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The capital city of Zagreb, Croatia is the country’s most vibrant and buzzing city. Much different than the coastal cities of Dalmatia, Zagreb is a sprawling city that features a mix of architecture, spacious squares, numerous parks and a steady flow of trams. Often underrated as a Croatia destination, we think there are many reasons to visit Zagreb. While the city itself offers an array of attractions, its location in the country’s interior provides ample opportunities for fabulous day trips from Zagreb as well.
Day Trips from Zagreb
Our list of 6 day trips from Zagreb features nearby cities, castles, parks and waterfalls. For each of our featured Zagreb day trips, we include details of how to get there – as well as links to top-rated organized day tours from Zagreb.
Top Tip: Use our guide of Things To Do in Zagreb when planning your Zagreb itinerary.
#1 ZAGREB TO PLITVICE LAKES DAY TRIP
Plitvice Lakes National Park is an absolute natural gem! Water flows through a deep canyon in a series of tumbling waterfalls that pool into 16 lakes. Trails and wooden-planked paths weave through and over the water, giving visitors an up-close view of the natural phenomena and colorful scenery. A Plitvice Lakes tour is one of the most popular Croatia day trips – and, as such, a little pre-planning is necessary.
First, a good pair of walking shoes is necessary for your Plitvice Lakes day trip! The trails cover more than 5 miles…and once on the lakeside trails there are very few places to stop for a rest. As a nature park, visitors are also exposed to the elements – so make sure to bring sunscreen…and an umbrella, just in case!
Second, visiting Plitvice Lakes now requires pre-booking a ticket online at least two days in advance (new in 2019). Walk-up tickets will only be sold if there are available remaining time slots (which is unlikely in the height of summer). Because the tickets require date and time entry, arranging a Plitvice Lakes day trip from Zagreb on your own is a little more cumbersome…but not impossible.
Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes Bus
Visitors can get from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park via public transportation. There are numerous daily bus departures from the Zagreb bus station to the national park. The Zagreb-Plitvice distance is about 140km. The bus from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes (this will vary by route, number of stops and traffic). Bus tickets from Zagreb to Plitvice National Park can be purchased online or at the bus station.
Because park tickets now need to be purchased in advance, we highly recommend booking your bus tickets in advance as well. Furthermore, we recommend buying your return Plitvice Lakes to Zagreb bus ticket before your trip to ensure you don’t get stuck at the park! Note: There is no Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes Train. Visitors who want to use public transportation need to use the Zagreb to Plitvice bus.
How To Get To Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb via Car
People who would rather drive themselves than take the bus from Zagreb to Plitvice can do so by renting a car (check car rental prices here!) and follow these driving directions on Google Maps. Top Tip: If driving, consider stopping in the town of Rastoke – either on the way there or back. The charming little town sits at the confluence of the Korana and Slunjcica Rivers and features historic watermills.
Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes Tour
Organized day trips from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes provide a hassle-free way to enjoy the lakes. Most Zagreb travel agencies offer a Plitvice tour from Zagreb, but we always recommend reading reviews before booking. One of the consistently top-rated tour we found on Viator is this day trip from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes that includes a stop in picturesque Rastoke! Read the Rave Reviews!
Zagreb to Split Via Plitvice Lakes
Traveling from Zagreb to Split? Rather than taking a day trip to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb, visitors can also see the waterfalls in route to Split from Zagreb. We have stopped at the lakes twice while traversing between Zagreb and Split. On our winter visit, we spent two full days at Plitvice NP between stays in Split and Zagreb.
In the autumn, when traveling with our friends, rather than taking a Plitvice day trip from Zagreb, we took a late afternoon bus that arrived at the lakes by early evening. We spent the night and were the first ones to arrive at the park the next morning…allowing us some time to have the park nearly to ourselves.
On both of our trips, we used the public bus. However, visitors who plan to drive from Zagreb to Split can easily make a stop at Plitvice Lakes and continue on in one day. Without a car, guests who want to complete the journey in one day can book a Zagreb to Plitvice to Split tour. Get the details here!
#2 ZAGREB TO LJUBLJANA AND LAKE BLED
Stunningly beautiful, Slovenia is Croatia’s neighbor to the north. Visitors can cross the border on a trip from Zagreb to Slovenia – just remember your passport! Highlights of day trips from Zagreb to Slovenia include two idyllic stops: Ljubljana and Lake Bled.
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, which features a meandering river and hill-topping castle. The riverside is strewn with outdoor cafes and opulent architecture. Just 35 miles from the city is the iconic Lake Bled. Surrounded by tree-covered hills, the charming lake is breathtaking. A small island with a lone church sits in the center of the lake, while a looming cliff-side castle overlooks the lake.
