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Going Back In Time By Bike In Zagreb, Croatia


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Quentin Watkins



Welcome to Zagreb, Croatia’s vibrant capital city steeped in history and culture. Nestled between the slopes of the Medvednica mountain and the Sava River, Zagreb is a city that effortlessly blends its medieval roots with modern influences. With its well-preserved historical sites, eclectic architecture, and charming cobblestone streets, Zagreb is a perfect destination for those seeking to delve into the rich past of this fascinating country.


As you explore Zagreb, you’ll find yourself transported back in time, witnessing the city’s evolution from a small medieval hilltop village to a bustling metropolis. With a bike as your mode of transportation, you’ll have the unique opportunity to pedal through the centuries, discovering hidden corners and unlocking the secrets of Zagreb’s past.


Zagreb’s long and storied history dates back to the Roman times, and through the years, it has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, the struggle for independence, and the birth of a nation. Today, remnants of these historical events can be seen in the city’s architecture, museums, and cultural traditions.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply curious about Croatia’s past, Zagreb offers a wealth of experiences. From exploring the fortified Upper Town, or Gornji Grad, with its enchanting narrow streets and grand cathedrals to meandering through the lively Lower Town, or Donji Grad, with its elegant squares and vibrant cafes, there is something to captivate every visitor.


Get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through time as we guide you through the historical districts, landmarks, and cultural experiences that make Zagreb such a compelling destination.


Exploring Zagreb’s Rich History

Zagreb’s history dates back over a thousand years, and its rich and diverse past is reflected in every corner of the city. Exploring Zagreb’s history is like unraveling a tapestry, with each thread revealing a unique story. From its humble beginnings as two separate medieval settlements to its role as the capital of Croatia, Zagreb holds a wealth of historical significance.


One of the best ways to immerse yourself in Zagreb’s history is by exploring its distinct districts. The Upper Town, or Gornji Grad, is the oldest part of the city and encapsulates its medieval charm. As you walk through the narrow streets, admire the colorful facades, and step beneath the Stone Gate, you’ll feel the echoes of centuries past. Don’t miss the iconic St. Mark’s Church, with its mesmerizing tiled roof depicting the coats of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia.


In contrast, the Lower Town, or Donji Grad, offers a glimpse into Zagreb’s 19th-century transformation. Designed in a grid pattern, this area showcases elegant squares, grand buildings, and picturesque parks. Explore Ban Jelačić Square, the heart of the city, and discover the beautiful Croatian National Theatre, a true architectural gem.


As you meander through the streets, take note of the diverse architectural styles. Zagreb boasts a mix of Gothic, Baroque, Art Nouveau, and Modernist buildings, reflecting the influence of various historical periods. The Cathedral of Zagreb, with its twin spires reaching towards the sky, is an awe-inspiring example of Neo-Gothic architecture and an enduring symbol of the city.


To truly understand Zagreb’s history, visit its museums and galleries. The Museum of Broken Relationships is a unique testament to human experiences and emotions, while the Zagreb City Museum offers a comprehensive overview of the city’s past. Art enthusiasts will be captivated by the collections at the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art and the Modern Gallery.


As you delve deeper into Zagreb’s history, you’ll discover that the city embraces its cultural traditions with pride. From festive celebrations and music festivals to vibrant markets and traditional crafts, Zagreb’s culture is an integral part of its identity. Don’t miss the colorful Dolac Market, where locals gather to sell fresh produce, flowers, and handmade crafts.


Exploring Zagreb’s rich history is like embarking on a captivating time travel adventure. In every step you take and every sight you see, you’ll find the legacy of a city that has withstood the test of time. So grab your bike and get ready to pedal through the centuries as you uncover the fascinating history of Zagreb.


Zagreb’s Historic Districts

Zagreb’s historic districts are the beating heart of the city, each with its own unique character and story to tell. These districts, with their distinctive architecture, cobblestone streets, and charming atmosphere, offer a glimpse into the city’s past and showcase its rich cultural heritage.


The Upper Town, or Gornji Grad, is the oldest part of Zagreb and the historic core of the city. As you ascend the hill, you’ll be transported back in time to the medieval era. The narrow, winding streets of the Upper Town are best explored on foot or by bike, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the historical ambiance. Take a stroll along Strossmayer Promenade, a picturesque tree-lined street with stunning views of the city below. Admire the iconic Lotrščak Tower and witness its daily cannon firing at noon, a tradition dating back to the 19th century.


