One Day in Zagreb Itinerary: How To Spend Perfect 24 Hours in Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb isn’t a city that immediately captivates you.

At least, that’s my impression. Perhaps it’s the pulse and that strange silence, the sluggishness that makes you feel like you’re not strolling through a European capital but rather wandering into a provincial town.

Because when I compare Zagreb with neighboring larger cities like Belgrade, Budapest, and Vienna, they all have something that makes you say wow. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there is nothing to see in Zagreb. Not at all.

In the last ten years, I’ve passed by Zagreb at least four times a year, whether I’m heading to Salzburg or Zadar, but I always just passed by. Now, I’ve decided to stop and once again visit the city where I haven’t been for a full ten years. 

Unlike the cities mentioned earlier, Zagreb can be explored and you can see everything worth seeing in just one day.


The main street of Zagreb, Ilica, is also one of the longest and oldest streets in the city and the main urban business and shopping area that begins at Ban Jelačić Square and ends at the Avenue of the City of Bologna. Famous Zagreb trams pass through Ilica.

I generally like the system of semi-pedestrian, semi-tramway streets that exist in almost all European cities. Ilica was noisy and lively (though not as much as I expected) and somehow intimate. Everyone, tourists and locals alike, strolled as if they all knew each other.

The architecture is low, Austrian, and quite homogeneous and neutral, but there are details like charming shutters, window frames, quirky café signs, and interesting shop displays abound. Also, a wonderful detail is the street names. Namely, if the street is named Gundulićeva, there will be a short biography of the person the street is named after underneath. 

Dolac Market 

Honestly, I’m not sure why tourists visit this market in such numbers, but since there are already so many of them there, let me also recommend it.

Upper City

While the lower part of the city, the center around Ilica with Ban Jelačić Square somehow reminded me of Austrian towns (Innsbruck and Graz), the upper part brought back memories of Prague, which also has the government building and other key structures located in one stretch at the top of the city in the old part of Prague. 

Although these buildings are considerably more modest and somehow plainer than those in Prague, I love it when a city has that old core nestled in one homogenous zone that is still somewhat isolated from the rest where there are no banks or other state institutions, so it’s mostly visited by tourists and longtime residents.

Lotrščak Tower

The best way to see Zagreb at a glance is from the Lotrščak Tower (3 euro), located right at the exit of the funicular, offering a view not only of the lower part of the city but also of the main landmarks of old Zagreb: the Church of St. Mark, the Government Building, the Parliament, and the Zagreb Cathedral.

Up there, there was a kind of silence accompanied by beautiful music, with a tambourine player waiting for us near the souvenir stand (the magnets were pricey, like in Paris, 5 euros).

Saint Catherine’s Church

Just a few meters from the Lotrščak Tower, on Katarina Zrinska Square, you’ll find Saint Catherine’s Church. This Catholic church was built in the early 17th century on the site of an older Dominican church from the 14th century.

When the Jesuits arrived in Zagreb, they considered the original church too small and unremarkable, so they demolished it and built a larger one.

St. Mark’s Church

One of the oldest buildings in Zagreb and one of its symbols is recognizable by its roof composed of colorful tiles.

The church dates back to the 13th century, but its famous roof is much younger – it was added during the last renovation in the second half of the 19th century.

The Stone Gate

The Stone Gate is part of the former defensive system of Zagreb’s Gradec, and to this day, it is the only preserved city gate, while all others were demolished in the 19th century. 

The Stone Gate dates back to the 13th century, while its current form was established in the second half of the 18th century. Thanks to its preservation and eventful history, it stands as one of the most recognizable symbols of the city of Zagreb.

The Museum of Broken Relationships

The Museum of Broken Relationships is housed in the Baroque Kulmer Palace and was founded in 2010, although it has existed in the form of a traveling exhibition since 2007.

This interesting and highly unusual museum was initiated by Olinka Vištica, a film producer, together with Dražen Grubišić, a sculptor. Four years after their breakup, Olinka and Dražen came up with the idea of ​​launching a traveling exhibition of items that remind you of your former love.

This emotional journey received great reactions, prompting the couple to finally find a place where all the items that constantly arrived at their address after word of the exhibition spread could be exhibited.

The museum was awarded the Best European Museum award by the European Museum Forum 13 years ago, providing yet another reason to visit this unusual museum where exhibits are not only related to past loves but also to the loss of loved ones.

The Botanical Garden

I stumbled upon this beautiful green oasis in the city center by chance. At the end of Gundulićeva Street, I spotted a massive gate, which I assumed led to some park, and indeed it did… Definitely one of the most beautiful green spaces in Zagreb, it’s open all day (even on weekends!), the entrance is free, and it covers, it seems to me, at least three times the area of Belgrade’s Botanical Garden.

This magical botanical garden, frequented by locals throughout the day for a break from the urban heat, was built in the late 19th century. Several buildings grace the garden, with the greenhouse and Garden House standing out.

The garden is meticulously maintained. At every turn, there are signs indicating what’s where, and each plant has a label in Latin, Croatian, and English. It’s incredibly clean and filled with benches.

Across from the entrance to the Botanical Garden is the State Archives building, adorned with the most beautiful decorative statues on the roof that I’ve ever seen on any building: massive sculptures of owls that give the whole structure a mystical and Harry Potter-like moment. Absolutely stunning!!

The Zagreb Cathedral

The Zagreb Cathedral is the largest and most monumental Croatian religious building and one of the most valuable monuments of Croatian cultural heritage.

Built in the Neo-Gothic style, it is located in Zagreb’s Kaptol. The interior area of the Cathedral measures 1,617 square meters and can accommodate more than 5,000 worshippers.

Before the Zagreb earthquake that occurred in March 2020, it had two towers – church bell towers. The northern tower was 104 meters high, while the southern tower was 105 meters high. Before the tops of the towers collapsed, they were among the tallest structures in the city of Zagreb, and now the towers are “only” 92 meters high.

The Zagreb Cathedral has eight bells – five of them hang in the northern tower, and three in the southern tower. The largest bell, the “Bell of the Most Holy Trinity,” dates back to 1843 and weighs a hefty 6.5 tons. Each tower houses a clock with a diameter of 320 centimeters, weighing around 600 kilograms each.

Meštrović’s Sculptures

The greatest and most famous sculptor of the Balkans. If you ask anyone from the age of 7 to 77 about the name of a sculptor, they will all mention Meštrović, and probably won’t know any other name.

Among many of Meštrović’s public sculptures, some have become city symbols, such as the beloved Zagreb monument ‘Well of Life’, shaped in an impressionistic style in 1905. The sculpture, consisting of a frieze of naked male and female figures, as well as an old man and a child in crouching positions around the well, symbolically represents a reflection on life and its changes. In 1912, it was placed in the square in front of the Croatian National Theater.

Another recognizable Meštrović landmark in Zagreb is the relief ‘Peasants’ from 1907, built into the facade of the Popović merchant’s house on Jelačić Square. Ten figures in colored ceramics are divided into three segments symbolizing Popović’s grain and color trading and representing the only Meštrović monument in that material.

The sculpture ‘Widow’ from 1908 is an example of heroic monumentalism and was part of the project of the Vidovdan Temple, which was never fully realized. In 1985, this sculpture was placed in the sculpture park of the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1920, Meštrović bought a complex of houses from the 17th and 18th centuries in the Upper Town (Mletačka, 6, 8, and 10), which he converted into his home and studio. 

The adaptation of this house lasted until 1923, with architects Viktor Kovačić and Harold Bilinić working on it, while the entrance portal was designed by Drago Ibler.

In that house, Meštrović spent about twenty years of his fruitful “Zagreb period,” during which many public monuments and his famous sculptures were created.

The Republic of Croatia Square 

Here is located the beautiful building of the Croatian National Theatre from 1895, and it is surrounded by some of the most beautiful and largest public buildings of 19th-century historicist architecture in Zagreb. On the north side of the square is the building of the University and the Faculty of Law.

Ban Jelačić Square

The best and last thing you should visit in Zagreb when visiting it in a day is Bana Jelačića Square or Trg Bana Jelačića. This is a great place to take a rest, have a coffee, and eat something. Trg bana Jelačića, or Ban Jelačić Square, is a central gathering place in Zagreb, named after Ban Josip Jelačić.

This square has many cafes and restaurants where you can try the local food or just sit down for a drink. It’s also a major spot for buses and trams, which makes it an easy place to begin or end your visit to the city.

The square is encircled by buildings that have a lot of history and it’s common to see different events and street shows happening here, which makes the place even more interesting.

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