With a population of about 800,000 people, Zagreb is one of the smallest state capitals in Europe. Nevertheless, it offers a heap of fun things to do and see, even if you visit Zagreb in winter!
In the last few years, the city has become a popular tourist destination, a title usually reserved for the coastal Croatian cities. But unlike them, the crowds in Zagreb are perfectly bearable. You might have to wait in line to see a thing or two, but that’s not going to last long, and you won’t have to push your way through a mass of people to cross the street.
So if you plan on visiting Zagreb in the winter, here’s an extensive list of fun and educational things to do!
But first, let’s start you off with some general info and advice on what to pack and what to expect in winter in Zagreb
Pack Your Winter Essentials!
The city is situated in the north-west, continental part of Croatia, at the slope of the Medvednica mountain. Here, winters can be pretty harsh, with a lot of ice and snow, so pack accordingly!
January and February are the coldest months, but it’s not unusual to have snow and temperatures below 0°C in November and December.
Also, don’t forget to bring an umbrella – Zagreb is one of the top 10 wettest capitals in Europe!
Get Familiar with the City’s Districts
Zagreb is generally divided into two parts – Lower and Upper Town. Both parts offer a variety of cultural monuments, museums, and churches, but the Lower Town is known for its restaurants, shops, cafés and is generally more “urban” in nature. The Upper Town is the oldest part of the city, located north of the main city’s square. Strolling the streets of the Upper Town will make you feel like you’ve been transferred to another time.
Unlike Lower Town in most parts, Upper Town has maintained that old-fashioned, historical atmosphere. You can reach it from the main Ilica street by climbing the steps (be careful, they’re steep and there’s a lot of them) or by using the Funicular. It’s one of the most recognized symbols of Zagreb, and the ride lasts for only a couple of minutes. The ticket is very cheap – only 5 kuna ($0.75 USD).
Things to Do in Zagreb in Winter
Get festive at the best Christmas Market in Europe!
This title is not just a biased opinion of a local. For three years in a row, Zagreb Christmas Market was voted the best in Europe, by the European Best Destinations online poll.
This event, called Advent in Croatian, lasts from the end of November to January 7th (we have a guide to Advent in Zagreb here).
The city’s squares and streets transform into a Christmas fairy tale, with trees twinkling with thousands of lights and the smells of mulled wine, cinnamon and chocolate spreading to every corner.
Devour the amazing Christmas Market foods
You’ll discover delicious food and drinks in hundreds of tiny wooden huts, situated all over the city.
They offer both traditional Croatian food (from every region of the country) and modern gastronomic wonders. There are desserts, drinks, savory foods, even some unusual blends of old and new cooking trends.
Be sure to try out the hit dessert Germknödel – a dumpling of sorts, filled with jam and cinnamon and topped with poppy seeds and sugar. You can try out a festive version, covered in edible glitter and tinsel!
Have fun at the ice skating ring
Located on King Tomislav Square, next to the Art Pavillion, it’s just a short walk from the main Ban Josip Jelačić Square.
The ice skating ring attracts both old and young, and you can even watch professional sculptors creating beautiful ice sculptures.
The tickets can be bought online here, and will cost you from 10 TO 20 kuna ($1.5- $3 USD) per person. You can rent the skates on the spot for 20 kuna ($3 USD).
Discover the artistic side of Zagreb
From the ice skating ring, walk north towards the Main Square.
Soon you’ll discover a little gem called Zrinjevac. It’s a beautiful park with a charming old music pavilion at its center. The trees are decorated with numerous lanterns, and the artist’s stalls fill the tiny park’s trails.
Here, you can buy paintings made by local artists and traditional souvenirs. Out of all Zagreb’s Christmas Market’s locations, this one definitely stands out as most old-fashioned.
Party on the Main Square
The Advent program is full of live musical and theatrical performances, but it all culminates with amazing fireworks and a concert on the main square on New Year’s Eve night.
There’s an abundance of food, drinks and holiday spirit to end the year with a bang. This main celebration usually attracts a lot of people, so be ready for crowds!
