Zagreb Itinerary: 36 Hours in Croatia’s Capital
When you think of Croatia, does your mind drift to beautiful beaches and stunning waterfalls? While these places warrant the visit, Zagreb is a stunning city that deserves at least a day and a half of your time. In this post, I’ll show you the best Zagreb itinerary for spending 36 hours in Croatia’s charming capital.
Wheelchair Accessibility Note: Head to our post on 12 Things to do in Zagreb for information on wheelchair accessibility there.
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Zagreb Itinerary Tips
The historical center of Zagreb is small and easily manageable by foot, although a tram runs through certain areas if you’d like to give your feet a rest.
Below are some must-know tips to help you make the most of this Zagreb itinerary:
- The historical center is divided between the upper town and lower town. This itinerary will show you the best walking route between them, although you can comfortably walk between the two multiple times in a day.
- Walking is typically the quickest way to get between the upper and lower towns. However, there’s also the option to take the funicular, which just so happens to be the shortest funicular in the world!
P.S.- Looking for more tips on visiting Zagreb? Check out my guide on things to do in Zagreb.
Zagreb Itinerary in 1.5 Days
Below is the itinerary I recommend for your visit to Zagreb if you have 36 hours to spend there. The order of this itinerary follows the best logistical route.
However, depending on the time of day you start your explorations and whether your half-day in Zagreb falls in the morning or afternoon, you may need to make adjustments to the logistics shown here so that you visit during the opening hours of some of these locations.
Day 1 (Full Day)
Follow this itinerary for your full day in Zagreb.
Trg bana Jelačića
Trg bana Jelačića is the main square in Zagreb’s historical center. It’s located in the lower town and on the border of the hill that leads to the upper town.
Nearly all tram lines pass through Trg bana Jelačića. So, if your accommodation isn’t within walking distance to the historical center, you should be able to get there easily by public transportation.
It’s common for there to be activities taking place at the square, including a daily market. This market is tourist oriented, with specialty arts, crafts, and food.
Travel Tip: Head up to Zagreb 360 °, located at the square. For a fee, you’ll be able to get great views of the city from the 16th-floor viewpoint.
Walk behind Trg bana Jelačića and you’ll encounter the Dolac Market. The main portion of the market is located up the staircase, although you’ll find plenty of goods sold in the street directly behind the square.
The Dolac Market is a farmer’s market that’s open daily from 7:00am until the early afternoon. Fruits, vegetables, cheese, and meat can all be bought here, so it’s a great place to include in your Zagreb itinerary if you’re looking to pick up a healthy snack.
Although there are some touristy stands on the outskirts of the market, Dolac is first and foremost a market for locals.
By heading up the stairs of the Dolac Market, you’ll now be in the upper town. Once you’ve gotten your fill of the market, head over to the Zagreb Cathedral.
The Zagreb Cathedral is hard to miss, with its spires showing from so many parts of Zagreb. In fact, the cathedral is the tallest building in Croatia! Sadly, one of the spires got damaged during an earthquake in March 2020, but repairs are in the process.
You can enter the cathedral for free. It’s open from 10:00am – 5:00pm, Monday – Saturday. On Sunday, the cathedral opens at 1:00pm. Mass is also held daily at 7:00am, 8:00am, 9:00am, and 6:00pm.
From the Zagreb Cathedral, continue your itinerary by heading back in the direction of the market and set your GPS so that it takes you to the Stone Gate. Along the way, you’ll get to admire charming buildings in the upper town.
The Stone Gate was once a part of the walled city of Zagreb. Nowadays, the small tunnel-like gate serves as a religious site for Catholics, as it’s a shrine for the painting of Mother of God after the painting survived a fire in the 17th century.
Pews are available if you wish to say a prayer. Otherwise, you can pass through the small tunnel and quietly take in the sights.
Travel Tip: After you pass through the Stone Gate, there’s a pharmacy on the left when you’re walking up the hill. It was built in 1355 and is the oldest pharmacy in Zagreb.
With such a small skyline, it’s easy to pick out the relatively tall buildings in Zagreb. The Lotrščak Tower is one of them.
The tower was built in 1266 as a defense from the Turks. Nowadays, tourists can enter and enjoy stunning views of Zagreb from its upper town viewpoint. At noon a cannon goes off, echoing through the historical center.
While the viewpoint at the Lotrščak Tower is beautiful, you’ll need to climb narrow, winding stairs to get to the top. Therefore, if you have reduced mobility and/or don’t want to spend money on the entrance fee, the next stop in this Zagreb itinerary will be perfect for you.
The Strossmayer Promenade, locally referred to as “Stross,” is a pedestrian boardwalk that runs along a portion of what was formerly the city wall.
Stross runs in front of the Lotrščak Tower. When you’re facing the tower, the boardwalk to the right will take you to stunning, low-lying views over Zagreb and the left portion of the boardwalk will take you to Park Grič. The park is a small, but pleasant, place to get away from the larger tourist crowds.
