Is Zagreb Worth Visiting in 2023?
Last updated on March 24th, 2023 at 09:28 am
Planning a trip to Croatia and asking yourself, is Zagreb worth visiting? As someone who has been living in Zagreb full time since 2014, I’m here to spill the tea on whether or not you should visit Croatia’s capital or make a beeline for the coast.
Let’s be honest.
When you picture Croatia, your mind likely goes straight to whitewashed stone cities, boats gliding through crystal clear waters, and islands sprinkled with olive groves and fringed with beaches.
I don’t blame you. Zagreb is often overlooked and definitely doesn’t get as much love as it deserves. That’s why I’m here to tell you that Zagreb is definitely worth visiting.
This city provides a totally different vibe from Croatia’s islands, and offers a sweet escape from the summer crowds. It’s buzzing with an unmatched cafe culture, overflowing with fun festivals all year round, and bursting with parks and green spaces. Plus, it’s way more affordable than the likes of Dubrovnik and has plenty of awesome things to do to keep you busy for a few days.
So forget everything you thought you knew about Zagreb and let me tell you more about why this city warrants a spot on your Croatia itinerary.
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Is Zagreb Worth Visiting in 2023?
If you’re looking for a unique European experience, then look no further than Zagreb, the capital of Croatia! Located in the heart of Central Europe, it is a city that has been shaped by centuries of Austrian-Hungarian influence and yet still provides visitors with an authentic and exciting cultural experience.
Here are some quick facts about Zagreb:
🧍 Population: 806,341
📜 How old is Zagreb: the city was first mentioned in 1134, but has a history dating back well over a thousand years
☕ Known for: abundance of museums, unique blend of architecture, vivid food markets, and buzzing cafe culture
❤️ Nickname: City of a million hearts
Zagreb offers a combination of colorful architecture, vibrant local life, lush parks, and plenty of entertainment. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of modern and old-world attractions, from excellent museums and galleries to exciting street food festivals and contemporary cafes.
Apart from its amazing culture and architecture, Zagreb is also the perfect destination for budget-minded travelers looking for an authentic experience without breaking the bank. Prices tend to be much lower in comparison to other Croatian cities as they are catered more towards locals than tourists. This means that you’ll get a true taste of Croatian life without spending too much.
So if you’re looking for a unique European experience with plenty of history and activities to enjoy, then you won’t regret checking out Zagreb! Keep reading as this Zagreb travel guide covers the top 10 reasons why you should consider a visit to this bustling European capital.
1. Zagreb is centrally located
When planning a trip to Croatia, most people’s attention goes straight to the coast so it wouldn’t be surprising if you were curious to know – where is Zagreb Croatia?
Zagreb is located in the northwest of Croatia, tucked between the foothills of Medvednica Mountain and the Sava River. It is Croatia’s capital, serving as the main cultural, economic, political and administrative hub of the country. Zagreb is perfectly situated for reaching nearly any location in Croatia – in just a few hours, you can find yourself skiing in the mountains, sunbathing on the beautiful Adriatic coast, or exploring the stunning Croatian countryside.
Zagreb is also home to Croatia’s main airport, Franjo Tudman, where many international flights arrive and depart from daily. Croatia is well connected to other tons of other destinations in Europe and even offers inexpensive flights through carriers like Ryanair. This makes it very easy to reach Croatia from other European countries or to extend your trip and further explore the continent. With its convenient location, Zagreb can be the perfect jumping-off point for a Croatian adventure!
2. It’s an all-year round destination
The best time to visit Zagreb really depends on what you are looking for in your trip. Each season has its own unique offerings that make it a great time to explore the city. Here’s a look at what you can expect from each season:
Zagreb in the Spring
Magnolia trees in full bloom, cherry blossom-lined streets, and locals soaking up the sun on terraces all over the city is what you can expect from spring in Croatia’s capital. This is a fantastic time of year to visit for sightseeing in Zagreb as the days get longer and the weather begins to warm up creating ideal weather conditions for exploring.
Zagreb in the Summer
Although many locals flock to the seaside, summer in Croatia’s capital is booming with fun festivals and events all over the city. You certainly won’t find yourself bored if you visit during the months of June, July and August! Burger Festival, Summer on Stross, The Courtyards, Festival of Fireworks, and Food Truck Festival are just a handful of events that take place in the city’s streets and parks each sunny season.
Zagreb in the Fall
The autumn brings a new vibrance to the city with colorful leaves painted in shades of red, yellow and orange. September and October are particularly lovely as temperatures begin to cool down, yet remain comfortable for enjoying the outdoors.
Zagreb in Winter
The most wonderful time of the year is brought into full swing as Advent in Zagreb takes over the city. Christmas markets pop up all over town, turning streets and squares into winter wonderlands complete with music, entertainment, decorations, and festive treats.
3. Zagreb is safe
Another question you might have asked yourself is – Is Zagreb safe?
I’m here to tell you that the city is very safe – perhaps one of the safest capitals in Europe. Violent crime is low, with the most common crimes being petty theft and pickpocketing.
