This is our guide on the 15 best things to do in Zagreb, where you'll discover a mix of the traditional and the contemporary in the Croatian capital.
We know travel can be expensive, and that's why, as the Frugal Expat blog, we've got our eyes peeled for options that won't break the bank. Alongside some of the city's must-see sights and experiences, we're excited to share a selection of free things to do in Zagreb. These cost-free options are perfect for travelers who want to make the most of their trip without stretching their budget.
1. Tkalčićeva Street
Tkalčićeva Street is a bustling area in the upper part of Zagreb that's a hit with tourists and should be near the top of your list of things to do in Zagreb as it's a car-free zone which is ideal for walking, shopping, and dining. During the day, you can enjoy the lively atmosphere, while at night, the street transforms with lit-up gas lanterns, still ignited by hand as part of city tradition.
Known for its abundance of cafes, bars, and restaurants, it's the go-to spot for anyone looking to eat out, especially in the evening. Don't miss the small park where you can sit and people-watch, adding to the street's charm. If you're into history, look for the street referred to as Bloody Bridge, named for the historical feud over old watermills in the area.
2. Museum of Broken Relationships
The Museum of Broken Relationships is like people-watching but for emotions and stories. Forget about stuffy, old displays; this place is full of human experiences told through random objects. Each item in the museum isn't just a thing; it's a story waiting for you to dive into. You'll find everything from the funny and bizarre to the deeply moving and tragic.
The museum covers all kinds of relationships, not just the romantic ones. Expect to see a range of love and loss, from family bonds to LGBTQ+ connections. The place is small, so you will only need an hour or two to get through it, but it's definitely one of the cool things to do in Zagreb. And if you find yourself getting emotional, there's a cafe serving a cheap Aperol spritz to lift your spirits.
3. Upper Town (Gornji Grad)
Upper Town is the beating heart of Zagreb, offering a mix of history, culture, and day-to-day life. Nestled in this area, you'll find iconic spots like the Dolac Market, St. Mark's Church, and the Cathedral.
It's not just for tourists; locals love it here too. The atmosphere is lovely, with a mix of cafes, restaurants, and shops that line the narrow, winding streets. Amidst the hustle, you can also catch great views of Zagreb that'll make you grab your camera. While you can walk to get around, consider hopping on a bike for a different perspective.
4. Ban Josip Jelačić Square
Ban Josip Jelačić Square is the main hangout in the center of Zagreb. It's always full of people, and it's where the trams come and go, making it easy to get around the city. There's a spot for you, whether grabbing a morning coffee or winding down with a late-night drink.
Locals often say, “Meet you under the horse” when planning to meet up, pointing to the well-known statue in the square. History people will like it too, with walking and bike tours often starting here. It's a great place if you are after things to do in Zagreb at night, as you get to experience the city's vibe, see people, and plan your next move.
5. Maksimir Park (Maksimirirski perivoj)
Maksimir Park is an urban escape that packs a punch. You can get active with jogging paths and bike trails or kick back and soak up nature. The park even has a zoo, adding an extra layer of adventure to your visit. It is on our list as its one of the free things to do in Zagreb.
Kids have a playground to burn off energy, while adults can appreciate the well-maintained gardens and calming lakes. If you're after a moment of quiet, go to Vidikovac for refreshments with a view. Covering a large area, the park offers something for everyone—from meadows and streams to centuries-old oak forests.
6. Take a Free Walking Tour
A free walking tour of Zagreb is a no-brainer for first-time visitors or anyone looking for a quick but meaningful grasp of the city. Meet at the horse statue in Ban Jelačić Square at 11am or 5pm and prepare for a two-hour journey with the ‘Free Spirit' walking tour. Guides are locals who know their stuff, taking you to major spots and spilling details you'd likely miss otherwise. If you catch the morning tour, you'll hear the daily cannon fire from a city tower, a cool and unique experience.
But more than just pointing out buildings and squares, these tours dive into Zagreb's recent history. They offer insights into events like the Croatian War of Independence, known locally as the Homeland War. It's all free, but tipping your guide is the right move.
7. Have a Beer At The Garden Brewery
If you're a beer lover, make time for the Garden Brewery. This spot doesn't just claim to be the best craft brewery in mainland Europe; many think it is. You won't be disappointed here, especially if you're into sour beers. The brewery is like walking into an indoor garden with houseplants and full-size trees reaching the ceiling. Imagine sipping a fresh craft beer in a space decked with fairy lights and comfy outdoor seating.
Although it's not smack in the middle of Zagreb, getting there is easy. Just hop on tram number 3, get off at Elka, and walk for a few minutes down the road.
8. Dolac Market
Dolac Market is the spot to experience the local vibe of Zagreb. Just a tram stop away from the main square, this bustling market is great for wandering about, with its colorful stalls and wide range of goods.
