By Andrea Pisac - 7 Comments - April 29, 2022 min read

Something magical happens to people when they linger on in Zagreb. After covering the guidebook-recommended sights, they slow down and start to live a local life. And just like that, ‘Zagreb as a 2-day city break’ stereotype goes up in the air. You relax, the city relaxes. Both of you sink deep into each other and tune in.

There’s an imaginary ‘2-day bubble’ around Zagreb. As long as you’re inside, the city looks pretty but detached. Pop it – and you’re suddenly in a whole different world. Zagreb starts to peel off its layers for you, seducing you like an adventure story. If you don’t believe me, hear out these six travellers who had a similar experience.

Some came for 2 days but stayed much longer, or keep coming back. Others never even planned to visit Zagreb, but as chance visitors managed to pop that bubble. And finally, there are those who stayed long enough to make Zagreb their home. Let their stories and tips inspire you to find your own bubble-free Zagreb.

Find your perfect Croatian holiday

Take This Fun Quiz And Get A Tailor-Made List

Of The Best Places To Visit In Croatia

Alex Crevar: Zagreb homecomings

Alex Crevar, travel writer and Paste Magazine’s travel editor, is an expert on how to crack Zagreb in only 36 hours. If Zagreb is on your list of weekend city breaks, his New York Times article will sort you out with great insider tips. But make no mistake – to get as chummy with Zagreb as Alex is, you’d need to do a 36-hour visit many times over. Alex’s tips are a labor of a long-lasting love for Zagreb.

My first time in Zagreb was 17 years ago. I didn’t plan to settle in Zagreb at the time, but I immediately loved the way the city was laid out, and the overall feeling.

I keep coming back because of the mood of the town and the ease of getting around. The city has places to do all the things one needs to do to feel like home: coffee, music, nightlife, good food, art, and places to get into the outdoors.

Your advice to travellers wondering how long to stay in Zagreb?

Don’t be in a hurry to leave. Find your cafe/bar/street corner and get into a rhythm. Learning about a city is the best reason to travel … Not just come in and find out when you can leave on the next train, bus, plane.

Would you stay in Zagreb longer than 2 days? | Zagreb Honestly
Hanging out on Stross. Photo credit: Sanjin Kaštelan

Minimum stay in Zagreb to get to know the city?

At least five days.

Your slogan for Zagreb?

Find Yourself

Could Zagreb be a good home for travellers and expats?

It already is. It’s a perfect town: easy access to other places, easy to live in, relatively cheap, and with all the conveniences one needs to feel at home … Even while living in somewhere completely new.

Check out Alex’s favourite things in Zagreb

  • Hiking Mt. Medvednica to the Puntijarka mountain hut
  • Spending the day with friends having coffee/drinks in Tkalciceva Street or in the Upper Town
  • Hanging out on Stross (Strossmayer Promenade in the Upper Town)
  • The kiosks that pop up across the center during the winter months

Ashley and Alex: Zagreb chance visitors

In pursuit of adventure is Ashley and Alex’s motto as they travel the world for the next six years. It’s also their blog that inspires with great food tips and eye-catching photography. The blogger couple planned to visit Croatia because Alex is a wine buff and wanted to work a wine harvest here. Scouting Croatia’s regional culinary delights, they didn’t imagine visiting Zagreb. I’m glad they did, because I met two great inquisitive people and showed them the best of Zagreb.

We never intended to visit Zagreb but were renting a car and needed a large city to drop it off in. Zagreb popped up as one of the options and what a happy turn of fortune!

Zagreb is a city of hidden treasures if you know where to look.  With all of its hidden courtyards and back alleys you could get happily lost in this city your whole life and still never discover everything. We wish we had stayed at least two weeks if not more.

Croatian cuisine up until Zagreb was Mediterranean influenced. When we arrived in Zagreb we were introduced to its whole other side. Ingredients that came from the land created a rich and fuller cuisine that is not seen at the coast.

Get inspired with Ashley and Alex’s Eat Local in Zagreb guide.

Your slogan for Zagreb?

Zagreb – a city of hidden treasures waiting to be explored

Your advice to travellers wondering how long to stay in Zagreb?

While in Zagreb get lost, duck into random alleys and try to find some locals or local blogs to figure out where to go. So much of Zagreb is hidden off the main streets so get ready to explore. We would recommend staying a month here. Because once you start to discover the city you can’t stop.

Check out Ashley and Alex’s favourite things in Zagreb

  • Lotrscak Tower and its canon – our most memorable experience.We had no clue the canon went off everyday at noon and thought Zagreb was under attack as we looked around for smoke.
  • Medvedgrad brewery. Amazing meal we probably wouldn’t have found without you. It was great to learn about Zagreb from locals.
  • Sherry’s Wine and Bites – a funky little place in one of Zagreb’s hidden alleys that serves phenomenal Croatian wine.

