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If you fly to Croatia, the chances are that you’ll either leave the plane in Zagreb or have a layover in the city.
Zagreb is a super-convenient city to start an Adriatic or Balkan road trip, located centrally and near many of the region’s most fantastic attractions. While some people do get off in Zagreb and spend some time exploring the city – it seems that they run off before exploring places to visit near Zagreb.
After sightseeing and before heading out to a new destination, consider going on one of the following recommended day trips from Zagreb. You can rent a car, hire a driver, take public transportation or join an organized tour to one of the destinations below.
Zagreb To Plitvice Lakes National Park Day Trip
If you only have time for one day trip from Zagreb, let it be to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Although this is a rather large park, its main attractions can be explored conveniently in one afternoon.
Several terraced lakes flow into one another in a beautifully wooded gorge in a series of waterfalls and cascades. This landscape, unique in Europe, also has a notable human history.
This combination is the main reason why Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site nowadays. Boardwalks wind their way over and around the lakes and waterfalls, allowing you to see everything from up close.
The day trip from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes is no longer than two hours. There is so much to see and do here, however, that we suggest setting aside a full day to explore the lakes and drive back from Plitvice to Zagreb before it gets too dark.
You’ll want to take your time to enjoy the sheer natural beauty of this area, so you could also consider a tour so you can maximize your time and not stress about the return drive. There are plenty of companies that offer a day trip to Plitvice from Zagreb.
Zagreb To Rastoke Day Trip
Rastoke is conveniently on the way between Zagreb, and Plitvice Lakes National Park, the small town of Rastoke is a popular place to stop. Rastoke is the old town center of Slunj, filled with historic buildings and boasting surprisingly beautiful nature – the most perfect of perfect Zagreb day trips for nature lovers.
Situated at the confluence of the Slunjcica and Korana Rivers, the town’s star attraction is its combination of waterfalls and watermills. It’s sometimes called “the small lakes of Plitvice” for a reason. Much less crowded than the nearby national park, Rastoke features similar landscapes of cascading waterfalls.
Its watermills are incredibly picturesque, and because it’s small enough to be explored in less than two hours, you’re encouraged to include Rastoke in your Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park itinerary or even as a pit stop on your road trip from Zagreb to Split.
Zagreb To Varazdin Day Trip
One of the northernmost towns in Croatia, Zagreb to Varazdin, is less than one-and-a-half-hour drive each way. Its location in the far north of the country keeps it off many visitors’ radar, which only adds to its appealing quietude.
The town, once the capital of Croatia, is now a stunningly well-preserved Baroque town. For such a small town, Varazdin has many highlights. Make sure not to miss Trg Kralja Tomislava, home to the Draskovic Palace and the Town Hall.
Nearby, the Cathedral is a sight worth seeing as well. Additionally, definitely also visit the Stari Grad Fortress, which houses the City Museum.
From Zagreb, you can get to Varazdin by car, but also by bus. The latter is a convenient option if you don’t want to rent a car. If you do rent a car, you’re strongly encouraged to make a detour to Trakoscan Castle, one of Croatia’s most beautiful and most visited castles.
Zagreb To Trakošćan Castle Day Trip
Set atop a steep hill in Hrvatsko Zagorje, Trakošćan Castle is perhaps the most famous castle in Croatia. It overlooks a human-made lake and bountiful gardens, making it one of the best places to visit from Zagreb.
Trakošćan is less than an hour’s drive from Zagreb, the pilgrimage town of Maria Bistrica, and within minutes to the baroque city of Varaždin. Because it is so close to Zagreb, we strongly encourage you to go for a day trip there. There’s plenty to see and do en-route, too.
Built in the 13th century, the original owner is still unknown, but the castle is believed to have been constructed as an observation fortress. Over the last nine centuries, many people owned Trakošćan Castle at some point. It currently belongs to the Croatian government and is one of the best-preserved castles in Croatia. You can visit a great museum with a permanent collection of paintings, furniture, and other display items.
