The Best Things to do in Zagreb, Croatia

The 15 Best Things to do in Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb is one of Europe’s most understated destinations. But trust us when we say it’s not going to stay like that for long!

The Croatian capital is a long way from the popular beaches and resorts of the Adriatic Sea, but nowhere else in the country competes in terms of cultural curiosities. This is a city built on museums, and you can spend days visiting the top sights only to find more fascinating Zagreb attractions awaiting you around the next corner.

There’s the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Mushroom Museum, the Croatian Museum of Naive Art, and so many more cultural institutions. Then you have the history and heritage of the city itself to explore, with Zagreb divided into the medieval Upper Town and the newer (18th- to 19th-century) Lower Town.

With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. That’s why we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Zagreb for you. Stick to these fun and unique Zagreb bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an incredible time exploring the wonderful Croatian capital!

The 15 Best Things to do in Zagreb

1. Take a Walking Tour of Zagreb

Best Things to do in Zagreb, Croatia: Walking Tour

A walking tour is one of the best things to do in Zagreb. The Croatian capital is incredibly walkable, and you’ll love exploring the history and culture as you’re guided through the streets of Zagreb by a local.

You’ll soon discover how the city is split into two distinct zones: the Upper Town and the Lower Town. While the flat streets of the Lower Town (which were purpose-built by Zagreb’s mercantile elite from the 18th century onwards) make for easy strolling, you’ll need to put in a little more effort to get uphill to the Upper Town. 

It’s well worth it, though, as the Upper Town is where you’ll find the most historic sites in Zagreb. This is the heritage-filled heart of the capital, and you’ll love walking along bustling Ilica Street and exploring the narrow alleyways and wide-open squares of this popular tourist zone. 

There are several unique walking tours you might consider joining during your stay in Zagreb. We always love a “free walking tour,” which offers local expertise and excellent value (you only pay what you feel the tour was worth at the end). 

Many tours cover both the Upper Town and Lower Town within two to three hours, but you might consider joining individual tours focused on each section of the city; that way, you’ll leave with a more nuanced look at the different histories of each. 


2. Get Personal at the Museum of Broken Relationships

Must do things in Zagreb, Croatia: Museum of Broken Relationships

A visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships might not sound like the sort of fun activity that should be at the top of your Zagreb bucket list, but this unique museum is one of the most fascinating places to visit in the capital.

The unusually themed museum presents a very personal selection of exhibits that delves into the broken hearts of couples from around the world. Rather heroically, the museum tells the story of real-life relationships, showing how they once flourished but then fell by the wayside of life. 

Exhibits often focus on just a single item from a past relationship that an individual has donated to the museum, such as a postcard, a book, or even an axe. These inanimate objects are full of life, lost loves, and romance, but they’ve been given away to the museum as the owner’s often can’t bear to hold on to them any longer.

As you browse through the galleries and read the stories of love and loss, you may find yourself remembering your own past loves and partners. It’s a poignant reminder that nothing lasts forever, and it’s a surprisingly healthy way for us to discuss breakups and broken relationships.


3. Marvel at Zagreb Cathedral on the Kaptol

What to do in Zagreb, Croatia: Zagreb Cathedral

Zagreb Cathedral is one of the most iconic Zagreb sightseeing attractions. This tall, elegant place of worship is an enduring symbol of Croatian history, culture, and independence, so we highly recommend visiting to find out more.

The cathedral’s twin spires reach 108 meters in height, and given the prominent location on the Kaptol, in the upper part of Zagreb, you can see the spires from almost anywhere in the city. Their height means that Zagreb Cathedral is the second-tallest building in Croatia and easily the most famous.

Zagreb Cathedral has a long history that echoes through its very foundations. If you’ve got a keen eye for architecture, then you’ll notice that the cathedral blends centuries of different styles together, from renaissance artistry to gothic stonework. 

The first cathedral to be built here was raised in the 11th century AD when Zagreb was founded, but this was destroyed in the 12th century AD during a Mongol invasion. It was rebuilt and destroyed on countless occasions, with the latest edition predominantly dating to the 18th and 19th centuries.