Here, you can grab anything from fresh fruits and veggies to cheeses and meats. And if you're into souvenirs, they've got that covered, too. It's a two-level market, so don't miss the downstairs area where you'll find more food options like meats and fish. Affordable and friendly, it's a must-visit whether you're a shopaholic or just passing through. If you're there to fill your shopping bag, it's best to go early in the day as the good stuff sells fast!
9. Mirogoj Cemetery
Mirogoj Cemetery differs from your usual Zagreb tourist spot, but it's worth the trip. Located just a quick bus ride from Zagreb's center, this cemetery is one of Europe's most beautiful, giving the famed Père Lachaise in Paris a run for its money. It’s massive and covers about seven acres, so even a short walk can give you a feel for its grandeur.
The cemetery is a peaceful place, full of family tombs adorned with flowers and candles, especially noticeable if you visit around All Saints' Day. It's a mix of Latin and Cyrillic inscriptions, reflecting the diverse community that makes up Zagreb. A unique aspect is its openness to all faiths; you'll see graves from different religious backgrounds.
There is no admission fee (which we love at the Frugal Expat), and it's open during daylight hours, so it's a must-visit if you've got the time.
10. Muzej čokolade Zagreb
One of the fun things to do in Zagreb is to visit Muzej čokolade Zagreb. However, this isn't your typical candy-themed attraction, it's more of an educational experience that takes you on a journey through the fascinating history of chocolate. When you walk in, you're given a unique welcome gift with six compartments filled with something edible and a wooden spoon.
Seven themed rooms offer bilingual displays in Croatian and English, detailing everything from ancient chocolate-making techniques to modern trends. Each room corresponds with a compartment in your box, allowing for interactive, tasty learning. One standout feature is a tap offering unlimited flows of melted milk, white, and dark chocolate—a chocoholic's dream come true! Friendly staff and a small but enticing shop round out the experience.
11. Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden in Zagreb is a peaceful oasis in the lower town, just a short walk from the Glavni railway station. Established in 1889 by Antun Heinz, a University of Zagreb professor, the garden serves as a living classroom for botany students. Covering 5 hectares, it's home to a staggering 10,000-plus plant species from all corners of the globe. If you visit in late spring or summer, be prepared for a colorful, blooming flower explosion that turns the area into a visual display.
Unfortunately, the greenhouse is closed due to damage from the 2020 earthquake, and they're fundraising for repairs. Despite this, the garden offers a lot to see for a small entrance fee of two euros or even for free on certain days. Some areas look overgrown, but that's part of its charm. Don't miss the pond area, where the frogs chirp almost like bird songs. It's one of the best things in Zagreb if you like something quiet and budget-friendly to escape the city's hustle and bustle.
12. Grič Tunnel
Next on our list of top things to see in Zagreb is The Grič Tunnel. It is a unique, somewhat hidden attraction in central Zagreb. It's tricky to find off Pavla Radica Street; you must go through a building door to access the tunnel entrance. Once inside, it's a straightforward 350-meter walk that serves as a historical site and a practical shortcut for locals and tourists alike.
Initially designed as a bomb shelter, the tunnel now hosts art exhibitions in its central chamber. Its main passage connects Mesnička Street in the west to Radićeva in the east, with some side exits along the way. The tunnel is a convenient and flat alternative to the hilly Grič district streets if you're staying near the western end of Zagreb center.
Sljeme, a quick tram and cable car ride from the center of Zagreb, is a great escape from the city hustle. Even if you're not there for ski season, the mountain's peaceful trails offer a solid alternative to Croatia's more famous parks.
This Zagreb cable car is impressive, and the views from the top are stunning. Once you are at the top, you'll find a café, a great place to grab food or a cold drink. If you plan to use Uber for the return trip, be warned that it might be hard to catch one, so we recommend just taking the cable car back down. During the weekends, Sljeme can get crowded, but weekdays usually offer a quieter experience.
Running through the upper part of the city, this is a car car-free street that is always buzzing with people. It is perfect for a stroll, filled with shops, restaurants, and cafes where you can sit and watch the world go by. One of the street's highlights is the gas lanterns still lit by hand every night, keeping an old city tradition alive.
You'll also come across a street known as Bloody Bridge, named for the historic feuding over watermills in the area. Whether you're there to shop, eat, or just soak in the atmosphere, Tkalčićeva comes alive even more at night as locals and tourists alike fill the restaurants.
15. Museum of Contemporary Art
Spread across three expansive floors, the venue showcases a wide array of modern art from various artists, both local and international. Some of the artwork digs into history and politics, offering thought-provoking perspectives that captivate visitors.
One of the best things to do in Zagreb is the slide on top of the museum, as it's an unusual feature that adds a playful touch to your visit. The museum isn't just big; it's massive, so allocate enough time to explore it thoroughly. Despite being slightly out of the city center, it's easy to reach and well worth the trip.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.