Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of Croatia, with a rich history dating back to Roman times. Described by locals as a “big town disguised as a small city”, Zagreb is a mix of Western Balkan and central European culture with laid-back, youth-led rhythm. Walking down the promenades, visiting the outdoor market, and drinking coffee in its vibrant settings, this 24-hour itinerary will have you feeling like a local in no time. From historic locations to museums to a bar crawl, everything covered is within the centre of Zagreb, at most a short tram ride away.
10.00 a.m-13.00 p.m.
Get a good start to the day by walking around the centre of Zagreb, where you’re going to want to pass through some of the iconic walking spots like Tkalčićeva street, where you can also stop for a quick coffee or drink at one of its many open cafes.
Image: Jorge Franganillo/Flickr
If you find yourself hungry right away, stop for breakfast or brunch at the nearby Otto & Frank. Definitely go for their signature dish, the Zagreb Breakfast – Zagreb’s answer to a traditional breakfast dish complete with toasted bread, cottage cheese, and crispy poached eggs. Their menu contains other brunch staples from oatmeal to French toast, many of which are veggie.
Alternatively, go for a coffee at Mala Kavana, a coffee shop/brunch place overlooking the Josip Jelačić main square. Zagreb is home to its own coffee culture – sitting at a vibrant open space with a strong coffee and a friend is part of the ZG lifestyle. And for this packed day, I have planned for you, you’re gonna want to fuel up on caffeine.
Image: Mala Kavana/Facebook
And if you prefer to eat on the go, quickly grab a pastry from one of Zagreb’s bakery chains such as Dubravica or Dinara – the nearest in the centre being in Dolac, from which you may detour towards the end of Tkalčićeva. An iconic place of Zagreb culture, the open-air farmer’s market is where traders from all over Croatia sell their locally grown produce, from fresh fruit and vegetables to different types of cheese. The market also has a butchery and fish market, in addition to pasta vendors, gift shops, and flower stalls.
Image: Jerome Rondeau/Flickr
You definitely will want to hit one of Zagreb’s museums, whether it’s one of the art galleries like Klovićevi dvori, or the more one of a kind ones, like the Museum of Naive Art, the Museum of Broken Relationships, or the Zagreb 80s Museum, all within walking distance of the upper town. Or, the quirky Museum of Illusions in Ilica or the Chocolate Museum in Varšavska street (near the Cvjetni square). The appeal of Zagreb museums is not only its diverse range and creative design, but also its prices and accessibility. Tickets can be bought upon entry, and are usually at an average price of 50kn per adult.
From the upper town, head from one of the former museums to some of Zagreb’s historic landmarks, from St. Mark’s Church, to the Strossmayer Promenade, the idyllic walking space of the Zagreb upper town complete with a panoramic view of the city, and the location of the historic Grič cannon and the world’s shortest funicular – Zagreb’s first and oldest means of public transport. Connecting Strossmayer to Tomićeva street, this short and sometimes even deemed “pointless” ride is nonetheless a must when visiting Zagreb. If heading out from the Museum of Illusions or Chocolate Museum, take the funicular upwards from Tomićeva to Strossmayer.
But regardless of which route you take, by now you’ll want a break from all that walking, and what better way to do so than to stop for some sweet delicacies. Right beside the funicular end at Tomićeva is Vincek, the famous Zagreb cake shop, or rather its small outdoor branch known as Vis a Vis. Their kremšnita (cream pie) is a Zagreb favourite, and definitely one to savour in the outdoor setting, next to the carrot cake or triple chocolate brownie. What’s more, all their pastries are gluten-free, meaning those with allergies do not have to miss out.
Image: Gilbertt G/Tripadvisor
As the sun sets, head down to Zrinjevac park, a popular hanging spot to just sit in the grass and enjoy the atmosphere. Stop at the nearby Studenac grocery shop for some drinks or snacks, and chill out in the park. If there is an event happening, such as Cest is dBest or the Food and Film Festival, enjoy the music, performances, food and drink, and souvenirs.
Image: e r g a s/Flickr
If you’re after a night out at the club, know that the Croatian way is to go in late hours. Which leaves plenty of time for a bar crawl to get your energy going for a long night ahead! Zagreb has a rich nightlife scene that has only continued to grow in recent years, and no matter what you’re into, there is something for everyone. On the main square you have the popular bar and club Johann Franck. Going in towards Bogovićeva street, there’s Bulldog, and in Ilica, the stunning Swanky Monkey Garden, with its chill garden terrace vibe and excellent cocktails. And in the summer, head on further down to Tuskanac for the Pop Up Summer garden. For more info on what to do in Zagreb during the summer season, check out our guide covering festivals and other events in Zagreb that are either cheap or totally free.
Image: Swanky Monkey Garden/Facebook
Now, if you identify more with counterculture, a bar crawl of Zagreb’s range of alternative pubs is the way to go. Starting on Preradovićeva street, you have Alcatraz, the bar/nightclub that has earned itself a cult following thanks to its regular lineup of cheap drinks and rock tunes.
Image Credit: Neven Vukovic/CityPal
Nearby there’s Rock star, fully adorned on every wall with rock memorabilia, and just 9 minutes away is The Beertija, the rock-themed outdoor beer garden and nightclub with its long menu list of top-quality beers.
23.00 p.m-early hours
Now that it’s time to hit the clubs, there’s the trendy Opera on Petrinjska, known as one of Zagreb’s top clubs with the best events and party atmosphere, attracting large numbers of visitiors in the spacious interior from late night till the early morning hours.
Image: Pjerino B/Tripadvisor
For those following the alternative bar crawl, there’s Vintage Industrial at Savska (easily go there from i.e. the Beertija, via the 4 or 17 tram), or for the younger crowd, Močvara at Trnjanski nasip (slightly further away and best reached via the bus).
If you’ve finished a long night out or just want to get a quick coffee before wrapping up the day, you can always head back to the main square and stop back at Mala Kavana, or grab a slice of pizza at Fries Factory – the latter being a classic post-night out snack stop.
And there you have it, the best 24 hours spent in Zagreb, hopefully showing just how much the small capital has to offer – not just its history and culture, but also its people and way of living.
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