Since the resolution of the 1990’s Yugoslav Wars and eventually joining the EU in 2013, Croatia has seen a boom in tourism in recent years. Nevertheless, with most people flocking to its beautiful Adriatic coastline to destinations like Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb often gets overlooked. This is quite a shame, however, because, like many capitals in the Balkans, there are myriad things to do in Zagreb.
Dynamic and diverse, Croatia’s capital is home to 800,000 people. With impressive architecture, friendly locals, and a walkable city centre here are five of the best things to do in Zagreb, Croatia!
1. Free Walking Tour
I’ve said it one and I’ll say it again, the best way to get to know a new city is to go on a free walking tour. Luckily, Zagreb has got you covered! The Free Spirit Walking Tour has excellent reviews and leaves at two convenient times during the day. It meets at both 11AM and 5PM in Ban Jelačić Square and it is one of the best things to do in Zagreb.
The tour is geared toward young people, lasts about two hours, and will take you around all of the main sites in the city. Going on one of these tours is a great starting point as you can also get recommendations from locals for what to see, eat, and drink when the tour is over. Please keep in mind that the guides work only for tips, so if you enjoyed the tour it is good practice to pay what you think it was worth.
2. See the Old Town Gate
After the great fire of Zagreb in 1731, the whole of the Old Town was destroyed except for a portrait of the Virgin Mary. Said to be sacred, the Old Town Gate is now a shrine to the Madonna and Croatians, being a majority Catholic country, take this very seriously. If you light a candle under the altar, it is believed your wish will certainly come true. This is one of the absolute best things to do in Zagreb.
As always with sites of any religious nature, please make sure to be silent and respectful if you intend to light a candle or even visit. This is a very sacred site that should be treated seriously.
3. Visit the Museum of Broken Relationships
Alfred Lord Tennyson once said: “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” But have you ever been curious about the remnants of all that lost love? Well then, a visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships is definitely one of the best things to do in Zagreb.
Dedicated to things left behind after a breakup, the museum showcases the remains of heartbreak from around the world. Although this is an odd idea for a museum, it beats letting an ex’s stuff gather dust in the back of a closet!
4. See the Mirogoj Cemetery
I personally enjoy visiting graveyards and cemeteries, from small churchyards to the massive ones like Mirogoj. I find then to be both beautiful and haunting, and if you agree then a visit to the Mirogoj is one of the more sombre things to do in Zagreb.
As one of the largest cemeteries of its type, it is the final resting place of many notable Croatians throughout history. One of the top landmarks in Zagreb, it is definitely worth a visit.
5. Sample the Nightlife
No list about any major Balkan city would be complete without a mention of the nightlife, and Zagreb is a hard city to beat on that count. Croatians know how to party, and there is something to fit every taste. Having a crazy, rakija-fueled night is one of the best things to do in Zagreb.
If you’re staying at a hostel, they will no doubt give you suggestions for where to check out and many times will have a small pub crawl in order to easily check out the lively bar and club scene. Make sure to drink responsibly, nothing is more annoying (and more vulnerable) than a drunk tourist.
- The currency is the Croation Kuna. At the time of writing €1 = 7.40 HRK
- There are a number of great hostels and other budget accommodation options in Zagreb. I would recommend the Hostel Mali Mrak, which has great common areas and a friendly staff.
- Zagreb is very well-connected by train. There are a number of departures daily to and from cities like Budapest, Vienna, Belgrade, Ljubljana.
There are a number of things to do in Zagreb. It is a destination that deserves to be more than a stopover en route to the coast, so don’t pass up an opportunity to spend some time in this lively city!
Have you been to Zagreb? Are you planning a visit to Croatia? What do you think are the best things to do in Zagreb? Let us know in the comments!