Planning Day Trips from Zagreb to Slovenia
Visitors can easily plan their own Zagreb excursions to Ljubljana – several buses make the trip daily. However, a Zagreb to Lake Bled day trip requires a little more effort if trying to make the trip in one day. We would recommend starting your day trip from Zagreb early in the morning, spending just 1 hour touring Ljubljana (use our tips for Ljubljana sightseeing) and then catching a bus on to Lake Bled (read our list of Things To Do in Lake Bled). However, coordinating bus schedules could be problematic – and any delays could severely impact your day of sightseeing.
The best way to get from Zagreb to the top two Slovenia sights – Ljubljana and Lake Bled – is to take an organized Zagreb to Lake Bled and Ljubljana Tour. Find out more!
#3 VARAZDIN DAY TRIP FROM ZAGREB
Just 50 miles north of Zagreb, near the Slovenian border, is the picture-perfect town of Varazdin. The city dates to the 12th century and, in the mid-1700s, Varazdin served as the capital of Croatia. The Varazdin Castle – a medieval defensive structure – is the city’s top attraction. The historic city center features pastel-painted baroque buildings, many churches and numerous relaxing squares.
Although the fortress takes center stage in the town, one of our favorite things to do in Varazdin is to explore the charming lanes and pretty squares. Zagreb day tours to Varazdin should include the following sights.
Varazdin Castle: The castle, called Stari Grad (Old Town), sits prominently on the northwestern corner of the historic center. Once surrounded by a moat, the fortress is now encircled with green grass and the building houses the city museum.
Varazdin Cathedral: The Cathedral of St. Mary to Heaven Ascended is a Baroque church that was built in the 17th century.
The Franciscan Church of St. John the Baptist: Built in 1650, the church is adorned in Baroque decor and has the tallest bell tower in Varazdin (54.5 meters).
There are a few ways to get from Zagreb to Varazdin: train, bus, car or tour. It takes 3 hours to travel between the two cities by train and there are multiple departures daily. There are far fewer buses, but the trip by bus only takes 2 hours. If driving a car, the journey can be made in about an hour.
Varazdin and Trakoscan Castle Tours
A better option – that includes an additional stop at the famous Croatian Trakoscan Castle – is an organized tour. (There are no public transport routes to the Trakoscan Castle from Zagreb; so if you want to see the castle, it makes sense to combine it with another regional sight.) The small-group tour includes a guided walking tour of Varazdin (including the beautiful fortress and cemetery) and then continues to Trakoscan Castle just 25 miles away. See what other travelers say!
#4 DAY TRIP FROM ZAGREB TO SAMOBOR
Tucked in the hills near the Slovenia border directly west of Zagreb is Samobor. Although the small town is just a 30-minute bus ride from Zagreb, it seems much further away. The expansive main square, King Tomislav Square, is lined with cafes dishing out local delicacies and surrounded by historic buildings. The yellow painted church, St. Anastasia, sits prominently across from the square on a hill with a clock tower ringing out the time. The Gradna stream rambles through town, encouraging visitors to do the same.
The remains of the Old Town sit atop Tepec Hill – which is accessible via a short, but steep, climb. (Just follow the Gradna Stream from the center of Samobor to the base of Tepec Hill and start the trek.) The Old Town (Stari Grad) is a stone shell of what it once was. We wandered through the remains then returned to the city via a path that featured The Stations of the Cross.
Other things to do on a day trip to Samobor: get a taste of local favorites, Bermet and Kremsnite. Bermet, a local wine apertif, is a popular drink to enjoy on the main square. The locally famous Kremsnite is a vanilla custard cake (which is very similar to the famous cake in Lake Bled).
How To Get To Samobor
Being just 15 miles away, Samobor is an easy day trip from Zagreb via public bus. However, visitors who want a guided tour can take a half-day guided tour to the top sights. Find out more!
#5 ZAGREB DAY TRIP TO KRAPINA
The town of Krapina is best known for the ancient Neanderthal remains discovered on the hillside. A state-of-the-art museum details the findings that prove humans lived in the area 130,000 years ago. The town, however, is not only limited to the Neanderthal past. With vine-covered hills and rising church steeples, Krapina is a pleasant, off-the-beaten-path day trip from Zagreb. We spent almost a full day in the city, exploring the town, churches and museum.
Krapina Neanderthal Museum
The sleek and modern Krapina Neanderthal Museum explains the 130,000-year-old findings of Neanderthals and the history of evolution. Outside the museum, a short path extends to the excavation site where the discoveries were made.
The three churches in town – St. Nicholas, St. Catherine’s and Our Lady of Jerusalem – sit proudly on the sloping hills, each with a bell tower that can be seen and heard throughout the valley. Of the three, St. Nicholas is the newest, St. Catherine’s features a beautiful Baroque interior and the Church of Our Lady of Jerusalem is simply stunning.
