How to fall in love with Zagreb

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!

It’s easy to fall in love with new cities upon your first (or second, tenth or 147th) visit. I should know, I do it all the time! Some might even call me a professional. Every once in a while you find a city that really resonates with you. The kind of place that sticks with you long after you’ve gone.

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and the largest city in the country. With that said, the population is just over 790,000 so the city feels more like a large town where everyone knows each other. We were always walking by people running into their friends and neighbors on the street. The city is full of really amazing architectural details, secret passageways and streets, and some of the best food and drink you’ll find in Europe (in my opinion, anyway).

It’s easy to fall in love with Zagreb. Don’t believe me? Well, I’ll reserve my “I told you so” until the end of this post. Here are my surefire ways to fall in love!

Learn about the sleeping dragon and the black queen.

Zagreb is a city with the coolest history. For instance, there’s actually a dragon living under the city.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
A statue of St. George, killing a dragon. I especially love the look on the horse’s face.

Yeah, that’s right! A dragon! Apparently if you talk about it too much it wakes up. I think we’re safe, since you’re only reading about it, but we should probably keep it between the two of us, OK? I guess the last time it woke up, in 1880 there was a huge earthquake in the city. We wouldn’t want a repeat of that.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
Another statue of St. George killing the dragon.

Witches were burned at the stake in Zagreb many years ago, as has happened in many other places. In fact, more than 250 women were burned at the stake for various reasons. We took the time to learn about one of Zagreb’s most famous witches, the Black Queen. She sold her soul to the devil and now roams around in the shadows and dark spaces of Zagreb. Be careful when you step out at night!

Speaking of folklore, if you’re looking for the perfect tour to take in Zagreb, I recommend going with Iva Silla over at Secret Zagreb Walks. We took the Sleeping Dragons and Other Folklore Tour and it was absolutely amazing. We learned so many more wonderful little stories about the city, the people, and their history. Iva is so thoughtful with her tours and she gave us some of the best recommendations before we parted ways.

Make some new friends on Tkalčićeva Street.

Our Airbnb was actually situated on the street above Tkalčićeva Street, so we spent a lot of time wandering around here. There are plenty of great restaurants and charming little shops to pop into.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
Tkalčićeva Street!

Before it was a cute shopping and tourist area, this area was Zagreb’s red light district. Although you can’t really tell anymore, there is still one reminder of this.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
Hey girl!

She’s a beautiful statue, isn’t she?

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
Woo, look at her bum!

Speaking of beautiful statues, you can also meet Marija Jurić Zagorka on your stroll. Marija was a Croatian writer and first female journalist. Her most famous novel was The Witch of Gric, but unfortunately none of her novels have been translated into English. Although you can find The Witch of Gric in German, so start brushing up on that.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
Marija Jurić Zagorka.

Have the ride of your life on the Zagreb funicular.

I’m only sort of joking. Actually the Zagreb funicular is really cool, but it is one of the shortest funiculars in the world coming in at 66 meters (217 feet).

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
The Zagreb funicular!

It was constructed in 1890 and has running up the mountain since April of 1893. The car can hold 28 passengers and at one point it actually had first and second class areas, even though it’s pretty tiny inside. The view from the top of the funicular is pretty spectacular, with Zagreb below you.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
The view of Zagreb from the top of the funicular.

The lower entrance is found on Tomićeva Street, and the funicular costs a few (I think 4-5) Kuna to ride.

Spend an afternoon wandering around Old Town.

There are so many cool things to do in Zagreb’s Old Town. Stop and buy some roasted chestnuts and admire the  Lotrščak Tower. You can find some street art (which I cover below) as well as churches (also covered below) in Old Town. The Strossmeyer Promendae makes for a lovely walk and a place to find some peace and quiet. You also have to check out the oldest pharmacy in Zagreb where Nicolo Alighieri, great-grandson of Dante worked.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
Lotrščak Tower.

No visit to the Old Town is complete without a stop at the Stone Gate. This is a sacred oath and prayer site in the city, so take a moment to stop and light a candle and have a prayer. Or just contemplate life, like I did.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
The old Stone Gate.

Spare an hour to visit The Museum of Broken Relationships! Dedicated to the beauty and sorrow of relationships that just couldn’t last, this museum is quirky and surprisingly fun. It didn’t leave me feeling sad, even though I went with a packet of tissues expecting to cry my eyes out.

Make sure you take time to just wander around the streets. This is fast becoming one of my favorite things to do. I love walking around various parts of town, stepping into buildings where they will let me in.

Find peace in one of Zagreb’s  many churches.

As long as there isn’t a service going on or a locked door, if I see a church I try to go in.