Although there is a low level of crime, it pays to be aware of your surroundings just like you would anywhere else. To be extra cautious, familiarize yourself with emergency services in the area and know where to turn if anything arises.
4. You’ll get an authentic local experience
Zagreb offers the unique opportunity to experience Croatia like a local. While destinations on the Adriatic Coast can become incredibly crowded during peak season, Zagreb remains refreshingly uncrowded. Life in the capital caters to locals that live and work in the city all year round – unlike in many coastal towns where most everything revolves around tourism. Not only does this mean visitors will get a more authentic taste of Croatian life, but they will also enjoy local prices. Which leads me to my next point…
5. It’s affordable
For first-time visitors, Zagreb’s modest prices come as a pleasant surprise. While Zagreb is by no means a budget destination, when compared to Western Europe or other popular destinations in Croatia, the city is actually quite affordable.
When dining out in Zagreb, you can expect to pay around €10-€15 for an entree at a mid-range restaurant. A cup of coffee will cost you only €2 on average, so you can bask in the cafe culture as much as you like.
Accommodation in Zagreb ranges from €80 per night to upwards of €200 for something more luxurious. So when researching where to stay in Zagreb, you should be able to find a place that suits your needs, regardless of your budget and preferences.
If you’re looking to get around town, the public transportation system can cost as low as €0.53 for a 30-minute bus ticket. Or if you prefer, taxis are also available at reasonable prices.
No matter what kind of traveler you are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how affordable a visit to Zagreb can be, which is particularly refreshing if you are coming from somewhere like expensive Dubrovnik.
6. There are awesome tourist attractions in Zagreb
There is no shortage of what to see in Zagreb. Luckily, most of the city’s highlights are situated in the Old Town which is split into two parts: the Upper Town (Gornji Grad) and the Lower Town (Donji Grad). Both sections of the city can easily be explored on foot. To ensure you make the most out of your urban excursion, here is a quick to the top 10 Zagreb tourist attractions:
This stunning neo-Gothic structure is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Croatia and stands as an icon of Zagreb’s history and culture. The cathedral is free to enter and
One of the oldest and most important farmers markets in the city, Dolac, is a colorful place where locals come to sell and buy their food. This is one of the best places to visit in Zagreb for sampling the flavors of freshly-harvested produce.
The first and oldest means of public transportation in the city, Zagreb’s funicular has been in operation for over a century. Connecting the Upper and Lower Towns with a mere 66-meters-long track, it is one of the shortest funiculars in the world.
St. Mark’s Church
Gracing the front of many postcards from Zagreb, St. Mark’s Church is one of the most recognizable buildings in the city. The colorful tiled roof, featuring Croatia’s distinctive red and white checkerboard pattern, is the defining feature of this beautiful church.
Kamenita Vrata (Stone Gate)
For a glimpse at Zagreb’s rich history, pay a visit to the Stone Gate. This historic gateway survived a tumultuous fire and still features an image of the Virgin Mary that miraculously escaped destruction.
While exploring the Upper Town, don’t miss a visit to the iconic Lotrščak Tower – this 13th-century tower announced the closing of the city gates with a cannon shot which can still be heard at 12 o’clock every day.
A 350-meter-long tunnel that was constructed at the commencement of World War 2 as protection from aerial attacks. Relatively unknown to outsiders, this unique tunnel has been open to the public since 2016.
Trg Ban Josip Jelačić
The beating heart of the city, Ban Jelacic is Zagreb’s main square and meeting point where locals have been gathering for centuries. This is also where you will find the Zagreb Tourist Information Centre.
Museum of Broken Relationships
And for an interesting take on museum culture, head to the Museum of Broken Relationships – a unique collection of stories about love and loss.
Museum of Illusions
From mind-boggling 3D art installations to interactive exhibits that let you test your perception skills, the Museum of Illusions is a quirky place to spend a few hours in Zagreb.
When it comes down to what to do in Zagreb Croatia, these are just some of the city’s highlights. Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast, a history buff or simply looking for a taste of Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb is a city full of rich history, culture and sights that are sure to leave you wanting more.
7. There are green spaces galore
Visiting Zagreb Croatia is incomplete without exploring its parks. Zrinjevac Park, the most romantic park in Zagreb, is a beautiful spot adorned with sculptures, fountains, and flower beds. It is only a short walk away from Ban Jelacic Square, making it ideal for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for a short while.
Maksimir Park, the oldest and largest public park in Zagreb is an important green space that forms part of the city’s cultural heritage. This park is popular among locals for its sprawling meadows, hiking trails, and peaceful atmosphere, and is a wonderful spot for a picnic or taking a leisurely stroll. The park is also home to one of Croatia’s three zoos, ZOO Zagreb.
Other green spaces worth checking out in the city are:
- Park Bele IV
- Park Grič
- Ribnjak Park
- Jarun Lake
- Medvednica Mountain
- Zagreb Botanical Gardens
- Bundek City Park
8. Zagreb is walkable
A common question that many first time visitors ask is – Is Zagreb walkable?
