Croatia is usually thought of as a summer destination. But most don’t realize that the country is just as ideal for a winter getaway. Zagreb, the capital city, is especially full of must-see attractions, experiences, and beautiful sights. Visiting Croatia in December is lovely, and there are loads of Zagreb tourist attractions to keep any visitor happy.
Planning a Zagreb winter trip? Here’s our two-day guide on what to see and where to go.
Where to stay in Zagreb
Most of the best things to do in Zagreb are within a relatively small area. If you follow our plan, you can walk between sights. Zagreb’s public transportation system is affordable and easy to use though, so no matter where you stay in Zagreb, you should be able to get around quickly and easily
No matter your budget or travel style, there are plenty of nice places to stay in Zagreb. As in most cities, you can find anything from apartments to hotels and hostels.
However, it can be intimidating to look for accommodation when you don’t know a city. So assuming you don’t already where to stay in Zagreb, here’s what we suggest:
- Lower Town – best place to stay in Zagreb for first timers.
- Upper Town – Best place to stay in Zagreb for nightlife.
- Kaptol – Best budget place to stay in Zagreb
Day 1: Zagreb’s Lower City
Start your Zagreb itinerary off this morning by exploring the sights and attractions of the Lower City. Again, you can easily walk between the various points of interest.
Explore Tito Square (Trg Republike Hrvatske)
Winter days in Zagreb are short, so Tito Square should be your first stop when arriving in the city. Also known as the Republic of Croatia Square (Trg Republike Hrvatske), this is one of the biggest (and certainly most impressive) squares in Zagreb.
The square as you see it today dates back to 1856 when the former hospital was built on its northern side. Tito Square is surrounded by some of Zagreb’s most iconic buildings. Take some time to stroll around here and appreciate the history and beautiful architecture surrounding you.
The well-kept gardens are also an impressive sight – even in wintertime, it’s obvious that they add to the charms of this city.
ⓘ TIP: You may notice many great cafes and restaurants around here. Zagreb is also a brilliant food destination – check out this guided food tour to experience a taste of the city.
Croatian National Theater
One of the most imposing buildings on the square is the Croatian National Theater. Commonly referred to as HNK Zagreb, it’s home to world-class ballet, opera, and drama performances.
Even if you aren’t a fan of the arts, the building itself is certainly worth the visit. This striking neo-baroque masterpiece dates back to 1895, making it an amazing sight. With its yellow walls, columns, flag turrets, and fine details, you can easily appreciate the great architectural work behind this building.
The Spring of Life
Directly in front of the theater is a bronze statue called The Spring of Life. Also known as the Well of Life, this famous sculpture is actually one of the most well-known landmarks in Zagreb’s Lower city.
The sculpture depicts ten naked figures circled around a well full of water. As these figures are all in different stages of their lives, the well symbolizes life and youth. It is actually thought of as the source of eternal beauty.
The Spring of Life was crafted by the Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic in 1905. This is a must-see artwork in Zagreb.
Visit The University of Zagreb
Just across the street from the square is the University of Zagreb. This is not just Croatia’s largest university, it’s also the oldest continuously-operating university in the area. Dating all the way back to 1669, this is the oldest in Central Europe south of Vienna and all of Southeastern Europe.
As the University of Zagreb has such a long and interesting history, it is well worth spending some time exploring. This institution has helped to make Zagreb the city that it is today. With its old buildings and 29 different faculties, there is a lot to appreciate here. The university is free to walk around.
Enjoy Zrinjevac Park
From the university, follow Masarykova Street – which becomes Testlina Street – and arrive at Zrinjevac Park.
Zrinjevac is a popular place amongst the Zagreb locals, and there is always something fun happening. You’ll find art installations, live concerts and events when you spend some time around here. There are also great food and drink booths throughout the park.
Highlights of the park include a historic 19th-century music pavilion that’s also a famous open-air concert stage. There are also numerous fountains in the park – including Zagreb’s oldest fountain (dating back to 1878).
Zrinjevac Park is one of the most romantic and relaxing destinations to visit in Zagreb. This park offers such a peaceful escape from the city surrounds – with stunning trees, lawns, and flower beds.
