Heading to the Croatian capital without a lot of time to spare? Here’s my step by step guide on how to spend one day in Zagreb to help you make the most out of your trip.
Deciding what to see in Zagreb in one day can be a difficult task. While Croatia’s capital is relatively small, there’s so much to see and do that at first glance, it looks impossible to see Zagreb in a day. That’s where you’re wrong. Travelling on a tight timescale doesn’t mean you can’t see the best of the city on a day trip.
I’ve put together the ultimate one day in Zagreb itinerary taking in the city’s highlights. Get your walking shoes on and get ready to discover this charming city.
- 9am – Ban Jelačić Square
- 10am – Zagreb Cathedral
- 10.30 am – Dolac Market
- 11am – Strossmayer Promenade & Funicular
- 12pm – Lotrsčak Tower
- 1pm – Museum of Broken Relationships
- 3pm – The Croatian Museum of Naïve Art
- 4pm – St Mark’s Church
- 5pm – The Stone Gate
- 5.30pm – Walk through the Grič Tunnels
- 6pm – Church of the Holy Transfiguration
- 7pm – The Bloody Bridge
- 8pm – Tkalčićeva
- Map of What to See in One Day in Zagreb
9am – Ban Jelačić Square
Ban Jelačić is Zagreb’s main square. Lined with imposing buildings of almost every conceivable architectural style, it’s the beating heart of the city. The square has been the city’s hub since the 17th century and while many things have changed over the years, it’s the perfect place to start your one-day tour of Zagreb.
The imposing statue of Ban (Governor) Jelačić, the square’s namesake stands tall at the centre of the square. On the other side of the square, the Mandušsevac Fountain, which provided drinking water to the city’s inhabitants until the end of the 19th century is well worth a look. It’s also rumoured that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you’ll be in for a run of good luck.
Pretty much all of the streets in Zagreb lead to Ban Jelačić, so if you do manage to get lost, you can retrace your steps to the square to get your bearings.
10am – Zagreb Cathedral
Climb the (gentle) gradient of Bakač on the right-hand side of Ban Jelačić up to the ornate towers of Zagreb Cathedral. The cathedral, whose full name is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary has existed in one form or another since the end of the 13th century. It was modified and expanded over the years until a devastating earthquake in 1880 severely damaged the cathedral.
The cathedral was rebuilt in its present Neo-Gothic glory by Viennese architect Hermann Bollé after the earthquake. The towers were built using a soft form of limestone so have had to be heavily restored in recent years, one’s currently covered in scaffolding, but they’re no less imposing nonetheless. The patterns, carvings and statues of the cathedral’s impressive exterior give way to a number of treasures contained inside. In my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful churches in the world.
You can often catch traditional folk dancers performing on the square outside of the cathedral. See if you can spot them in our Discoveries Of goes to Zagreb vid.
10.30 am – Dolac Market
Make your way round the corner to the bustling Dolac Market. This heaving square is the go-to shopping spot for many a local and is the perfect place to pick up fresh fruit, veg, cheese and maybe even an artisan honey or two. The fruit and vegetable market is located in the main square, with the fish market off to the side and the meat and dairy market in a spacious area underneath the square.
Once you’ve had a walk around the market (and made a few irresistible purchases), make your way to one of the many cafes lining the market. Our favourite, Bistro Amphora, serves up a mean coffee and lunch. It also has a great vantage point over the market, making it the perfect people-watching spot.
11am – Strossmayer Promenade & Funicular
Strossmayer Promenade was the place to see and be seen when it was built in the 19th century. Even today, no trip to Zagreb (not even a day trip) would be complete without taking a turn down the tree-lined walk. After you’ve had your runway moment, jump onto the quaint funicular to take you up to the Lotrsčak Tower. The funicular is the shortest one in the world, taking less than a minute to complete the whole journey. Still, it saves you a 30-metre climb and offers great views during the brief trip.
12pm – Lotrsčak Tower
Lotrsčak Tower was built in the 13th century as a defence tower to guard the city. While the views from the top are highly recommended, one of the tower’s main draws is the daily firing of the cannon at the top of the building. Every day since 1st January 1877 the tower’s custodian has fired the cannon over the city at noon.
There are several stories about how this curious tradition first started – our favourite is that it was a gift to the city given on the basis that it was fired every day to make sure that it never rusted and Zagreb, ever true to its word, has kept the promise ever since. If you do manage to time your visit for the firing of the cannon, a word of warning. It’s incredibly loud so make sure that you cover your ears.