Go on a special Christmas Tour of the city
Our favorite tour site, Get Your Guide, offers fun and interesting Advent tours. This one will take you on a walking tour of the Christmas Market. You’ll have the opportunity to hear about local Christmas traditions and discover hidden culinary and unique gift spots.
If you’re more interested in exploring the Market’s food and beverage delights, this tour will fill all those sugary and savory cravings!
Detailed and updated information about Zagreb Christmas Market, including program, locations, working hours, prices, etc., can be found here.
Have a winter adventure in Medvednica
Sljeme is the highest peak of the Medvednica mountain, and most of the mountain’s area is a nature park (similar to a national park). It’s a very popular weekend destination, especially in winter, when the slopes of Medvednica are covered in snow.
Extra tip: locals call the entire area Sljeme, even though that’s just one mountain’s peak. So if you ask around for directions etc., make sure you emphasize whether you’re going on Sljeme proper or somewhere else on the mountain.
Remember that the weather here is always a bit harsher than in the city, so make sure you bring warm clothes, hat, gloves and waterproof shoes fit for walking in the snow. Now that you’re packed and ready, here’s what you can do on Medvednica!
Enjoy the view from the highest spot on the mountain
You can take a taxi to Sljeme, but public transport is also an option, and a much cheaper one.
The easiest way to get to Sljeme is to start at the main train station in Zagreb. From there, take a tram no. 33 to Mihaljevac (nine stops total) and then take a bus no. 140 to get to the mountain’s peak.
There are a bunch of restaurants and bistros up there, so you can eat some yummy local food, warm yourself up with a cup of mulled wine and enjoy this winter idyll.
Cheer for your favorite skiers during the “Snow Queen Trophy” Ski World Cup
This famous sports event is usually held at the beginning of January, and you can check out the program and ticket prices on their official website.
The Snow Queen title refers to the famous Croatian female skier, Janica Kostelić, who is still considered by many to be the best female skier in the history of the sport.
Croatians will gladly describe to you her world-famous slalom ride from 2006, when she lost a ski pole and a glove at the start of the race, but still pushed through and smashed the competition. This ride is often described as the most memorable ski moment in history, and it happened right there on Sljeme.
Go on a hike on one of Medvednica’s 70 trails
The mountain is a popular hiking destination, bet there are a couple of things you should know before you go on a hike.
Some of the trails are fit for beginners, while some are only recommended to the most experienced hikers. This website has the extensive list of all hiking trails, and it shows you the difficulty of the trail, the distance you’ll cover and how long the hike should last.
If you click on a certain trail, you’ll discover a map and instructions on how to get to the start of the trail. The website is in Croatian, but you can translate it easily enough with some online translator.
Another option is to contact the nature park authorities and ask for advice on what trail to take, based on your fitness level, and how to get there. Here is their contact information.
There are a lot of mountain lodges on Medvednica, where you can rest and eat, but I’d still recommend bringing water and some food when you go hiking. And be sure to never go off a trail – you could get lost or worse, so stay safe and follow the instructions.
Extra tip: A beautiful medieval castle, Medvedgrad, is currently closed for renovations, but you can check it out from the outside if you’d like. Here you can find all the information on the castle, how to get there, and current status of renovation.
Soak up some culture at some of the best Croatian museums
If you are a museum or a history buff, you’re going to adore Zagreb. The city has way too many museums and galleries to cover in just one post, so I’ll recommend a couple that I, as a historian, find the most interesting.
Hang out with the Ancients
The Archaeological Museum is one of the most popular museums in Croatia. It’s a keeper of about half a million items, of which many are world-famous, such as the Egyptian mummy, covered in linen with the longest known Etruscan text.
The museum is located in Zrinjevac, and you check the working hours here. The tickets cost 30 kuna ($4-5 USD) for adults, and 15 kuna ($2 USD) for pupils, students, and retirees. If you’re studying archaeology, bring some documents to prove it, and you’ll get free entry.
Remember that the last entry is 20 minutes before closing time. The museum often sets up various historical and archaeological exhibitions, so be sure to check those out when you visit.
Get to know Croatia’s flora and fauna
The Natural History Museums is situated in the Upper Town and has an incredibly rich geological and paleontological collection. Let’s not forget that it holds the most important Neanderthal collection in the world!
