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Unlike in most countries, Croatia’s capital city isn’t an obvious destination. With the country’s endless coastlines, beautiful islands and impressive lakes, Zagreb doesn’t make it on to most people’s Croatia itinerary.

But should it?

Well… that depends. If you want to skip straight to the photogenic stuff, perhaps not. But if you want to get to know Croatian culture and see a city with a truly local feel, then definitely!

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WHAT TO DO IN ZAGREB


How many days to spend in Zagreb

I don’t recommend spending all of your trip to Croatia in the capital, but it’s easy to fill one full day in Zagreb. In fact, it’s the perfect amount of time to get to know this quirky, compact city.

You could probably stretch to 2-3 days in Zagreb, especially if you want to visit all of the museums. But one full day and any bonus time leftover during your travel days on either side is more than enough.


 

The Esplanade Hotel in Zagreb, Croatia

The Esplanade Hotel may just be the most beautiful hotel in Zagreb


Where to stay in Zagreb

To make the most of your time in Zagreb, you’ll want to spend two nights in the city.

Luckily, accommodation in Zagreb won’t break the bank. (And there’s reason number one to love this little known European capital!)

Where your budget allows it, check in to The Esplanade Zagreb, This striking hotel in the heart of the Croatian capital looks like something out of a movie.

At around £100 per night, it’s also surprisingly affordable given how luxurious it is.

It also has one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had. It’ll be tempting to fill up but make sure you leave room to try some food and drink throughout the day!

CLICK HERE TO CHECK PRICES AND AVAILABILITY


Other Zagreb hotel options: 

I absolutely adore the Esplanade, but if it’s not for you – or it’s not available – here are some other options:

Budget find: If you want to visit Zagreb as cheaply as possible, consider staying at Subspace Hostel. This fun hostel is space-themed, with pod-style dorms and UV lighting. Check the prices.

A unique stay: If you like to stay in unique places, you’ll love Art Hotel Like. This quirky hotel has an eclectic mix of rooms, each with its own art-themed decor. Click here to see availability.

Live like a local: This beautiful Airbnb apartment is perfectly located near the action and has gorgeous Scandi vibes. Check it out here.

 
Airbnb discount code for new accounts


A one day Zagreb itinerary

When I found myself with one day in Zagreb, I wondered how much I could see in that time. After all, it is the capital city of Croatia.

But it turns out you can do a lot!

Here’s how to make the most of your day in Zagreb, no matter where else your Croatia travels will take you.

 

 

 

7:30AM: Breakfast in the hotel

I don’t usually advocate eating in the hotel, especially if you only have a short time in the city. After all, that’s one extra café you could be squeezing in!

However, I highly recommend eating in the hotel if you stay at The Esplanade. The Michelin guide restaurant, Le Bistro Esplanade, serves up a mean breakfast. It’s delicious, it’s opulent and it’s one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve ever experienced.

The buffet is packed with every type of food you could want to nibble on, with counters for yogurt, cheese, meat, and everything in between. There’s also a hot menu with eggs in every style, plus beautiful pancakes, porridge and more.

There are plenty of reasons to stay at The Esplanade, but the breakfast is the one that would draw me back the soonest.


Le Bistro in the Esplanade Hotel in Zagreb


 

8:30AM – Get your morning coffee fix

Croatians know how to do coffee, and Velvet is one of the best coffee shops in Zagreb.

Split between two rooms, Velvet Black is red, sumptuous and indulgent. The other half, Velvet White is white, floral and feels like a springtime dream. Take your pick or – if you’re like us – try a drink in each!

You can order pretty much any type of coffee or a matcha latte here. It may be a little early for sugar, but the cakes here are also incredible if you already have an appetite!

Address: Dežmanova ul. 9, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.


 

9:00AM – Laugh and cry at the museum of broken relationships

No trip to Zagreb is complete without visiting the museum of broken relationships. Just as the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to relationships that came to an end.

Broken relationships is an interesting concept for a museum. It’s as quirky and entertaining as you’d expect. You won’t (I hope!) be able to relate to every exhibit, but there’s no doubt some will stick with you.

The museum of broken relationships is a quirky spot that embodies Zagreb’s spirit, and will send you on a whirlwind of emotions. Inside, you’ll find stories that make you laugh, artefacts that make you squirm and possibly one or two memories that will make you shed a tear.

Godzilla covered in exes’ jewellery, bras of a cancer survivor and a wedding dress of a woman whose fiancé was killed the week before their wedding will give you chills and thrills in equal measure. Make sure you pack some tissues because you’ll cry with both joy and laughter.

Get there at 9AM when it opens to avoid the crowds, and allow yourself around 30-40 minutes to take in everything.

Entry fee: 40 Kuna (approximately $6 USD).

Address: Ćirilometodska ul. 2, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.


 

Zagreb Old Town funicular


9:40AM – Ride the cable car / take in the views

The museum of broken relationships sits at one of the highest points in the city. That means awesome views, but it also means it’s a steep walk down to get to the old town, which is where we’re headed.

If you overindulged at breakfast – I don’t blame you! – then you might want to take on the steep staircase. If you can, though, I recommend the minuscule cable car.

The cable car runs every 10 minutes and costs 4 Kuna. Note: you can only pay with cash, so make sure you have some with you. You’ll find plenty of ATMs around the city, so remember to stop at one if you need to.

The ride barely lasts 2 minutes, but it’s surprisingly fun. As you slide down the steep hillside, you’ll be transported into the midst of the old town.

