Zagreb, Croatia’s capital and largest city, is known for its 18th- and 19th-century Austro-Hungarian architecture. It is Croatia’s economic and cultural hub with a typical Central European flair. Nestled in the center of Upper Town is the Gothic, 13th-century twin-spired and colorfully tiled Cathedral, St. Mark’s Church.
Known as a bustling city home to over 800,000 residents, many travelers are charmed by its medieval old-town look, with cobblestone streets and historical architecture evocative of Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and more Central European destinations.
Zagreb is divided into two parts, the Upper Town and Lower Town. The Upper town is recognized for its historic core that dates back to the 11th century, full of cobblestone streets and red tile roofs—it is the most romantic part of the city. Zagreb has plenty of pedestrian-friendly streets lined with restaurants, outdoor cafes, and green parks.
You don’t want to miss going to the main square, Ban Jelačić, in Lower Town. An opulent square lined with grand 19th-century buildings, Ban Jelačić is the perfect place to put your finger to the city’s pulse. It is common to find street performances and fairs, along with locals enjoying the day under the Ban Josip Jelačić sculpture. Make a wish and throw a coin into the Manduševac fountain, which was constructed over an ancient spring. Take a leisurely walk through the well-known Harmica passageway that takes you to Dolac Market.
Dolac Market is Zagreb’s foremost open-air farmers’ market. Here, you can immerse yourself in the sights, smells, and taste of fresh local produce. You will find butcheries, fresh fish from the Adriatic Sea, healthy produce, fresh pasta, cheese, colorful flowers, pastries, and fruits. Full of color and life, you can spend an afternoon in an outdoor cafe people watching.
Though modern, Zagreb will charm you with its small-town appeal consisting of cobblestone streets, flickering gas lamps, and church spires. The Lower Town showcases Croatia’s Viennese influence with 19th-century manicured gardens and pavilions that would be at home in Budapest or Prague. Look up and you’ll see ornate finery that speaks of its revolutionary, art deco, and neo-baroque architecture.
The city is made to be admired by those on foot. If you are starting to feel like taking a break, do as locals do and visit an outdoor cafe. The cafe culture is part of Zagreb’s vibrant street life. From your seat, you can be entertained by performances, music, pop-up markets, and more. It won’t take you long to feel the undercurrent of energy that is part of this city’s charisma.
There are a multitude of fine museums. There seems to be one every few minutes! Altogether, they feature over 3.6 million exhibits. The museums in Zagreb are among the most well-known cultural hubs, and visitors can museum hop to different events and exhibitions. A few museums to put on your bucket list include the Museum of Broken Relationships, Mimara Museum, the Naive Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Archeological Museum.
After you’ve taken in as much culture and history as the day allows, hop on over to the famous Ilica Street. There, you can go on a fun shopping expedition through the main shopping drag, where you can browse beautiful clothing and shoe stores, unique boutiques, and famous brands. There is something for everyone on Ilica Street.
This tree-lined public square and art pavilion represent the center of Zagreb. Its lively atmosphere draws both locals and tourists where many sit on terraces with a coffee and cake while enjoying the views. Each building on the square is a heritage building. Many special events are hosted here.
Can’t Miss: Take some time to explore the downtown area. Walk around and enjoy all of the historic buildings and beautiful statues. Some examples include Saint Mark’s Church, Lotrščak Tower, Ban Jelačić Square, and the statue of Petar Preradović. On warm summer nights, you can’t go wrong by spending some time at Lake Jarun, where people gather to play sports, enjoy picnics with riverside views, or relax in one of the many cafes that dot its banks.
Insider Tip: Check out the secret pedestrian tunnels from WWII that run under the historic section of Upper Town. Built during World War II, the tunnels were originally part of a fortification system created to protect civilians, soldiers, and the city itself.
Restaurants: If you’re interested in discovering traditional local fare, you can’t go wrong with Didav San or La Štruk for štruki (a local dish of stretched dough filled with fresh cheese topped with clotted cream and then baked), and Amelie for the most delicious torts and Croatian cakes!