1pm – Museum of Broken Relationships
The Museum of Broken Relationships is one of Zagreb’s most popular museums and it’s definitely its weirdest (in a good way). As the name suggests, the Museum is dedicated to the pieces left behind after the breakup of a human relationship. People around the world have donated items from their broken relationships. Whether they’re from long-lost exes, estranged parents or broken friendships, each item has its own story to tell.
Exhibits span from (unsurprising) love letters to less expected items – axes, suicide notes and BDSM gear to name a few. Reading the accompanying explanations is sometimes amusing, sometimes out-and-out hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking, but never boring.
3pm – The Croatian Museum of Naïve Art
The Croatian Museum of Naïve Art is another tiny museum (a short hop from the Museum of Broken Relationships) that packs a big punch and is the perfect addition to your itinerary to see Zagreb in a day.
The museum showcases the work of the so-called “Naïve artists” – a group of untrained artists whose work form one of the most revolutionary art traditions of the 20th century. The artists were often retired farmers, whose distinctive works portray their everyday surroundings in surreal forms. The ever-changing display features works by (mainly) Croatian Naïve masters, including Rabuzin and Generalić.
4pm – St Mark’s Church
The brightly-coloured tiled roof of St Mark’s Church stands as a beacon in the middle of St Mark’s Square. Zagreb’s old market square was transformed into one of the city’s political and religious hubs. At the centre of it all is the 13th-century church with an eye-catching patterned roof. The roof features the dual coats of arms of Zagreb, and the old kingdom of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia and was added to the building at the end of the 19th century. Inside, the church contains a number of works by Croatia’s much-beloved sculptor Ivan Meštrović and painter Jozo Klajaković.
5pm – The Stone Gate
Next up on the Zagreb itinerary is the Stone Gate. The Stone Gate is the last man standing of four gates that used to guard the entrance to the old medieval centre of Zagreb. It’s also the setting for another of Zagreb’s long-standing traditions. Locals frequently light candles and pray for lost loved ones at the gate’s small chapel.
The tradition is said to have started after a large fire swept through the gate and burnt almost the whole structure, leaving only a painting of the Madonna and Baby Jesus.
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5.30pm – Walk through the Grič Tunnels
The Grič Tunnels have a curious past. Built throughout the 20th century under the old Grič settlement that now forms a large part of Zagreb’s Upper Town, they were closed for decades. The tunnels were then reopened and used as a shelter during the Homeland War in the 1990s during which time they also played host to one of the biggest underground raves in Europe. Thousands of people crammed into the tunnels, with more trying to catch a slice of the action outside.
They were reopened to the public last year after a bit of a revamp and makeover. These days, a walk through the Grič Tunnels is a much more laid-back affair. Take the passage from Radičeva and pop out at the Art Park (this should be down the second tunnel branching off to the left). Take a few moments to admire the cool street art that gives the park its name before continuing on down the hill to Ilica.
6pm – Church of the Holy Transfiguration
The Church of the Holy Transfiguration is set a short distance from the other attractions on the walk but we think it should definitely be on a the list of things to see in Zagreb if you only have one day. The Serbian Orthodox church (one of the few in the city) boats an opulent interior packed with beautiful paintings, frescoes and altarpieces that are unlike any others in the city.
7pm – The Bloody Bridge
Heading back to the Upper Town, make your way to the Bloody Bridge. While it’s neither bloody, or even a bridge anymore, the spot is famous for the numerous skirmishes that took place when it was the meeting point for the two medieval settlements of Grič and Kaptol. The Bloody Bridge was also the setting for Zagreb’s first telephone exchange in 1887, a mere 11 years after the telephone was patented in the USA.
8pm – Tkalčićeva
The last stop on our one day in Zagreb itinerary is Tkalčićeva, a pleasant street lined with cafes, bars and restaurants. The street meanders along the path of an old creek, which was paved over in the 19th century before becoming the epicentre of the city’s red light district. Tkalčićeva has transformed itself into one of Zagreb’s nightlife hubs. Sit on one of the outdoor terraces, rest your weary feet and reflect on the day.
Much as it can be fun exploring a city on your own, sometimes hiring a guide can really bring it to life. If you’re looking for a guide to tour Zagreb with, Martin at Hello Zagreb is wonderful and a total font of knowledge when it comes to the city.
If you have a bit more time, it makes sense to travel from Zagreb to Split to explore another fascinating Croatian city.
Map of What to See in One Day in Zagreb
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