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Is Zagreb worth visiting? Here are 10 reasons

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I am one of those who fall in LOVE with cities, sort of a heart to heart connection, gooey romantic ones. In the past I have had affairs with Prague, Lisbon and now this new gem is on my mind! And if you are planning to visit Croatia or the Balkans I am sure you must be thinking, is Zagreb worth visiting? 

We will give you 10 reasons why you must visit Zagreb and by the end of this article, I am sure you will fall in love with the city itself! Just like me.

Is Zagreb worth visiting? Here are 10 reasons

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The short answer is 10000% YES. Zagreb is worth visiting. We often read poems about the beautiful countryside, very rarely do we sing praises of a city’s grandeur, the lanes, the scenic views from the urban jungle. Zagreb is one such destination that is worthy of appreciation.

When the country pulls millions to the coast, it stands tall and graceful without being marred by over-tourism, or suffocation. It is not an attention seeker, but it deserves your appreciation for slow travel, love of history and culture and invites you to soak in their architecture and natural landscape. 

In all practical terms, the capital city of Croatia is an awesome base to explore more of the Balkans, and it will remind you of the other Central European capital cities like Prague, Budapest, and Vienna. 

St Mark's Church Zagreb
St Mark’s Church Zagreb

Very affordable in terms of food, accommodation and transport, Zagreb is filled with quirky museums and stunning city views for you to behold forever. If you love nature, Zagreb is full of it. Epic festivals and nightlife will keep you hooked, and who knows this post and your subsequent visits might lure you to visit, and re-visit Zagreb time and time again!

Zagreb is one of those stunning European cities where you can ditch the car, and just go about exploring on foot. If you really have to connect to other places, you can easily do that via car, tram, or train station.  

I never thought I would adore Zagreb so much. I am glad we spent quite a few days appreciating what the city has to offer, and we can’t wait to go back. 

For Zagreb, 

“So I find words I never thought to speak

In streets I never thought I should revisit

When I left my body heart on a distant shore.”

T.S. Eliot

Here are our 10 reasons, why we LOVE Zagreb so much and why we think this stunning city is worth visiting!

Zagreb’s History and Cultural Experience

When one thinks about Croatia, the blue waters come to mind. And Zagreb is often overlooked by tourists for Dubrovnik, Split and other islands in Croatia. But did you know that Zagreb also has a ton of heritage sites that date back to 1094, when the city was named. 

Zagreb city center or old town area is super compact and walkable, and it is filled with many historical sites.  Zagreb city centre is made up of  Lower town, called the Donji Grad and Upper town – Gornji Grad. 

The upper town (Gornji Grad) is home to some of the iconic landmarks like the Zagreb Cathedral, Croatian Parliament, St Mark’s Church, Museums of Broken Relationship to name a few. 

Zagreb Cathedral
Zagreb Cathedral

Lotrščak Tower or Kula Lotrščak in Croatian still keeps the 16th century traditions. The Grič  cannon is fired from the tower everyday at noon to remind the people of the legendary story of how it was saved from the Turikish invasion.  

The lower town is filled with many historic squares including the Ban Jelačić Square, Botanical Gardens, many museums and galleries. King Tomislav Square aka Trg Kralja Tomislava is a popular square to chill out and explore the famed Art Pavilion. This square is named after King Tomislav who was the first king of the Kingdom of Croatia.

A lot of the city was developed in the mid 20th century (including Novi Zagreb), which gives Zagreb a very unique cultural and urban vibe. 

Zagreb has pretty streets and fewer crowds  

If you love offbeat places, pretty lanes and stunning architecture, then you must visit Zagreb. The old town area is just SOO pretty. Their lanes are sprinkled with historical gems, cafes and wonderful street art murals. 

Zagreb doesn’t get a ton of tourists at all times of the year. If you have been to Split or Dubrovnik, you would know how overcrowded the old town sites are; especially during peak summer months and cruise ship seasons. Well, the crowd almost disappears in Zagreb, leaving the city for you to explore at ease. 

Zagreb is a hybrid version of Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.

Zagreb will remind you of the central and eastern European capital cities like Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.

Scenes from One day in Zagreb in a day

Here’s how. Zagreb’s Austro-Hungarian architecture is reminiscent of those in Prague and Budapest and the cafe culture reminded us of Vienna. As you wander the old town, you will find (or not find) a river that flows through the city center, rather Zagreb is hilly – an upper and lower town – similar to Lisbon.  

But Zagreb has a river – Sava river – which flows through many countries/cities similar to the Danube river. However, it doesn’t flow through the city center, like the Vltava in Prague or the Danube in Budapest. In this aspect, it is similar to Vienna. 

Zagreb is super affordable 

You guys, if you are looking for an affordable vacation in Europe, look no further than Zagreb. The food is super cheap here like in less than 7 euros you can have a meal for 2. Hotels at the Zagreb city centre start at $65 USD.

And if you are looking for a long term vacation (this is on our Europe bucket list to live abroad for 3 to 6 months), Zagreb is perfect for that. Short term rentals or Airbnb starts at $32 USD for a day for an entire apartment. 

So whether you are planning for a digital nomad/work from home type of vacation or a fun-filled slow travel/holiday, consider coming to Zagreb! 

Zagreb is the perfect base to explore more of the Balkans

If you are traveling from the United States, Canada, South America, the Middle East, or anywhere outside of Europe to explore the Balkans, consider flying to Zagreb. You will easily find flight connections to Zagreb’s Franjo Tuđman Zagreb Airport (Via Croatian Airlines), and from here you can embark on road trips to the rest of Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro and more. 

Best places to stay in Zagreb Lower town

And while you are in Zagreb, make time to explore. You can explore so much in a short period of time if you plan well – yes one day stop-overs are a thing. If you have more time, wonderful; if you don’t use this Zagreb one day itinerary to give this pretty capital city a chance.

I am sure you won’t be disappointed! 

Take day trips galore from Zagreb

Who loves day trips? Oh yea, we do! To explore more of northern Croatia (and all the way to Slovenia) Zagreb is the perfect base city. Food and lodging are affordable, so why not come back to enjoy cevapi, beer, and nightlife back in Zagreb. 

Here are some of the day trip options from Zagreb

  • Plitvice Lakes National Park: Plitviče Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that pulls thousands of tourists each year. Most visitors like to visit the national park from Split, but it is closer to reach from Zagreb and return back. The park takes its name from a chain of 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls. The national park is filled with hiking trails that wind around and across the water, and you can wander over the bridges to explore the lakes.  
  • Medvednica National Park: Home to Zagreb’s winter skiing destination. During summer you can enjoy the greenery, eat out or enjoy your time at their resorts. The mountains of Medvednica can be viewed from the Novi Zagreb neighborhood too. 
  • Osijek: Osijek is the fourth largest city in Croatia, and is full of fascinating details. Having previously ruled by Turkish, Austro-Hungarian, and Roman authorities, you will find tremendous historical and architectural nuances to explore on a day trip from Zagreb. 
  • Ljubljana: The capital city of Slovenia is only less than 2 hours away. You will find so many similarities between the two cities and yet they are different. 
  • Lake Bled: The stunning Lake Bled in Slovenia can be explored in a day from Zagreb. From enjoying a rowboat, exploring Bled Castle, or hiking to take the views of the lake, all of it is possible in a day.

Ride the shortest funicular in the world: Zagreb has it 

Zagreb walking and Funicular tour

For those who love to keep a list of “world’s first”, “world’s only” bucket list, add Zagreb to your dream list. Zagreb is home to the world’s shortest (and probably the cheapest at .40 euros) funicular ride. This funicular ride connects the lower and upper towns of Zagreb city centre. 

When you reach the top via the funicular (Strossmayer Promenade) you can enjoy city views of orangey-red roof tops that medieval European cities are known for. You can also walk or hike to reach the top.  

Quirky Museums and landmarks in Zagreb

For the history and art lover, Zagreb is a paradise. There are so many quirky and beautiful museums to visit here. 

Start with the Museum of Broken Relationships.  This museum is located inside a baroque palace, and is super unique as it displays stories, photos and items donated from separated/failed couples from all across the world.

Museum of the City of Zagreb is another must visit museum. It is located in upper town and pretty close to St Mark’s Church. This museum is a great place to learn about the cultural, artistic, economic and political history of Zagreb from prehistoric times to the modern period.

Zagreb Museums

Croatian History Museum is another place where you learn about the country’s past. With over 300,000 collectibles, this is a must visit. 

The Museum of Torture is a quirky museum worthy of a visit. It showcases a very unique collection of instruments of torture, execution, and pain since the ancient times. It also depicts the ‘definition’ of what torture and violence has it over the years and its degree. 

For art lovers, visit the King Tomislav Square which is also home to the Art Pavilion. 

The Mirogoj Cemetery is another gem. It is a cemetery park, which was built in the late 19th century and is filled with Gothic structures and sculptures. This place is very tranquil and by paying a visit you can also admire the artwork of various prominent sculptors in Croatia who designed gravestones. 

Visit Zagreb for the Advent

Zagreb’s Advent is the annual Christmas Market in the capital city of Croatia. It is actually voted to be Europe’s BEST (for 3 years in a row 2016 to 2018) and is a must addition to your Europe winter break. Zagreb turns into a huge street party, with sparkling lights, hearts, and winter glow. 

From mulled wine, licitars, winter activities, and a ride on the Merry Christmas train – Zagreb Advent has something for everybody. 

Zagreb is the city of million hearts 

Zagreb, quite literally, is the city of million hearts, of million ‘licitars’. These colorful biscuits are a part of Croatia’s cultural heritage and are lovingly associated with my favorite city – Zagreb! 

Is Zagreb worth visiting

You can easily find licitars in Croatia and Slovenia (you can also bring a piece of Zagreb home in the form of ‘licitar’ souvenirs). 

Licitars are a symbol of love and often gifted to couples for weddings, Valentines and Christmad celebrations. Zagreb is that hidden gem that will color your holidays with lots of love, and amazing memories. 

Come soak in their love’!

We hope this post has sparked an interest in visiting Zagreb. Add a few days of sightseeing in this amazing capital city which has our heart forever!

“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.”

― Roman Payne, Cities & Countries

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