Nestled in the heart of the country, the Croatian capital of Zagreb is one of Central Europe’s most surprising travel destinations. Although it’s not as famous as Croatia’s coastal cities among travellers, there are plenty of fun things to do in Zagreb to round out any itinerary to this fascinating country. From the bustling squares and lively markets of Donji Grad (Lower Town) to the Gornji Grad (Upper Town), explore Zagreb’s top tourist attractions with this quick & easy guide!
What to see & do in Zagreb
Feel dwarfed at the massive Zagreb Cathedral
Don’t know what to do in Zagreb? Start with a trip to the city’s most famous landmark: Zagreb Cathedral. The cathedral was originally built in the early 1200s. Since then, it’s been destroyed, rebuilt, and renovated numerous times over the centuries.
Despite the many updates, Zagreb Cathedral is still one of the most impressive sights in Central Europe. The large open square outside of the cathedral provides a clear view of the large, golden-yellow façade featuring detailed scrollwork around the entrance. Step inside the cathedral to marvel at its historic architecture and other treasures, including priceless statues and paintings.
Whether you have one day in Zagreb or a week, it’s a must-see destination and an important part of the city’s history.
Laugh and cry at the Museum of Broken Relationships
Besides striking medieval architecture, Zagreb is known for its quirky museums. Case in point: the Museum of Broken Relationships. As you may guess from the name, the Museum of Broken Relationships includes artifacts related to failed relationships.
The items at the Museum of Broken Relationships include everything from an axe in the wall to notes and paintings. The various objects are accompanied by stories, letting you know more about the relationship and the meaning behind the object.
After exploring this oddball, head next door to browse the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art, which features artwork from untrained painters. Most of the artists are farmers from the region.
A few minutes away from these two museums is the Museum of Torture. Step inside to see a real guillotine and other cruel devices from the Middle Ages.
Of course, Zagreb has more than just odd museums. Take your pick of historical museums like the Croatian History Museum or modern art museums like the Museum of Contemporary Art.
See the city from above and hear the cannon fire at Lotrščak Tower
Before you delve too far into your itinerary, save some energy to climb up Lotrščak Tower and check out the city from above. The tower is at the top of the slope that marks the beginning of Zagreb’s Upper Town.
From Lotrščak Tower, you can get a wide, sweeping view of the city. Before you get those beautiful vistas, though, you need to work up some energy to climb the steep steps to reach the top.
Besides its great views, Lotrščak Tower is known for its traditional cannon firing. Every day at noon, the cannon fires to signify the city’s victory over the Turks. (At least, that’s one theory.) The cannon also marks midday, letting bell-ringers in the city’s churches know when to ring their bells.
Visit the center of the city at Bana Jelacica
The heart of Zagreb’s city center beats at Bana Jelacica. Many Zagreb sightseeing tours start at this central square, also known as Ban Josip Jelačić Square. In fact, most of the main roads in the city center lead away from the square, making it easy to find your way back if you get lost.
The heart of Donji Grad (Lower Town), Bana Jelacica is one of the main gathering spots in Zagreb. Locals love to congregate here, providing travelers with plenty of opportunities for people-watching.
This area was first used as a public square over 400 years ago. The oldest building still standing in Bana Jelacica was built in the 18th century. Today, the square is the most popular destination in Zagreb thanks to its central location.
Ban Josip Jelačić Square became a car-free zone in 1975, making it a pedestrian-friendly meeting space. It also underwent numerous renovations in the late 1980s when it hosted the 1987 Summer Universiade. It’s now jam-packed by midday with tourists, locals, vendors, and street performers.
Shop the sprawling Dolac Market
Like most cities, one of the most popular things to do in Zagreb is to eat. For hungry travelers, Dolac Market is a good place to start. The sprawling Dolac Market is located near the city’s center and is one of the most unique places to visit in Zagreb.
Dolac Market has been the main trading spot in the city since 1926. Each day, farmers from the surrounding villages arrive to sell their fresh foods.
The market also provides access to several other markets. Underneath Dolac Market, you’ll find a large meat & dairy market. Around the corner is the city’s fish market.
After exploring Dolac Market, browse the surrounding shops, restaurants, and cafes. They’ll provide endless opportunities to drain your travel funds and fill your stomach with delicious local food and drinks.
You can easily reach Dolac Market from Bana Jelacica. It’s less than a hundred meters away and built on a raised platform.
Watch the changing of the guard at St. Mark’s Church
Near the top of the list of must-see Zagreb attractions is St. Mark’s Church. While the building is not as elegant as Zagreb Cathedral, it’s an important historical site.
The tiled roof of St. Mark’s Church features the medieval coat of arms of the country, along with the coat of arms of Slovenia and Dalmatia. Even if you don’t step inside the church, take a moment to appreciate its Gothic portal. Above it, you’ll spot fifteen 14th-century wooden sculptures, including Mary, Joseph, and an infant Jesus.
The church is only open to the public during mass. If you are lucky enough to arrive at noon, you may get to watch the changing of the guard. This occurs every Saturday and Sunday between April and October.
Walk through an air-raid shelter at Gric Tunnel
Step back into the WWII era with a walk in the Gric Tunnel. Running underneath Gornji Grad, Gric Tunnel was built in 1943 as an air-raid shelter. After World War II, the tunnel was mostly abandoned until it was used to host a massive rave in 1993.
A few years ago, Gric Tunnel was reopened to the public after thorough renovations. You can reach it from two different spots and use it to beat the heat when traveling around Zagreb.
The tunnel stretches over 350 meters under Lower Town, between Stjepan Radic Street and Mesnicka Street. There are six different exits, public toilets, and a lot of interesting graffiti.
Where to stay in Zagreb for sightseeing
For travelers, picking out where to stay in Zagreb isn’t such a huge ordeal. Many of the city’s top attractions lie in & around the city center where you’ll find the bulk of the accommodations. If you want to stay close to all of the action, Gornji Grad (Upper Town) and Donji Grad (Lower Town) are the two recommended areas.
Start your accommodations search with a couple of these top hotels…
- Hotel Jadran: For travelers on a budget, there’s hardly a better central choice than this comfortable hotel. The Donji Grad location puts you close to many of the top places to go in Zagreb.
- Best Western Premier Hotel Astoria: Mid-range travelers will love this central hotel featuring clean & comfortable rooms just a short walk from the nucleus of the city center.
- Esplanade Zagreb Hotel: Among the top luxury picks in the city, this 5-star hotel grasps the attention immediately with its historical façade and elegant rooms. Extra amenities like a spa, fitness center, and two top-notch on-site restaurants add to the value.