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With most international flights to Croatia landing in Zagreb, many travellers end up here at some point during their stay before heading off on other adventures like hiking to waterfalls, island hopping and relaxing on the Makarska Riviera beaches.
While it may not have the enchanting feel of Dubrovnik or the glamour of Hvar, Zagreb is well worth exploring to get a taste of life in the country’s capital, and the main sights can easily be seen in just a day. From quirky museums to lively plazas, here’s what to do during one day in Zagreb.
One day in Zagreb itinerary
Morning: Zagreb Funicular, Upper Town, Lotrščak Tower, Museum of Broken Relationships, St. Mark’s Church
Zagreb’s Old Town is separated into two parts: Kaptol, which is the area around the iconic Zagreb Cathedral, and Gradec which is also called Upper Town and known for its winding cobblestone streets and watchtowers.
Work off your jet lag by starting your day in the medieval Upper Town, which is very walkable and home to most of the top Zagreb sightseeing spots. If you’re arriving via the Lower Town, skip the stairs by taking the Zagreb Funicular up, which links Llica Street to the Stossmayer Promenade. It dates back to 1890 and is one of the world’s shortest tracks at only 217 feet long, and the quick ride is a fun way to see the city from a different perspective.
When you get to the top you’ll see Lotrščak Tower, which is one of the best places to visit in Zagreb for views overlooking the city’s orange-topped buildings. The fortification was built in the 13th century, and every day at noon a cannon is fired from the top.
The story goes that over a century ago, the cannon shot at a Turkish camp located across the river and hit a rooster that was being prepared for lunch, which was allegedly so demoralizing to the Turks that they scattered and decided not to attack Zagreb after all. The much more boring version of events is that shooting a cannon at noon every day allows churches to synchronise their clocks. You decide.
Museum of Broken Relationships
A couple blocks from the tower is a quirky, bittersweet museum dedicated entirely to…break ups. Yup, a vast collection of mementos from love gone wrong are on display at the Museum of Broken Relationships, with the likes of love notes and gifts making up the exhibitions.
Everything has been donated (perhaps in hopes it will be cathartic?), so fingers crossed that nothing you recognize ever ends up here! Click here to book
St. Mark’s Church
Cap off your morning by visiting one of the most beautiful things to see in Zagreb: St. Mark’s Church. Located in a quiet, cobblestone plaza, this whitewashed Gothic church is famous for its intricate tiled roof. The colourful creation includes Zagreb’s coat of arms, and is a great spot for photos.
Afternoon: Grič Tunnel, Lower Town, Dolac Market, Zagreb Cathedral, Ban Jelačić Square, Zagreb 360
Head to the nearby west entrance of the Grič Tunnel, which was built as a bomb shelter in WWII. The 1,150 foot long passageway runs beneath the Upper Town, and people now use it as a pedestrian walkway to travel across the district without having to hike over the hill. It’s also used to host events like the Christmas market and museum exhibits.
Once you emerge from the tunnel, it’s not much farther of a walk to Dolac Market where you can sample the local cuisine. You’ll find dozens of stands with produce from local farmers, fresh meat, seafood and bakery items, which makes it a great place to grab lunch and one of the popular things to do in Zagreb for foodies.
Continue your Zagreb walking tour through the Lower Town, where wide avenues are lined by the pastel facades of neo-classical buildings.
Home to museums, high-end hotels, parks and cafes, it’s a great area for people watching and hosts one of the top Zagreb tourist attractions: the Zagreb Cathedral. The church’s two Gothic spires jut 355 feet high into the sky, making this the tallest building in all of Croatia and a standout spot.
Ban Jelačić Square and Tkalciceva Street
As it gets closer to happy hour, grab an Aperol Spritz cocktail at one of the bars in Ban Jelačić Square, which is one of the most happening spots in the city. A statue of the Croatian hero Josip Jelacic–who the area was named after–stands in the centre, surrounded by flower stalls, shops and restaurants with alfresco dining.
Tkalciceva Street links the square to Mala Ulica, and is a favourite spot of locals. The street was once a river that marked the border between Kaptol and Gradec, which has since been paved over and is now a popular pedestrian-only laneway.
Wrap up your day of touring Zagreb by heading up the Zagreb 360 observation deck just in time for sunset. Found on the 16th floor of a building overlooking Jelacic Square, you’ll enjoy a great view of both the Upper and Lower towns, the cathedral and pretty plazas, making this one of the best things to do in Zagreb.
Want to learn even more about the city? Book an organized Zagreb city tour or hop-on hop-off bus pass, and you’ll see the top sites with expert commentary:
Where to stay in Zagreb
Esplanade Zagreb Hotel: This classy, historic hotel has luxurious rooms that are perfect for retiring to after a day of wandering around the surrounding city centre. Click here to book
Cool Rooms: Located in the village of Velika Gorica which is just five minutes from the airport, Cool Rooms is a great option for those arriving in Zagreb late at night, or who need to catch a flight the next morning. Click here to book
Day trips from Zagreb
If you’re spending more than one day in Zagreb, then there are some fun day trips you can book, like exploring the baroque town of Varaždin or heading out to spectacular Plitvice Lakes National Park. It’s also only a couple hours from Slovenia’s Lake Bled.
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