If you like urban travel with a bit of urban nature and a very relaxed atmosphere, Zagreb has a lot to offer.
Zagreb is a great city with a very laid-back vibe. It’s got its somewhat quirky museums, some cool cafes, excellent street art and plenty of places to chill.
I spent a couple of weeks there and these are my tips for cool things to do, most of them free.
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Somewhat hidden, but just moments form the Zagreb funicular, this little park in the city centre is a beautiful project initiated by a group of street artists.
In the past it used to be a junkie park, today it’s one of the coolest places to hang out in the city.
Open all day long in the summer months, and in the evening up to 11 pm, it’s full of people hanging out, drinking and chatting. There are a couple of bars there to serve your drinking needs.
The park is full of cool street art creations everywhere you look and new pieces are added from time to time.
Don’t miss this little spot when you visit Zagreb.
The Museum of Illusions
A very original and interactive museum featuring all sorts of optical illusions, holograms, clever brain teasers and the like.
Can you see it move?
Everything has clear explanations in English telling how the trick works, but it may still leave you puzzled. You can take pictures of anything on display.
It may sound like a children’s museum, but in fact there were more adults than children when I visited.
The museum has two floors full of intriguing items, pictures, games and even three different rooms you can enter and lose touch with reality for a moment or two (sorry, no spoilers…).
Free Spirit guided walking tour
I like to take guided walking tours on my first or second day in a new city. It’s the fastest, easiest way to get to know the place and meet some people at the same time.
In Zagreb I took the Free Spirit Tour, which focuses on the Upper Town.
The downtown is the area you’re more likely to see as a visitor when you first arrive, but the Upper Town has plenty to see as well.
After a long historical introduction by our eloquent guide (which I found fascinating), we went up the hill and our guide introduced us to all the important sights.
I discovered many things I didn’t know about Zagreb and Croatia. It’s a tip-based tour (pay what you like) and a very good introduction to the city.
The Botanical Garden
Surprisingly, Zagreb can get even more relaxed than it already is. If you ever need to unwind in Zagreb, the botanical garden is the place to go.
This is a little gem right next to the train station. It’s free to enter. As you walk around the garden, you’ll see the names of the trees and other plants are displayed next to each.
I liked the flower beds sorted by colour, with explanations in English.
There are some vegetable beds and many types of succulents, but my personal favourite spot was the pond 🙂
A cool cafe, bookshop and book club, just a short walk from the main square.
Plenty of sofas amongst the books and you can order your coffee or a soft drink at the bar and chill.
It’s also a laptop-friendly cafe, you’ll see quite a few people working on their laptops there.
In the evenings, you might come across a reading night or an unplugged concert.
Street Art Tour
Zagreb’s street art scene is blooming and well worth discovering.
The murals around the city, both downtown and in the Upper Town are particularly impressive.
There’s also a unique project of painted water pumps all over the city.
When I realised that I might be missing out on some cool pieces, I decided to take the Zagrebee Street Art Tour and have a local guide show me around.
That was a wise decision. You will learn a lot by taking this tour. nothing like seeing the local culture through local eyes.
I wrote a detailed post about discovering street art in Zagreb with more pictures.
Zagreb is a very green city. I admire all the parks and gardens you see everywhere you go.
If you feel the need for some more urban nature, a little bit outside the city centre, you’ll find a marvellous artificial lake called Jarun.
Surrounded by a beautiful park, that’s where the locals hang out at weekends.
The day I went there on a sunny afternoon, there was a free music festival by the water, and I’ve been told it’s a popular spot for festivals in summer.
It’s great for walking, jogging, cycling or sitting on the beach and it’s just a short tram ride from the centre.
Museum of Broken Relationships
This is a unique museum conceived by a couple when their relationship ended.
As the name suggests – it is dedicated to stories of break ups, broken hearts and ex-lovers.
The stories are told through a collection of people’s personal belongings.
These were assembled from people from different countries, and you can even contribute your own items, if you’ve just ended a relationship and need to let go of something.
The tiny museum shop is full of cynical gifts. It’s dark humour that you may find very funny, or perhaps not, depending on the state of your love life…
If you’re visiting Zagreb in high season, I suggest you book a ticket in advance for this museum, because it’s really popular! We didn’t book and had to wait a long, long time to get in.
A lovely spot in the Upper Town, with a view of the city from above. It is located right at the top of the hill, where the Zagreb funicular ends its one minute ride.
During the summer, it hosts the Summer Stross festival.
I went there for the free music concerts that are held every night at 9 pm by local bands ans saw some Jazz and Balkan music shows.
It’s very lively, especially at weekends.
There are cool art installations, theatrical performances, food stalls and people chilling with a drink on a summer evening.
This is a beautifully designed cafe and bar. It’s very close to the central square (and next to Booksa).
You can sit outdoors or indoors, with plenty of natural light. I admired the interior design.
It’s also a laptop friendly place, with fast wifi and soft music in the background.
Where to stay in Zagreb
Accommodation is Zagreb is quite affordable.
Zagreb has a nice selection of apartments, hotels and hostels for you to choose from. Here’s a list of highly rated places to stay in Zagreb.
Guided tours of Zagreb and day trips from Zagreb
Zagreb BIG tour – A comprehensive tour of Zagreb
Zagreb Photo Tour – Photography tour led by a professional local photographer
Ancient Zagreb bike tour – An entertaining bike tour of the city highlights
Lonely Planet Guide to Croatia
For detailed itineraries, maps and insider tips, get a Lonely Planet guide before your trip to Croatia.
You can get this travel guide as a book or an ebook,or you can get specific chapters only (but I think getting the whole book is probably a better deal).
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