Zagreb wasn’t originally on my itinerary for Croatia, but I’m glad it worked its way in! It ended up being easier to fly to Zagreb and visit Plitvice Lakes on our way to Split so that left us with an afternoon to explore. While you might be eager to start your Croatian vacation in Dubrovnik or one of the islands near Split, Zagreb has a lot to offer and is a good jumping off point for a week in Croatia. Here’s how to spend an afternoon in Zagreb, Croatia.
An Afternoon in Zagreb
Our flight arrived in Zagreb in the afternoon which didn’t leave us much time for sightseeing. We took a taxi to our hotel, the Hilton by Canopy Zagreb, and dropped our bags off. Despite the jetlag, we were off for our afternoon in Zagreb!
Ban Jelačić Square
From your hotel, head to Ban Jelačić Square, Zagreb’s central square which is located in an area referred to as Lower Town. It’s located below the two old city centers of Zagreb, Gradec and Kaptol. These are collectively referred to as Upper Town. There isn’t a ton to see in Ban Jelačić Square, but talk a walk around and check out Manduševac Fountain.
Next, walk up the steps from Jelačić to Dolac Market. Depending on when you visit, the market might be closed for the day. If it’s open, check out the homemade food and fresh fruits.
From Dolac Market, visit Zagreb Cathedral also known as the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you plan to go inside, make sure to cover your shoulders and knees. The cathedral is open until 5:00pm.
Make your way to the Stone Gate, the eastern gate to Gradec town. This gate was originally built in the 1200s. A fire in the 1700s destroyed the wooden gate except for a patining to the Virgin Mary and Jesus so it is now treated as a shrine. When we visited, we saw people praying, lighting candles, and singing at the gate.
St. Mark’s Church
Once you arrive in Gradec, you’ll see Zagreb’s most famous landmark, St. Mark’s Church. This 13th-century church is known for its tiled roof which was added in 1880 depicting the coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia on the left, and Zagreb’s emblem on the right.
Gradec isn’t huge so make sure to walk around and check out the architecture.
Museum of Broken Relationships
While wandering around Gradec, we stumbled upon the Museum of Broken Relationships. I had originally heard of this place from the Bachelor, no less! This museum houses donated items leftover from former relationships with a brief story of what went wrong. It’s a fun place to poke around. We spent about 45 minutes here, but you can make it longer or shorter depending on how many stories you want to read.
The last stop in Gradec is Lotrščak Tower which dates back to the 13th century. It was originally built to guard the southern gate of Gradec town and later served as a prison. The tower holds a bell that was rung each evening to signal the closing of the town gate. The tower also houses the Grič cannon on the fourth floor which is fired every day at noon.
Lotrščak Tower is located near the funicular which you can take back down to Lower Town. We found it easy enough to backtrack through the Stone Gate which puts you back near Tkalčićeva Street. This is a great place to grab food or a drink.
When visiting Croatia, I recommend flying into Zagreb and working your way down south. This gives you at least half a day to explore Croatia’s capital, Zagreb. Zagreb has a much different feel than the southern cities of Croatia so it’s worth stopping here for sure. While you may not see everything, an afternoon in Zagreb is enough to get a feel for this Eastern European city and see the main sights.