The Perfect Day in Zagreb
The historic heart of Zagreb may be small and compact, but it’s jam-packed with things to do, from a historic funicular and quirky museum to a buzzy market and several verdant escapes. Beyond the city center, there are even more appealing attractions, including Croatia’s largest contemporary art museum. Pair it all with some of Zagreb’s best food, coffee, and drinks and you have the makings of a perfect day.
Ul. Ivana Tkalčića 20, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia
Kick off a day of sightseeing with a hearty breakfast at Otto & Frank, located right along buzzy Tkalčićeva Street in the historic heart of Zagreb. Be sure to grab an outside seat and then choose from dishes like oatmeal with apples, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and honey, and sunny-side-up eggs with grilled bacon, tomatoes, and toast. Also on offer is a traditional Zagreb breakfast of poached eggs and grilled ham with cottage cheese, sour cream, radicchio, radishes, and spring onions, which is best when paired with a cup of kava s mlijekom (coffee with milk) and a little people-watching.
Ul. Ivana Tkalčića, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb is a city of sidewalk cafés, with Tkalča (as locals call the pedestrian Tkalčićeva Street that runs north of Ban Jelačić Square) as its epicenter. Prior to its paving in the 19th century, the historic street was a stream lined with watermills, separating the medieval towns of Kaptol and Gradec. Today, it’s a lively walkway, full of buzzy cafés and pastel-colored town houses straight out of a fairy tale. During your stroll, be sure to stop at the statue of Marija Jurić Zagorka, a celebrated Croatian writer who advocated for women’s rights back in the early 20th century and penned several novels set in Zagreb, including the Witch of Gric series.
Get whisked away to the Upper Town in just 64 seconds on Zagreb’s emblematic blue funicular. Connecting the Lower and Upper Town areas since 1890, the cable railway is said to be the world’s shortest for public transport. Once you reach the top, take in the sweeping views of the city, then amble along the leafy Strossmayer Promenade. The city’s first public walkway, Štros (as it’s called by locals) is lined with tall chestnut trees and benches, and hosts an outdoor event every summer called Summer on Štros.
Ćirilometodska ul. 2, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia
You don’t need to have a broken heart to have a blast at Zagreb’s quirkiest museum. Located in a Baroque town house in the Upper Town, the Museum of Broken Relationships is full of mementos from other people’s romances gone sour. The idea for the museum started when a former couple tried to heal post-breakup by collecting relics of past loves. They put out a call for submissions and people from all over the world responded, sending everything from cards and jewelry to more bizarre keepsakes like handcuffs and stun guns. After traveling the globe, the crowd-sourced collection settled into its permanent home in Zagreb, though it does still function as a visiting exhibition from time to time. The museum even recently opened an outpost in Los Angeles.
When visiting Zagreb, stroll to Kaptol Square to see the city’s lofty cathedral up close. Though you can glimpse its soaring towers from many a vantage point around town, nothing compares to standing right in front of Croatia’s largest sacral building. Originally built in the Middle Ages, the cathedral also features Renaissance ramparts (constructed in the 16th century to fend off the Turkish) and a neo-Gothic interior (added in the 19th century). If you’re keen on Christian liturgy, make an appointment to see the treasury, which features wood, parchment, gold, and silver items spanning 14 centuries.
A roam through this colorful farmers’ market, just up a set of stairs from Ban Jelačić Square, is a feast for the senses—in fact, Dolac is often referred to as “the belly of Zagreb” by locals. On the upper outdoor level, zigzag between the iconic red umbrellas, stalls overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables, and head-scarfed village women peddling free-range eggs and handmade corn bread. Then, head downstairs to the covered market section, where you’ll find butcher stalls, dried fruit stands, and artisanal sheep cheeses from Pag.
Trg bana Josipa Jelačića, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia
An elegant square lined with grand 19th-century buildings, Ban Jelačić is a great spot to feel the city’s pulse. It often plays host to fairs and performances, as well as locals chatting under the sculpture of Ban Josip Jelačić or the towering clock just a stone’s throw away. Make your wish come true by throwing a coin into the Manduševac fountain, which is built around an ancient spring, then stroll through the historic Harmica passageway that leads to Dolac Market, where tolls were collected in the 18th century.
Petrinjska ul. 42A, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia
Just a few minutes’ walk from Ban Jelačić Square, Lari & Penati is a local lunchtime favorite (if you don’t want to wait for a table, book ahead). Here, chef Igor Tomljenović serves a small but hyper-seasonal menu, featuring whatever is fresh at the market that day. Grab a seat in the sleek interior or out on the sidewalk terrace and dig into New York deli–inspired dishes such as Reubens and roast beef sandwiches, or more sophisticated options like homemade foie gras on toasted bread, and poached eggs with pancetta, wild asparagus, and burrata.
9A Trg Marka Marulića
A flower-filled oasis in the heart of Zagreb, this landscaped garden lies at the far end of the Lenuci Horseshoe, the string of 19th-century parks and squares that runs through the Lower Town. Planted back in 1892, it remains a delightful place for a walk, especially on sunny days. Meander down the crisscrossing paths to admire the English-style arboretum, multihued flower parterre, giant water lilies in the greenhouse, and red larch wood bridge.
Though the flower stands are mostly gone, Zagreb’s Flower Square is still an iconic spot for coffee at one of the several surrounding cafés. Officially named Petar Preradović Square after the renowned Croatian poet, the area does double duty as Zagreb’s alfresco living room, especially on Saturday mornings when locals dress up, grab seats in the sun, and gossip while posing for the paparazzi that stop here on the hunt for celebrities.
Ul. Nikole Tesle 10, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia
For as long as anyone can remember, locals have frequented this mainstay in the heart of Zagreb for special family meals. Even when the tourists caught on, Vinodol remained at the top of its game, serving cuisine from all over Croatia, including Zagorje štrukli (a type of cheese dumpling), Istrian fuži pasta with black truffle, and Zagreb steak (which is really veal stuffed with ham and cheese). For the ultimate meal, order the juicy lamb or veal, roasted with potatoes under peka (a traditional baking dome). Choose a table in the elegant, vaulted-ceiling dining room, or on the covered terrace along a passageway off Teslina Street.