Linda Warley: how to fall in love with Zagreb

Linda teaches Canadian literature at the University of Waterloo. She was looking for an apartment in Zagreb for her 6-week sabbatical and Zagreb Honestly popped up. What a coincidence! I knew from start she wouldn’t be just a regular guest. We had so much in common, so many topics to cover. Luckily, Zagreb has enough cafés and walking trails to accommodate so much bonding.

I spent a memorable Zagreb spring with Linda and her husband Alan. And as she wrote on her blog, she fell in love with Zagreb. But here’s how it all started.

I first went to Zagreb in 2011 as a visiting professor at the University of Zagreb. Before that I knew very little about Croatia. Before the trip, my image of Zagreb was the one of ‘Eastern Europe’ or ‘the Balkans’. But the idea quickly disappeared. I lived for three months in Zagreb that year, and was astounded at the rich architectural and cultural history. Not to mention the food and wine.

I feel like me in Zagreb. I don’t speak the language, which is something I want to correct, but I have friends now who welcome me.

Your advice to travellers wondering how long to stay in Zagreb?

Where you stay in Zagreb is crucial. If you rent an apartment you can shop every day for food and be in the line-up at the supermarket or making vague signs of agreement with the market vendors. If you stay in a small hotel (like the Jagerhorn on Ilica) you will have an experience of a family that cares who you are.

How long? One week at least. That way you will get a sense of the things that make Zagreb work. When does the cannon fire and can you be in the Upper Town to hear it? What is open on Sundays? How does the working week feel like when you are on a packed tram? When do the flower stalls close in Ban Jelacic Square? The opening times of the bakeries…

Would you stay in Zagreb longer than 2 days? | Zagreb Honestly
Know when to catch a tango at Ban Jelacic Square. Photo credit: Sanjin Kaštelan

Your slogan for Zagreb?

Live like a local

Check out Linda’s favourite things in Zagreb

  • The smell of baking everywhere. All of the bakeries that serve up burek and other pastries. There is a particular pleasure of walking through the underpass at the main train station. Everyone going about their business and stopping for a small bite to eat on the go.
  • The Mimara Museum. It houses a private collection, so it’s idiosyncratic. While you’re there, download an app to your smart phone so you can find out as much as you want to about particular works.
  • Tolkien House pub. Great beer. Small establishment. Great music. We actually gave the guy who owns it a CD that we thought matched his taste. The last time I was there, it was playing.

Steffani Cameron: Zagreb ups and downs and all arounds

Steffani is a Canadian travel writer and the blogger voice of the Full Nomad. This year she set off on a five-year round the world travel journey. And she chose Zagreb as her launch pad.

The first two weeks in Zagreb it was pouring with rain so Steff hung around her local neighborhood, getting to know the people. A flip side you don’t get a chance to see if you’re only whizzing through. Here’s why Zagreb was the first stop on her long-haul travel.

Croatia was always going to be the first stop because I’m interested in the ‘ancient country reborn’ perspective of ‘life after the war’ and independence. They say nation-building takes 45 years before a country really knows who it is after something like that. Croatia’s just 20 years into its rebirth, which is a neat time to see what it’s all about.

I was going to fly to Pula but got a cheaper flight to Zagreb. The buzz I saw on Zagreb was that it’s an up-and-coming city just figuring out who it wants to be when it’s grown-up. Since I’m travelling for the next five years, I liked the idea of getting a snapshot of it now versus where it is in five years.

Your advice to travellers wondering how long to stay in Zagreb?

If you stay for just a couple days, you’ll miss out on a lot. This is a café-culture city and slow life is a big deal here. There are throngs of tours going on and it’s a bit of a drag if you’re just gonna get trapped in the tourist cycle.

If you want quick meals, this is not the town for you. Folks here would rather watch life slip by than have it race past, and they’re not operating on your clock. But you know what? That’s pretty awesome when you just give into it and enjoy that. This is a town on the up-and-up, and it’s changing with new businesses and youthful exuberance as the months go by. Come see the old world history and the new world collide.

Would you stay in Zagreb longer than 2 days? | Zagreb Honestly
Chilling out at Lake Jarun. Photo credit: Sanjin Kaštelan

Your slogan for Zagreb?

Zagreb – much more than you’d expect

Check out Steff’s favourite things in Zagreb

  • I like the people. When I would get into conversations with people, they were genuinely curious about where I’m from (Vancouver) and were very engaging.
  • I’m surprised by all the public art and events that would take place in public squares.
  • I’m really fond of the quality of food, from street-style to upscale.

Cody Brown: Croatian son-in-law

Among the growing expat community in Zagreb, Cody Brown is probably the most well known. An English teacher at the Zagreb Faculty of Political Science, a blogger and a perfect speaker of Croatian – Cody wears many hats in Zagreb.