Zagreb Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church as well as landmark in Zagreb. It’s also the tallest building in the city! A cathedral has been standing in this spot since ancient times, but the present version was built in the 13th century. It was heavily damaged in the 1880 earthquake (that darn dragon, again). It’s been undergoing an extensive renovation project for the last few years, and according to our friend Iva at Secret Zagreb it could potentially, probably be under construction for a long time.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
Zagreb Cathedral.

I know most of the photos I’ve seen of the cathedral depict it with scaffolding on one side or the other. I thought it was maybe part of the actual church.

St. Mark’s Church, in Old Town is probably the second most well-known church in Zagreb after the cathedral. Originally built in the 13th century, it was radically renovated in the late 14th century. It was closed on the days we had our visits, so we weren’t able to go inside, but the roof more than made up for it.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
St. Mark’s Church. We were admiring the roof when the Croatian President walked out of the building next door!
Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
Look at that roof though.

The Church of St. Catherine, also in Old Town, was built by the Jesuits when they came to Zagreb in the 17th century. It’s a great example of Baroque architecture in the city.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
St. Catherine’s

Take a walk through the tunnels under Zagreb.

One of the coolest discoveries we made in Zagreb were the not-so-secret secret tunnels under the city! We were guided through these by Iva at Secret Zagreb, but they were so cool we went back.

They’re kind of creepy but that’s what made it such an awesome experience. Used as shelters during previous wars, the main open tunnel stretches beneath the Old Town. They were only unlocked a few years ago and you can only explore certain parts, but you should definitely make it a point to go here when you visit Zagreb!

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
An entrance to the underground tunnel.
Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
Don’t be scared! The light at the end of the tunnel is just daylight.
Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
“Enter.”

See and be seen at Ban Jelačić Square.

The main square of Zagreb, located right at the bottom of Gradec and Kaptol hills, is literally the place to be. Almost every time we walked through this square there were tons of people meeting up with friends or just chatting away. Buy yourself some roasted chestnuts or grab a seat and just hang out.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
The main square, empty in the early morning.

Enjoy all of the amazing street art.

I don’t think these photos really need words. You can find street art everywhere in the city. These are my favorites, and all three were captured in Old Town.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!

Pick out the best produce at the market.

We were so spoiled with grocery options in Croatia. They know how to do outdoor markets!

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
She looks like she’s ready for some serious shopping, doesn’t she?

Dolac Market seriously rivals any other market in the world. There is a huge section just for flowers as well as a section for handmade Croatian gifts. But the real star is the fruit and veggie market, which is huge! You can find literally any kind of veggie you want to eat.

Head down the stairs and check out the indoor section of Dolac Market for meats, cheeses and fresh pastas. You won’t need to hit up a grocery store, that’s for sure.

Find the perfect antique gift to bring home.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Zagreb on a Sunday, head to the British Square where you’ll find a weekly antique market. Sellers set up under the bright red umbrellas and have everything from art and books to silverware and antique pocket watches. Even if you don’t buy anything you still get a feeling for the local people, which I think it important when travelling.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
The vintage market in British Square.

Marvel at the beauty of the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb.

There’s nothing like standing next to a big, beautiful to really make you feel alive, right? I’m partial to this building since it’s my favorite color and all. But I think you’d like it, too.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
The National Theater.  Swoon!

The National Theater puts on theater, ballet and opera performances. It was moved to this building in 1895, when Franz Joseph I visited the city and unveiled the new space. It’s definitely a building that should make it to any visitors must-see list.

Stroll through the Botanical gardens.

What I loved the most about our visit to the gardens was that it felt like we literally stepped into fall. I’m sure they’re just as pretty during any other time of year, but it was especially gorgeous in October when we went.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
One of the entrances to the Botanical Gardens.

The gardens are free to enjoy and aren’t super large. Combine a trip here with stopping to see the National Theater and you’ll find yourself on a very pleasant walk!

Let’s move on the important things: FOOD!

Everyone has to eat. Here are our favorite places to eat in Zagreb!

  • Mundoaka Street Food is the kind of place you HAVE to go to. Seriously, if there’s one thing you take away from this post, eat at this restaurant.
  • Nishta has the most amazing vegan food. We had the best falafel at their Dubrovnik post, so we had to seek out the Zagreb restaurant. We weren’t disappointed!
  • If you want some traditional Croatian food, head to Pivnica Medvedgrad. Go to the one on Ilica 49, they have a bigger kitchen and better service.
  • We had the best brunch at Kava Tava, before we went and browsed the vintage flea market in the British Square.
  • We went to Craft Room one evening and had some tasty appetizers and some delicious Croatian craft beer. I highly recommend this place if you want to try out interesting brews!

