The most ironic advice I often get when I say I am going to Zagreb is to leave Zagreb! With the sparkling coastlines, fresh wines, and food of the Dalmatian Coast, it's hard to disagree. But Zagreb has had a hold on me, and it's not a typical capital city in its expanse or worldly ways. It's its own thing, brimming with culture, art, and a collective regional gastronomy from all over the country. So try to carve out a day in the capital city to explore with this Zagreb food and travel guide. This single-day itinerary will optimize your time and help you choose where to eat fantastic food in Croatia's capital before moving on to the coast.
Start Your Day with Coffee
Cafe culture is thriving in Zagreb, and there are many great places to explore. I recommend starting your day at Monocycle, a specialty coffee house with a wide selection of coffees and teas. If you're looking for something a little more unique, Mr. Fogg is a steampunk-themed cafe with an extensive coffee list during the day and creative cocktails at night.
Get to Know the City
After you've had your coffee, it's time to explore the city. The fine arts building is just a short walk from Monocycle, and it's home to a collection of paintings, sculptures, and other works of art. If you're interested in history, be sure to check out Ban Jelačić Square, the city's main square. It's named after Josip Jelačić, a Croatian military leader who played a key role in the country's independence.
For some shopping and souvenirs, move on to the Dolac Market. This open-air market is a great place to find fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and other local goods. If you're looking for something more unique, you can also find handmade crafts and souvenirs.
No visit to Zagreb would be complete without seeing the Zagreb Cathedral. This stunning cathedral is the largest church in Croatia, and it's a must-see for any visitor to the city.
Where to Eat Lunch in Zagreb
You won't be short on options of where to eat in Zagreb once you're in the heart of the city, but I'm partial to La Štruk. The quaint restaurant gets its name after a traditional cheese-layered dish from the region of Zagorje. At La Štruk, they serve a wide variety of humble and tasty štrukli (local cottage cheese) dishes along with some innovative takes, such as their chocolate special. This popular food in Zagreb is probably most enjoyed at home but you can try a slice of comfort at this restaurant!
Go up, Then Underground
Party on a Plateau
After lunch, head to Plato Gradec, a popular spot for enjoying panoramic views of the city. Here you can get a 180-degree view of Zagreb, and on a clear day you can even see as far as the mountains in the distance. Plato Gradec is also a popular venue for seasonal festivals, such as the Baš Naš Advent, a Christmas market that features two-story gourmet food and drink markets, holiday specialties, photo ops, and a DJ set up on a two-story bar.
Look at Art in a Tunnel
Another advantage of visiting Plato Gradec is that it is located at the end of interconnected walkways that also lead to the Grič Tunnel. From Plato Gradec, walk through the Strossmayer Promenade to check out quirky art, and stop at Bele Park to see the current exhibit. Keep heading west as the path moves down to the entrance of the Grič Tunnel.
This tunnel, which connects all the other city tunnels, served as shelter to civilians during World War II. Nowadays it hosts seasonal exhibits, and the only expense required is the energy spent walking to the middle of the tunnel to see the art. I had the pleasure of walking through the Polar Dream installation (part of the city's Advent program), a dreamy and atmospheric experience to welcome the new year.
Dinner Options in Zagreb
Balkan Style Food
The exit from the Grič Tunnel leads you to a few alleyways off Opatovina Street, a famous street lined with breweries and restaurants. The parallel street, Tkalčićeva Street, also has some great options. Both areas are touristy, but the key here is to look for places with a crowd. If you see a place brimming with people speaking Croatian, you have found a good choice. The pick of the day was Mali Medo, a brewery run by Croatia's largest craft brewery, Pivovara Medvedgrad.
Most beer pubs in Zagreb are also grills, and they offer a variety of Balkan specialties, including the popular ćevapčići and the lesser-known mazalica. Ćevapčići are grilled minced meat sausages that typically come with a side of potatoes. Mazalica is a spread made with seasoned beef that is spread on slices of rustic bread and then toasted so that the meat melts onto the bread to form one cohesive unit. Both ćevapčići and mazalica are delicious and pair perfectly with the craft beers at Mali Medo.
Italian Food Similar to Istria
If you're looking to explore the cuisine of the Istrian region, consider dining at an Italian restaurant. Canzona Trattoria is a great option, as the food there is reminiscent of the dishes you'd find in the coastal town of Pula. Some of the must-try dishes include black ink risotto and black truffle pasta. These dishes are just as popular in Istria as they are in the Italian cities that share the Mediterranean Sea with Croatia.
This restaurant also has an extensive local wine list, showcasing the strong wine culture of the lower part of the country. Mellow whites, fruity reds, and refreshing rosés are all available. The servers are happy to advise on which wines to pair with your food.
Additional Sights in Zagreb
Zagreb is full of sights, and I picked a few locations that can quickly fill your day.
- Art Park: Art Park, also known as "Mali plac" (Small Square), is a small children's park that transforms into a vibrant meeting place during the summer. It is filled with art, benches and tables for picnicking, and pop-up cafes and a brewery.
- St. Mark's Church: St. Mark's Church is a 13th-century church with colorful roof tiles that is one of the most iconic landmarks in Zagreb. The square in front of the church is a popular spot for taking pictures.
- 80's Museum: This immersive experience takes visitors back to the 1980s. Visitors are encouraged to touch and play with artifacts from the decade, such as clothes, toys, and music.
- Museum of Broken Relationships: A unique museum that tells the stories of broken relationships through objects that were once cherished by the people who donated them. The museum is a moving and thought-provoking experience that will leave visitors with a new perspective on love.
- Zrinjevac, Strossmayer Square & Tomislavac: These are three parks located in the heart of Zagreb. In the winter, the parks are transformed into magical Christmas themed spaces: a traditional Christmas market, a large outdoor beer garden, and a giant ice rink.
Zagreb Food Guide Breakdown
- Go local with a simple espresso. Milk and espresso choices include cortado and macchiato. Mr. Fogg has a tea box that comes highly recommended.
LUNCH: LA ŠTRUK
- Roasted Pepper
- Walnut & Honey
DINNER: CANZONA TRATTORIA
- Gnocchi with Chicken in Blue Cheese Sauce
- Black Cuttlefish Risotto
Tried Some of These Places?
Please leave me a comment down below telling me how your trip went. Bonus: Let me and other readers know what you did to make this itinerary more interesting - 💫 let's inspire each other!
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