Continuing our travels in Croatia, our next stop after a week on the Istrian Peninsula was Zagreb for a change of scenery. As far as capital cities go, Zagreb was quite small and walkable, which made it perfect for a short city break.
The attractions were all clustered together in the Upper Town or Lower Town, and there was also a wonderful selection of restaurants – one where we feasted on all things truffle! – so even though I was sad to be leaving the coast, we still had a good time.
Here’s a little recap of our time in the capital with a few travel tips and suggestions for your own trip:
Go on a walk around the Lower Town
Since we were staying in the Lower Town, this is an area that we got to know pretty well. Ban Jelačić Square is the central square in the Lower Town and the area was full of markets, so this was a very lively place almost every minute of the day. We passed through here a lot and especially enjoyed the artisanal market where you could buy things like pastries, deli meats, honey, jams, and all sorts of artisanal products.
However, this wasn’t the only outdoor market in the city. Just around the corner from the main square, we had the Flower Market filled with the most colourful blooms, and steps from there we had the Central Market, which had stands overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables – a fun place to buy your groceries if you’re in town for a few days!
Ride up Zagreb 360 for city views
Another spot we visited in the Lower Town was Zagreb 360.
The building itself may be a bit of an eyesore, but if you ride the elevator up to the 16th floor, you are greeted with views of the whole city.
The terrace is barred to keep visitors safe, so don’t think you’ll be getting any amazing selfies up there, but you can fit your camera in between the bars to get some nice scenic shots.
We went up Zagreb 360 for about 10-15 minutes to snap some photos and get a lay of the land, but they do have a bar and cafe if you feel like lingering there a bit longer.
Tip: If you want to photograph the Upper Town, you’ll get your best shots in the afternoon.
Step inside Zagreb Cathedral
Zagreb Cathedral is one the city’s main landmarks. This is said to be the largest sacral building in the Gothic style southeast of the Alps, and it’s pretty easy to spot the spires wherever you are in the city.
Inside the cathedral, you can also find the tomb of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, which draws many pilgrims.
When we were exiting the cathedral we noticed a round medieval tower to our right so we decided to have a quick look. It turns out they had an exhibition called “Golden Threads” showcasing religious tapestries and garments. The exhibition was small but they had some interesting items, so it’s worth popping in if you’re already in the area. Plus admission was free of charge, though donations were welcome.
Then walk to the Upper Town
After visiting the Lower Town, we slowly made our way to the Upper Town. We found it a relatively easy walk, with lots of little courtyards and side streets to peruse, so it’s not strenuous by any means despite what the name may lead you to believe.
The first landmark we reached as we reached at the start of the Upper Town was the Stone Gate, which used to be the eastern gate into the medieval settlement. The gate may not look like much from the outside, but once you enter, you’ll see that it houses a small chapel.
The story goes that the fire of 1731 destroyed the gate, but when the fire and smoke subsided, it appeared that the one thing had survived: a painting of Virgin Mary with Jesus. This was seen as a miracle, so a chapel was built within the gate complete with pews. As you enter the Upper Town, you’ll likely come across people who are here to pray, light candles, and offer thanks for answered prayers – the walls of the chapel are covered in messages of gratitude.
There are plenty of attractions once you reach the Upper Town, which I will cover shortly, but firstly I’ll mention that there are some really nice views of the Lower Town when you reach the treelined promenade, which also happens to make for a lovely walk.
Tip: If you want to save your legs, there’s a funicular that connects the Lower Town to the Upper Town. If you take the funicular up, consider walking down so that you don’t miss the Stone Gate.
Visit the Museum of Broken Relationships
And now let’s talk about one of the most unusual and memorable museums I have ever visited.
Located in the Upper Town, the Museum of Broken Relationships chronicles broken relationships from around the world with objects that held a special meaning for the two parties involved. The objects range from a champagne bottle cap and red heels to playing cards and an axe.
Alone, these objects may not say much, but each of them is accompanied by a note that chronicles the object’s relevance and how the relationship ended. Some pieces are merely a couple of lines, while others are essays – some are humorous, some are hopeful, and others are downright tragic.
If you only have time for one museum in Zagreb, or even if you never visit museums, this one is worth the visit.
The Museum of Broken Relationships also accepts to submissions, so if you have a story to share and a unique object that goes with it, you can do so on their website.
Address: Ćirilometodska ulica 2
Marvel at the colourful roof of St. Mark’s
Once you’re in the Upper Town, it won’t take you too long to find St. Mark’s Church. It’s super easy to identify as it has the most colourful roof in the city!
Though the church dates back to the 13th-century, it’s tiled roof was constructed in 1880 and it bears two emblems: on the left side, you have the medieval coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia, and on the right side, you have the emblem of Zagreb.
We managed to reach the church when it was closed (I later found out that the church is only open for Mass), but the main doors were open meaning you could have a peek at the interior from the anteroom.
Tip: If you happen to visit St. Mark’s Church between late April and October, you can catch the guard-changing ceremony right outside the church every Saturday and Sunday at noon.
Eat all the truffle dishes at Fotić
Moving on to food, Sam and I had one unforgettable meal in Zagreb and that was at Fotić.
This restaurant specializes in Croatian dishes with a small but changing menu, and on this particular day, there were 4 main dishes on offer featuring prosciutto and black truffles. That was all the convincing I needed!
We sat down at the table, where I ordered the polenta with black truffles and it was one of my favourite meals in Croatia! The polenta looked like it had been baked and then sliced into semi-circles, and then in between each slice of polenta, I had 3 pieces of chopped purple cabbage that had been grilled and drizzled with truffle oil. Once I had my meal in front of me, the waiter then took a black truffle in hand a grated it over the meal.
Sam ordered the risotto with prosciutto, pine nuts, and black truffles. Once his dish was ready, the waiter came to the table with the pot of risotto in hand and plated the dish right in front of Sam. He then asked Sam if he’d like some cheese and grated some on his plate as we watched it slowly melt over the risotto. But that was not all; then he took a truffle just like he’d done with mine, and freshly sliced it over the dish. It was amazing! The risotto was rich and creamy, and the flavours were only enhanced by the prosciutto and the truffles.
Truffles are a bit of a luxury item, so I couldn’t believe how generous they were with it. It was a fantastic meal, made all the better by two glasses of red wine to go along with it!
Address: Gajeva ulica 25
Go restaurant hopping on Tkalciceva Street
And speaking of food, another place you can hit up for all your food and beverage needs is Tkalciceva Street.
This pedestrian street has the highest concentration of bars and cafes in all of Croatia, with plenty of outdoor seating. We visited in late October, and even though the weather was decidedly cool, people were still flocking to the outdoor cafes for some people watching with a drink in hand.
Walk the Green Horseshoe
Lastly, we also walked the Green Horseshoe, sometimes referred to as the Lenuci’s Horseshoe.
This park was named after Milan Lenuci who came up with the idea of creating connected green spaces right in Zagreb’s downtown.
The horseshoe is home to several museums, galleries, archives, fountains and even the Botanical Gardens so it also makes for a fun way to explore Zagreb on foot.
Where we stayed in Zagreb
We rented this apartment on AirBnB, which was located in the Lower Town right across a park and only two blocks from the main square. We loved that it was centrally located, but better yet, this gem was tucked away in a central courtyard, meaning we didn’t have to contend with any street noise. If you’ve never used AirBnB before, you can use my discount on your first stay here.
Alternatively, there are plenty of hotels to choose from depending on your budget.
Zagreb Travel Guide
Now for a video of our time in Zagreb to really bring this city to life!
Have you been to Zagreb?
What are your favourite places in the city?