Year by year Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is becoming more and more popular among tourists. Although many people go directly to the Croatian coast to visit Split or Dubrovnik, Zagreb (which is located in the northwest of the country) has a lot to offer. It is a bustling city with a rich history and culture, delicious food and drink, and an exciting nightlife. What's more, now it is easier than ever to reach Zagreb from many European and other places.
Getting to Zagreb
The capital of Croatia has good connections with other major Croatian and European cities: in fact, Zagreb airport is the largest airport in Croatia. The airport is located 17 km southeast of the city center. Getting to the city takes about 30 minutes by airport bus or 25 minutes by taxi.
You can reach Zagreb from many cities in Europe, such as Munich, Graz and many more. The central Zagreb train station is located just 1 km on foot from the main square so that you can easily reach it by tram from most parts of Zagreb.
You can quickly get to Zagreb by bus from other European cities because the capital is very well connected. There are direct bus routes to Zagreb from Ljubljana, Vienna, Berlin and Trieste, and many other cities. I recommend that you visit the main bus station located at Avenija Marina Držica 4 even if you do not arrive by bus. This bus station is a place where you can see how many of the larger cities in Eastern Europe used to look a dozen or so years ago.
Public Transport and Getting Around in Zagreb
Trams and buses: Public transport in Zagreb is mostly operated by ZET (Zagreb Electric Tram), which manages the tram and bus network, as well as the cable car. There are 134 daily bus lines and four night lines. While trams are the most popular means of transport in the center of Zagreb, buses are a better option when you travel to the suburban districts of the city.
Zagreb is a bike-friendly city, which means there are many options when it comes to renting a bike. There is a public bike network called Nextbike. You can download the application to your phone and use it to rent a bike and return it when you do not need it anymore. The activation fee is 79 HRK and can be used as a loan to rent bikes. Remember to return your bike on time, because if you do not return it within 24 hours, you will be charged an additional HRK 750.
Monuments and Thing to See
If you are in Zagreb for only a short period, here are some recommendations for places you definitely can not miss.
Ban Jelacic Square
Located in the historic center, Ban Jelacic Square is one of the most famous paintings of Zagreb. The name of the square comes from the Croatian-Josip Jelacic, who was once the commander of all the Habsburgs in Croatia. Today, the square is the center of the Croatian promenade and the meeting place of many residents, which makes it the center of social life in Zagreb.
The Upper Town in Zagreb connects many narrow streets between two hills - Kaptol and Gradec. There are many monuments, such as St. Mark's Square (where resides the Croatian parliament), Stone Gate (which once served as a protective function, and today serves as a place where you can light a candle and pray for everything that worries you. You can also visit the Dolac market, where you can buy fresh products, and the Museum of Broken Relationships, which reminds you of the aftermath of the end of love.
Do not forget about the large Lotrscak tower or the Klovicevi Dvori Gallery (named after the famous Croatian artist Juraj Julije Klovic). In addition to the listed monuments, the Upper Town also offers a wide selection of cafes where you can relax after a long day of sightseeing.
Placed also in the Upper Town, the cathedral is an extraordinary monument. This Gothic sacred cathedral is the tallest building in Croatia - 108 meters high.
Habitat for various species of animals and plants - Maksimir - is the oldest park in Croatia. The landscape resembles English gardens, and the best way to get to know it is to walk through the alleys and pavilions.
If you travel with children, it would be a great idea to take them to the zoo, which is located in the southern part of the park. The zoo offers daily feeding of otters, seals and sea lions that are great attractions for younger ones. Near the park, you can see the stadium of the football club Dinamo Zagreb.
To the north of Zagreb is the Medvednica mountain, whose highest peak is called Sljeme. The direct translation of the name is "the mountain of the bear." What makes this mountain particularly interesting? A winter sports center where the Alpine skiing championships in Croatia take place. Earlier known as the "Golden Bear," the race changed its name in 2006 in honor of Janica Kostelic, a four-time Olympic gold medalist from Zagreb.
Today, Medvednica has the status of a "natural park," it is home to many species of animals and plants, and some of the trees that grow there, have more than a thousand years. In summary, if you like nature and hiking, you should choose to go on Medvednica.
Dolac market is the largest grocery market in Zagreb and is located in the city center, close to the cathedral. The market is open from the earliest hours in the morning, seven days a week. You can try delicious fruit here, eg, pomegranates or figs, buy fresh fish, Croatian sausages, meats, seafood, and many other regional products. Importantly, prices are about 30% lower than in coastal towns.
Croatian National Theater in Zagreb
The theater is a beautiful building and stands out on the square of Marshal Tito. It will delight you with its beauty, dignity, and wealth. The building was built in 1895, accordingly to the design of the Viennese architects Helmer and Fellner. From this reason, the main hall resembles the one in Vienna.
Nightlife in Zagreb
Nightlife in Zagreb is probably the most intense of all of Croatia(maybe except the Dalmatia and Dubrovnik in the peak season). It offers a wide selection of bars with live music that often turn into clubs after sunset.
In Zagreb, is a place for everyone - regardless of whether you are looking for a cozy place to relax with a glass of wine, or want to dance all night long.
Zagreb has a lot to offer to those who prefer a more active holiday. If you want to fill your days with adventure and adrenaline, there are many options from which to choose. Although it is a continental city, it certainly offers many opportunities to enjoy the water: you can go rafting or canoeing on the rivers Kupa and Mreznica. Even if you are a beginner, it is a very safe entertainment because the local guide will always accompany you and keep you entertained. All visitors certainly have fun and also enjoy a slightly different Croatian landscape.
If you do not want to leave the city, I recommend hiking trips on Medvednica, up to the Sljeme summit, which is the favorite activity of residents and tourists. The real prize awaits you at the top, from where you can admire a breathtaking view of the entire city. You will also find many other hiking and running routes in Zagreb or its vicinity.
If you want to bring a fancy souvenir home, you can take a walk through the streets of Ilica and Tkalciceva, because they offer a wide selection of clothes signed by Croatian (and world) designers. If you prefer shopping centers, Kaptol Center and Centar Cvjetni are just a short walk from the main square. In terms of shopping, you cannot miss the above mentioned Dolac market as well.
Restaurants and Food in Zagreb
If after a long day of sightseeing you feel hungry, there are many restaurants in Zagreb, where everyone can find something for themselves. Recently more and more restaurants are checked by Michelin guide inspectors, which is the best proof that the culinary experience in Zagreb is getting better.
Currency Exchange and Use of Credit Cards
When you come to Zagreb, there are many currency exchange offices where you can exchange money, and some of them are right next to the bus terminal. Besides exchange offices, you can also exchange currency at banks and post offices. However, they are not open 24 hours a day for seven days a week. Besides, if you withdraw cash directly from an ATM, you'll probably get the best deal in terms of exchange rates.
Impressive architecture, outstanding tourist attractions, and good connection with other cities make Zagreb perfect fit for day or weekend trip. I could not recommend you this place more when you are going to Croatia's coastal region. Before you get to the beaches at the Adriatic Sea, you should definitely stay over in the capital.