Lush lodgings, dining decadence, the hippest of bars, and a thriving coffee scene! A conundrum, right? Picking the perfect spot in Zagreb isn’t an easy decision. Beyond its obvious status as the political nerve center and cultural melting pot of Croatia, it’s the vibrant heart of the nation—scientifically, economically, and in every way that truly counts.
The heartbeats of this thrilling city are its varied architectural styles, witnesses of a tumultuous past that the museums eloquently narrate. Layered with a buzzing young vibe that courses through its streets, the city’s appeal seems irresistible for urban adventurers on a quest for the next city break destination.
Join us as we journey into the depth of this mesmerizing city and reveal the creme de la creme of Zagreb’s neighborhoods.
Ready to Explore? Here’s the Magic 8 of Zagreb’s Best Districts
1. Upper Town, best area to stay in Zagreb for first time visitors
Nestled between the hill of Kaptol and the undulations of Gradec, the oldest part of Zagreb, Upper Town, invites you to a waltz with history dating back to the 11th century.
The neighborhood is a delightful melting pot of multicultural influences, thanks to the southern European immigrants and Mediterranean settlers who made Zagreb their home.
Stroll through quaint streets, adorned with pastel hued 17th and 18th-century edifices, leading you towards the heart of the area – Trg Jelacica, the main square.
A leisurely uphill amble from the square, and you’re amidst the bustle of the daily Dolac food market. Frequented by locals, the market unfurls an intriguing slice of Croatian life as you sip your coffee in a charming local cafe.
Spot the twin spires of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary while approaching the market. This architectural marvel harks back to the 13th century and was painstakingly restored after an earthquake.
Venture east, and you’ll find yourself in Tkalciceva, a bohemian haven chock-full of quaint coffee shops, indie cafes, and a buzzing nightlife, ensuring the Croatian style of bohemianism is just a sip or bite away.
For the adrenaline junkies, the Gric Tunnel awaits. Once an air raid shelter and storage area, it has been reincarnated as Zagreb’s newest tourist draw.
The cherry on top is the rich bouquet of museums the Upper Town hosts. Don’t miss out on the Museum of Broken Relationships, the quirkiest museum you’ll ever visit, or the Mestrovic Studio, showcasing the work of Croatia’s famous sculptor Ivan Mestrovic.
Feast your eyes on the colorful roof of St Mark’s Church, depicting the ancient coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia. Nearby you’ll find the Croatian Parliament, the presidential palace, and the Gallery of Naïve Art.
As night falls, Upper Town transforms into a vibrant hub with an eclectic mix of bars and clubs, including Confusion, E11 Club, and City Rhythm, promising unforgettable nights.
Accommodations are a touch premium in this popular part of Zagreb, with private rentals rounding out the options.
2. Kaptol, best area to stay in Zagreb for nightlife
Either a part of Upper Town or a standalone, depending on who you ask, Kaptol skirts Upper Town’s top border, with both districts intertwining seamlessly.
Historical records from 1094 show Kaptol as an ecclesiastical settlement. It, along with Gradec, was one of the two separate towns that merged in the 19th century to form part of burgeoning Zagreb.
Known for its breathtaking Gothic Cathedral and 25 diocese manors from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, Kaptol offers a unique, time-traveling experience.
It’s also a shoppers’ paradise with a profusion of souvenir shops, a modern shopping mall in Nova Ves, and a growing gastronomy scene catering to the increasing number of visitors.
When you’re in the mood for some downtime, you’ll find ample green spaces perfect for idyllic picnics.
As twilight descends, the cafes, bars, and restaurants around Kaptol spring to life. For those seeking more action, Tkalciceva Street is a mere downhill stroll away.
Although hotels are limited, there’s no shortage of hostels and private accommodations ranging from cozy studios to lavish villas.
