St Marks Church, Zagreb.

Is Zagreb Worth Visiting in 2024? Reasons to Visit Zagreb

Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia and one of the most populated regions in the country. The city is well-connected to the rest of Europe with many domestic and European flights coming and going daily from the Franjo Tuđman Airport.

It is a popular destination for travellers wishing to see the entirety of Croatia as it is in the north of the country. Heading west and down along the Adriatic Coast is a popular route for tourists.

Zagreb is a pretty small city and is often missed out on many people’s itineraries as they quickly move on to other areas of Croatia. There are very few blog posts about the city and many people are left wondering, “Is Zagreb worth visiting?”

This blog post will give all the details on whether the city is worth stopping in for a few days or whether its a city to avoid.

Is Zagreb Worth Visiting?

To answer this question shortly, I’d say “yes, but not for very long”. Zagreb has some beautiful architecture and there are a few great museums that are worth paying a visit but overall, the city doesn’t have that much of a “wow-factor”. In comparison to other Croatian cities, Zagreb falls behind in my ranking.

If you’re stopping in Zagreb for a night or two at either end of your trip to Croatia then I would definitely suggest spending some time exploring Zagreb’s Old Town. The buildings follow suit for other Croatian cities with beautiful, orange tiled roofing and white-washed walls.

Beautiful architecture in Zagreb

In the distance is the booming metropolis. Skyscrapers have taken over the outskirts of the city and there is a real doom and gloom standing beside such a traditional area.

From personal experience, and from speaking to others, the city always seems to be under some sort of construction or repair. One of the main attractions, the Cathedral, is covered in scaffolding all year round. Many Google reviews report it being that way for many years and there is no signs of completion any time soon!

Many buildings in the city have scaffolding around them. It is hard to know what you are even looking at with so much metal and plastic covering the facades. Of course, my trip may have just fallen at a bad time, but it was during peak season, and many other cities would ensure that their buildings are looking top-notch for their visitors.

If you’re passing through or staying for a day or two, waiting to catch a flight then certainly spend some time exploring Zagreb but if you’re looking to take a city break, it’d recommend you look elsewhere or split your time between Zagreb and a few other Balkan cities.

Unlike Zagreb, Dubrovnik is a city that you’d need more than one day to visit. But if you’re constricted for time, you can find my one day Dubrovnik itinerary here.

Reasons You Should Visit Zagreb

  • Historic charm – Zagreb has lots of historic buildings and many can be placed into different architecture timings and categories. The Old Town is a beautiful and authentic section of the city and a well preserved piece of history. Zagreb is renowned for always doing something up and often buildings are behind scaffolding. While annoying for us travellers, it is good to know that there is a lot of investment into keeping the city’s oldest buildings looking their best.
  • Affordable – Zagreb is one of the most affordable cities to visit in Croatia. With many budget airlines also flying into the nearby airport, Zagreb is the perfect location to visit if you’re on a tighter budget.
  • Year-round visiting – Unlike the coastal cities like Split and Dubrovnik, Zagreb is a city that isn’t seasonal. Many tours and attractions in the coastal cities shut up after the high season ends but Zagreb is open all year round and offers the same quality experience every month of the year.
  • Delicious dishes – Zagreb has many authentic Croatian restaurants and street food stalls. The city has less western influence than others in the country and gives a great opportunity to try Croatian cuisine.
  • Day trips – Zagreb is a great starting destination for day trips. You can easily be across the border in Slovenia in a few hours or exploring the beautiful, natural parks of Croatia.
  • Cultural centre – Croatian culture is still very strong in Zagreb. The city has many events all year round celebrating traditional Croatian culture. Dancing and singing events are the most common.

Where is Zagreb?

Zagreb is the capital and largest city of Croatia. It is located in the northwestern part of the country, in the region known as Central Croatia. Zagreb is situated along the Sava River and is the political, economic, and cultural centre of the country.

As I mentioned above, it is a popular city to arrive in Croatia by flight. The airport is well connected to the city rest of Europe and for the size of the airport, there are many flights running per day.