His Zablogreb delights both locals and internationals with his sharp but funny take on the Zagreb culture. If you want an insight into the quirky details of Croatian mentality, get his charming book Chasing a Croatian Girl: a Survivor’s Tale.

Cody lived all over before becoming ‘a Croatian son-in-law’ and settling in Zagreb.

We decided to live here because my wife wanted to stay in Croatia and her job was here. But of all the places I’ve lived, Zagreb and I have bonded the most. There is something about this city that clicks with my personality. I feel like it’s always been home. It’s as if I knew it existed before I came here, or that I somehow knew it would exist. I love so much about it. I love the things no one else loves, like the grey days, crumbling facades and monolithic socialist architecture.

Your slogan for Zagreb?

Zagreb – where the lame becomes illuminating

Everyone always talks about how, as European capitals go, Zagreb is so lame. But to me its lameness is what makes it so interesting. You’re not caught up in the chaos of some massive major city. Here you have the time, space, and quiet to truly appreciate this place for what it is. Which is why I’ve been able to make it my home. I didn’t have a preconceived idea of what Zagreb is or was, say like Paris, London or New York. We’ve discovered each other on our own terms.

Check out Cody’s favourite things in Zagreb

Just walking through the Lower and Upper Towns. No matter how many times I stroll around there I always see something new that invokes some imagination, a story or a day dream. It could be a piece of graffiti I’m seeing for the first time, or some cherub carved onto an old building that I never noticed before. Or it might be all of those things thrown into a different light by the angle of the setting sun.

Paul Musin: Croatia cricket player

A Kiwi of Croatian origin, Paul did two remarkable things since he made Zagreb his home. He’s played cricket for the Croatian national team and launched Croatia Week – a Croatian news portal in English. If you’re tempted to give Zagreb a go as your new home and don’t speak Croatian, you’ll want to put Croatia Week on your radar. So how did Paul end up in Zagreb?

The sport of cricket had been bringing me back to Croatia for a while. Around 4 years ago I started working for the Croatian Cricket Federation based in Zagreb and I’m still here. Nothing was really planned and everything has just seemed to work out how it has.

There were a few reasons behind starting Croatia Week. Helping those with ties to Croatia living around the world, who didn’t read Croatian, keep connected with what was going here. But also, promoting Croatia and all the fantastic places and things it has to offer to the large number of tourists and potential tourists.

Your slogan for Zagreb?

Zagreb – the city that never stresses

Could Zagreb be a good home for travellers and expats?

Zagreb’s good points far outweigh its bad points. The city’s location, climate, size, safeness, affordability, greenery, public transport system, food, cafés, culture… And the people are all great and make it a nice place to live. It has everything one needs. Bad points? If you’re a non-smoker, you might not be too happy as the city has not yet embraced the global smoke-free drive.

Check out Paul’s favourite things in Zagreb

  • Making the most of Zagreb’s nature. Like a day at the cricket in the picturesque Sesvete Kraljevec on the outskirts of the city.
  • Walk up Sljeme Mountain.
  • Discover loads of cool little restaurants and great wineries in greater Zagreb area.

Are you ready to go over 2 days in Zagreb? Or maybe planning to settle here? On top of all the perks mentioned, Zagreb is also quite an affordable city. Use this calculator to get a sense of how much your visit would cost. It works for short and long stays.

Check out my library of post on different destination in Croatia.

Fancy something similar?

    • Oh, Jan – thanks so much for your lovely comment. Cody’s book is a great and fun intro to the Croatian mentality. I am glad you enjoyed walking in Zagreb – what this city is best for. I read your blog post about it and thanks so much for featuring me there. 🙂

  • We’ll be back to Zagreb one day. We were there one incredibly hot week last June and had a bit of a rough start in the city. But it grew on us and we could see it as a good place to come back to and explore more of. And it’s not what I would consider touristy which is sometimes just reason enough to spend time somewhere!
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Hi Frank,
      I look forward to seeing you in Zagreb. It’s a pity you had a rough start the first time around, but this in fact is what often happens if you don’t get to meet any locals who can show you some tricks. Your post about Zagreb is very true in that sense. But hey, you had a great time in Split, and that counts too! Drop me a line when you make plans to revisit 🙂

  • Hi is Zagreb worth visiting in February for 2 nights. I am from India and I am just visiting this side for the first time. Is vegetarian food a problem in Zagreb and any idea if Indians live here?

    • Hi Rajesh. Sure it is. Zagreb is an all year round city. Vegetarian food could be a bit of a challenge. But there are at least three restaurants that come to my mind straight away: Nishta, Vegehop and Bistro Zrno. I hope you enjoy Zagreb. 🙂

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Find your perfect Croatian holiday

    Take the quiz and get a tailor-made list of the best places to visit in Croatia