The Croatian capital, Zagreb, is a gorgeous historical metropolis that’s worth visiting year-round.
While it’s not quite as famous as other destinations in the country like Dubrovnik and Hvar, the capital is brimming with historical attractions, quirky museums and plenty of places to grab some amazing food.
The best bit? All of these points of interest are accessible and available in Zagreb in winter.
Whether you’re visiting in the holiday season or want a budget break in January or February, Zagreb still has plenty on offer outside of peak season!
Here’s a full guide to visiting Zagreb in the winter by Andrej, our Balkans expert.
This blog post may contain affiliate links.
What’s Zagreb like in winter?
Zagreb is the capital and the biggest city in Croatia, so the atmosphere is great during winter.
With the temperatures dropping, the historic city center also gets quieter and more peaceful, enabling you to see attractions without other hordes of tourists!
Plus, you’ll probably find the best-value flights and luxury accommodation options for a fraction of the price outside of summer.
While the capital isn’t the most popular compared to other Croatian cities, it’s a great winter city break.
There’s plenty of museums, historical attractions, beautiful day trips and amazing food to enjoy when you’re visiting Zagreb in winter!
If you’re exploring more of the country, check out the best places to visit in Croatia in winter!
What’s the weather like in Zagreb in winter?
Even though Croatia is known as a warm summer destination, Zagreb’s non-coastal position means that it can get very cold in winter.
The temperature is generally between 0°C and 10°C throughout most of the winter but sometimes goes under 0°C in December and January.
The country also gets a lot of rain and snow in winter, with around 20-25 days of snow per year, mostly during December and January, whereas rain is more present in other months.
It’s also quite windy in winter, so make sure to be well-prepared for that too.
When you’re creating your packing list, it might be a good idea to add an umbrella, waterproofs and plenty of layers, so you can enjoy all of these Zagreb winter attractions without the weather being too disruptive!
Things to do in Zagreb in winter
Zagreb’s Cathedral of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary is the most popular tourist attraction in the city, and it’s not hard to see why.
It’s located less than five minutes from the city’s traditional European square and can be seen from almost anywhere in the capital.
The main features of the Cathedral are the twin towers which were added by famous architect Hermann Bollé in the 1880 rebuild (after it was hit by an earthquake).
The towers, as well as the interior, were built in a neo-gothic style.
It’s also the resting place of Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac, whose effigy can be found resting on a platform behind the main altar.
If you’re walking around Zagreb and getting a little chilly, it’s definitely worth ducking in here to see the incredible architecture.
Museum of Broken Relationships
When most people think about museums, they usually consider them to be places that hold valuable and important objects from the past.
Well, the Museum of Broken Relationships is a bit different. It was established in 2010 (by two exes, Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić!) and won the reward for the most innovative museum at the European Museum awards in 2011.
The museum is ideal for people who have just experienced a breakup, with installments from people in Zagreb and further afield about their own broken relationships!
All of the objects in the museum have been donated by members of the public, and include a love letter stuck to glass and smashed into tiny pieces and a simple toothbrush. Every relic has a backstory about why it’s ended up in the museum.
The museum is also located in a beautiful Baroque mansion, so it’s definitely worth a visit.
Grič Tunnel Bomb Shelter
Grič Tunnel is both a tourist destination and the perfect place to warm up a bit if it’s too cold outside!
It was used as a bomb shelter during WW2 but has now been transformed into an attraction thanks to its history and beautiful street murals which can be found on each of its entrances.
You can also find a lot of old signage on the walls of the 350-meter-long tunnel, as well as a central hall where different exhibitions are held.
It’s said that one of Croatia’s first raves took place here in the 1990s!
You can visit the tunnel every day from 9 am to 9 pm.
Zagreb Christmas Market
If you’re looking to try some of Zagreb’s Christmas specialties and buy a souvenir or two, you must visit the famous Christmas Market.
It is a part of a Christmas festival known as Advent in Zagreb, one of the best winter festivals in Europe.
It was even voted as the best one for three years straight, in 2016, 2017, and 2018.
Advent lasts from early November to early January and features various activities, such as cultural performances, light displays, and of course the market.
The market helps Zagreb enjoy the holiday spirit even on cold days – plus this makes it one of the best places to visit in Europe at Christmas!
If you want to get in the festive mood while in the city, don’t miss a Christmas market visit – and you can also read my blog post about all of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
Accessed by a narrow flight of stairs, Lotrščak Tower leads to a viewing platform where you can enjoy breathtaking vistas of Zagreb.
You’ll see many of the city’s best buildings, one of which is the colorful roof of St. Mark’s Church. It is one of the oldest buildings in Zagreb, dating back to the 13th century and featuring a beautiful interior – although the main attraction is its roof.
St. Mark’s Church roof was designed by Viennese architect Friedrich Schmidt and it has two emblems, one for the city of Zagreb, and the other for the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia.
It’s worth looking for St. Mark’s Church when you’re at ground level too!
You can also see the Cathedral from Lotrščak Tower.
Tkalčićeva is Zagreb’s main street for partying and eating!
It’s a long road filled with numerous bars and restaurants serving traditional Croatian cuisine and other European dishes.
Some of the food which you must try include sarma (stuffed grape or cabbage leaves), rastika (a Croatian soup), cevapi (ground meat sausages) and Zagrebački strukli (stuffed dough), all with some ajvar (red pepper sauce) on the side.