While you’re visiting Zagreb Cathedral, take the time to explore the Kaptol, too. This distinct area of the Upper Town is really the historic core of Zagreb, and you’ll find there’s much in the way of heritage just waiting to be explored.


4. Meet a Friend at Ban Jelacic Square  

Best Things to do in Zagreb, Croatia: Ban Jelacic Square

At some point during your Zagreb getaway, you’re going to need to visit Ban Jelacic Square. This is Zagreb’s most famous meeting point, and it’s the most popular starting point for walking tours in the city.

If you have Croatian friends in the city, they’ll ask you to meet them here. It’s good to be prepared, but it’s also not hard to find Ban Jelacic Square. This historic meeting point is at the center of Zagreb’s pedestrianized downtown area, and it’s usually held to be the point where the Upper Town ends and the Lower Town begins.

The square is quite historic, and it’s thought to date back to around the 16th century when Zagreb began expanding outside of the medieval confines of the Upper Town. It became synonymous with Croatian independence, and it’s today named for Ban Jelacic, a general who supported Croatian nationalism in the 19th century. His statue was removed during the Yugoslavian era, but when Croatia became independent in the 1990s, a new one was built and the square was named after him. 

Today, the statue is surrounded by historic hotels, shops, and cafes, and it’s a great place to relax before or after a walking tour of the city. For all of these reasons, Ban Jelacic Square is always a lively place to visit, and you’re always likely to stumble across an exhibition, protest, or cultural event taking place here. 


5. Ride the Funicular to Lotrscak Tower

Must do things in Zagreb, Croatia: Lotrscak Tower

In the Upper Town, Lotrscak Tower is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. This 13th-century tower was built to protect medieval Zagreb from Mongol and then Ottoman invasions, with the great bells being rung to signal danger.

You might want to ride the short funicular to the base of the tower rather than taking the steep pedestrian path! The funicular is one of the top things to do in Zagreb, and once you’re at the tower’s entrance, you can then take the steps further up to the viewing platform.

From Lotrscak Tower, you’ll have superb views over the rooftops of the Upper Town and south toward the Lower Town. It’s a beautiful location and an even better piece of history, so schedule a visit high up on your Upper Town itinerary.


6. Admire Fine Art at the Croatian Museum of Naive Art

Best Things to do in Zagreb, Croatia: Croatian Museum of Naive Art

Art lovers will want to visit the Croatian Museum of Naive Art, which protects, preserves, and displays 1,900 unique works of fine art.

The art gallery is dedicated to a unique form of fine art known as “Naive Art.” This type of work explores humble themes such as farming and agriculture, and it was first popularized in the 20th century by Croatian countryside peasants. 

The style and genre took on a life of their own, and many of the early naive painters grew to prominence during the communist years that followed, so much so that their work is now considered fine art. 

The art gallery itself dates back to 1952 when it first opened as the Peasant Art Gallery (which tells a lot about the humble roots of the art form). Inside, you’ll find a wonderful collection of 20th-century works from predominantly local artists proudly on display. 

Although the museum stores almost 2,000 artworks, there’s only ever room for around 80 pieces to be displayed at any one time. Luckily, the Croatian Museum of Naive Art has an ever-changing carousel of special exhibitions, events, and shows (check their website for the latest news) that aims to highlight this popular socialist era niche in all its diverse glory.


7. Shop, Eat, and Drink at the Dolac Market 

Zagreb, Croatia Things to do: Dolac Market

If you’re starting to feel a few hunger pangs after all that Zagreb sightseeing, then it’s time to visit the city’s iconic Dolac Market.

This open-air farmer’s market is well known for its colorful market stalls, which are aesthetically arranged by their stallholders and protected by bright parasols. Dolac Market is located just a few steps away from Ban Jelacic Square, where it spills out onto the historic streets of the Upper Town. 

Dolac Market has been open for at least eight decades (officially), and for all those years, the farmers, chefs, bakers, brewers, and stallholders have been supplying and feeding Zagreb’s citizens with the finest local produce. 

Take a stroll through the stalls, and you’ll find everything from bureks (a hearty Balkan pastry filled with meat and cheese) and bread to homemade wine and honey for sale. You’ll love how much fresh produce and artisanal products are available, so bring a large shopping bag so you’ll have plenty of space to take your purchases back to the hotel.


