The Best of Zagreb: 12 Things to do in Croatia’s Capital
When you think of Croatia, you probably think of water. The Adriatic Sea, Plitvice Lakes, and the waterfalls in Krka are no doubt popular for a reason. However, Zagreb offers so many things to do if you’re willing to venture inland. I spent eleven days in Zagreb and put together this guide to help you make the most of your trip.
Accessible Travel Note: Zagreb is pretty well designed for wheelchair accessibility. Head to the bottom of this post for accessibility tips.
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Getting around Zagreb
Once you’re in the historical center of Zagreb, most everything of touristic interest is within walking distance. However, if you’ll be staying outside of the center, or will be traveling from the airport or bus station, public transportation is plentiful and easy to use.
From the airport, there’s a bus with Croatia Airlines that runs every half hour. It’ll take you to Zagreb’s main bus station for around 4 Euro. From there, you can hop on a tram.
Tram lines 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8 serve the bus station. If you’re heading to Trg bana Jelacica, which is Zagreb’s main square, line 6 will get you there.
You can view a map of Zagreb’s tram system here. Tram tickets can be purchased with the driver or at one of the kiosks near the tram stops.
Ready for a super fun fact?
The Zagreb funicular is the shortest funicular in the world.
So short, in fact, that for many it’s quicker to walk between the Lower Town and Upper Town than waiting for the funicular to run.
If you’d like to take the 66 meter funicular ride, you can find the entrance on Tomićeva Street (near Trg bana Jelacica) in the Lower Town and by the Lotrščak Tower in Upper Town.
The cost is 4 Kuna per way, and the funicular runs every 10 minutes.
No need to worry about waiting in line; you’ll most likely have the entire place to yourself.
Upper vs. Lower Town
If you’ve done any research about Zagreb, you’ll hear a lot of talk about the upper and lower towns. This is a useful way of dividing up the old town.
The upper part of town is the oldest part of Zagreb. As its name implies, it’s located on a hill, whereas the lower town sits beneath the hill. Both are an easy walk from one another. However, if you’d prefer to forego the uphill walk, you can take the funicular.
To give you an overview, below is a breakdown of some of the biggest attractions in both areas.
Sites in Upper Town
- Cathedral of Zagreb
- St. Mark’s Church
- Museum of Broken Relationships
- Stone Gate
- Dolac Market
- Lotrščak Tower
Sites in Lower Town
- Trg bana Jelacica
- Ilica Street
- National Theater
- Museums (Mimara and Ethnographic, among many others)
- Botanical Gardens
Fun fact: The street lights in Upper Town have gas lanterns and are manually lit every evening…all 214 of them!
Things to do in Zagreb
There’s no shortage of things to do in Zagreb. Let’s take a closer look at the many wonderful places to see.
1. Trg bana Jelacica
This is the main square in Zagreb and the point where most everything of touristic interest branches off from. The square is large, but quiet, since the primary traffic is from trams.
Stroll through the plaza and enjoy the colorful architecture. There’s also a daily, tourist-oriented market geared towards specialty foods and artwork. If you get lucky, you may stumble upon a free performance.
Trg bana Jelacica is also home to the Zagreb 360°. For a fee, you can pay to go up to the 16th floor of this skyscraper where you’ll get incredible views of the city. You can see information about pricing and hours here.
2. Visit the museums
Confession- I’m not a museum person. However, it’s hard not to be intrigued by the names of Zagreb’s museums. The Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb 80’s Museum, Museum of Illusions, and the Museum of Mushrooms are just some of many fun museums in the area.
For those who enjoy museums in the more traditional sense, make sure to set aside a couple of days for your museum exploration.
The Mimara Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Archaeological Museum, Ethnographic Museum, and Croatian History Museum are all within walking distance in the historical center among many, many others.
3. St. Mark’s Church
St. Mark’s Church is an iconic symbol of Zagreb with its colorful tiled roof displaying the coat of arms of Croatia and the Emblem of Zagreb. The church was constructed in the 13th century, but it wasn’t until the 1800’s when they built the tiled roof that we know today.
Located in Upper Town, you can get to St. Mark’s Church by a 10 minute uphill walk from Trg bana Jelacica, or by the funicular.
Unfortunately, the church is only open for mass. However, the plaza around St. Mark’s Church is beautiful, so be sure to allot time to walk around it and explore the side streets.