3. Lower Town, best area to stay in Zagreb for art & history lovers
Locally known as Donji Grad, Lower Town, one of Zagreb’s 17 districts and also the city center, extends from Trg Jelacica Square to the main train station.
In contrast to Upper Town’s narrow lanes, Lower Town boasts almost boulevard-style wide streets, flanked by the majestic architecture of the Austria-Hungarian era and early 20th-century secession-style frontages.
The district is punctuated by impeccably maintained gardens and tree-lined streets, collectively known as the Green Horseshoe, which stretches from the train station to the National Theatre in Trg Marsala Tita.
A paradise for museum lovers, Lower Town shelters seven museums, including the Mimara Museum with over 3,750 exhibits, the Ethnographic Museum showcasing Croatian culture, and the Archaeological Museum, home to the largest coin collection in Europe.
Art aficionados will be spellbound by the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters, the National Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Pavilion of Zagreb, all offering a broad sweep of artistic expressions.
A respite from the city’s hustle can be sought in the Green Horseshoe squares or Maksimir Park, one of Europe’s oldest, hosting a zoo with 275 different wildlife species.
When the sun sets, Lower Town sparkles with an array of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. Accommodation options are also plenty, featuring a mix of luxury hotels, budget hostels, and self-catering apartments.
4. British Square: A Shopper’s Paradise and a Buzzing Cultural Hub
Picture a bustling city square nestled on Ilica Street, in the western periphery of the Lower Town’s Ban Jelačić Square. It’s not your typical district but rather a vibrant gathering spot – welcome to the British Square!
This lively place, radiating a charm that bewitches both locals and travelers, serves as the heart of one of Croatia’s last authentic farmers’ markets. Imagine indulging your senses in the hustle and bustle, where the aroma of fresh fruits, vegetables, and cheese floats in the air, as chefs from across the city engage in a lively exchange with vendors to bag the finest products for the day’s culinary delights.
The festivities of the daily market commence with the crack of dawn, around 6 am, and wind down by 1 pm. As the morning fades, locals set the stage, purchasing their daily ration of fresh produce.
But that’s not all the British Square is known for. The square is the pivot for many bus and tram routes across the city. The cafes and coffee shops encircling the square become an irresistible lure for weary travelers, city explorers, and locals, offering a sweet pause for refreshment.
Time your visit right and a Sunday at British Square will reward you with a flea market teeming with antiques and collectibles, a treasure trove where you can unearth unique keepsakes from your time in Zagreb.
Take a walk down memory lane on a Thursday evening (subject to changes) at the ‘Old School Night’. Hosted by the local ‘Tom Tom’ club, this event celebrates the nostalgia of classic and vintage automobiles while screening videos about Zagreb’s traffic history.
The beauty of British Square? It’s nestled amid a generous smattering of hotels and apartments, just a short stroll away.
5. Novi Zagreb, where to stay in Zagreb on a budget
Post-WWII, Zagreb expanded across the River Sava into what is now known as Novi Zagreb. Originally intended as housing for the masses in socialist Yugoslavia, the district sprouted numerous tower blocks that continue to grace its skyline today.
Over time, Novi Zagreb evolved from being a cluster of concrete high-rises to a vibrant residential area with modern shopping malls, boutique stores, cozy cafes, and a wide range of restaurants and bars.
Its architectural evolution saw the emergence of edifices like the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Zagreb’s first significant museum in over a century. The MCA, with its vast 14,500 square-meter footprint, hosts modern art from the 1920s and works from renowned Croatian abstract-geometric artists of the 1950s.
Street art enthusiasts, head to the Dugave neighborhood to admire Zagreb’s vibrant murals and the Street Art Museum. If a leisurely day at a park is more your speed, visit Bundek Park with its serene lake, or The Park of the Newlyweds, a favorite among children.
Retail therapy, you say? Check out the Arena shopping center or the Avenue Mall, and don’t miss the Hrelić flea market on Sundays for some unique souvenir hunting.