8. Step Back in Time at the Zagreb ‘80s Museum

The Zagreb ‘80s Museum is one of the coolest things to do in Zagreb. This is one of the capital’s many quirky museums (it’s certainly one of the quirkiest), and it’s a wonderful place to immerse yourself in the nostalgia of 1980s Zagreb.

This fascinating museum offers an insight into daily life during the Yugoslavian era. This was a decade when Croatia was yet to become independent, and while change was looming on the horizon, the ‘80s were still a decade of solid Yugoslav socialist ideals. 

The museum features simple objects that might be classed as mundane, such as early computers, gaming consoles, and mobile phones. But behind every object on display (all have been donated by people who lived in Zagreb in the 1980s) is a unique story of life under the communist regime of Yugoslavia.

Rather unusually for a museum, the Zagreb 80s Museum encourages visitors to pick up, touch, and play around with the many items on display. There are no glass cabinets or dividers, and you’re free to delve into ‘80s history as you like.


9. Delve into the Wonderful World of Fungi 

One of the most intriguing Zagreb attractions is the Mushroom Museum. In fact, as far as we know, this is the only museum in the world that’s dedicated solely to the wonderful world of mushrooms.

You’ll find the Mushroom Museum on the second floor of a nondescript office block in a Zagreb suburb, but don’t let that put you off visiting. Fungi fans will love the depth of detail found in this one-of-a-kind museum. Although the museum is small, the cabinets are packed with 1,250 different species of mushrooms collected from across the world.

You’ll learn about the different properties and uses of different species and look out for the deadly “death cap mushroom,” which could kill in an instant. While the exhibits are fascinating, it’s even better if you time your visit to coincide with a guided tour. Tours are led by Professor Romano Bozac, the museum’s founder, curator, and lover of all things mushroom.


10. Be Mesmerized by the Museum of Illusions

Best Things to do in Zagreb, Croatia: Museum of Illusions
Images courtesy of Petar Santini

Illusions, holograms, and 3D trickery are all the rage in European cities. Zagreb is no exception, and the city is home to one of the largest museums in Europe dedicated to illusions. 

The Museum of Illusions is guaranteed to mesmerize, which is why we’ve included it as one of our favorite things to do in Zagreb. The museum wants you to experience the “impossible,” and there are over 70 optical illusions designed to disorientate and set your mind racing.

There are kaleidoscopes, illusion chairs, clone tables, and anti-gravity rooms where you can enjoy hours of delight as your world is switched upside down and rotated around. It’s a fantastic place for families with children, while groups of friends will also love taking photographs of each other in rotating rooms or while taking part in perspective illusions. 

We absolutely love the fun of the Museum of Illusions (it makes for a unique break from all that history and culture), and we know you will too!


11. Escape the City with a Trip to Bundek City Park 

Best Things to do in Zagreb, Croatia: Bundek City Park

If you’d love to escape the city for a few hours without having to travel too far, then why not visit Bundek City Park? This large public area is located on the southern bank of the River Sava, and it’s super easy to catch a tram or ride a bicycle here from the Lower Town.

Bundek City Park is vast, given it’s a part of Zagreb’s southern suburbs. You’ll find a freshwater lake surrounded by greenery and trees and encircled by a running track. As you’d imagine, it’s a seriously popular place for joggers.

You can join the runners around the lake or work out on the outdoor gym sets. Or you can bring along a picnic and enjoy some downtime outdoors. In summer, it’s possible to swim in the lake, and there’s an artificial beach that fills up with locals and tourists alike when the sun is shining.


12. Explore One of Europe’s Oldest Public Parks

Fun Things to do in Zagreb, Croatia: Maksimir Park

Zagreb has a long history of natural preservation, and the city is home to one of Europe’s oldest public parks.

First conceived as an idea in 1787, Maksimir Park opened to the public in 1794 as the largest project of its kind. The park was designed as an extensive public area under the guidance of Zagreb’s bishops, who wanted to provide local citizens with a green space in the face of an ever-expanding city. Their foresight was fortuitous, and although Maksimir Park was initially located outside the city, it’s now surrounded entirely by Zagreb’s northeastern suburbs. 

