Croatia’s thriving capital city is often overlooked in favour of European big hitters Paris, Rome and Berlin – but this vibrant destination has just as much to offer. And people are starting to realise that. From the grand Austro-Hungarian architecture and the eclectic museums to the edgy post-communist streak and vibrant nightlife, Zagreb is a fascinating (and fun) place for a city break.
Café culture, live music and outdoor activities are all huge here and you’ll find no end of lovely places to stroll and exciting things to do. The city’s cheery blue trams zip around, taking you from the historic Upper Town with its cobbled streets and ornate facades to Zagreb’s leafy green parks and friendly bars. Get here before it becomes as expensive as Paris!
Croatia’s third largest city, Rijeka, is a busy port with a wonderful old town full of decorative Austro-Hungarian buildings. A hilltop castle overlooks the city and the large bay is the starting point for many Croatian island-hopping holidays. Away from the industrial areas of the city, Rijeka’s historic centre is brimming with shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. Head to the pedestrianised Korzo main street to get in amongst the buzz.
Head to Croatia’s spectacular coast and the medieval town of Rovinj. At around three hour’s drive away, this one isn’t a place for a quick day trip but it can make a lovely piece of your Zagreb holiday puzzle. The town’s Italian architecture is all pastel-coloured buildings and quaint cobbled streets. Head down to the waterfront for the best bars and eateries and lounge in picturesque pebbly coves.
Slovenia’s friendly capital city is just a short two-hour drive across the border from Zagreb. Ljubljana may be a large capital city but it has some of the best green spaces of all the European capitals. The banks of the wide Ljubljanica River have lined with shady trees and footpaths and in summer the riverside cafes spill out onto the banks late into the night. Add in gorgeous historic buildings, an energetic nightlife scene and welcoming residents and you’re in for a great time.
Visit Zagreb’s huge, historic cemetery and admire the impressive architecture, the tiled arcades and the peaceful gardens dotted with sculptures. Designed by Hermann Bolle, the cemetery houses 300,000 ornate tombs. Among those laid to rest are some of Croatia’s most famous artists, writers, politicians and sporting heroes.
Visit Zagreb’s museums
Zagreb is home to some fantastic museums and galleries – from the traditional to the quirky. The vast Museum of Contemporary Art is a great place to start with its imaginative modern exhibits and polarising artworks. The Mimara Museum is a more refined collection of art housed in a palatial building. To discover the stories of Zagreb’s history, visit the Zagreb City Museum. It displays over 4,000 objects documenting the city’s past, from ancient times to the present day. On the more unusual side, you’ve got the gruesome Museum of Torture and the innovative Museum of Broken Relationships, dedicated to broken hearts everywhere.
Chill out in a park
Zagreb has some amazing green spaces when you want to unwind from the hustle and bustle of city life. Maksimir Park is a lush and tranquil spot with beautiful wooded areas, ponds and even a zoo. Or head to the city’s botanic gardens, which boasts almost 12 acres of gorgeous gardens housing around 10,000 species of plants. To really get out into nature, hit the hiking trails of Mount Medvednica’s natural park for spectacular views and rustic mountain cafes. If you’re here during the winter months, the mountain is also popular ski area.
Browse Zagreb market
Head to Zagreb’s Ban Jelacic Square to the bustling daily farmer’s market (or Dolac). You’ll find a colourful array of local produce from fruit and veg, to meat and fish, to cheeses, flowers and honey. Traditional lace is also a favourite and there are some great eateries on the square putting the market’s fresh ingredients to good use.
Enjoy a tipple on Tkalčićeva
Zagreb’s Tkalčićeva street is the place to go for a fun bar crawl. This is where the best nightlife is concentrated, whether you love live music, DJs or laid-back beers. Join the crowds and let your hair down for a characteristically wild Zagreb night!
Croatian food has humble roots. Hearty soups, stews and bread are all among the classics. You can’t come to Croatia and not try the goulash! It also has fantastic produce – from the truffles and meats of the mountain areas to the fresh seafood of the coast. Favourite traditional Zagreb dishes include knedli (a sweet potato dumpling), strukli (a tempting pastry filled with cottage cheese) and kotlovina (a punchy beef stew cooked in a cauldron). Croatia also boasts some fantastic wines so make sure you sample a few.
As you would expect from a European capital, Zagreb has a vibrant food scene – and it’s on the up. Whether you want international street food on the go or five-star fine dining, you’ll be spoilt for choice. There’s plenty of authentic Croatian restaurants serving up hearty meaty fayre but there’s also a new wave of fusion eateries offering up creative dishes from around the world.
Holidays to Zagreb offer up exciting city breaks in a thriving but little-known European capital. Art, culture, great food, stunning architecture and bubbly nightlife – what’s not to love? Whether you pair your city escape with some time on the country’s beautiful coast or throw yourself into discovering this vibrant city, Zagreb should definitely be on your Croatian agenda.
Booking your Zagreb holiday with easyJet holidays is the best way to make your travel a breeze. Looking for the best savings? Try booking both your hotel and your flight with easyJet holidays.
Zagreb not grabbing you? Take a peek at our other fantastic Croatia holidays.