Here, you’ll see the endemic species of plants and animals (species that grow and live only in Croatia), and also some very rare, exotic specimens.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 AM to 5:00-8:00 PM, depending on the day. You’ll pay 30 kuna ($4-5 USD) for the ticket if you’re an adult, and 20 kuna ($3 USD) if you’re a pupil, student or retiree.
Get crafty at the Museum of Arts and Crafts
The Museum’s original purpose was to collect local works of art and craft as a good example and guideline for future artisans. Today, it holds some of the most important Croatian works of art, along with interesting crafts collections such as clocks, photography, musical instruments, smoking equipment, etc.
The working days of the museum are Tuesday to Sunday, and it’s open from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM (10-2 on Sundays). The tickets cost from 20 kuna ($3 USD) for students and retirees, and 40 kuna ($6 USD) for adults.
Go back to school at the Croatian School Museum
This unique Croatian museum holds a collection of schooling and teaching items. It’s really interesting to see and compare just how much the school system changed over the last few centuries.
The collections cover everything from old furniture, teaching tools, schoolbooks, papers, school bags and uniforms, and works of pupils and teachers.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 AM to 6:00-8:00 PM (10-2 on Sundays). The tickets cost from 10 to 20 kuna ($1.5- $3 USD). Sadly, the museum does not have appropriate access for people with disabilities.
Explore the technological inventions
The Nikola Tesla Technical Museum is extremely popular, especially with children. Inside you’ll discover old transport vehicles, from cars and planes to streetcars and trains.
It also contains the Astronautics collection and various other items that demonstrate our species’ technical advancement. You can visit the old mine and see how minerals, ore, and rocks used to be mined. The most popular location at the museum is the Planetarium in which a specially designed projector simulates a starry sky.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, and the working hours are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM for weekdays, and 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. The tickets cost 20 kuna ($3 USD) for the permanent exhibitions and 15 kuna ($2.5 USD) for the Planetarium.
Explore Zagreb’s historical monuments
The streets of Zagreb are filled with the monuments of his past, and the crisp, clear winter days are perfect for taking a walk and exploring the city on foot.
Marvel at the Croatian Notre Dame
The Zagreb Cathedral, built it the Gothic style, is one of the most famous European sacral buildings. It’s particularly known for its two spires, standing at 108 meters (354 ft.) tall.
Be sure to visit its Treasury and see valuable liturgical books, the St. Ladislav’s cloak, and the relics of King St. Stephen.
Experience the cannon fire at noon
The Lotrščak Tower, situated in the Upper City, is the 13th-century guard tower. A few centuries after, a famous “thieves bell” was added to the tower – used to signal the closing of the main gates.
But it’s the most recognizable part it the Grič cannon. Since 1877, the cannon is fired every single day at noon. It will give you a proper scare if you find yourself anywhere near when it fires.
The Tower is now a part of the Klovićevi dvori Gallery, located close to it. You can visit the tower every day, from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM during the week, and from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays. The tickets cost from 10 ($1.5 USD) to 20 ($3 USD) kunas.
Visit medieval Zagreb
The Stone Gates is one of Zagreb’s most recognizable monuments. They were built in the 13th century as a part of the fortification system of Upper Town’s hill Gradec. The famous Croatian writer, August Šenoa, popularized these gates at his historical novel Zlatarevo zlato (A Goldsmith’s Gold).
A small chapel is located inside the gates, at which a picture of the Virgin Mary attracts believers from all of Croatia. According to the story, this picture is the only thing that survived a huge fire that wrecked the city in 1793.
Have some fun at Zagreb’s best thematic museums
In the last few years, Zagreb gained a couple of extremely interesting, interactive and fun thematic museums. If museums are usually not your thing, don’t worry – there’s nothing classic about these museums, so don’t miss out on loads of fun!
Extra info: the tickets for these museums are more expensive, but for a reason. Historical and natural heritage museums are state museums, meaning the Croatian Ministry of Culture funds them. These thematic museums are private, and they have to pay taxes for their tickets. So you’ll pay more money, but the experience will be worth it!
Satisfy your taste buds in the Museum of Chocolate
This newest addition to Zagreb’s museum scene is quickly becoming one of the most popular ones! And no wonder – their ticket is edible and there are a couple of liquid chocolate dispensers in the museum where you can have as much chocolate as you want!
You’ll also learn everything about the rich history of chocolate: how ancient Mayans first used cocoa beans, the story about how chocolate came to Europe, why was it reserved only for the aristocracy, etc.
The museum is very interactive. There are places where you can smell all the wonderful spices usually mixed with chocolate, try out the ancient cocoa bean grinder, and taste every historical stage of chocolate use – cocoa paste, dark, milk and white chocolate and the newest addition to the chocolate world, the pink ruby chocolate.
The museum is open Monday to Sunday, from 10:00 AM to 9:30 PM. The adult’s ticket costs 60 kuna ($9 USD) and you’ll pay 40 kuna ($6 USD) for children aged 4 – 18. Kids up to 4 years of age have free entry.
Be sure to check out their small, but amazingly rich chocolate shop. The chocolates and pralines they sell are of the highest quality, and they’re all made by small Croatian chocolatiers.
Get emotional at the Museum of Broken Relationships
This museum first started as a traveling exhibition of items people donated to immortalize their past relationships. The exhibition promoted a healthy approach to break-up and emotional distress. But the donations became huge, and soon, the museum was opened and has had amazing success so far.
Now, the museum covers items that deal with every type of relationship, not just a romantic one. There are some hilarious exhibits, but also some very sad ones, that deal with a loss of husbands, children, and friends.
The museum is located in the Upper Town, in the old baroque palace. During winter, it’s open every day from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Tickets cost from 40 kuna ($6 USD) for adults, and 30 kuna ($4.5 USD) for students, pupils, retirees and people with disabilities. Museum has a café and a bistro where you try some local specialties.
Have your mind blown at the Museum of Illusions
With the largest collection of holograms in this part of Europe, this museum offers a unique visual experience. A bottomless pit, a maze of mirrors, a head on tray, people shrinking and growing… Your perception will be thoroughly challenged. Learn more about the museum on their website.
You can visit it every day from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM, and the tickets cost from 30-50 kuna ($4.5 – $7.5 USD).
Extra tip: you can also find this museum in Zadar, so be sure to check it out!
Prepare to be chilled to the bone at the Museum of Torture
The so-called Tortureum, this museum has an amazing collection of replicas of ancient and medieval torture and execution instruments.
The museum is incredibly atmospheric – you’re walking around in the semi-dark, reading about some of the most violent and painful instruments ever invented.
There’s even a Dungeon room – a small space, completely emerged in the darkness where you, if you’re brave enough, can experience the claustrophobic and panicking feeling of someone who was waiting to be tortured and executed.
But not everything’s so dark. The message of the museum is not to glorify violence, but to show people that violence happens when we make differences based on skin color, culture, and religion. The museum also aims to raise awareness of the modern ways of torture such as bullying and mobbing.
If you’re under 18, you can only enter the museum if accompanied by an adult. The tickets cost between 30 and 40 kuna ($4.5-$6 USD) and the museum is open every day from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
Join Zagreb’s coven of witches!
The Upper Town is known for its legends about witches and witchcraft. One of its hills, Grič, was supposedly a famous gathering place for witches and warlocks. A famous Croatian author, Marija Jurić Zagorka, has immortalized these legends in her amazing book series The Witch of Grich.
Now you can go on a special walking tour with costumed guides that will take you to a mystical time, teach you how to cast spells, make magic potions, and tell you all about Zagreb’s finest witches. This tour has won numerous tourism awards, and I highly recommend you try it out!
You can check out the list of scheduled tours on their website. Ticket prices are 121 kuna ($20 USD) for adults and 90 kuna ($15 USD) for children over the 12 years of age.
Take a tour with a local
There are many tours you can take in Zagreb in winter – walking or biking tours, historical, gastronomical, thematic… Get Your Guide has a huge list of possible tours, so check them out here.