Although the park looks natural enough, the bulk of it was specially landscaped and rewilded. Lakes were dug and filled, and vast tracts of forest were planted, which still stand to this day.

There are miles of walking trails that can lead you around ornamental lakes, along hand-carved rivers, and past neoclassical monuments built in the lavish Austro-Hungarian style. It’s a wonderful and welcoming juxtaposition of nature within the city, and it’s easily one of the must-do things in Zagreb!


13. Venture into Zagreb’s Mysterious Subterranean World

What to do in Zagreb, Croatia: Tunnel Gric

Beneath Zagreb, there’s a network of tunnels. Some are known, and some are lost to local knowledge. One is open to the public.

For centuries tunnel vaults, passageways, and chambers have been carved from the rock below the Upper Town. Legends abound as to their purpose, and some are linked to dramatic tales of missing church gold and other unusual urban legends. 

The one tunnel you can visit is Tunnel Gric, which has a more mundane origin story. This long tunnel was built in 1943 at the height of World War II and was used as an air raid shelter that also connected to other existing subterranean passages. There are several entranceways above ground to Tunnel Gric, and it’s a useful shortcut across the Upper Town.

Interestingly, Tunnel Gric is also an events space. Venture underground, and you’ll find the tunnel is often lined with artwork and photographs displayed as part of ever-changing exhibitions. The tunnel then opens out into Art Park, a repurposed urban park that’s a firm favorite with creatives.


14. Enjoy Local Brews at the Zagreb Beer Fest

Best Things to do in Zagreb, Croatia: Zagreb Beer Fest

Croatia’s biggest beer festival takes place every May in Zagreb. For a city with an exciting craft beer scene that’s developing year after year, Zagreb Beer Fest is a fantastic highlight on the beer calendar.

The festival has been running for over a decade, and the last event saw 30,000 beer drinkers drinking hundreds of thousands of pints of beer over four packed days of events. You’ll have the opportunity to taste and compare Croatia’s best beers, from well-known local brands to niche microbreweries and popups. There are usually hundreds of different beers and brands (180 at the last event, to be precise), so be prepared for a heavy day of beer tastings!

Cool Things to do in Zagreb, Croatia: Zagreb Beer Fest

But it’s not all about the beer. Throughout the day and into the night, local bands and tribute acts take to the stage to entertain the beer-loving crowds. And the best thing about Zagreb Beer Fest? It’s held in central Franjo Tudman Park, and the entrance is free (you just pay for your beer!).


15. Embrace the Festivities at Zagreb Christmas Market

Zagreb, Croatia Bucket List: Zagreb Christmas Market

From the last week of November until the end of the first week of January, Zagreb’s streets and squares are filled with Christmas cheer.

The Zagreb Christmas Market has one of the longest run times of any in Europe (German markets are usually over by Christmas Day, for example!), meaning you’ve got plenty of time to enjoy mulled wine and Croatian Christmas classics like fritule, a deliciously sweet apple and cinnamon donut.

The main markets, light shows, and festivities take place in Zagreb’s main square and along the pedestrianized downtown streets (including the iconic Ban Jelacic Square, which by now, we’re sure you’ll be acquainted with). There are organized and impromptu music events and carol singers, you’ll find Christmas treats and delicacies for sale on every street corner while Tomislav Square is turned into one enormous ice skating rink.

To top it all off, temperatures drop rapidly come December, and it’s very possible that you’ll arrive in a city that’s coated with a wintery wonderland-like layer of snow!

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Zagreb. What’s your favorite thing to do in Zagreb?


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Author

  • Richard Collett

    Richard is an award-winning travel writer based in Southwest England who’s addicted to traveling off the beaten track. He’s traveled to 75 countries and counting in search of intriguing stories, unusual destinations, and cultural curiosities.

    Richard loves traveling the long way round over land and sea, and you’ll find him visiting quirky micronations and breakaway territories as often as he’s found lounging on a beach (which is a lot).

    When he’s not writing for BBC Travel, National Geographic, or Lonely Planet, you can find Richard writing for the Wandering Wheatleys or updating his off-beat travel blog, Travel Tramp.

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