If you are traveling to Croatia, you will likely find yourself passing through Zagreb.
Whether you’re flying into the Zagreb airport to begin your epic Croatia road trip or plan to spend a few days in the capital city, you definitely won’t be short on things to do.
Two days in Zagreb is the perfect amount of time to get to know the city, but many travelers run off to the coast before exploring some of the hidden gems that surround the capital. In just a few hours by car, you can reach fairytale castles, thundering waterfalls, countryside havens, and enchanting riverside escapes.
So after you’re done sightseeing in the city, rent a car, hire a driver, or hop on an organized tour to one of the best day trips from Zagreb listed below!
10 of the Best Day Trips From Zagreb
The northern-most region of Croatia, Međimurje, sits right near the Hungarian border. For many years, Međimurje County was actually part of Hungary, which explains the strong Hungarian influence on the area, particularly the regional cuisine.
Čakovec, the largest town in Međimurje, is located about an hour away from Zagreb. This charming little town is wonderful to walk through, offering streets lined with colorful umbrellas, unique museums, and even an incredibly well-preserved castle.
After walking through the city, make your way to Terbotz for lunch. This restaurant is located along the winding wine roads of Međimurje, making the 15-minute drive to Terbotz incredibly scenic. Offering excellent regional food, amazing views from the terrace, and a wonderful staff, Terbotz is an absolute must during a visit to Međimurje County. Don’t miss out on sampling some of the restaurant’s award-winning wines and tasting Međimurje’s famous dessert, gibanica, served with a side of pumpkin seed ice cream.
Finish off your visit by driving along the wine roads to the Hill of Mađerka (Mađerkin Breg), a spectacular landscape that mirrors the rice terraces found in Bali, Indonesia. The only real difference is that the terraces in Međimurje are filled with grapevines!
At the top of the hill, you can enjoy a glass (or two) of Štampar wine while taking in the views of the valleys and vineyards below. It is the perfect spot to watch the sun go down and to end a memorable day trip to Međimurje.
Located just a sixty-minute drive away from Zagreb is a beautiful riverside oasis situated on the banks of the Mrežnica River.
This day trip destination is well-known among the locals but remains a hidden gem to foreigners visiting Croatia. It’s one of the best places to visit near Zagreb if you love authentic experiences and enjoy spending time in nature.
To get there, type in “Mrežnička Kuća” into Google Maps. This will lead you to a large parking lot where you can leave your car. From there, you will follow the signs to Mrežnička Kuća and walk down the hill about 300 feet (100 meters).
Once you’ve descended the hill, you’ll reach the House of Mrežnica (Mrežnička Kuća). This typically traditional restaurant has expanded its summer offer by creating an outdoor living room complete with lounge chairs and comfy seating areas along the grassy banks of the river. They have an international food menu from which you can order foodie favorites like Pad Thai, burritos, fish & chips, and even Beyond Meat burgers.
Some visitors to the House of Mrežnica come for lunch, while others love to grab a spot and spend the entire day there swimming, eating, and relaxing. You can jump in for a swim right off the shores of the restaurant property, or if you walk a few minutes up the river, you’ll reach a lovely, shallow swimming area. If you don’t fancy swimming in the river, the House of Mrežnica also offers affordable canoe rentals.
Trakošćan Castle is one of the top places to visit outside Zagreb. Occupying a romantic hilltop in the Zagorje region of Northern Croatia, Trakošćan is undoubtedly one of the most well-preserved and famous castles in the entire country.
Constructed in the 13th century, the castle is believed to have been built as an observation fortress as a part of a defense network. Since its establishment, the castle has passed through the hands of a number of different owners and is now the property of the Croatian government.
Visitors to this castle can meander through its interior, admiring medieval weapons, armor, antique furniture, scripts, and paintings that date back centuries. The castle itself overlooks a beautiful man-made lake and lush green forest. There is a restaurant on the lake where you can grab a coffee or a bite to eat while enjoying the magical medieval setting.
Other options for enjoying this gorgeous area include renting a paddleboat to take out onto the lake, or bringing your own picnic and finding the perfect spot from which you can admire the whimsical castle views.
Not too far from Trakošćan Castle is the restaurant and winery known as Vuglec Breg.
In the Zagorje dialect, the word “breg” translates to “hill”, upon which this beautiful countryside restaurant is situated. Vuglec Breg has become a popular weekend day trip among Zagreb locals. If you want a taste of the Croatian countryside combined with picturesque scenery and Michelin-worthy cuisine, then Vuglec Breg should be on your list of places to visit around Zagreb.
Housed on a rural property in the hills of Zagorje, Vuglec Breg serves traditional Croatian cuisine using authentic and locally sourced ingredients. Head to Vuglec to enjoy panoramic views, incredible homemade wine, and some of the best Croatian dishes you’ll taste during your visit!
One of the best day trips from Zagreb, and perhaps the most common one, is a visit to Samobor.
Zagreb locals flock to this charming town for its abundance of hiking opportunities and famous custard cake – the Samoborska kremšnita.