Unfortunately, you won’t have many flowers to appreciate at this time of year. That said, if your visit coincides with the Advent Market, then you’re in luck! December’s Advent on Zrinjevac sees the square’s 220 plane trees alight with magical colors of the Advent season, while locals practice their waltz as classic Christmas carols are played from the old music pavilion.
Year-round, the park is free to visit. It is open from 10:00 – 20:00.
King Tomislav Square
After walking through all three blocks of Zrinjevac Park, you will end up at the impressive King Tomislav Square. This elegant square in the middle of the city is surrounded by even more important buildings.
There’s a beautiful 19th century Art Pavilion at the northern end of the square. This pavilion is a must-see, as it’s an important venue for art exhibitions in Zagreb. The other end of King Tomislav Square is bordered by the main train station. A grand statue of King Tomislav on horseback can be found at the center of the square.
ⓘ TIP: If you would prefer to see some of these top Zagreb landmarks with a local guide, guided walking tours are available.
Day 2: Zagreb Upper City walking tour
Yesterday was all about seeing the Lower City. Today we explore the historic Upper city, which is considered the historical nucleus of the city. This is where most Zagreb tourist attractions can be found.
During the Advent season, most of Zagreb’s Christmas Markets are also found in the Upper City. We actually visited Zagreb to see its world-renowned Christmas markets, so this walking tour will hit most all of them.
Start at the Zagreb Funicular
The walking tour begins at the Zagreb Funicular, which is one of the most iconic points of interest in the city. Constructed in 1888, this steep little funicular track is an interesting and unique sight. It qualifies as one of the shortest public-transport funiculars in the world – connecting Ilica Street with Strossmayerovo Setaliste.
This is a fun central place to start your second day in Zagreb. Whether you take the short ride or just want to stop for a picture, this funicular is well worth the visit.
See the city views from Lotrscak Tower
Lotrscak Tower is just a short walk away from the Funicular. The tower is one of the oldest and most historically significant structures in Zagreb. It dates all the way back to the 13th century, when it was used to guard the gate in the town’s southern wall.
You can climb up the tower and experienced some magnificent panoramic views of the city. Every noon for the last 100 years, a cannon has been fired from this tower – an interesting tradition in Zagreb. This tower is a brilliant place to start your trip through the older side of the city.
Admire St. Mark’s Church
Continuing on from Lotrscak Tower, you will reach St. Mark’s Church, famous for its colorful tiled roof. This old church is another of the city’s great 13th-century buildings. Its tiles depict the medieval coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia on the one side, and the emblem of Zagreb on the other side.
St. Mark’s is only open during mass times, but is still a pleasure to witness from the outside. There are a number of well-known sculptures that form parts of St. Mark’s Church as well. This is one of the great historic sites in Zagreb.
- Open: 7:30 and 18:00 Mon–Sat, 10:30 and 18:00 Sun.
Experience Croatian traditions at Stone Gate
Next on the list of important landmarks in the old Upper Town of Zagreb is Stone Street (Kamenita Ulica) and Stone Gate. Stone Gate is the eastern gate of the medieval Gradec town. Dating from the 1300s, this is Zagreb’s biggest shrine.
When you arrive, you may see candles, flowers, or people praying around the Stone Gate. This tradition began in 1731 after a fire destroyed most of the Upper City. According to legend, the only thing that survived was a painting of the Virgin.
To commemorate the miracle, grateful citizens built a chapel within the arch of the old Stone Gate. The chapel still houses the painting to this day and is regularly visited by people who come to light a candle and thank the Lady for protecting them.
Walk Down Ulica Ivana Tkalcica
From the famous Stone Gate, you can take a stroll down Ulica Ivana Tkalcica. This historic street runs through the central part of Zagreb and is just beautiful to walk down.
This medieval street has a long history – something that can be seen in the many stunning old buildings lining it. Walking down this quaint street really allows one to enjoy the charm and historic beauty of the Upper Town. There are many pretty cafes and shops that line this lovely street.