4. Cathedral of Zagreb
Sticking with the church theme, it’s impossible to talk about St. Mark’s Church without also mentioning the cathedral.
With its two huge spires, this Neo-Gothic style cathedral makes an excellent point to orient yourself since it sits near Trg bana Jelacica. In fact, the Cathedral of Zagreb is the largest building in all of Croatia. It also has one of the 10 ten best musical organs in the world.
When you exit the cathedral, make sure to look at the clock outside to your right. The time is stopped at 7:03, the moment that a huge earthquake struck Zagreb in 1880. You’ll also see a monument of an old church spire.
The cathedral is free to enter and is open from 10:00am – 5:00pm, Monday – Saturday. On Sunday, the cathedral opens at 1:00pm. That being said, if you wish to attend mass, service is held daily at 7:00am, 8:00am, 9:00am, and 6:00pm.
5. Dolac Farmer’s Market
If you head behind Trg bana Jelacica plaza and walk up the staircase, you’ll find a bustling open-air market.
Flowers and lavender are primarily sold in the lower streets. However, head upstairs and you’ll have your picking of fresh fruits, veggies, cheese, meat, fish, and baked goods. There are also some touristy stands, but this is no doubt first and foremost a market for locals.
Opening around 7:00am, the Dolac Market technically runs until 3:00pm. However, options get sparse as the afternoon wears on, so I recommend making a bee-line there in the morning to get the best Dolac Market experience.
The market is open seven days a week, with Sundays closing at 1:00pm.
6. Tkalčićeva Street
Referred to as “Tkalča” by locals, colorful Tkalčićeva Street is an absolute must-see in Zagreb. There are lots of restaurants and bars that line this pedestrian-only area.
Tkalča is a quick walk from the main square; simply head north past Dolac Market.
While you admire the pastel-colored shops and restaurants with church steeples in the backdrop, it’ll be hard to picture the purpose of Tkalča back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s…almost all the houses were brothels!
7. Take a photo with Mary Popp…ahem…Jurić Zagorka
When you’re walking along Tkalča, you’ll come across a unique looking brick building with a statue in front of it that looks just like Mary Poppins. I passed by the statue every day on my walk into town and there was almost always someone taking a picture with her.
Alas, the statue isn’t of Mary Poppins but of Mary (Marija in Croatian) Jurić Zagorka.
Don’t get too disappointed, though- Marija deserves her statue status. She was the first female Croatian journalist and an advocate for women’s rights.
So, go ahead and take that photo with Mary, the famous female writer.
The brick building is pretty easy to find on Tkalčićeva Street. But, in case you miss it, it’s located right by Caffe Bar Cajger.
8. Stone Gate
Built in the 13th century, the Stone Gate is the last remaining trace of the formerly walled city of Zagreb. The Stone Gate is now a shrine for the painting of Mother of God, which survived a large fire in the 17th century.
Inside the cave-like tunnel of the gate, you’ll find people praying on wooden pews. If you’re religious, you may feel inclined to light a candle in thanks to the Lady Virgin.
The Stone Gate is less than a 10 minute walk from the main square, heading north on Radićeva Street.
Travel Tip: Look for the pharmacy on the same street as the Stone Gate, on the left hand side when walking uphill. Built in 1355, this is the oldest pharmacy in Zagreb and is still operating today!
9. Lotrščak Tower
If you’re meandering around Zagreb and hear a cannon go off at noon, rest easy. That came from the Lotrščak Tower.
Built as a defense against the Turks in 1266, nowadays the tower is a tourist attraction offering beautiful views over the city. However, be prepared to climb narrow, winding stairs to get to the top.
The cost to enter the tower is 20 Kuna for adults and 10 Kuna for children 17 years and younger. Opening time is 9:00am on weekdays and 10:00am on weekends, with all days closing at 9:00pm.
In addition to the viewpoint, the Lotrščak Tower offers a photo gallery and gift shop. You won’t need to dedicate much of your day for this visit, but between the incredible views and it being smack dab in the center of the Upper Town, Lotrščak Tower is very much worth the visit.
10. Strossmayer Promenade
The Strossmayer Promenade is located close to the Lotrščak Tower and is a great option for those who aren’t able to manage the tower’s stairs.
