Croatia’s capital city Zagreb is an energetic and vibrant hub that is brimming with world-class tourist attractions, chic café culture, unlimited entertainment and shopping options and, of course, exceptional historic features. The beautiful northwestern city comprises of Gornji Grad (the historic core Upper Town) and Donji Grad (the modern Lower Town). A wander through the winding streets of the city will undoubtedly inspire you to explore everything that Zagreb has to offer.
Best Places To Visit In Zagreb
Gornji Grad – The Upper Town
The historic district of Gornji Grad was once made up of two separate towns – Gradec and Kaptol. The Upper Town is distinguished by stunning 18th and 19th century Austro-Hungarian architecture and a plethora of top tourist attractions. As you stroll along the ancient cobblestone streets, pause and admire the elegant churches, museums and parliament buildings. In contrast to the rich history and heritage that is widely on display, is the colourful Tkalciceva Street that is lined with pavement cafes, stylish boutiques and inviting restaurants.
The Roman Catholic Zagreb Cathedral is one of the most spectacular monumental sacred structures in the city. Dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St Stephen and St Ladislaus, the 11th century cathedral boasts two ornately decorated spires that loom 108m into the sky, and a medieval design. The landmark cathedral, and Croatia’s tallest building, was partially demolished by an earthquake in 1880, and rebuilt with two additional towers. Visit the Zagreb Cathedral Treasury to admire the priceless religious treasures that date back to the 11th century.
Originally constructed to guard Gradec’s southern gate, the 13th century Lotrščak Tower is one of the city’s most recognisable sights. In days of old, the Romanesque tower featured a bell that rang out every night to alert the locals that it was time to return before the gates were closed. During the 19th century, an additional floor and windows were added to the tower. The cannon on the rooftop is fired at noon every day. When open, it’s possible to climb to the top of the tower to enjoy 360-degree sweeping vistas of the city.
St Mark’s Church
St Mark’s Church is one of Zagreb’s most emblematic sacred structures. The exterior is adorned with Croatia’s medieval Coat of Arms, 15 sculptured figures, and a colourful tiled roof. Inside the 13th century church you will discover a selection of sculptures by the acclaimed Croatian artist Ivan Meštrović.
Pack up a picnic and enjoy a relaxing lunch in beautiful surroundings. The lush green open space of Maksimir Park (Maksimirska) is designed in the charming style of a formal English garden. Zagreb’s largest park covers 45 acres, and features two pavilions – Bellevue Pavilion and the Echo Pavilion. The winding trails and paths encourage you to explore tranquil lakes, wooded areas and fragrant flower gardens. On-site, there is also a small zoo.
Botanicki Vrt (The Botanical Garden)
Originally built as a research centre for Zagreb University’s Faculty of Botany, Botanicki Vrt comprises of a series of stunning parkland spaces arranged in a ‘green horseshoe’, and covers approximately 50,000 sq m in total. There’s an arboretum, two ponds with aquatic plants, an ornamental bridge, and 10,000 species of plant life for you to explore at your leisure.
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To experience authentic city life, it’s highly recommended that you pay a visit to the vibrant and bustling Dolac fruit and vegetable market. The ever-busy market has been trading since the 1930s, when city authorities set it up as a border market space between Zagreb’s Upper and Lower towns. Croats travel from all over the country in order to sell their fresh produce and handicrafts in the main elevated square, or the street level indoor stalls. Soak up the atmosphere, and pick up a few bargains along the way.
To enjoy a breathtaking view of Zagreb’s charms and attractions, head for the square that is situated directly behind the Church of St Catherine. From this vantage point you can gaze out over the terracotta red tiled roofs towards the cathedral. In the local neighbourhood, there are also many fine examples of colourful urban street art on display on the facades of abandoned old buildings.
You always have an option to temporarily escape the bustle of Zagreb, by visiting Jarun Lake. Located in the south of the city, the peaceful retreat is the perfect getaway on any day of the week. Take a refreshing dip in the cool waters, or rent a canoe or pedal-boat. Alternatively, you can hire a bike to explore on dry land. The pebble beach of Veliko Jezero is also conveniently situated within easy reach.
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It’s a fact that Zagreb has the most museums per capita than any other city in Eastern Europe. Whether you appreciate history, art or something a little different, there is certainly a museum for everyone in the heart of the Croatian capital.
The Archeological Museum (Arheoloski Muzej) primarily focuses on Croatia’s rich history. It features over 400,000 interesting exhibits, including Egyptian mummies, ancient Greek vases, coins and medallions, ceramics and pottery, and jewellery pieces that date back centuries. The curated historic collections are spread out over three floors and divided into five segments.
Aside from its impressive selection of museums displaying a traditional style of exhibit, Zagreb also boasts a variety of unique and quirky institutions. The Museum of Broken Relationships (Muzej prekinutih veza) features an unusual assortment of fascinating personal objects that have been donated by lovers from all over the world. The individual items are displayed alongside the poignant story of the failed romantic relationship or lost love. There is an on-site gift shop and a pavement café. On Thursday nights, in the summer, the museum plays host to jazz recitals.
The Croatian Museum of Naïve Art (Hrvatski Muzej Naivne Umjetnosti) is one of the city’s most popular museums. Founded in 1952, the museum is adorned with over 1900 pieces of art, including a permanent display of paintings, drawings and sculptures. Check out the colourful works of well-known ‘naïve’ artists Ivan Generalic, Mirko Virius, Mraz and Smaljic.
The Museum Of Contemporary Art is located inside an iconic modern building that was designed by local architect Igor Franić. Around 620 creative works of art by 240 Croatian and international artists are displayed in 17,000 sq m of space, and includes themed group and solo shows. The museum also hosts film, theatre, concert and performance art events.
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