 per night
- Rating: 8.3 (Very good)
6. Hotel for Solo Travellers
DoubleTree by Hilton Zagreb (★★★★★)
- Description: Situated in the heart of Zagreb’s business district, only 2 km from the city centre, this hotel features elegantly decorated rooms and suites, an indoor pool, and a Turkish bath.
- Price: €102 per night
- Rating: 8.7 (Fabulous)
Did you know? Facts about Zagreb
- Zagreb is the capital and largest city of Croatia, located along the Sava river and at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain.
- The city has a rich history dating back to Roman times, with the oldest settlement being the Roman Andautonia in today’s Ščitarjevo.
- The name “Zagreb” was first recorded in 1134, in reference to the foundation of the settlement at Kaptol in 1094.
- Zagreb became a free royal city in 1242 and its first mayor was appointed in 1851.
- The city is divided into 17 city districts, with most lying along the valley of the Sava river.
- Zagreb ranks as a global city with a ‘Beta-‘ rating from the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.
- The city is known for its diverse economy, high quality of living, museums, sporting, and entertainment events.
- The etymology of the name “Zagreb” is unclear, but one folk legend ties it to a drought in the early 14th century where a well miraculously produced water.
- The oldest settlement near Zagreb was the Roman town of Andautonia, which existed between the 1st and 5th century AD.
- The city experienced a significant demographic boom in the 1920s, with its population increasing by 70 percent.
FAQ about Zagreb
What is the significance of Ban Jelačić Square in Zagreb?
Ban Jelačić Square is one of the most prominent locations in Zagreb, serving as a central hub and gathering place for locals and tourists alike.
How does the history of Zagreb date back to Roman times?
The oldest settlement near today’s Zagreb was the Roman town of Andautonia, which existed between the 1st and the 5th century AD.
What are the notable landmarks in Zagreb’s Upper Town (Gornji Grad)?
Zagreb’s Upper Town, also known as Gornji Grad, is one of the best-preserved urban nuclei in Croatia, boasting historical sites and landmarks from medieval times.
How is Zagreb positioned as a global city?
Zagreb ranks as a global city with a ‘Beta-‘ rating from the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, reflecting its importance in the global economic and cultural landscape.
What are the main economic sectors contributing to Zagreb’s economy?
Zagreb is known for its diverse economy, with major branches including high-tech industries and the service sector. It also hosts the headquarters of many of Croatia’s largest companies.
Can you describe the climate of Zagreb?
Zagreb experiences an oceanic climate with significant continental influences. It has four distinct seasons, with warm summers and relatively cold winters. Rainfall is abundant, especially during late spring and summer.
What historical events shaped Zagreb during the 19th and 20th centuries?
In the 19th century, Zagreb saw the erection of important cultural and historic institutions and became united under its first mayor, Janko Kamauf. During the 20th century, it expanded significantly and played a pivotal role during World War II and the Croatian War of Independence.
How has the geography of Zagreb evolved over the years?
Zagreb has expanded both in terms of area and population over the years. It has incorporated surrounding towns and settlements, leading to the development of areas like Novi Zagreb.