By Plane -- There are no direct flights to Croatia from the U.S., Canada, or Australia, but Croatia Air, the national airline, connects Zagreb with several major European hubs as well as with other cities in Croatia. Pleso International Airport (www.zagreb-airport.hr; tel. 01/456-22-22) is about 16km (10 miles) south of the city center. A shuttle bus (www.plesoprijevoz.hr) between the airport and Zagreb bus station coincides with incoming and outgoing flights; tickets cost 30kn, and the ride takes 1/2 hr. Taxi fares to the city center run between 150kn and 200kn.
By Bus -- Zagreb Bus Station (Autobusni Kolodvor) is a bright, efficient hub with restaurants, shops, a post office, ATMs, luggage storage (garderoba), and regular trams to the city center. Frequent bus connections link Zagreb and all of Croatia’s main cities, which in turn hook up with local lines that run to virtually every village in the country. International connections link Zagreb to an increasing number of European cities.
By Train -- Zagreb Train Station (Glavni Kolodvor) is a proud 19th-century building, overlooking Trg Kralja Tomislava on the city’s Green Horseshoe. It lies a 10-minute walk south of the main square (Trg Bana Josip Jeličića), which is also served by regular trams. The train station has a restaurant, fast food kiosks, ATMs, and coin-operated luggage lockers.
By Car -- Driving in Zagreb can be stressful. Most streets are marked only at intersections by small ornamental signs on plaques affixed to buildings, so you can’t see the sign until you’re past it. Many buildings in Zagreb do not display street numbers at all, or if they do, they can’t be read unless you’re on top of them. There is also a tangled network of one-way and pedestrian streets, perpetual street construction, and a parking dearth, all of which add up to a driver’s nightmare inside the city limits.
The Zagreb Tourist Information Center at Trg Bana Jelačić 11 (www.zagreb-touristinfo.hr; tel. 01/481-40-51) is open 8:30am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm Saturday, and 10am to 4pm Sunday and holidays. The information center provides maps, directions, and brochures, and it has a selection of books about Zagreb and Croatia as well as some souvenirs. Zagreb County Tourist Association at Preradovičeva 42 (www.tzzz.hr; tel. 01/487-36-65) is useful for information about excursions from Zagreb. Hours are 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday.
The city of Zagreb is nestled between Mount Medvednica and the Sava River. It is a sprawling metropolis, but almost every attraction of note is within 2.4km (1 1/2 miles) of Trg Bana Jelačić, the city’s main square (commonly known as Trg Jelačić). The area north of the main square includes Gornji Grad (Upper Town) and its Gradec and Kaptolneighborhoods, which are Zagreb’s most picturesque areas. Donji Grad (Lower Town), south of Trg Jelačić, includes Zagreb’s famous Green Horseshoe and runs south to the main train station. You can walk to most points of interest from Trg Jelačić. Further afield, Mount Medvednica Nature Park and its Sljeme Peak in the hills north of town can be accessed by tram from the main square, followed by a bus to Tomislav Dom Hotel on Sljeme (note that the cable car is out of order and looks unlikely to start working again in the near future). Mirogoj Cemetery is also north of the center and can be reached by bus from the cathedral. Novi Zagreb (New Zagreb) is an area of modern apartment blocks and industry south of the Sava; here you’ll find Jarun Lake, just north of the river, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, both served by tram. You’ll also find Pleso International Airport, served by the airport bus.
The Neighborhoods in Brief
Zagreb is easy to navigate via public transportation if you have a good map and know a few key Croatian terms for deciphering directional signs on the trams and buses. You can also walk to almost everything of note. Most of Zagreb’s attractions are in the city center, which is divided into “neighborhoods,” each connected by the city’s main square, Trg Jelačić, with distinct characters of their own. Gornji Grad (Upper City), the area north of the square, is Zagreb’s heart. It is divided along historical lines into Kaptol and Gradec, territory that was halved by a stream that is now Tkalčićeva Street, home to a string of open-air cafés, chic designer shops, and artists’ ateliers.