Marvel at the Cathedral of Zagreb
Back down Ulica Ivana Tkalcica, you will reach Kapitol Square, where the tallest building in Croatia dominates the skyline. As the final resting place for important Croatian heroes and martyrs, the cathedral is an incredibly important gothic building.
Be sure to enter this incredible neo-Gothic cathedral. It is a memorable mix of everything from Baroque marble altars to chandeliers from a Las Vegas casino and the glass tomb of a Cardinal, lying in state in all his vestments. (He was convicted of treason by the communist Yugoslav government and was beatified by Pope John Paul II.)
Two other remarkable sights in the cathedral:
- one of the side altars contains a splendid fifteenth century triptych by Albrecht Durer titled ‘Golgotha’.
- one of the world’s most impressive organs. In fact, it is classified among the top ten finest and top-quality organs in the world, with more than 6,000 pipes, seventy-eight registers and four manuals.
The Zagreb Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and to kings Saint Stephen and Saint Ladislaus.
- Open: 10:00-17:00 Mon-Sat, 13:00-17:00 Sun
See the sights in Ban Josip Jelacic Square
After admiring the cathedral in all of its glory, you can head to Ban Josip Square. This is the main central square of the Upper City, and walking around here is a fantastic Zagreb sightseeing experience.
Take note of the statue in the middle of the square, portraying Count Jelacic on his horse – the man that the square is named after. He was an army general in the mid-1800s, remembered for his military campaigns and for abolishing serfdom in Croatia.
Ban Josip Jelacic square is surrounded by cafes, shops, and restaurants.The many beautiful old buildings surrounding it will give you a great sense of old-world Zagreb. It is a particularly lively place to visit at night when it is all lit up.
ⓘ TIP: If you’d like to explore some of the top sights in Zagreb after dark, then check out this awesome Zagreb by night walking tour.
Climb up to the top of Zagreb 360 Observation Deck
After experiencing many of the best landmarks and sights in Zagreb up close, it’s time to admire the city as a whole from the best viewpoint available. The Zagreb 360 Observation Deck sits on the 16th floor of a skyscraper in the middle of the city.
From this vantage point, you really get the most beautiful views across Zagreb. Okay, it’s actually 270 degrees, since you can only go on three sides. But you still get great views of the main square, Cathedral, Upper and Lower Town, and Zagreb’s many squares, streets and parks.
There’s also a cafe here, so it is great to take some time, sit down and relax a bit while enjoying unsurpassed views of the city.
- Open: 10:00 – 22:00 Tue-Sun, 19:00 – 22:00 Mon
- Tickets: Adults: 60,00 kn. See website for family and child prices.
Walk down Bloody Bridge
After enjoying the best views in Zagreb, it’s time to end off your walking tour around the city with a trip to Bloody Bridge, otherwise known as Krvavi Most. This is a road that runs through the heart of Zagreb. This road is a famous landmark due to the many violent attacks that happened during medieval times.
The attacks between Gradec and Kaptol began in the 14th century and continued on all the way until the 18th century. There are many dark stories and secrets behind this road due to its long and violent past. As the name suggests, Bloody Bridge was once a bridge before it got converted into the road that it is today.
Zagreb weather in the winter
If you are visiting Zagreb for the Christmas markets in December, expect a possibility of snow.
The cold season lasts from mid-November to the end of February 28. The average winter temperature is around 34°F (1°C).The coldest day of the year is January 14, with an average low of 27°F (-3°) and high of 39°F(4°C).
A Croatia winter will have you wrapped up in winter clothes, but the cold is never unbearable, so you can still enjoy walking around.
Final thoughts on Zagreb in Winter
Is Zagreb worth visiting in winter? Of course! The city is rich in history and culture. This destination was just perfect to visit and enjoy during Croatia winter weather. In only two days, you can see many historical landmarks, beautiful sights, and romantic charms spread across Zagreb. If you want to visit Croatia in January, then this city should be on your list.
Zagreb is also a really easy place to get around on foot, and experiencing this city in two days is perfect. With a city like Zagreb, the best time to travel to Croatia is right now, as there is nothing holding you back from having an amazing time here.