Zagreb and Singapore were the biggest surprises of my 2017 travels. Initially, I visited Zagreb for two nights as a stopover between Budapest and Ljubljana. But what I didn’t expect was to find a cool, and cheap, and colourful, Croatian capital. I also think I instantly liked Zagreb because the weather was not in the single digits. Being able to get away with just wearing a long-sleeved shirt and jacket was amazing!
Anyway, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information out there on Zagreb. So here is my input: my 24-hour travel guide to Zagreb. Hopefully it helps you plan your own visit. Because you are going to visit now, right? It did make Lonely Planet’s 2017 Best in Europe list (just saying).
Sidenote: when my bus crossed from Croatia to Slovenia, every passenger had to get out and have all of their belongings searched. They were very thorough.
My Zagreb Morning
Okay, first things first. I began my morning with a pastry from a shop on the main shopping street: Jurišićeva. On the map it does change names as it stretches on, but this was the street name closest to my hostel. There are quite a few bakeries along the street selling delicious pastries. Zagreb is also a city that loves coffee. Check out this Timeout guide to the city’s coffee culture for all of the insider tips (obviously this non-coffee drinking barista knows nothing).
Next, check out Dolac Market. It’s open from 6:30am every day. Locals set up stalls selling all kinds of food, including cheese, meat and lots of colourful produce. There are also stalls selling the usual souvenirs. I love visiting markets in every new city, as they allow you to see a glimpse of normal everyday life for locals.
I then had a wander around the shops, as I always seem to do. Zagreb had some different department stores I hadn’t seen anywhere else. But I ended up buying a cute t-shirt and earrings from H&M. The shirt has been worn at least once a week in Australia.
Free walking tour
Oh yeah, you bet I did another free walking tour. Called Free Spirit Walking Tour, the tour meets daily at 11am at the horse statue in Ban Jelačić Square (the main square). We walked through Zagreb’s Old Town and our guide took us to an amazing viewpoint I may have missed on my own.
We watched the cannon get fired at noon from Lotrscak Tower. Several generations of the one Croatian family have been firing the cannon daily for centuries. Even though I knew it was coming, I still jumped when it eventually exploded. Apparently many visitors are unaware of this tradition, so people are frightened daily by the loud bang.
Our next stops included St Mark’s Church, which probably has one of the coolest exteriors ever. Our guide told us stories about the surrounding parliament buildings, which were bombed in the 1990s. We then wandered through the Stone Gate, where locals have been visiting to pray to the Virgin Mary for decades. The image of Mary inside the gate survived a fire in 1731, which is why she’s so special to Zagreb locals. Many people have placed tiles inside the gate to thank her, including our guide’s grandma.
We then ventured down to Zagreb Cathedral. Random fact: the chandeliers inside the cathedral are from Las Vegas. Our tour ended here after about 2.5 hours. Don’t forget to have some money for a tip!
My Zagreb Afternoon
To be honest, I had a cheat lunch in Zagreb and checked out their version of McDonalds: BIG5. But, Frank About Croatia has a great post listing some great lunch options in Zagreb. Our guide also mentioned trying traditional štruckli at La Štruk and Kitchen & Grill PLAC.
After lunch, I headed back up to the Old Town to take some selfies at my new favourite viewpoint. But to get there, I spent about $1 to get one of the world’s shortest cable cars. The funicular takes less than a minute to get you from the Lower to Upper Town, but it’s just one of those things you have to try. It also meant you avoided walking up the stairs again, so to me it was a win-win.
Museum of Broken Relationships
I had heard about the Museum of Broken Relationships prior to my visit. Tickets were about $6 and I spent quite a while wandering around and reading all of the stories. Basically, people from across the world have sent objects to the museum that were sentimentally a part of their broken relationships. Some of the stories were humorous, others were quite interesting, and some were absolutely heartbreaking. I highly recommend a visit.
Because I was there at the end of fall, the sun did set extremely early. But the best place to see the sunset is the Old Town. I went back to the tower from earlier today for a stunning view overlooking Zagreb.
After hours in Zagreb
I’m not a huge fan of being out at night in foreign cities, so I headed back to my hostel with a meal from the SPAR on the corner. But if you are travelling in summer or with a companion, my sources tell me (a.k.a the tour guide) that Tkalčićeva and Skalinska Streets are the places to be. There are many restaurants and bars in this area.
If I had more time…
With the shorter daylight hours and only having one day in Zagreb, I definitely didn’t see everything. The owner at my hostel said Mirogoj Cemetery is a must-see, and apparently it’s rated as one of Europe’s most beautiful cemeteries. I also heard very good things about the Museum of Illusions.
Where I stayed in Zagreb
If you’re looking for cheap accommodation in Zagreb, check out Dots Hostel. I booked a private room with a shared bathroom. When I first arrived, I was a little sceptical as it is actually located inside a residential building. But once you walk up the flight of stairs, you’re greeted with a beautiful modern space. It’s a family-owned business and everyone I met was extremely welcoming and friendly. My room was very large and bright too. Highly recommend!
Click here for all of my hostel tips
I hope my guide to Zagreb helps you in planning your own visit. It may not be the biggest city, but there are plenty of things to do in Zagreb to keep you busy for a day or two. Now I just really want to return and check out the Croatian coast.