Is Zagreb worth visiting? It’s a pertinent question to ask, given that Croatia is one of the most open nations in the world to tourists during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Now as always, many visitors to Croatia head straight to the Dalmatian Coast, preferring Dubrovnik or Split over the capital. But whether because of interesting Zagreb attractions, affordable hotels and apartments or a relaxed, uncrowded feel, I feel the city deserves a closer look.
Certainly, if you have more than a few days to spend in the country and aren’t too loaded up on other places to visit in Croatia, I’d consider stopping in Zagreb for a few days. Let’s talk a closer look, shall we?
Where to Stay in Zagreb
Part of the answer to the question “is Zagreb worth visiting?” depends upon where you make your home there. As is the case throughout much of the rest of the Balkans, apartments provide a much better value than hotels. There are also a lot more of them—Zagreb apartments, this is—than hotels in Zagreb. You can just as easily find properties on a site like Booking.com as you would on, say, Airbnb.
Regardless of where in Zagreb you decide to stay, you can bet it’s going provide a great value. This is the case, whether you rent a luxury apartment or hotel, or stay in a hostel dormitory.
My Favorite Things to Do in Zagreb
St. Mark’s Cathedral
When it comes to churches in Zagreb, St. Mark’s Cathedral is my favorite, even though it’s smaller than another famous Zagreb church I’ll mention in a few paragraphs. First built in the 13th century, the current structure has a design that dates back to the mid-1500s; in any case it’s still one of Zagreb’s oldest churches. I especially loved the roof, which is tiled in a way that gives it resemblance to the Croatian flag.
The Museum of Broken Relationships
Is Zagreb worth visiting? Yes, if only for a trip to the Museum of Broken Relationships. Housed in an unassuming space not far from St. Mark’s, this interesting museum presents found objects that partners in doomed relationships submitted after breaking up. I personally went there just weeks after the dissolution of one of my most difficult break-ups. If you can’t, I’d recommend waiting a while before you go!
Cathedral of Zagreb
As is the case throughout much of the rest of Europe, church visits are an essential part of any Zagreb trip. After visiting St. Mark’s, you can visit the Cathedral of Zagreb, which is significantly larger—and more dramatic, which makes sense given its gothic construction style. The cathedral was opened just over a century ago, which means its architectural accents might seem more familiar to you than you’re expecting.
Located in the shadows of Zagreb Cathedral (and of the iconic, striped umbrellas that tower over its stalls), Dolac Market is a great place to visit. Whether you want to buy fresh fruit and souvenirs, or simply to people watch, come here on a weekend morning for the best atmosphere. Is Zagreb worth visiting? Yes, and a few minutes in Dolac Market will, on their own, prove this to you.
Zagreb 360º Observation Deck
Searching for the best view of Zagreb? As its name suggests, Zagreb 360º Observation Deck offers the best and most complete view of the city, especially on a clear and sunny day. In spite of offering you such a lofty perspective, Zagreb 360º is easy to reach. It’s only steps from all the Zagreb tourist attractions listed in this article, though I love to come here at sunset.
How Many Days Do You Need in Zagreb?
“This all sounds great,” you might say to me, “but can you also do my homework for me when it comes to the length of my trip?” Certainly—I don’t mind that at all. In general, I’d say how many days in Zagreb you spend directly relates to the length of your trip in Croatia, and where else you want to go. If you’ve got two weeks in Croatia, for example, and have already devoted most of it to the Dalmatian Coast, you might simply have a night or two in Zagreb at the beginning or end of your trip.
If, on the other hand, you’re traveling to Zagreb on a city trip from elsewhere in Europe, you might decide to stay longer. Three to five days—even a week in Zagreb—is especially alluring if you stay in an apartment, as this can give you the feeling that you “live” in Croatia’s capital, even if you have no intention of being there long term. Is Zagreb worth visiting? Yes it, regardless of how long you decide to spend there.
Zagreb Travel FAQ
Is Zagreb safe for tourists?
Crime in Zagreb is pretty rare, certainly when it comes to violent crime and anything other than petty theft. As a tourist you’ll almost always be safe, apart from if you carry an open bag through Dolac Market on a Saturday morning, or are too conspicuous about your wealth around the wrong people.
Is Zagreb expensive to visit?
Not at all! Although Croatia’s coast, in recent years, has been arguably as expensive as many destinations in Italy, Zagreb prices are very fair. I would say that Zagreb is one of the most affordable capitals in Europe, second perhaps only to other Balkan cities like Sarajevo and Belgrade.
What can you do in Zagreb in one day?
One day in Zagreb, technically speaking, is enough to see everything I’ve mentioned above—the two churches, the Museum of Broken Relationships, Dolac Market and Zagreb 360º. However, if you give yourself a longer amount of time to enjoy Zagreb, you’ll have more of an opportunity to feel the specialness of the city.
The Bottom Line
If you navigated to this site with the question “is Zagreb worth visiting?” in your mind, I hope you now have an answer. I’ve certainly done my part. Whether explaining all of Zagreb’s attractions or talking up its relax and uncrowded (at least compared to Dubrovnik and Split) feel, I think I’ve done a good job advocating for Croatia’s capital. On the other hand, some people simply won’t spend long enough in Croatia to visit the city, even if they’d like to do so on the merits. No matter where your Croatia travels take you—this should go without saying—I hope your trip is incredible, particularly if you’re fleeing coronavirus gloom.
Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who’s been roaming the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as “CNNGo” and “Shanghaiist” along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, provides a mix of travel advice, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.