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During our week in Ljubljana, Slovenia, we decided to visit Zagreb, Croatia. It’s probably not the most typical day trip from Ljubljana, but it was an opportunity to visit a new country together and it was a big milestone for Sarah: her 50th country! So we took a train from Ljubljana to Zagreb (and back of course) and ended up having one of our favorite days traveling. From exploring the Zagreb Upper Town to going to Dalac Market to eating delicious Croatian food, you could keep yourself busy in Zagreb for many, many days. But if you only have one day in Zagreb like we did, here are our recommendations for how to spend it.
Arriving in Croatia: Ljubljana to Zagreb train
We took the train from Ljubljana to Zagreb. Tickets were easy to buy the morning we left from the ticket counter at the Ljubljana train station. In 2017, a round-trip ticket from Ljubljana to Zagreb cost 18 EUR. It was a nice train and the scenery on the trip was quite pretty, especially along the Sava River. It’s supposed to take 2 hours and 20 minutes, but our train ended up sitting a little longer than normal at border control.
Speaking of which, Croatia isn’t in the Schengen Zone, so bring your passport if you’re traveling to Zagreb from a Schengen country. And it’s not on the Euro. The currency is the Croatian Kuna and some places we encountered didn’t take credit cards. So we took cash out at an ATM upon arrival.
The main parts of Zagreb are separated into Upper Town and Lower Town. Arriving, you are in the Lower Town. Immediately you are faced with the beautiful Ledeni Park and Art Pavilion. It’s a grand welcome. This great yellow building is representative of the style of architecture throughout the city. If you continue walking straight, you’ll reach the center of the city, including Ban Jelačić Square, and eventually Upper Town.
Zagreb Upper Town
Upper Town is in fact up. You can take the funicular up to it, but we decided to walk (albeit slowly). We actually found a nice little route up through the Art Park. You have to climb some steep stairs, but it didn’t seem as long an uphill as going some other ways. And we were treated to nice views whenever we (Sarah) wanted to stop for a quick rest. And of course the view of the Zagreb from the top Is great, especially on a sunny day. It was definitely worth the climb.
The streets in Upper Town are small and winding. We wandered through them, just taking it all in as we do. We tried to go to one of the most popular things to do in Zagreb, the Museum of Broken Relationships, but were broken-hearted ourselves to find it closed for the day.
But we were happy again when we soon stumbled onto the super cool looking St. Mark’s Church. Its colorful tiled roof was incredible especially against the backdrop of the bright blue sky (we got quite lucky with the weather on our one and only day in Zagreb).
We descended from Upper Town back to Lower Town via the Stone Gate, which also serves as a chapel. There were shrines and candles lit throughout. Upon exiting, we walked past the Statue of St. George and the Dragon, set among flowers and against a wall crawling with vines. It was all quite beautiful.
Back in Zagreb Lower Town
Lower Town Zagreb is more sprawling than Upper Town. Its streets and buildings are bigger and it’s where the major museums and cultural attractions are. We thought about going to the Mimara Museum and the Modern Gallery, but it was such an incredibly nice day, we really just wanted to stay outside. So we did what we do best… we walked and wandered, looking at buildings, stopping to sit in parks, and just enjoying the city.
Dolac Market in Zagreb
One of the coolest spots in Zagreb is Dolac Market. Located between the Upper and Lower Towns, it has both indoor and outdoor stalls (but the outdoor part is much more photogenic!). If we were staying longer than a day we definitely would have done some food shopping at the market. Instead, we just wandered around looking at all the delicious food and enjoying the bustle of daily life.
Where to eat lunch in Zagreb
We had a delicious lunch at Vallis Aurea. It is located in the Lower Town, on the same street as the funicular to the Upper Town, but isn’t touristy at all. They offer a really great, inexpensive lunch special with a few options. We were happy to have hearty Croatian food during our one day in the country.
We read about Vallis Aurea in a great post about places to eat lunch about Zagreb. It seems like a great resource for the whole country too!
So was our Zagreb day trip worth it?
Even though it was a lot for one day (even the border control guards looked at us funny), we are very happy we made our day trip from Ljubljana to Zagreb. Zagreb is a great city with so much to see and do. We’ll definitely be back for another visit there and to see more of Croatia.