As you walk through the museum, you are taken back in time. You’ll gaze into the eyes of ten generations of owners, spanning three centuries, whose faces are now portrait paintings. This living museum has fully set dining tables, study areas, and bedrooms complete with antique linens. Daydream as you meander along the circular staircase, which winds down and around the castle from the hunting room at the top all the way to the basement kitchen.
Zagreb To Kumrovec Day Trip
Situated along the Sutla River in the far northwestern corner of Croatia, on the border with Slovenia, Kumrovec village is home to no more than 270 people. The municipality has just under 1,600 residents. It’s a teeny tiny Croatian village indeed. So, “why would Kumrovec be one of the best day trips from Zagreb?” you may wonder.
Well, the town’s main feature is that it’s the birthplace of Josip Broz Tito, the army commander who later became the founder of communist Yugoslavia. It’s also considered to be the best museum village anywhere in Croatia. The house where Tito was born, nothing fancier than a basic peasant home, was converted into a museum during his lifetime. In the decades after his death, the surrounding buildings were renovated and reconstructed.
Now, the town of Kumrovec is a superb example of what a 20th-century Zagorje village looked like. The Ethnological Museum, as it’s called, encompasses eighteen historic village buildings, with permanent exhibits displaying artifacts and furniture. If you’re into history and local culture, this is a superb destination option for Zagreb day tours.
Zagreb To Samobor Day Trip
The nearest and most accessible day trip from Zagreb is probably Samobor. Situated only twenty kilometers to the west of the city, it’s easily reached by both car and bus. So, if you are time poor – this is the choice for you.
Samobor is worth visiting for two main reasons—its architecture and its famous custard cake. The latter is known as Samoborska Kremsita and is said to be the best in all of Croatia. Make sure to try a slice.
Besides that, Samobor boasts lovely historic highlights, including the Stari Grad Castle, the City Museum, and St. Anastasia and St. Anne Churches.
Zagreb To Ljubljana Day Trip
The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, is one of Europe’s greenest and most livable capital cities. You’ll unquestionably see why during your visit.
The beauty of the Balkan region is that it’s home to a wealth of historic cities, all located within an easy driving distance from each other. In fact, Zagreb lies only about 35 minutes from the Slovenian border, visiting Ljubljana a breeze.
The drive from Zagreb to Ljubljana doesn’t take longer than two hours (but in peak times of the year that border patrol can make that twice as long). Make sure to bring your passport!
In Ljubljana, indeed one of Europe’s best-kept urban secrets, you can stroll the entirely pedestrianized historic city center, visit Ljubljana Castle and admire the gorgeous pastel-colored architecture.
An evening walk along the tree-lined Ljubljanica River is highly recommended as well. The city is small enough to be explored in just one day, the ideal city trip from Zagreb—if you can, though, you should try to spend at least a night there.
Zagreb To Lake Bled Day Trip
Past Ljubljana lies Lake Bled. This iconic and extremely popular tourist destination is often included in group tours to Ljubljana from Zagreb. This lake, surrounded by tall mountains and Bled Castle and its small picturesque island, is truly mesmerizing.
Bled is another place in the Balkans that’s exceptionally beautiful, but of which you can quickly get a feel in just a few hours.
If you want a change from the hustle of city life in Zagreb, consider going to scenic Lake Bled. On a Lake Bled day trip from Zagreb, you will find beautiful hiking trails around the lake and into the mountains, fascinating historical attractions, and a charming small-town atmosphere.
Zagreb To Ozalj Day Trip
One of the best day trips from Zagreb if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination, Ozalj sits on the banks of the picture-perfect Kupa River. It has a rich and glorious past, which becomes evident as soon as you gaze upon the Ozalj Castle. This imposing fortress overlooks the river and one of the top castles in Croatia. Ozalj Castle is home to a fascinating museum, which houses art, ancient pottery, and medieval military weapons.
The Old Town of Ozalj is in the County of Karlovac, just 55 kilometers from Zagreb, and an easy day trip by car, train, or even public transport. In addition to the castle, you can also visit the St. Vitus Church and Ethno Park Trg, and drive the wonderful wine roads of Ozalj-Vivodina-Vrhovac. Because of the area rural charm, amazing historic sites and great food, this is one of our favorite Zagreb day trips.
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