So? Have you fallen in love with Zagreb yet? I told you so! I know I tend to be over-the-top positive about most places we get the chance to visit, but Zagreb was just amazing. It reminded us of all of our favorite cities but it certainly had its own charm. Do you have a city like that? Tell me, what makes a city stand out to you? What makes it your favorite?

Happy Thanksgiving to anyone who is reading from the States! I hope you all have a fabulous day eating all of the delicious food you can get your hands on.

Suz

Like it? Pin it!Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!

You should also check out:

55 Comments

  1. I didn’t realize that Zagreb was so interesting, the market sounds cool and the old town looks so pretty. I have been to Croatia a few times but we always end up going to Dubrovnik because we love it so much. I will definitely consider trying Zagreb in the future!

  2. This place looks so amazing . I surely fell in love with Zagreb. This goes so on my bucket list. A must visit i must say..!!

  3. Most of my Croatian friends always tell me that Zagreb is not that interesting compared to other cities in Croatia… but your article proved them wrong! It actually looks like a lively place with lots of interesting spots. I loved the roof of St Mark’s Church, such a nice design with the tiles!

    1. I always think it’s SO interesting to hear locals talk about places in their homeland and what’s cool and not. It’s funny how as tourists/travellers we see things in a different light, you know? How funny they don’t think it’s as interesting as other cities!

  4. You’re right, I’m in love! A sleeping dragon, secret tunnels, open air markets and some of the most beautiful graffiti…your post has definitely sold me on Zagreb! The format and flow made it feel like the best virtual tour I’ve had in a while. Thanks for taking the time to make it so detailed and engaging 🙂

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post and I have now added Zagreb to my Travel List. I love your narrative and the history is so interesting. The photos complement the post well and I would love to see the secret tunnels! I have pinned this for my future reference. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  6. I had not heard of this town before but, what an fabulous place to explore. I love all that old architecture, so much history. I can see why this one grabbed you heart to go back again and again. I think you could probably spend a couple of weeks here exploring with all that your beautiful pictures show us.

    1. Hi Lisa, thanks for visiting! Zagreb is amazing, I would love to be able to spend more time there. It’s the kind of place that has so many little happy surprises that you’ll find new things every day!

  7. Such a lot of wonderful things to do in Zagreb! I liked the detailed itinerary you have given. Amazing facade paintings and the statues too. Looks like lot of photo opportunity there!

  8. Uh uh, I love those places were you actually have a chance running into other people! I mean, I ran into people I knew at the most random places (we have a lot of stories to share next month :)), but still…
    Anyway. Sleeping Dragons and Broken Relationships. And a witch that looks like Mary Poppins. I love your perspective on places, it’s so … unusual and always making me wanna go!

    1. I’m excited for Frankfurt, cause I feel like I’ll finally have the chance to run into someone I know :)I think you’d really dig Zagreb, you should add it to your list. We have so much to compare and talk about!

  9. Wow ! The architecture is incredible… also have been contemplating trying an airbnb and now think I might try it instead of a hotel next trip.

    1. We’ve been living in Airbnbs for the last 5 months, and I can’t recommend that route enough. It’s not only cheaper, but you have the chance to really live like a local.

  10. Oh my goodness: Zagreb just looks so pretty!That architecture is just so lovely- I don’t think I’d be able to stop taking photos!Okay, also after I read about your vegan food recommendation, I really want to go!

  11. I went to Zagreb about 10 years ago and all I remember is that it was my least favourite city in Croatia. Your pictures make it look beautiful and I would love to go back and see it again and spend more time there and really get to know it 🙂

    1. It’s so interesting to hear what others think of cities I’ve been to! Do you remember why it was your least favorite? I hope you have the chance in the future to head back and reacquaint yourself with it!

  12. Great post! I went Croatia last year but didn’t make it to Zagreb, unfortunately. I’ll be sure to come back and explore it as your descriptions and praises are pretty convincing 🙂 Will have to check out that Mundoaka Street Food place as well!

    1. Yes! Mundoaka Street Food is ah-mazing!! It’s seriously so, so good. I am planning my trip back to Zagreb just to go back there (among other things, haha).

  13. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of Zagreb and it has close to 800,000 people! It’s so cute! I especially loved the Zagreb funicular image you shared. Putting this on my list!

  14. Wow have already fallen in love after reading this post! It seems to have a bit of everything, those tunnels look so eerie but I can imagine that market being full of life! Great post 🙂

  15. I’m heading to Croatia next Feb/March time and Zagreb was not on the list of places to go. After reading this I might need to squeeze in some time for it! It looks absolutely beautiful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *