Best things to do in Zagreb
Find out more about those top places in Zagreb
A tour of Zagreb is one of Europe’s hidden gems. Spreading up the forested slopes of Mount Medvednica on the north bank of the River Sava, Croatia’s capital is a rare fusion of the world-famous laid back Mediterranean culture and Central Europe’s love for everything related to beer, sausages and art-noveau architecture. While Zagreb certainly is not as picturesque as Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, the vertiginous old town is dotted with examples of Croatia’s medieval heritage, including the dazzling Saint Mark’s Church. Spreading out around Ban Jelačić Square, the city’s new town is a master class in Habsburg town planning with neo-baroque, secessionist and art-noveau buildings lining grand boulevards that would not be out of place in Vienna. Since becoming capital of an independent Croatia in 1991, Zagreb has come out of its shell with a burgeoning art and design scene and youthful energy making now the perfect time to visit.
Located in the heart of Zagreb’s Upper Town, the dazzling 13th century Saint Mark’s Church is one of Croatia’s most instantly recognizable landmarks. Undoubtedly the highlight of a tour of this spectacular church is the multicolored rooftop with tiles forming the coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia while the interior houses sculptures by Croatia’s most famous artist, Ivan Meštrovic.
Towering over the Upper Town is Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, the most monumental Catholic place of worship in all the Balkans. With origins in the 12th century, the cathedral is also one of Croatia’s most historic locations with the interior containing a clutch of world-class medieval frescoes. The cathedral is undoubtedly a highlight of any tour of Zagreb’s old quarter.
Just a short hop on one of Zagreb’s iconic powder blue Yugoslav-era tramcars from the city center takes you to the grandiose cemetery of Mirogoj. While the exterior of the cemetery looks fortress-like, the interior is one of the Croatian capital’s most tranquil spots where you can explore the resting places of the country’s great and good that are peppered amongst the lush vegetation.
Located south of the River Sava in Novi Zagreb, the Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the city’s most thrilling museums. With a permanent collection showcasing Croatia’s burgeoning art scene and a packed schedule of temporary exhibitions, the museum has something to please all visitors. To get the best experience, guided tours and audio-guides are available.
Marking the border between the medieval Upper Town and the fin-de-siècle Lower Town, Dolac Market is Zagreb’s beating heart. With a plethora of stalls selling some of Croatia’s freshest produce, it is a joy to explore with fresh herbs, pickled vegetables, roasted meats and salty cheeses amongst the goods available to sample.
Undoubtedly one of Europe’s quirkiest museums, the Museum of Broken Relationships showcases various mementos left over from failed relationships. Equal parts heart wrenching and heart-warming, the museum is a surprisingly profound exploration of what it means to be human.
For those wanting to escape the buzz of Croatia’s capital, head for the forested slopes of nearby Mount Medvednica where you can explore a medieval fortress, go mountain biking and, in the crisp winter months, rent skis and snowboards.
The most popular day tour from Zagreb is to the picture-perfect mountain village of Samobor. Famed for its hilltop ruined castle, which was originally built by the Bohemians in the 13th century, and mouth-watering custard pies, known as kremšnite, the village is one of Croatia’s most enchanting locations.