One day in Zagreb: the best things to do and see

A delayed flight meant we missed out on getting the most from the Croatian capital, Zagreb. Here’s what we did in our 24 hours in Zagreb, and what we should have done.

Zagreb is going to go down as one of the less successful visits to an EU capital city on our #EUtour. We should have arrived in the early afternoon, but a flight delay left us sitting in the airport in Cologne instead of enjoying Zagreb’s pavement cafes, village-like streets and quirky museums.

We had bus tickets to the Plitvice Lakes booked the following day, so we ended up with just 24 hours in Zagreb to see what we could of the city.

Surprise has been a constant theme of our trips to EU capitals – some of the ones we expected to love were a bit underwhelming (sorry, Dublin and Vienna), and others, where we were worried about how we’d fill our time, ended up being our favourites. Zagreb was definitely one of the latter.

I did love Zagreb

Things to do in Zagreb (that we did do)

Ban Jelačić Square

Our hotel was just off Ban Jelačić Square, the central square in Zagreb. The name celebrates Josip Jelačić, a Croatian Count from the 19th century and national hero. It’s the main meeting point in Zagreb, a hub for trams (including to and from the train station and bus station) and a good place to start exploring the city as it’s close to all the best things to do.

Zagreb Cathedral and Holy Mary Monument

Zagreb’s Gothic Cathedral is the tallest building in Croatia. We didn’t get time to go in, but we did do our #EUtour selfie outside. Opposite the Cathedral’s grand front doors is a magnificent golden statue dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The whole statue seems to glow – an amazing sight.

Zagreb Cathedral and the Holy Mary Monument

Tkalčićeva Street

This quaint street feels like it belongs in a village rather than in a capital city. Low, pastel and honey-coloured buildings are either home to cute shops or inviting cafes. We stopped here for a drink but I wish we’d had more time to linger and people-watch.

Tkalčićeva Street is full of cafes and interesting shops – the perfect place to people-watch
An alley off Tkalčićeva Street with Zagreb Cathedral in the background
Street art of cats on a cafe’s wall on Tkalčićeva Street

The Stone Gate

Just up the hill from Tkalčićeva, the Stone Gate is the Eastern entrance to the Medieval upper town, Gradec. The gate replaced a wooden one on the same site – according to legend, a fire in 1731 completely destroyed the gate, apart from a painting of the Virgin and Child. The gate was rebuilt in stone around the painting, now believed to have magical powers, and these days people come to pray and light candles at the shrine.

Lighting candles at the Stone Gate
The magical painting of the Virgin and Child in Zagreb’s Stone Gate

St. Mark’s Church

St Mark’s Church in the upper Gradec area of Zagreb is most famous for its brightly-tiled roof. It’s only open for Mass so we didn’t go inside.

St Mark’s Church

Dolac Market

One of the most luscious markets I’ve been to. The outdoor area is full of fruit and vegetable stalls – when we were there many of them were laden with juicy-looking cherries.

Everything looked delicious in the Dolac market
A statue of a market trader in Dolac market, Zagreb

What we missed in Zagreb

The Museum of Broken Relationships

With only 24 hours in Zagreb we didn’t have time to go in this internationally-famous museum displaying the items left over when a love affair ends.

Zrinjevac Park

We only saw the grass, trees and fountains of Zrinjevac Park from the airport bus. It looked like a great place for a lazy afternoon ice cream. Sad times.

The Zagreb Eye viewpoint

With the city’s varied architecture, it would have been cool to see it from above.

Lotrscak Tower

A 13th century fortified tower, built to defend the southern city gate. You can climb it to get a view over the old town. A cannon has been fired from the tower every day at noon for the last 100 years, but we didn’t get to see that either.

The Funicular railway

A funicular railway connects the Upper and Lower towns. I love a funicular so was a bit gutted to miss this but the queue was just too long. If you’re short of time like we were, there are steps and wooded paths leading down the hill.

Have you visited Zagreb? What else did we miss?

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