Entry fee: 4 Kuna (about $0.50 USD).

Address: Strossmayerovo šetalište, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia. (Upper entrance)


 

10:00AM – See the city through a local’s eyes

With only one day to explore, you’ll want to see Zagreb in the most efficient way possible. And the best way to do that is with a local guide!

This local city tour won’t just show you all of Zagreb’s must-see sights and hotspots, but will also give you local insight and knowledge as you go. 

As well as the tour itself, the ticket price also includes rides on Zagreb’s trams, a trip on the funicular and a local souvenir.

Tour duration: 2.5 hours

Meeting point: Ban Josip Jelacic Square (near Hotel Dubrovnik)

BOOK YOUR TICKETS HERE


12:30AM – Enjoy a healthy lunch Croatian lunch

Zrno Bio Bistro is an organic, vegan restaurant just a short walk from the city centre.

The menu is split into bowls and plates, many of which are based on traditional Croatian cuisine. It’s a great way to try a healthier version of some local dishes, whether you’re vegan or not.

The kidney bean stew with sweet potato and seitan sausages is a personal favourite. It’s warm enough to comfort you on a winter day, but light enough to make for a satisfying summer lunch. The hot lemonade is also a must try!

Expect to spend 65-75 Kuna ($10-11 USD) on a main course.

Address: Medulićeva ul. 20, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.


Kidney bean stew at organic vegan restaurant zrno bio bistro in Zagreb Croatia


 

2:00PM – The museum of illusions 

For some light-hearted after-lunch fun, head to the museum of illusions

You’ll be fascinated, surprised and left puzzled by this trippy museum of optical illusions.

Book your ticket online to avoid wasting time in the middle of the day queues. 

Entry fee: 50 Kuna ($8 USD)

Address: Ilica 72, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.

BOOK YOUR TICKET ONLINE


3:00PM Head to Zagreb’s autonomous cultural centre

Tucked away in the south-western corner of Zagreb is Medika, an autonomous cultural centre that was granted official status.

Once a factory, AKC is now an outdoor gallery that also hosts music nights and events. 

You won’t need long here, but it’s worth stopping by to get a feel for Zagreb’s alternative scene while you’re passing.

Address: Pierottijeva ul. 11, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.


 

Botanicar cafe in Zagreb Croatia


3:45PM – Coffee break at Botanicar

Ready for your next caffeine hit? Good, because one of Zagreb’s best cafes is just around the corner!

Botanicar is a garden-themed haunt serving up a tasty mix of coffee, juice and cocktails. Choose your poison and relax here for a little while, soaking up the chilled Croatian coffee culture and watching the locals go about their daily lives.

If you’re lucky, you may even find a stand selling plants, jewellery and other knick knacks inside.

Drinks costs around 15-25 Kuna ($2-4 USD) and there’s also a cocktail menu. 

Address: Trg Marka Marulića 6, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.


 

4:30PM – Explore the botanical gardens

Zagreb’s botanical gardens offer a soothing escape in what is already an impressively peaceful city. Situated right next to The Esplanade, they’re the perfect lazy afternoon stop.

Spend some time here soaking up the city’s natural escape.

Entry fee: Free

Address: Trg Marka Marulica 9a | University of Zagreb, Zagreb 10000, Croatia.



5:15PM  – Head back to the hotel to freshen up

The Esplanade hotel is just down the road from the botanical gardens, so it’s the perfect chance to freshen up.

After a long day of exploring, head back to the hotel for a shower, nap or a coffee or cocktail in the glitzy bar.


READ NEXT: 5 surprisingly cheap European destinations to visit next


Like most European cities, life in Zagreb beats around the Old Town. Zagreb’s Old Town is on the small side, but still has plenty of quaint streets and colourful buildings to take in.

The Old Town is also home to some of the city’s best bars, including the famous Orient Express. The entire bar is made to resemble the interior of the famous train, making for a very unique drinking experience.

You’ll pay a little more here than you would in many of Zagreb’s bars, but it’s well worth it for the novelty.

Address: Ul. Nikole Tesle 10, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.


 

7:00PM – Try something new for dinner

La Nostra Casa is a cosy Mediterranean restaurant with a homely feel and an extensive menu.

If you get the chance, order something unique off the seasonal and temporary menus. These can include everything from cosy autumn twists on popular dishes to three courses of truffle.

Croatians like to take their time with dinner. Do as the locals do and settle in, expecting dinner to take around 2-3 hours.

Address: Ul. Kneza Mislava 13, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia.


Zagreb city view


Getting around Zagreb

This Zagreb itinerary has factored in time to walk from stop to stop. If you follow it exactly, you can expect to spend a total of 1 hour 45 minutes walking, with no stretch longer than 15 minutes.

If you’re unable to walk (or don’t want to), you could also take a taxi between stops. Uber is the safest way to get around, and one of the travel apps I use the most.

Public transport is also an option but probably not the best. The trams are well connected but they don’t provide much benefit for this route. If you’re set on taking the tram, you may want to shake things up and explore Zagreb’s sights in a different order.


 

Other things to do in Zagreb

If you have more than one day in Zagreb, there’s still plenty to explore. Take a look at this page for more tours, activities and things to see in Zagreb.

If you have more than a couple of days in the Croatian capital, there are also plenty of days trips you could take. Croatia is a beautiful country and Zagreb makes a fantastic base for a longer Croatia trip, too.

 


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1 DAY IN ZAGREB CROATIA