Enjoy the classical sounds of opera and ballet
The Croatian National Theatre, built in the 19th century is the place to go if you enjoy classical music and ballets. It’s a popular destination for tourists that just want to marvel at the impressive baroque architecture or see a more cultural side of Zagreb.
You can check their website to find out what’s on the program, and the cost of tickets.
Unveil the secrets of the universe at the Observatory
Located in Upper Town, the Observatory is one of the most interesting places to visit in Zagreb. Its main goal, besides scientific research, is to popularize science and promote scientific knowledge.
You can use their telescopes to watch the night sky, the moon, and the planets, and just marvel at the beauty of the universe. A guide will be there to show you the most interesting things in the night sky, so not only will you have fun, but you’ll also learn something new. I guarantee you’ll start to feel very insignificant once you comprehend how small our planet is in the vast, ever-expanding universe.
Of course, you’ll have to visit the Observatory at night, and you can check out the working hours here. In accordance with their mission, entry is free for all.
Just remember that you need perfect weather conditions to see anything in the sky, so if it’s raining, snowy or foggy, the Observatory will be closed for public. But don’t be discouraged if you’re visiting in winter. The nights in Zagreb in winter can be crisply cold but very clear, and you’ll often be able to see everything.
Fight the cold winter air with a cold beer!
If you’re a beer lover, you’re going to enjoy the Garden Brewery, a place where you can eat delicious street food and enjoy some of the best Croatian craft beers.
All the beers are made with organic ingredients, and there are so many of them! But the staff is really nice and will help you select a beer fit for your taste. You can even take a tour to see how they make the beers, check out their equipment and learn about different types of beer.
It’s located outside the city’s center, at the Žitnjak district, so if you don’t own a car, you’re going to have to use public transport.
But don’t worry – Zagreb has an extensive network of trams and buses. There’s no direct line though, so I would recommend taking a taxi – it’s a 15, 20-minute ride and it’s not going to be pricey.
Embrace your inner geek at the best fantasy store in Croatia
Here Be Dragons is an amazing fantasy store which first opened in Split (you can still find them there). It then came to Zagreb and quickly became the most popular geek hangout. Here you’ll find a crazy amount of fantasy merchandise, and staff that knows everything about this genre.
Take a picture with King’s Joffrey crown, stand side to side with a life-sized dragon, buy magic Harry Potter wands, and yield Jon Snow’s sword. It’s the ultimate geek experience!
Go shopping at Ilica and Flower Square
Ilica is considered the main street of Zagreb. It’s full of shops, both big and small brands. But the main charm of Ilica is its small shops and cafés, that somehow still hold to that old-fashioned style.
From there, take a walk to the Flower Square, named after many flower shops and stands. Over the years, the square gained a kind of social status and became the central social place or špica. Croatians love to sit in the café for hours, talk with friends and slowly drink their coffee. Saturday morning is considered the best time for that, so most of Croatian begin their morning in the café.
The street with bars and coffee shops that attracts the most people is called špica, and is a place where you go if you want to be seen. Every town has its own špica, and The Flower Square is Zagreb’s. So be sure to warm up at one of the bars on špica, and see what the fuss is all about!
Check out Zagreb from a bird’s eye view
On Zagreb’s main square you can visit “Zagreb 360° – an observation deck and also Zagreb’s most popular tourist destination. Standing at 182 meters tall, it offers a fantastic view of the entire city.
You can use binoculars, have a drink at their bar and even play a board game! The tickets cost from 30 kuna ($4.5 USD) for children and 60 kuna ($9 USD) for adults.
Zagreb has so many things to see, taste, hear and experience. I recommend taking a least a weeklong vacation to give yourself time to fully explore the city. When you visit Zagreb in winter, you might miss out some things you’d be able to see in summer like the Zoo and the Botanical Garden, but Europe’s Best Christmas Market surely is worth it.
So have fun and enjoy it!
Tea is a native Croatian and a passionate promoter of Croatia’s cultural and historical heritage. She holds an MA in History and has been working as a tour guide and museum educator. She enjoys hiking and traveling with friends, and believes that there’s no problem that can’t be solved with Balkan food.