Zagreb’s northern location means that it is also well-connected to other Balkan cities. Zadar on Croatia’s Adriatic Coast is one of the closest cities to Zagreb and is a very beautiful seaside city. Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital is just a 2-3 hour train journey from Zagreb and is a good connecting route between the countries. The city’s close proximity to other large cities makes Zagreb worth visiting.

Things To Do in Zagreb

  1. Nikola Tesla Technical Museum – The Nikola Tesla Technical Museum is dedicated to the life and work of the famous inventor, Nikola Tesla, who was of Serbian descent but was born in what is now Croatia.The Nikola Tesla Technical Museum in Zagreb showcases a wide range of Tesla’s inventions and contributions to science and technology. Visitors can explore exhibits featuring Tesla’s electrical machines, scientific instruments, and personal items. The museum also provides valuable insights into the history of electricity, telecommunications, and engineering.
  2. St Mark’s Church – St. Mark’s Church is known for its distinctive roof featuring colourful tiles that form the coat of arms of Zagreb (white castle on a red background) and the coat of arms of Croatia (red and white checks). The building is featured on the front of many postcards and guidebooks and is very popular with visitors to the city. It is a must-see when in Zagreb.
  3. The Museum of Broken Relationships – This museum is dedicated to the theme of failed romantic relationships and the personal stories associated with them. The museum was founded by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, a former couple, as a way to deal with their own breakup and to provide a platform for people to share their stories of love and loss. The museum features a collection of donated objects and items from former couples, each accompanied by a written story or explanation about their significance in the relationship. Once a moving exhibition, the museum now has a permanent home in Zagreb.
  4. Dolac Market – Dolac Market, often referred to simply as Dolac, is Zagreb’s most famous and vibrant open-air market. It is located in the heart of the city, just a short walk from the main square, Ban Jelačić Square. Dolac Market is the perfect spot to shop for fresh produce and souvenirs. The likes of fridge magnets, tote bags and key rings are far cheaper at Dolac Market than at souvenir shops close to the main square.
  5. Stone Gate – Visitors to Zagreb often stop at the Stone Gate to admire its historical architecture and to pay their respects at the chapel. It’s a popular spot for tourists and locals alike to light candles and offer prayers. The Stone Gate is not only a historical monument but also a place where tradition, culture, and spirituality come together in the heart of the city. Silence is required when passing through the gate as a mark of respect for those you are praying.
  6. Take a Walking Tour – Taking a guided tour of a city when you arrive is one of the best ways to see the top sights and get a background in the history and culture. There are many tour companies offering walking tours of Zagreb. The best and most highly rated one in the city is this 2.5 Hour Croatian Homeland War Tour. The local guide will give a detailed history about the war in Croatia and take you to some top historical sites in the city. Tours like this one definitely make Zagreb worth visiting.
  7. Museum of Selfies and Memories – The Museum of Selfies and Memories is a fabulous one to capture your time in Zagreb. The attraction allows you take some great social media shots in decorated settings and have fun in front of the camera. It’s similar to the Upside Down museum in Amsterdam which is a must-do in the city.
  8. Ban Jelačić Square – The main square in Zagreb is called the Ban Jelačić Square and its centrepiece is a statue of Ban Josip Jelačić on a horse with his sword outstretched. Ban Josip Jelačić was a 19th-century Croatian political leader who played a significant role in the history of Croatia. The statue is a bronze equestrian monument and serves as a symbol of the city’s history and its connection to this historical figure. The square is always busy and there are many souvenir shops nearby, handy to grab a gift to take home with you.
Ban Jelačić Square's main statue
  1. Zagreb Cathedral – Zagreb Cathedral is one of the most iconic buildings in the city. The building is enormous and very beautiful. Unfortunately, it is often under scaffolding. Locals report that there has been construction on and off on the building’s facade for up to 25 years! The glimpses that you get behind the scaffolding are worth it though and hopefully one day the Cathedral’s full glory will be revealed.

    10. Funicular Ride – Zagreb is separated into an Upper and Lower Town and to get between the two there are several sets of steep steps and ramps. The best way to explore the Upper and Lower sections. The ride is very short but offers some great views of the city. The cost of a ticket on the funicular is very affordable and worth it for the experience.

    11. Lotrščak Tower – When visiting any city, it is great to get up high and see the city beneath you. There is a great opportunity to see all of Zagreb by climbing the Lotrščak Tower. This historic building is located in Upper Zagreb and offers stunning views from the observation deck. The tower is also well-known for its firing cannon which goes off every day at 12 noon. Make sure to hang around and wave to the gunman after it fires!

    12. Grič Tunnel – Zagreb is worth visiting for its fascinating underground space. The Grič Tunnel is a historical one that has been repurposed into a unique cultural and artistic attraction. The tunnel was utilised during WWII as a bomb shelter and since then has had many other uses. The history of the tunnel is worth discovering and visiting the underground network is a very cool experience.

Day Trips from Zagreb

With most attractions being wrapped up within a few hours in the city, Zagreb is often used as a starting place for day trips. The city’s bus and train station is very well connected to other cities within Croatia and surrounding countries. Day trips from the city make a trip to Zagreb worth visiting and gives the city a greater appeal.

One of the most popular day trips that visitors take from Zagreb is to Plitvice Lakes National Park. The park is infamous for its iconic waterfalls, beautiful blue lakes and luscious forest. The boardwalk through the park gives visitors amazing views of the water features and a trip to the park is a relaxing way to spend a few hours.

Crossing the border into Slovenia is another popular day trip option from Zagreb. If you’re interested in crossing the border, you can visit places like Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia), Bled (known for its stunning lake and castle), or the Postojna Caves, all of which are within a few hours’ drive from Zagreb.

Another great day trip would be to head towards the coastline to explore Croatia’s obsession with lavender. There are plenty of locations near the coast with lavender fields that would be great to explore in early summer when the plant is in full bloom.

When to Visit Zagreb

Unlike other cities in Croatia, Zagreb can be visited all year round as the attractions do not close in low season. Cities like Dubrovnik and Split will stop operating tours and close attractions when there are few visitors to the city whereas Zagreb stays open all year round.

The best time to visit Zagreb though will depend on if you’re planning on seeing the rest of the country. If you’re travelling down the Adriatic Coast then you’ll want to visit in May – June or September – early October. These periods will have hot, sunny weather, fewer tourists and cheaper prices.

If you’re planning on taking a trip to Zagreb alone then you’re good to go any time of the year! Just make sure you’re prepared for the season’s weather. Planning a trip to Zagreb in December is a great idea if it fits into your travel plans. Advent in Zagreb is a huge celebration and the Christmas markets are a fabulous attraction.

FAQs: Is Zagreb Worth Visiting?

Below are some questions related to “Is Zagreb worth visiting?” along with my answers.

How many days do you need in Zagreb?

1 or 2 days is more than enough time in Zagreb. Fast-paced travellers can see all of the top sights in half a day. Zagreb is a city that would be best to only pass through on your way to somewhere else or spend the night to break up travel plans as their isn’t much to see or do.

Is Dubrovnik or Zagreb better to visit?

Dubrovnik and Zagreb both have good qualities but Dubrovnik comes out on top. The location along the coast gives the city so much more charm. Dubrovnik’s Old Town is bigger and more preserved and the city has much more to see and do than Zagreb.

Why is Zagreb so popular?

Zagreb is a popular destination as it is the capital of Croatia. It is a well-connected city to the rest of Europe with frequent flights with budget airlines. Many travellers tend to just pass through the city for a day or so before travelling on to the rest of Croatia.

Can I skip Zagreb?

Zagreb is a lovely city and shouldn’t be skipped if you have the time to see it. If you’re tight for time on your Croatia itinerary then Zagreb could be skipped over in favour of another destination.

Conclusion: Is Zagreb Worth Visiting?

When considering the question “Is Zagreb worth visiting?”, there are many things to consider. The city is very beautiful but there isn’t a huge number of things to do in comparison to other Croatian cities.

Zagreb can easily be explored in a day or two. It would be easy to get around it if staying in the city waiting for a flight or after landing.

If you’re planning on taking a city break to Zagreb then I suggest you spend 2 days in the city and then take a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park on your third day. Zadar and Ljubljana are also great city destinations that you could visit from Zagreb.