Things to know before visiting Zagreb

zagreb sunset


Zagreb is a capital of Croatia with a population of around 800 000 people. Situated in the northwest part of Croatia, Zagreb is just one hour drive from Ljubljana to the west and four hours from Vienna to the north. It is administrative and economical center of the country. City is divided by river Sava into two parts. Unlike many other cities, Zagreb city center is not aligned along the river. If you decide to visit Zagreb you will find main tourist attractions in historic centre of the city which is its geographical centre as well.

In aspect of tourism Zagreb is still transit or city break destination so you will never be bothered by huge crowds of tourists and you still can freely roam the streets. However, title of a short stay destination is definitely unjustified because Zagreb has so much to offer but more on that in some other post.



How to get to Zagreb


Most arrivals and departures in Zagreb take place at the Main Bus Station. Croatia is well connected by bus and Zagreb has a very good bus connections with the rest of the Europe.

Zagreb main bus station is quite small comparing to other European capitals and it is not representative at all so you will want to spend as little time there as you can. Most of the facilities you will find on the first floor. There are ticket counters, ATM-s, changing office, post, several shops and bars.

Just in front of the main entrance you will find a tram stop and tram number 6 will take you to the main city square in less than 15 minutes.

Zagreb airport is around 15 km from Zagreb city centre. Connection with Europe is quite good but the thing locals resent the most is lack of low budget companies.

If you decide to arrive to Zagreb by plane you can reach city centre by bus or taxi. Bus will drop you off at the main bus station and that is also where you will board when going back to the airport (check the timetable on official airport website). You can find taxi on arrivals terminal or you can just call Uber or Taxify. Ride should cost you from 150 HRK.

I left train as the last option and it should be your last option when you visit Zagreb. Northern part of Croatia has good railway connections but railway infrastructure is archaic one might say. For this reason it won’t be odd if time of your journey doubles.

If you decide to take the train to Zagreb anyways you will arrive to the Main Train Station which is a representative neoclassical building in the centre of Zagreb. From there you have good tram connections to all parts of the city depending where your accommodation is.


zagreb main station


Zagreb public transportation


Zagreb has one of the best and cheapest public transportation in Croatia. It is very reliable and punctual. Public transportation network consisted of trams and buses is very well connected.

Main mean of public transport is famous blue Zagreb tram. You can travel for 30 minutes (you will almost never spend more time traveling to any destination) by purchasing a ticket from news kiosk which costs 4 HRK. When buying a paper ticked make sure you enter the tram on the first or last entrance where you will find validators. On most tram stations you will find a tram map and each tram has number and end destinations displayed at the front. Most trams go every 5 – 15 minutes and will take you almost everywhere within the city.

Buses will take you longer distances but for all tourist attractions, shopping, bars and similar you can just stick with the tram.



Where to stay in Zagreb


Zagreb has a wide variety of accommodation offer – from top class hotels, small family owned hotels, youth hostels and private accommodation. As number of tourist in Zagreb increased in last several years accommodation choices went along.

Best area to stay would be the city centre and you won’t have trouble finding accommodation for any budget. It doesn’t need to be on the main square but anywhere in the Lower Town (Donji grad) area, near Vlaška Street or British Square (Britanski trg) and you will be a pleasant walk from everything you want to see.

Even if you decide to book accommodation outside of the city centre you can always use the tram or just walk which is my favourite way of exploring a new city.

I would recommend you not to choose an accommodation in New Zagreb (Novi Zagreb) area (across the river) because of less trams and it is definitely not walking distance to the city centre.



When to visit Zagreb


Anytime! Zagreb loves locals and tourists and lives for a vibrant synergy of the two.

If you decide to visit Zagreb in winter than you definitely heard of Advent in Zagreb. That is the time when Zagreb gets most crowded. During December Zagreb turns into a magical fairy tale with a variety of events and even more magical food offer. I’ve visited many Christmas markets around Europe but the one in Zagreb is just different and you simply must experience it.



In case you missed Advent season don’t worry you can still get a glance of winter magic less than half an hour from the main square. Visit Sljeme, highest peak of Medvednica mountain which is also a Croatian Nature Park. Here you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding or just soak the sun while drinking tea and eating traditional Croatian food on the viewpoint terrace.

Hike on Medvednica Nature Park can be a nice day trip all year round and it is unfairly neglected by most tourists visiting Zagreb.

Another thing that you can visit all year round are Zagreb museums. Plenty of museum scattered around the city will please even the most demanding visitor eager to soak up Croatian culture.

If you are more of a music person month of June in Zagreb is the right choice for you. Zagreb celebrates begging of summer by hosting Croatia’s biggest international open-air festival INMusic Festival. Festival takes place on the island in the middle of Jarun Lake in Zagreb which for three days turns into several stages hosting most renewed international musicians.


inmusic festival zagreb


My personal favourite time to visit Zagreb is in spring or early autumn. However, you can make Zagreb starting or ending point for your summer vacation on beautiful Croatian coast.

Last thing I would like to mention when talking about best time to visit Zagreb is „The August Situation“. August is the time when most locals migrate to the coast and Zagreb becomes city of ghosts – no people in the trams, clubs close, no traffic, just a groups of tourists taking photos on the main square. Some people like Zagreb in August and say there is something about it but if you decide you are one of them like it in the evening not at noon on 40 °C.

PHOTO: Flickr, Pixabay