Most Croatian dishes have a big focus on meat, but if you’re veggie try Abšmalcane mahune which is a dish made from green beans. There are also plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Zagreb – you can search for them on Happy Cow.
Tkalčićeva’s nightlife is vibrant thanks to many cafes which turn into clubs after sunset.
The most popular one is the Funk Bar, which is a cafe that transforms into a DJ basement and offers banging tunes throughout the night.
Croatian National Theatre
Regarded as one of the most important cultural places in the country, the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb has to be on your visiting list if you’re into art.
It was established in 1895 by the Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef in a beautiful neo-baroque style building.
It features all sorts of art performances including opera, drama, and ballet, which are hosted all year long.
The theatre is very popular so you have to pre-book a ticket to secure your seat, but with tickets being really cheap (around 8-10 euros), it is definitely worthwhile.
Hrelić Flea Market
If you’re in Zagreb and you need basically anything, visit the flea market at Hrelić.
It has everything you may need, from vintage clothing to traditional souvenirs and even car parts and, if you’re looking for a really niche souvenir, portraits of Tito.
Prices are extremely low so you’re sure to get a good deal on whatever you buy.
The market is located near the Sava River and it is open on Sundays from 7 am until noon, but it’s best if you arrive early to make sure the stuff you want doesn’t sell out.
Left as the only remaining of the 5 gates of Zagreb, the Stone Gate is a popular tourist destination. It’s also a place where locals come to light candles and pray to the Virgin Mary.
While going through the gate, you can also see messages of thankfulness written on the walls.
The gate is famous for surviving numerous fires, along with the statue of the Virgin Mary which was left untouched during all of them, and inspired many stories.
On the entrance to the gate, you can also find a blue-green star on top, which was believed to not allow witches in!
When you get tired of exploring the city, and just want to relax and spend time in nature, Park Maksimir should be your number one choice.
This green space is the largest park in the city, and it also has a pond and a couple of coffee shops, which are perfect to help you stay warm on a cold winter day.
It’s a bit further from the center of the city, so taking a tram or a city bus is recommended.
Winter day trips from Zagreb
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is hands down the most beautiful in Croatia, especially during winter, and it’s a bucket list destination for most travellers to the country.
It is located a few hours away from Zagreb, so you have to take a bus or go there by car (or you can do a guided tour!), but the views make it worthwhile.
It has 16 smaller lakes which usually freeze during winter, creating a fairytale-like sight of frozen lakes surrounded by layers of snow.
There are also a couple of restaurants where you can sit and enjoy nature, making it a perfect one day trip from Zagreb.
Ljubljana and Bled day trip
After exploring Zagreb and experiencing Croatian culture, you might want to take a road trip to Slovenia and visit Ljubljana and Bled.
Thanks to Zagreb’s position in Northern Croatia, it’s easy to hop across the border to Slovenia!
Day trips include transport to and from Slovenia, plus a tour guide who will tell you about the history and importance of these two places.
You’ll also have some free time to explore the locations yourself.
Ski resort Sljeme
Croatia isn’t known as a country full of ski resorts, but there are a couple of them close to Zagreb.
The nearest is the Ski Resort Sljeme. It’s only 19 kilometers away from Zagreb so you can easily get there by taxi.
It’s not the biggest ski resort, as it only has around five kilometers of ski slopes, but they are of a range of difficulties. It’s also quite cheap, with lift passes being less than 15 euros!
What to pack for Zagreb in winter
If you’re visiting Zagreb in the cooler months, include these items on your packing list:
- a thick coat, scarf, gloves and a hat – you might be in sunny Croatia, but it can be very chilly!
- comfortable shoes or boots
- a camera or smartphone that takes decent photos
- whatever toiletries you usually use – although you can purchase them in Zagreb (DM is a great toiletry shop in Central and South East Europe!)
- an EU adaptor
Where to stay in Zagreb in winter
As Zagreb is the Croatian capital, hotels tend to stay open outside of peak season. Here are some recommended places to stay:
- Hotel Jägerhorn: This trendy hotel is a great value place to stay right in the heart of Zagreb center, and is a perfect mid-range option! Click here to read more about it.
- Sheraton Zagreb Hotel: Part of the reliable Sheraton brand, this five-star hotel has comfortable beds in spacious rooms, plus a deluxe spa. Click here to read more.
- Mint Boutique Studio: Your ideal home away from home in central Zagreb, this studio boasts a comfortable bed, trendy kitchen and living area – plus it’s right in the middle of the city. Click here to learn more.
How to get to Zagreb
Zagreb airport is well-connected with flight routes from capitals all over Europe.
In the winter, these flights are very affordable!
Trains are quite sparse in the Balkans, but Zagreb does have rail links with nearby capitals, plus buses to most cities in the Balkans.
How to get around Zagreb
One of the best budget tips for visiting European cities is to make use of public transport.
In Zagreb, it’s easy. Trams and buses connect the city, and you can either buy your ticket from the driver or at the self-service kiosks.
Make sure that you validate your public transport ticket before riding. It lasts for 90 minutes.
Hopefully this guide has detailed everything you need to know about visiting the capital city of Croatia in the winter months! The festive season is a really atmospheric time to visit, with incredible Christmas markets and festivals, or see the city during January and February for a real budget break.
Whatever time of year you choose, you’re guaranteed plenty of things to do and incredible experiences to enjoy!