Make your way to the charming Stone Gate, one of the few remaining gates of the medieval fortifications. Step inside to discover a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, a place of pilgrimage and reflection for locals and visitors alike.


Just south of the Upper Town lies the Lower Town, or Donji Grad, a testament to Zagreb’s 19th-century transformation. With its wide boulevards, elegant squares, and beautiful parks, this district is a stunning blend of architectural styles. Ban Jelačić Square, the central square of the city, is a bustling hub filled with shops, cafes, and historical buildings. Marvel at the grandeur of the Croatian National Theatre, a magnificent neo-baroque building that showcases the city’s cultural heritage.


Continuing south from Ban Jelačić Square, you’ll come across Zrinjevac Park, a lush green oasis dotted with fountains, sculptures, and musical pavilions. This is the perfect spot to take a break, enjoy a picnic, or simply soak in the atmosphere.


Venture further to the east and you’ll find the district of Maksimir. This expansive park is home to the oldest public park in Southeast Europe, boasting a beautiful English-style landscape, lakes, and walking trails. Explore the 19th-century Maksimir Castle and its surrounding gardens, and experience a serene retreat away from the bustling city.


Each of Zagreb’s historic districts offers a unique glimpse into the city’s past, allowing visitors to feel as though they’ve stepped back in time. From the medieval marvels of the Upper Town to the grandeur of the Lower Town and the tranquility of Maksimir, these districts provide a captivating journey through Zagreb’s history and culture.


Tracing Zagreb’s History through Landmarks

Zagreb’s landmarks serve as a testament to the city’s rich history and provide a tangible link to its past. These architectural marvels, scattered throughout the city, offer a glimpse into different historical periods and showcase Zagreb’s cultural and artistic heritage.


One of the most iconic landmarks in Zagreb is the Zagreb Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This magnificent architectural masterpiece dominates the city’s skyline with its towering twin spires. The cathedral is a prime example of Neo-Gothic style and holds great cultural and religious significance. Step inside and admire its stunning stained glass windows, sculptures, and ornate altars.


Located in the heart of the city, Ban Jelačić Square is not only a bustling hub but also a symbol of Zagreb’s history. Named after Ban Josip Jelačić, a key figure in Croatian history, the square is adorned with impressive statues and historical buildings. This lively square serves as a starting point for exploring the city and offers a glimpse into its vibrant past.


A short walk from Ban Jelačić Square will lead you to St. Mark’s Church, one of the oldest buildings in Zagreb and a true architectural gem. The church’s stunning rooftop features colorful tiles arranged in the shape of the coats of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia. Inside, you’ll discover beautifully preserved medieval frescoes and intricate woodwork.


For a journey back to the medieval times, visit the iconic Stone Gate, one of the few remaining gates of the old fortified city. As you pass through this historic gate, you’ll find a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The chapel, known as the Stone Gate Chapel, is a place of pilgrimage and an important symbol of faith for the people of Zagreb.


Another landmark that offers a glimpse into Zagreb’s history is the Lotrščak Tower. Originally built as a part of the city’s fortifications, the tower played a crucial role in defending the city. Today, visitors can climb to the top and enjoy panoramic views of Zagreb. Don’t miss the daily cannon firing at noon, which dates back to the 19th century and is a unique tradition that adds to the allure of the tower.


Zagreb’s landmarks are not mere static structures but living witnesses to the city’s past. They offer a tangible connection to the events and people that have shaped Zagreb into the vibrant and culturally rich city it is today. Embark on a journey through time as you trace Zagreb’s history through its magnificent landmarks.


Cycling Routes for Time Traveling through Zagreb

Exploring Zagreb’s rich history on a bike allows you to uncover the city’s hidden gems while enjoying the beautiful scenery. With an extensive network of bike-friendly paths and routes, you can embark on a journey through time, pedaling your way through Zagreb’s historical districts and landmarks.


Begin your time travel adventure in the Upper Town, or Gornji Grad, where you can navigate the narrow streets and cobblestone alleys. Start at the iconic Lotrščak Tower and take in the panoramic views of the city before cycling down towards the Stone Gate. From there, wind your way through the picturesque streets, passing St. Mark’s Church, the Croatian Parliament, and the Zagreb Cathedral. This route will immerse you in the medieval atmosphere of the city and allow you to appreciate its architectural treasures.