Kaptol is both a neighborhood and a street in modern Zagreb. In medieval times, Kaptol was a town of its own, dominated by the clergy (neighboring Gradec was a lay settlement). Today, Zagreb’s neo-Gothic cathedral and church buildings are still situated in Kaptol. North of the cathedral, Kaptol is becoming a trendy enclave where well-heeled young professionals shop, drink, and dine.
Gradec is a hilly residential area dotted with stately mansions and leafy squares as well as some of the city’s best galleries and museums. It is a good place to see ornate homes built by Zagreb’s 19th-century aristocrats, as well as the only surviving city gate. Here you will find the Croatian Sabor (Parliament), as well as several foreign embassies and consulates, and a few upscale restaurants.
Trg Bana Jelačić,ringed by proud 19th-century Austro-Hungarian buildings, is Zagreb’s fulcrum: It seems that everything begins and ends in this plaza dominated by a statue of Ban Josip Jelačić, seated on a confident horse with its tail in the air. Ban Jelačić was a 19th-century governor of Croatia who was much beloved by the people for his bravery. His statue is a focal point of the square and the space “under the tail” is a popular rendezvous spot. The square is a wonderful place to start any city tour because many tram routes crisscross here, and it is within easy walking distance of Kaptol and Gradec, Dolac Market, and Tkalčićeva Street.Donji Grad (Lower Town) is south of Gradec, and it might seem like a solid block of buildings broken up by a few green spaces. Donji Grad begins at Trg Jelačić and includes Ilica Street, where designer shops are increasing in number every day. The neighborhood ends at the main train station to the south. Draškovićeva is Donji Grad’s eastern border, and Republika Austria the western border. In the middle of this section of the city, a U-shaped series of adjacent parks runs roughly from Trg Bana Jelačić south to the main train station; from there to the western end of the Botanical Gardens; and north to the end of Trg Marsala Tita. Known as the “Green Horseshoe,” or Lenuci’s Horseshoe, these public green spaces are dotted with galleries, museums, and schools.
On Foot -- Walking is by far the best way to see Zagreb. Crime in the city is low, and on foot you can safely get to almost any museum or restaurant in the central town within half an hour.
By Tram or Bus -- Zagreb’s electric tram system is quick, clean, efficient, and reliable, and it runs 24/7, although the frequency is reduced in the wee hours. New, air-conditioned, Croatian-made cars were added in 2007 on most routes, and they make riding public transportation comfortable. Tram routes cover central Zagreb and connect to buses that run to outlying areas and suburbs. Most lines go to the main train station, Trg Ban Jelačić, or both.
Tickets for both can be purchased at Tisak news kiosks for 12kn or on board for 15kn. Tickets are good for 90 minutes each way and must be validated with a time stamp at the orange machines on board. There are no conductors checking tickets, but there are random control checks. If you are caught without a ticket or with an unstamped ticket, the fine is 150kn on the spot, more if you don’t have the money immediately.
There are maps of all tram and bus routes at stops and on most city maps, but if you aren’t familiar with the city or the language, it can be difficult to figure out whether a given vehicle goes to your destination because only the final destination and a stop or two are listed on the tram or bus itself.
By Taxi -- Taxis are quite expensive in Zagreb, though prices have dropped somewhat in recent years with the founding of a number of private taxi companies. The most popular companies include Eko Taxi (www.ekotaxi.hr; tel.060/77-77), Radio Taxi Zagreb (www.radio-taksi-zagreb.hr; tel.060/800-800), and Taxi Cammeo (www.taxi-cammeo.hr; tel.1212). Although prices vary slightly from company to company, you can expect to pay around a 10kn flat fee plus 6kn for every kilometer ( 3/5 mile ). A surcharge is added on Sundays and at night.