Absolutely! In fact, the city’s walkability it’s one of the city’s main attractions. Strolling around Zagreb is the most enjoyable way to see the city, with many of its streets and areas entirely dedicated to pedestrians. Plus, Zagreb is relatively small so you can easily cover a lot of ground by walking. Just remember to bring comfortable shoes!
Public transportation in Zagreb is also very convenient and easy to use. The trams (the blue tram is a symbol of Croatia‘s capital) and buses are reliable and quite cheap, so you can get around without any hassle. And if you do need to get somewhere quickly, there’s always the option of a taxi. I always recommend using Uber or Bolt (a ride-hailing app similar to Uber) so that you can see the price of your ride upfront. Plus, you won’t have to worry about any potential miscommunication due to language barriers (although most Croatians do speak very good English).
If you’re only staying in Zagreb for two days, it’s likely that you won’t need a taxi at all as the city center and most of the tourist areas can be easily reached on foot or using public transportation. So whether you prefer to explore the city by foot or use public transport – Zagreb has you covered!
9. The city’s cafe culture is unmatched
Zagreb is heaven for coffee lovers – or anyone who loves to sit back, relax, and spend time with family and friends. In Zagreb, you’ll find that there are no rules when it comes to coffee breaks. Locals enjoy them at all times of day which is reflected in the overflowing sidewalk cafes. Coffee is a way of life here, and it’s not only about getting your caffeine fix but rather socializing and enjoying life.
When looking for a place to enjoy a macchiato, the local drink of choice, a good place to start is Tkalčićeva Street. This is a pedestrian-only area lined with restaurants, bars and cafes galore, and is a great spot to sit down and people watch. Another area that is quite popular among locals (especially on Saturday mornings) is the stretch down Bogovićeva Street all the way to Cvjetni Trg (Flower Square).
A few of my favorite local Zagreb cafes worth checking out are:
- Drugi Program
- Kavana Lav
- Express Bar
- Boogie Bar
10. Plenty of options for day trips from Zagreb
Due to the city’s central location, there are plenty of opportunities for day trips from Zagreb. Whether you want to explore more of continental Croatia’s incredible attractions or perhaps venture across the border into Slovenia or Hungary, Zagreb serves as the perfect base. Here are some of the most popular day trip options from Zagreb:
- Plitvice Lakes and Rastoke: If deciding whether you should visit Plitvice Lakes National Park or Krka National Park from Zagreb, Plitvice is the one! This UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts thousands of tourists each year for its 16 terraced lakes, countless waterfalls, and water that is nearly pure enough to drink. Paired with a visit to the nearby village of Rastoke, and you have a perfect day trip.
- Varazdin and Trakoscan Castle: Escape modern city life and go back in time with a visit to the baroque town of Varazdin on this small group tour from Zagreb. History buffs will also appreciate a visit to one of Croatia’s most famous castles, Trakoscan, where you’ll have the chance to admire paintings and historic artifacts.
- Private Wine Tasting Tour: Discover the vineyards of Zagreb as a local guide tours you through the wine region just outside the city. This day trip will take you to two of the best wineries in the area where you’ll learn the secrets of local winemakers and spend the afternoon sampling Croatian vino!
- Ljubljana and Lake Bled: Head north and hop over the border to spend the day visiting Slovenia’s most popular places in a single day. With round-trip transport from Zagreb, this tour takes you to see the charming town of Ljubljana and its Triple Bridge as well as the gorgeous Lake Bled and Bled Castle.
Final Thoughts: Is Zagreb Worth Visiting?
Hopefully this Zagreb travel blog has convinced you that the city is a great destination for travelers looking for an authentic Croatian experience. It’s safe, affordable and easy to navigate on foot – perfect for getting to know the city at your own pace! Plus, its central location makes it the ideal base from which to explore the rest of Croatia and central Europe. With its vibrant culture, stunning architecture and delicious food, there’s something for everyone in Zagreb.
Spend a weekend in Zagreb and discover why it’s worth visiting!
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Is Zagreb safe?
Zagreb is one of the safest European capitals. The city can be described as calm and peaceful, with the most common crimes being petty theft or pickpocketing.
How many days in Zagreb is enough?
2 days in Zagreb is the perfect amount of time to see the main attractions and get a taste of local life, although you could easily see it in one day.
Is Zagreb expensive to visit?
Zagreb is relatively affordable to visit, especially when compared to destinations like Dubrovnik, Hvar, and other popular spots on the Croatian coast.
Which is better Zagreb or Split?
Depends on what you are looking for. Zagreb is better for year round events, festivals, and museums. Split on the other hand is best visited in the summer when the city is buzzing with activity and it is warm enough to swim.
What country is Zagreb in?
Zagreb is located in Croatia. It is the capital and largest city of Croatia, situated in the northwest of the country.
Is Zagreb CET?
Yes, the standard time for Zagreb is CET (Central European Time) which is also the timezone for many European capitals including Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome and Budapest.
What does Zagreb mean?
Legend has it that Zagreb got its name from the word zagrabiti, meaning to scoop up. This stems from an old folktale where a knight ordered a young girl named Manda to “scoop” water from the well on Ban Jelačić Square by yelling “Zagrabi, Mando!”