By Nika Bogdanic
Zagreb is becoming a really popular tourist destination. Amongst other travelers backpackers fill the city center streets especially during warmer seasons. And all of us, who have ever backpacked, stayed in hostels or couch-surfed know what traveling on a tight budget is.
Zagreb has reasonable prices compared to other European destinations and is considered quite cheap for most tourists. Still, here is some advice on how to get the most of this city spending just a few bucks.
SIGHTSEEING IS FREE
There are different ways of exploring cities. My favorite is to get lost in its streets and walk around till I can’t stand. And there is so much to see in Zagreb. Characterized by Austro-Hungarian architecture Croatia’s capital was first founded on two neighboring hills – Gradec and Kaptol. Kaptol with its 13th century neogothic cathedral connects to Gradec through Dolac market, the landmark of the city, covered in traditional red umbrellas. Gradec or the Upper Town makes tourists from all over the world fall in love with the multicolored roof of St. Mark’s Church and the holy corner of the Old Town Gate. The Lower Town impresses with its colorful Flower Square full of vibrant cafes and restaurants, numerous parks, the glorious National Theatre and the main Jelačić square.
Get your free city maps, guide books and event programs at the Tourist Information Center at the main Jelačić square. Take a 2-hour free walking tour with a local guide and visit all the must see places with Wayoudo Free Walking Tour Zagreb.
BUDGET FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS
City center restaurants are usually the most expensive ones. However, there are some hidden gems in the city’s core where you can have a great meal for 30 HRK (4 €). Nokturno in Skalinska street with mostly Italian and Croatian food is one of them. Opposite Nokturno you can taste the Croatian specialty – štrukli (made of dough and filled with cottage cheese, served in various sweet and salty ways) at La Štruk. This is the first place in Zagreb to dedicate its cuisine exclusively to a traditional dish coming from the Zagorje region.
If you don’t feel like sitting in a restaurant but rather picking something up on your way, there are numerous pizza cut places where you can have a slice for 10 HRK (1,3 €), or extraordinary bakeries (I recommend Dubravica) where you can find delicacies starting from 3 HRK (0,4 €). Make sure to try the famous burek (a pastry made of thin dough filled with meat or cheese). It costs around 10 HRK (1,3 €) and it goes perfectly with yoghurt.
For more advice on where to eat check out: Cozy Places to Have a Bite in Zagreb.
Zagreb is quite famous for its vibrant cafes, bars and pubs. The downtown is always full of people, even during working hours as the Balkan way of having coffee implies spending a couple of hours in a cafe, even though you can drink your coffee in under 10 minutes. If you want to experience that kind of culture, yet you don’t want to spend a lot – you don’t have to avoid city center cafes. Just look for the happy hours – Kavanica and Golf cafe at the Flower square which is the most popular spot to have coffee serve espresso for 4 HRK (0,5 €) and macchiato for 5 HRK (0,6 €) from 7 till 10 AM.
If you want to have a beer – 22000 milja beer bar in Frankopanska street serves half L draft beer for 10 HRK (1,3 €). Try gemišt (a very popular combination of white wine and carbonated water) in one of the oldest Zagreb pubs – yes, we know, wine and water sound crazy, but stop frowning until you’ve tried it (unless you’re French – then a frown is your normal facial expression). Pod Starim Krovovima in Basaričekova street serves 1 L of white wine and 1 L of carbonated water for 80 HRK (10,5 €).
FREE OPEN AIR/ IN-STORE EVENTS
There are a lot of free events in Zagreb – especially during warmer seasons and Christmas time. Strossmayer’s Promenade in the Upper Town, turns into an open air stage called Strossmartre where you can listen to live music every night during the summer. The city center turns into a bar and a stage during Christmas time – which is why Zagreb won ‘The Best European Christmas Market’ title in 2015.
There are numerous free fairs throughout the year – make sure to get more information at the Tourist Information Center at the main Jelačić square. There are stores that hold free in-store events where you can listen to some music and mingle (e.g. Croatian Design Superstore). Some clubs in the city center are also entrance free and many bars have live music playing at night. Check out some nice vibe places here: 12 Nice Vibe Places in Zagreb, Croatia.
HIT THE PARKS, EXPLORE THE NATURE
There are numerous parks, promenades, forests, lakes and an impressive mountain in Zagreb. Those in search of some peace and quiet, in need of a picnic or a break from all the sightseeing visit the city center’s nature oases such as Zrinjvac, Strossmayer, King Tomislav or Maršala Tita square.
If you’re willing to go a bit further check out Maksimir park – the oldest public park in Zagreb which has a ZOO, Cmrok – a lovley meadow above the Upper Town, Jarun and Bundek lakes, or go hiking on Medvednica mountain. Find more information about the nature in Zagreb here: Nature Getaways in Zagreb City.
What I personally love the most when I’m exploring a new city are the viewpoints. There’s nothing that makes me happy as a great view of the entire city. Besides the ones you have to pay for, there are free viewpoints in Zagreb as well. Go to the Upper Town, above the blue funicular that connects it to the Lower Town and gaze on the magical view of the city.
A 2 minute walk from there you can check out the viewpoint behind Klovićevi Dvori Gallery. The view of the cathedral and the red rooftops in the surrounding area is completely breath-taking.
The medieval castle of Medvedgrad, on Medvednica mountain is also an amazing viewpoint from which you can see the entire city. Trams number 14 and 8 can take you to the base of the mountain.