There are a number of lengthy and more difficult hikes surrounding the Samobor Old Town, but the easiest and quickest one can be done in about twenty minutes. This is the hike up to the Samobor castle ruins, also known as Stari Grad Samobor. To get there, start from the main square and follow the road along the river toward Livadic Castle, and keep walking along the path until you reach the sign for Stari Grad Samobor. Turn left at the sign and follow the path up to the top of the hill (it should only take about 10-15 minutes). Although the castle is no longer intact, the ruins are worth exploring, and the views from the top are spectacular!
Once you’re back in town, be sure to head to either the cake shop U Prolazu or the cafe at Hotel Livadic to sample the town’s famous cream cake. These are the two most popular places in town to get the Samoborska kremšnita and, depending on when you visit, you might have to wait in line to get your hands on one.
Varaždin is a historic town located less than an hour away from Zagreb. Formerly the capital of Croatia, Varaždin is now a tranquil getaway boasting some pretty spectacular Baroque-style attractions.
The Old Town Castle is the city’s major sight, which also serves as the Varaždin City Museum. Constructed in the 14th and 19th centuries, this feudal fortress sits just north of the city’s historic core and is surrounded by a moat with a drawbridge. Inside the museum, visitors can marvel at a valuable collection of paintings, weapons, porcelain, and many other items from Varaždin’s noble families and wealthy citizens.
While in Varaždin, don’t miss out on trying the local version of the cream cake – it’s similar to the one from Samobor but more compact, but with a layer of whipped cream and chocolate on top.
If you are traveling from Zagreb to Split, then a day trip to Plitvice Lakes is an absolute must! And if you’re not traveling to Split but you only have time for one day trip from Zagreb, then Plitvice Lakes should be it.
It’s no surprise that this national park is one of the most popular and best day trips from Zagreb. Its terraced waterfalls and stunning blue lakes surrounded by a dense forest make for some of the most unique scenery in this part of Europe.
While the park is fairly large, its main attractions can easily be explored in one morning. If you are visiting during the high season, keep in mind that day trips to Plitvice Lakes are very popular, which can make the park quite busy. I recommend going as early as possible and arriving as soon as the park opens. This way, you are almost guaranteed to have the park to yourself for the first hour or two as most of the tour buses begin arriving around 10:00 AM.
The drive to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb takes about two hours by car. On the way back to Zagreb, you might consider stopping at Rastoke, a small village that has literally been built over a series of waterfalls only thirty minutes away from Plitvice Lakes. There, you can stop for lunch or coffee along the river or falls before heading back to Zagreb.
Perched on a stone cliff above the Kupa River, Ozalj Castle makes for a lovely day trip if you are looking for a more off-the-beaten-path destination.
Ozalj Castle is not necessarily a huge tourist attraction, but it makes for a great day trip or road trip stop nonetheless. Entry to the castle itself is free, but if you want to visit the museum you’ll have to pay a fee of 20 kn (around $3.15). Inside the museum, visitors can admire medieval weapons, ancient pottery, as well as historic artwork.
Not too far from the castle is Etno Park Ozalj, an open-air museum where visitors can witness traditional architecture and various household objects that were used by Croatian families before the industrial age.
Visited Ozalj castle while staying at one of the coolest Airbnbs in Croatia! Check it out here, it’s called Ekodrom Estate.
If you are looking to venture out of Croatia for the day, then a day trip from Zagreb to Ljubljana might just be for you.
While Ljubljana is one of the smallest European capitals, its cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and riverside cafes are bursting with charm. Not to mention the fact that no matter where you turn in the city, the Ljubljana Castle is almost always visible!
This city is known for its green spaces, and even earned the title Green Capital of Europe in 2016 from the European Commission.
The entire city center is pedestrian-only, leaving it to be explored on a bike or on foot. In the summertime, the cafes along the Ljubljanica River come alive with outdoor seating and locals catching up with friends and family. It’s a capital that’s buzzing with positivity, romantic bridges, and friendly locals.
Be sure to make your way up to the castle before you leave! You can visit Ljubljana Castle either by foot or by cable car. Unless you enjoy ridiculously steep hills, then I recommend taking the cable car up to the top.
Lake Bled is a magical, stunning, and breathtaking natural paradise located right near the Julian Alps.
As if views of the sapphire blue lake and surrounding lush green forests weren’t enough, Lake Bled also has its own castle. Perched on top of a mountain, Bled Castle watches over the entire lake, and the views from the top are pretty hard to beat – they even come with a glass of wine. That’s right! You can treat yourself to a wine-tasting at the Bled Castle Wine Cellar.
The second best thing to do at Lake Bled is to rent a kayak and take it out onto the lake (preferably you would do this before the wine tasting but hey, I’m not here to judge). You can row out to the little church perfectly placed on Slovenia’s only natural island and toll the wishing bell for good fortune.
A day trip from Zagreb to Ljubljana with a visit to Lake Bled is totally doable if you have your own car, or if you hop on a tour that stops in both destinations.
Best Day Trips From Zagreb: Final Thoughts
That wraps up the 10 best day trips from Zagreb! As you can tell from this list, there is so much to see within a day’s reach of Zagreb, Croatia. From lesser-known destinations to neighboring countries, no matter which one of these day trips you choose, you’re bound to make some unforgettable memories.
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