Church of Our Lady of Jerusalem
One of the churches on the Marian Pilgrimage, Our Lady of Jerusalem looks rather basic from the outside. However, inside, colorful paintings cover the ceiling and walls and a multitude of statues nearly overshadows the small gold statue of Mary enshrined behind the altar. The small statue was brought from Jerusalem and is said to have miraculous powers. Entry is by appointment only, so inquire before your day trip from Zagreb!
Getting to Krapina
Krapina can be reached by the local (and slow but delightful) train from Zagreb. Most trains take about 2 hours and include a transfer. Find timetables at the Zagreb Train Station.
Visitors who want to combine a trip to the Neanderthal Museum and Trakoscan Castle can book an efficient tour that visits both! Learn more here!
#6 Istria Day Tour from Zagreb
Istria is one of the most beautiful parts of Croatia! Because of the distance and numerous sights to see in Istria, either self-driving or joining one of the day tours from Zagreb is the best way to see the region. On a highly-rated 10-hour Zagreb Tour, participants get to see three of the best Istria destinations: Pula, Porec and – our personal favorite – Rovinj.
In the ancient city of Pula, which is 3 hours from Zagreb, visitors get to see a well-preserved Roman amphitheater that was once used in Gladiator battles. Just 45 minutes north is pretty-as-a-picture Rovinj. The fishing village boasts narrow cobblestoned lanes and a hill-topping church that overlooks the sea. Another 45 minutes north is Porec, home to the famous UNESCO-listed Euphrasian Basilica. Read more about the highlights of touring Istria and then read the reviews for the Istria Tour!
Getting to Top Destinations in Croatia
Because Zagreb is located in northern Croatia, day trips to popular southern coastal destinations are not ideal. The long distances to top destinations, however, are connected by public bus. Travelers renting a car can connect the country’s main cities in a Croatia road trip.
ZAGREB TO SPLIT
The distance is too far to consider visiting Split on a day tour from Zagreb. It takes 5+ hours on the Zagreb-Split bus and 4 hours by car.
ZAGREB TO DUBROVNIK
The distance between Zagreb and Dubrovnik is 600km (375 miles), which would take more than 6 hours by car and about 10 hours by bus. Instead, we would recommend flying between the two cities if traveling directly from one to the other.
Zagreb Day Trips Map
Some of the best Zagreb tours are tours in Zagreb! The following tours offering interesting and unique ways to explore the city.
Zagreb Walking Tour
The top Zagreb attractions are located in the heart of the city. Let a guide a lead the way to the best city sights, while giving insight to the city and country. Join a highly-rated private Zagreb city tour (read reviews) – or join a group tour and meet fellow travelers (get the specifics)!
Would you rather tour the city on your own? Use our Zagreb Sightseeing post, which serves as a self-guided free walking tour of Zagreb!
Zagreb Highlights Biking Tour
Hop on two wheels and pedal alongside a guide to Zagreb historic spots and hidden gems. Explore beyond the city center and feel the vibe of the city. Reserve your spot!
Taste of Zagreb Food Tour
One of our favorite things about Croatia is the food! Sample the local cuisine on a food tour through the city that begins at the local green market and makes stops at numerous restaurants. See what other travelers said!
Hop On Hop Off Tour
Hop On Hop Off tours can be a great way to get acquainted with a city at your own pace! Ride the bus for panoramic views and disembark at sights that interest you most…then hop back on to your next desired destination. Get the details!
What You Will Need
Whether taking one of the top-rated day trips from Zagreb or joining a Zagreb city tour, you will want to be prepared! Make sure you have the following, so that you can make the most of your trip!
All of our recommended Zagreb tours require walking (or cycling!). Wear a good pair of city walking shoes so that you don’t fall behind the group! I like exploring in lightweight shoes by Columbia – and Kris likes wearing Merrell Shoes.
Sunscreen and Hat…Raincoat and Umbrella
If you are anything like us, you will be snapping tons of pictures on your tour! We use a Canon Rebel with a 18-135mm lens, which takes incredible photos. However, it can be a bit heavy. When we are city sightseeing, we often carry a lightweight Canon Elph that can fit inside a pocket…and still produces quality photos.
Guidebook and Map
Travel insurance is essential! Although it is unlikely you would get injured on a day trip from Zagreb, it’s best to travel protected. Learn more about coverage and rates at World Nomads.
We Want To Know: Are there any day trips from Zagreb that you would add to our list? Do you have any experiences with Zagreb day trips? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
Need more ideas of what to do in Zagreb? Check out our list of 22 Terrific Things To in Zagreb!
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