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Best things to do in Zagreb
Located in the northern part of the country is Croatia’s capital – Zagreb. The city is a delicate mix between the old and the new. Historical landmarks and traditional architecture contrasts against modern shopping malls, renowned music events, and a cosmopolitan hub of cafes, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
There are lots of great things to do in Zagreb. For those active travelers, take a guided bike tour or a walking tour around the city, exploring the cleanest and greenest spots. For those interested in food and wine, much like Croatia’s cities, head to Petar Preradovic Square which is lined with open-air restaurants, reasonably-priced bars and an all-round welcoming atmosphere.
For history enthusiasts, Zagreb is home to some stunning buildings that are definitely worth visiting and taking a tour around. These include the Lotrascak Tower (which arguably has the best views over the city), the Mirogoj Cemetery and of course, the Zagreb cathedral. Each of these landmarks are architectural gems in themselves, but together they all place tribute to Zagreb’s history and name. Here are some of the best things to do in Croatia’s capital:
Wander through Ban Jelacic Square
The life and soul of Zagreb is arguably centered around the Ban Jelacic Square. This is a central square which has been completely pedestrianized. Travelers walk freely across the square which is lined with impressive buildings and monuments. The square was named after Josip Jelacic who was the governor in the 19th century. In 1866, a statue of Josip was sculpted (by an Austrian artist) and after several times removing and replacing it, it stands tall and strong on the square’s corner today.
When you walk through the square you will also see the Mandusevac Fountain which, compared to other European fountains, really isn’t that impressive. It is a small circular fountain on ground level which has been separated by a chained barrier. Regardless of its minimalistic appearance, the fountain provided local people with drinking water, as well as being a recognized place of congregation for public meetings and discussions. In Croatian, the word “zagrabiti” means to “scoop water”. Essentially, it was this fountain, where local people came to scoop up their fresh water supply, that gave the city its name.
Enjoy the Botanical Gardens
Like many other European cities, Zagreb features its own botanic gardens which are truly beautiful. After a day of busy sightseeing in Zagreb, head to the botanical gardens (north of the upper town), to relax amongst prehistoric trees, glistening lakes, and exotic plants. The botanical gardens are particularly enjoyable in the summer months (June to September) as the days are full of sunshine, blue skies and happy plants.
Take a moment at Maksimir Park
Although there are lots of ‘things’ to do in Zagreb, we would highly recommend to take some time out of your busy sightseeing schedule to visit Maksimir Park. With slow travel becoming more popular, spending a few hours walking through this idyllic park, especially in the summer months, is highly rated as things to do in the capital. It is the oldest public park in Zagreb (opened in 1794) but, over the decades, it has been surprisingly well maintained. The park boasts leafy, vibrant and serene landscapes. Wander through aimlessly to take in the beauty of this urban park, and visit the Bellevue Pavilion – the most photographed structure in Maksimir.
If Maksimir Park ad the botanic gardens are up your street, then make sure you visit the Green Horseshoe. From an aerial view, a horseshoe shape (albeit more square than an actual horseshoe) of green parks and gardens can be seen, with the botanic gardens to the north of them. This combination of gardens, parks and flowerbeds are particularly well kept and groomed.
Marvel at Zagreb Cathedral
The capital’s cathedral is probably the most popular sight to see, and thing to do during your stay in Zagreb. The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary was originally built in the 11th century but has undergone plenty of restoration and reconstruction projects. You can go inside the cathedral and tour around. The intricate design and colorful furnishings are impressive, but it is the overall structure and height of the cathedral that will make you give you the ultimate wow-factor.
Zagreb’s cathedral is always featured on a walking tour around the capital, and is usually an iconic starting or ending point. Other architectural gems in the city include Lotrscak Tower and Saint Mark’s Church.
Get festive at the Christmas Markets
According to the European Best Destinations website, Zagreb takes the crown as the Best Christmas Market. Advent is serious business in the Croatian capital where most of the beautiful historic centre and prime public spaces are given a yuletide makeover.
When you arrive, head to the huge Christmas tree on Ban Josip Jelačić Square, with its beautifully illuminated fountain. Enjoy the inviting food stalls, live music on every corner and spectacular views from the Upper Town. Take a romantic stroll along cobbled streets, lined with grand Austro-Hungarian façades. You will also walk the tree-lined Strossmayer Promenade, made even more magical where a hundred lamps are lit by hand every evening. Cute wooden huts offer a variety of local festive gifts, with unusual pieces by local artists.
Ensure you sample a selection of delicious local delicacies, such as baked štrukli (cheese pastry) or gingerbread snacks washed down with a warming tumbler of schnapps, craft beers and mulled wine. For those with energy, get your skates on and join in the fun at the spectacular Ice Park on Tomislav Square, open daily until late.
Walk along Tkalciceva Street
This is one of the most photographed streets in Zagreb. Quaint alleyways are lined with colorful buildings, traditional markets and independent cafes and restaurants. Interestingly, this street was once a river which separates the two oldest settlements in Zagreb. However, in the 19th century, it was decided that the river would be filled in and made into a street.
Whether you are visiting Zagreb in spring, summer, autumn or winter, as you can see, there are so many things to do in this cosmopolitan city. With international flights arriving and departing from Zagreb on a daily basis, it makes it an accessible city to combine in a Croatia itinerary. Get in touch with our specialists to find out more.
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