Zagreb is often looked over in favor of Croatia’s more glamorous locations on the coast like Dubrovnik and Split, but don’t count the capital out just yet—there’s a lot to see and do in the city. Whether your international flight is landing in Zagreb or you’re just passing through, spend a day or two in the city to cross these 10 tempting attractions off your bucket list.
1. Visit the Churches
The Cathedral of Zagreb is the tallest building in Croatia and dominates the capital’s skyline. Step inside any day of the week (entry is free) to get a quick lesson in history from the 800-year-old Gothic architecture. Then, walk 10 minutes to St. Mark’s Church to marvel at the colorful Zagreb and Triune Kingdom coats of arms tiled on the roof. Entrance here is restricted, though, so plan to attend the daily mass if you’d like to go inside.
2. Take Gorgeous Photos
The old town of Zagreb is divided into upper and lower areas, both of which are equally photogenic. If you want to capture the perfect shot of the city for your Instagram account, you can find beautiful views all along the Strossmayer Promenade. If that’s not enough, pay for even more expansive aerial shots from the nearby Lotrščak Tower or the Zagreb 360 observation deck, where you can enjoy a drink at the 16th-floor bar (and air conditioning during the hot summer months) as well.
3. Take a Day Trip to Samobor
Samobor is a small town about 20 miles west of Zagreb, so buses from the central Autobusni Kolodvor station will get you there in under an hour. Spend a day wandering the quaint cobblestone streets, hiking to the ruins of an abandoned castle, and enjoying a 360-degree view of the town and lush, green hills that surround it from the Tepec Vista viewpoint. Then, top your adventure off with a piece of light and airy cream cake from a bakery in the city center before catching a bus back to Zagreb.
4. Visit a Museum (or 10)
One of the most well-loved museums in Zagreb is the quirky Museum of Broken Relationships that houses artifacts and memories of heartbroken ex-couples from around the world. After reading their sad stories, raise your spirits at the nearby Archeological Museum, Mimara art museum, Zagreb City Museum, Mushroom Museum, Museum of Optical Illusions, or one of the many others that are in easy walking distance from the Museum of Broken Relationships’ central location.
5. Take a Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes
The Plitvice Lakes are farther from Zagreb than Samobor is, but still doable on a day trip from the capital city. This time the ride from Autobusni Kolodvor will take around two and a half hours and cover 80 miles. Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest and most popular park in Croatia, so your efforts will be rewarded with a stunning hike over turquoise lakes and past cascading waterfalls. If you can’t face the long ride back to Zagreb at the end of the day, book a room at any of the nearby hotels to rest your weary feet for the night before returning to the city.
6. Try Some Local Craft Beer
Although the craft beer scene in Zagreb may not be as hoppin’ (get it?) as it is in other parts of the world, the city still has breweries and bars to please every beer-lover that visits. Time Out’s list of the best craft beer bars in Zagreb will help you create an epic beer-themed bar crawl through the city and try many of the best local brews along the way.
7. Eat Croatian Food
Noel, a fine-dining restaurant serving modern European cuisine, may be the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Zagreb, but the famous foodie guide also recognizes 15 more spectacular spots to grab a bite after exploring the city. Beyond the Japanese, French, and International options to tempt your palette, Boban and Tač serve up traditional Croatian food while Dubravkin Put and Bistro Apetit by Marin Rendić dish up the Mediterranean fare that the country is also known for. Wherever you choose to eat, make sure to try some typical Zagreb dishes like strukli, a cottage cheese and sour cream dessert, and cuspajz, a hearty meat and vegetable stew.
8. Shop on the Tkalčićeva Street
Who doesn’t enjoy strolling down a nice traffic-free pedestrian street? Tkalčićeva Street is one of the liveliest spots in the capital city because the central location through the heart of Zagreb makes it the perfect place to eat dinner, enjoy a drink, and, of course, shop until your suitcase is full-to-bursting with beautiful souvenirs. If markets are more your style, stop by the Dolac Market to browse the open-air stalls and support the local economy by shopping small.
9. Go Hiking or Skiing
When in Zagreb, do as the locals do. Here, that means following them out of the city and into the fresh air of the surrounding mountains. In the summer, the green leafy trails crisscrossing Medvednica Mountain are some of the most popular places to enjoy a hike, while in the winter you can strap on some skis to hit the freshly-powdered slopes at the Sljeme resort.
10. Enjoy a Picnic at the Lenuci Horseshoe Parks
The Lenuci Horseshoe is a series of seven parks built around Zagreb in the shape of a horseshoe. Walk from one end of the horseshoe—starting at Nikola Šubić Zrinski Square—down through the greenery to the Zagreb Botanical Garden and then and around to the final Republic of Croatia Square on the other end. Because six of the seven squares are named after notable Croatians, this walk will give you a quick lesson in the country’s history as well. Click here to find the Lenuci Parks on a map, and then pack a picnic before you go to make this already budget-friendly activity even easier on the wallet.