The Stross is quite small, so you can easily explore the entire boardwalk without tiring yourself out. However, if you choose to go only one way, make it to the right. Then, once you’ve done your exploring, end your stroll back at the Lotrščak Tower where you’ll continue with your Zagreb itinerary.
Museum of Broken Relationships
Walk one block behind the Stross and you’ll come across one of the most unique activities to do in Zagreb- visiting the Museum of Broken Relationships.
Filled with objects of memories from former loved ones, you’ll both laugh and cry at the stories shared by people who have loved and lost.
While the majority of stories are based around breakups with significant others, the museum also showcases other takes on lost loves, such as the bra of a woman who had a mastectomy.
St. Mark’s Church
Of all the sites you visit in this Zagreb itinerary, St. Mark’s Church is perhaps the most iconic of them all. From the Museum of Broken Dreams, you’ll be able to see the plaza where the church is located.
At the plaza, you’ll get to enjoy viewing the church’s tiled roof from a variety of angles. The design of the roof is the coat of arms of Croatia and the Emblem of Zagreb. The current roof was constructed in the 1800’s, although St. Mark’s Church itself was founded in the 13th century.
St. Mark’s Church is only open for mass. The best time to visit the outside of the church without crowds is in the morning, but thanks to how open the plaza is since there aren’t shops and restaurants around, it rarely feels as crowded as other sites in Zagreb.
St. Mark’s Church is your last stop in the upper town today, so after you visit, take some time to wander the streets branching out from the plaza. It’s generally a quieter area than other parts of Zagreb and you’ll get to enjoy more of Zagreb’s beautiful architecture.
Tkalčićeva Street, often called “Tkalča” for short, is a lively pedestrian street that’s located in Zagreb’s lower town.
It’s the perfect place to give your feet a rest and enjoy dinner at one of the many outdoor areas at the restaurants. Tkalča is also known for its nightlife, with plenty of bars to choose from.
Don’t forget to visit Marija Jurić Zagorka when you’re exploring Tkalča. Many tourists mistake the statue of Marija as Mary Poppins. However, Marija is worth taking a selfie with since she’s famous for being the first female Croatian journalist.
Day 2 (Half Day)
Your half day Zagreb itinerary today focuses on sites in the lower district. Since the historical center can easily be explored by foot, if you end up having extra time today, you can easily revisit your favorite sites from yesterday.
Ilica Street is a long, lively street in Zagreb that’s filled with shops and restaurants.
If you’re staying within walking distance from Ilica Street, feel free to start your explorations from there. Otherwise, I recommend starting your day from Trg bana Jelačića Plaza.
The greatest amount of shops and restaurants that are more touristy geared are located on the portion of Ilica Street that’s nearest to Trg bana Jelačića. The further you walk down either end of the street away from the plaza, the more you’ll be able to get a feel for more local businesses in Zagreb.
Keep in mind that Ilica Street is long so it won’t make sense for you to spend your half day exploring the entire length of it. How long you ultimately spend will depend on whether or not you plan on shopping.
The remainder of the sites you’ll visit today make up what’s called the Lenuci Horseshoe. Look at a map, and you’ll understand why; a series of parks make up a “U” shape.
Start your visit of the Lenuci Horseshoe at the National Theater. By day, you can walk around and enjoy the pretty building. On nice days, it’s common for people to lay blankets down in the grassy park around the theater to read, sunbathe, or have a picnic.
If you’re interested in watching a theater, opera, or ballet performance, you can find a list of upcoming shows here. You’ll need to use Google Translate, since the website is in Croatian.
Zagreb is home to a variety of museums, so if you’re a museum buff, you may want to replace some of the sites this day with more museum visits (Mimara Museum and Museum of Illusions, to name a few).
For now, let’s assume that you’ll visit the Ethnographic Museum since it’s located behind the National Theater.
The Ethnographic Museum offers insight on traditional Croatian life, combining culture and history. You’ll be able to enjoy thousands of artifacts, clothing, and farming equipment, among other things.
Finish your Zagreb itinerary with the beautiful botanical gardens. Located by the train station and only a ten-minute walk from Trg bana Jelačića Plaza, the botanical gardens is a perfect way to end your time in Zagreb.
The gardens are open during the day and there isn’t an entrance fee. In order to see the botanical gardens at its best, aim to visit in the spring or summer. Depending on your pace, you can visit the gardens in 30 – 60 minutes.
After visiting the botanical gardens, finish walking through the parks that make up the remainder of the Lenuci Horseshoe. Then, that’s it! You will have visited Zagreb’s most important sites with your 36 hour itinerary.
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.
Zagreb is an underrated destination in Croatia that deserves your time. I hope this post has inspired you to visit Zagreb and has given you ideas on how to best arrange your itinerary.
Do you have questions about visiting Zagreb? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help. If you’ve already been, share your favorite Zagreb itinerary tips.
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.