If you hear the word Zagreb Stross thrown around, you’re in the right place. Stross is the local nickname for the promenade…and far easier for the average tourist to pronounce.
From the promenade, you’ll get great viewpoints over the city, especially of the cathedral spires. You won’t realize it from the promenade, but you’ll be walking along what was formerly part of the walled city.
In addition to enjoying the views, there are some street vendors and benches where you can sit, eat an ice cream, and people watch.
11. Ilica Street
Ilica Street is the third largest street in Zagreb and the vein that runs through the historical center. This is also the street that runs in front of Trg bana Jelacic square.
Lots of shops and restaurants are located along the street. From Ilica, side streets branch off showcasing street after street of beautiful architecture, small plazas, and plenty of places to eat.
Make sure to take a photo of the Trg bana Jelacic square from Illica Street (when a tram isn’t coming!). It’s the best way to capture the square from the ground floor.
12. Lenuci Horseshoe
If you enjoy parks and pretty buildings, the Lenuci Horseshoe is for you.
Shaped like a “U,” seven different squares and parks make up this eye candy area. Here, you’ll find the Croatian National Theater, Ethonographic Museum, and Archaeological Museum, among many other historical points of interest.
The two long ends of the “horseshoe” are joined together by the Zagreb Botanical Gardens, which are very much worth walking through.
The Lenuci Horseshoe has a wonderfully non-commercial feel to it, especially compared to Ilica Street. It’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a peaceful oasis in the heart of downtown Zagreb.
Hey! Looking for more Zagreb resources? Check out our Zagreb Itinerary for suggestions on how to spend 36 hours in Croatia’s beautiful capital.
Public Transportation in Croatia
Zagreb is stunning, but there are dozens of other beautiful destinations in Croatia worth exploring. Buses and ferries are known to fill in advance, especially during the high season for tourism, so I recommend booking your ticket in advance.
For great deals on public transportation in Croatia, I recommend checking out Bookaway. They’ll show you the bus and ferry times you have to choose from and they offer competitive rates so that you don’t have to take precious time during your trip to figure out transportation logistics.
Wheelchair Accessibility in Zagreb
The streets of Zagreb are quite well designed for accessibility. So much so, that it didn’t seem necessary to put together a wheelchair accessible guide for Zagreb like we did for Dubrovnik, Split, and Krka National Park.
That said, below are some areas of Zagreb worth noting for their accessibility, or lack thereof.
Each tram has a designated accessible area. The aisles are wide and there are also spacious sections that aren’t specifically for wheelchairs.
There’s about a four inch gap between the curb and tram, plus a couple inch height difference with the tram being higher than the curb, meaning that you’ll likely need assistance.
This one’s a real mind boggler.
The entrance to the funicular in the Upper Town is beautifully accessible. It even advertises its accessibility with a wheelchair logo on the front door.
However, when you take the funicular down to the Lower Town, you’ll be completely stuck as there are three steps to get down to the cobblestone pedestrian street.
We can only hope that this will change soon. In the meantime, you can travel between the Upper and Lower Towns by means of the sidewalk running up the hill or by the Dolac Market elevator.
Elevator at Dolac Farmer’s Market
A free, public elevator serves the Dolac Farmer’s Market. The elevator is located inside the first floor of the market from the Tkalčićeva Street entrance (the street behind Trg bana Jelacica).
From there, take the elevator up to the third floor, which is the outdoor area where the best market activities happen.
This is also an excellent shortcut for traveling between the Lower and Upper Towns.
Zagreb’s shops are a mix of accessible and entryways with a large step or more.
The Cathedral is fully accessible from the front entrance, and there’s a sidewalk around the perimeter of St. Mark’s Church so that you don’t have to deal with cobblestone.
The only areas that aren’t accessible in the list above are the Lotrščak Tower and some museums which either aren’t accessible or aren’t ideally accessible. The Museum of Broken Relationships, for example, has about a 2″ downward ledge to enter.
Croatia’s capital is a gem and still relatively tourist-free compared to its coastal destinations. Do you have questions about Zagreb? Have you ever been there? Share your thoughts/questions in the comments section!
P.S.- Are you looking to take a day trip from Zagreb? If so, head over to my guide on Plitvice Lakes National Park for a perfect nature getaway.
Laura’s love for traveling started with a trip to Jamaica. Since then, she’s spent over five years living in Latin America and four years wandering the globe. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.