Nightlife in Novi Zagreb offers a variety of restaurants and bars, catering to every age and taste. The array of accommodation options, cheaper than their city center counterparts, make this area an ideal base for budget travelers.
6. Jarun, best area to stay in Zagreb for families
If you’re wondering where to hang your hat in Zagreb with kids in tow, consider Jarun. A small village turned bustling neighborhood, Jarun is an oasis amidst the city, providing the perfect antidote to museum and market fatigue for your young explorers.
Back in the 1980s, when Zagreb was preparing to host the 1987 Universiade (an international student multi-sport event), a sprawling man-made lake was created in Jarun, leading to the birth of Lake Jarun, a recreational marvel of today.
The lake now forms the centerpiece of a public park, with its pebbled beach, quaint shops, cafes, and a myriad of watersports, offering an irresistible seaside charm. You can opt for swimming, windsurfing, kayaking, or even a relaxed ride on a pedalo.
Land-based activities are aplenty too, with extensive trails for horse riding, cycling, jogging, and hiking.
As the sun dips, the northeast corner of Lake Jarun awakens, with a vibrant nightlife featuring bars, nightclubs, and the renowned Aquarius Club. The lake is also the venue for the annual three-day music festival, INmusic.
Scattered around Jarun are shops, restaurants, and a range of accommodation options, making this neighborhood a great family-friendly choice. And the cherry on top? It’s just a 15-minute tram ride from the city center.
7. Maksimir: A Tranquil Urban Oasis for Every Visitor
Nestled within the heart of Zagreb, Maksimir beckons with its enchanting mix of residential charm and commercial vitality. This district expands from the bustling Kvaternik Square in the southwest to the arterial junctions of Maksimirska Street, Bukovacka Street, and Svetice Street.
The area is studded with landmarks such as the University Hospital of Zagreb campus, the national football stadium – the home ground of NK Dinamo, and most notably, the Maksimir Park.
Stepping into Maksimir Park feels like stepping into a fairy tale. A treasured local retreat since 1794, it is among the world’s oldest public parks. Stroll through a vast expanse of 780 acres flourishing with century-old oak trees, shimmering lakes, meandering streams, and open meadows. This is the serene hideaway you need from the city’s buzz, a spot where children can run wild and adults can unwind.
Nestled within the park, you’ll find historic gems like the 1843 Bellevue Pavilion, the Echo Pavilion, or Lantern Temple, a quaint Swiss-style cottage, and the St Juraj Chapel, all standing alongside numerous intriguing sculptures.
Add a dash of wild wonder to your visit by exploring the Zagreb Zoo at the park’s southern edge. Home to more than 275 diverse species of aquatic creatures and animals, it’s a thrilling sight for all ages.
Maksimir boasts a delightful array of accommodations, bars, eateries, cafes, and shops. Just a quick tram ride away from the city center, Maksimir is perfect for those yearning for a stay that strays from the trodden tourist paths.
8. Zagreb Airport: Your Gateway to a Memorable Weekend
While searching for the perfect place to stay in Zagreb, don’t overlook the airport hotels. These lodgings are often priced competitively compared to city center hotels, offering significant savings.
One of the appealing aspects of staying near Zagreb’s airport is the sheer convenience. Imagine exiting the airplane and being able to drop off your luggage in your room within 20 minutes! A quick cab ride later, and you’re toasting to your Croatian adventure in under an hour.
Staying near the airport eliminates the pre-departure morning rush, allowing for a leisurely last evening in town without worrying about the early airport run. Rise, shine, and within 20 minutes, find yourself at departures, ready to relish a leisurely breakfast before your flight.
Furthermore, with the airport merely a 20-minute transfer away from central Zagreb, you’re never too far from the city’s vibrant heart, with a variety of shuttles, cabs, buses, or trams at your disposal.
So when plotting your Zagreb trip, consider airport hotels. They might just be the perfect launch pad for your Croatian journey.