Continue your cycling journey towards the Lower Town, or Donji Grad, where you’ll encounter wider boulevards and elegant squares. Ride through Ban Jelačić Square and explore the bustling streets lined with shops, cafes, and historical buildings. Enjoy the scenic Zrinjevac Park and cycle through its leafy paths, soaking in the peaceful ambiance. For a longer ride, venture east to the district of Maksimir, where you can cycle through the vast greenery of Maksimir Park and discover the beauty of the Maksimir Castle.


If you’re craving a bit of nature and history, take a ride along the Sava River. Zagreb offers a wonderful cycling path that runs alongside the river, allowing you to enjoy the picturesque views and discover charming riverside villages along the way. This route provides a refreshing change of scenery as you pedal through the lush landscapes and witness the harmonious blend of nature and history.


For a truly immersive historical experience, consider joining a guided bike tour. These tours are led by knowledgeable local guides who will take you on a curated route, highlighting the city’s historical landmarks and providing fascinating insights into Zagreb’s past. Not only will you learn about the history of the city, but you’ll also have the opportunity to interact with locals and experience the vibrant culture of Zagreb.


Whether you choose to follow a suggested route or embark on your own cycling adventure, exploring Zagreb by bike is a unique and rewarding experience. It allows you to move at your own pace, uncover hidden corners, and truly immerse yourself in the historical charm of the city. So hop on your bike, pedal through the centuries, and embark on a memorable journey through time in Zagreb.


The Must-Visit Historical Sites

When visiting Zagreb, there are several historical sites that should not be missed. These landmarks not only hold immense historical significance but also offer valuable insights into the city’s past and cultural heritage. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply curious about Zagreb’s rich heritage, these must-visit sites are sure to leave a lasting impression.


One of the most iconic historical sites in Zagreb is the Zagreb Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This majestic cathedral dominates the city’s skyline and holds a deep religious and cultural significance. Step inside and be awed by its grandeur, as you admire the stunning stained glass windows, intricate artwork, and beautifully crafted altars.


For a journey back to the medieval times, make sure to explore the charming Upper Town, or Gornji Grad. Start at the Lotrščak Tower, a medieval fortification that offers panoramic views of the city. From there, proceed to the Stone Gate, one of the few remaining gates of the old city walls. Enter through the gate and discover the Stone Gate Chapel, a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This serene space is a place of pilgrimage and reflection for both locals and visitors.


Another landmark not to be missed is St. Mark’s Church in the Upper Town. The church’s distinctive tiled rooftop, adorned with the coats of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia, is an iconic symbol of Zagreb. Visit during the day to appreciate its unique architecture and intricate details, or witness the church’s beauty illuminated at night.


Delve deeper into Zagreb’s history by visiting the Archaeological Museum, which houses a vast collection of artifacts from Croatia’s prehistoric, ancient, and medieval periods. From Roman mosaics to medieval jewelry, this museum offers a comprehensive overview of the region’s rich archaeological heritage.


Located in the heart of the city, the Croatian National Theatre is not just a cultural institution, but also an architectural gem. This grand Neo-Baroque building showcases the city’s cultural heritage and hosts various theater productions, ballet performances, and concerts. Catch a show or simply admire the stunning facade and surroundings.


To learn more about Zagreb’s history and the city’s transformation over the centuries, visit the Zagreb City Museum. This fascinating museum offers a comprehensive insight into the city’s past, from its humble beginnings to its present-day vibrancy. Explore the exhibits and interactive displays that bring Zagreb’s history to life.


These must-visit historical sites in Zagreb are a testament to the city’s rich cultural heritage and provide a unique window into its past. From awe-inspiring cathedrals to medieval gateways and world-class museums, each site offers a captivating journey through time. So, make sure to include these landmarks in your itinerary and immerse yourself in the fascinating history of Zagreb.


Experiencing the Local Culture and Traditions

When visiting Zagreb, it’s not just about exploring the historical sites, but also embracing the local culture and traditions. The city is alive with a vibrant arts scene, a thriving culinary culture, and a strong sense of community. By immersing yourself in Zagreb’s local traditions, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the city’s identity and connect with its residents on a more personal level.


One of the best ways to experience the local culture is by attending a traditional event or festival. Zagreb hosts a wide range of cultural events throughout the year, from music festivals to art exhibitions and street performances. Join the locals at the Advent in Zagreb, a month-long festival held during December, where the city comes alive with festive lights, Christmas markets, and live music. Experience the joyous atmosphere as you stroll through the streets, savor traditional delicacies, and enjoy the lively entertainment.


To truly appreciate Zagreb’s cultural heritage, visit the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art. This unique museum showcases the works of self-taught artists who create captivating and imaginative pieces. The museum offers a glimpse into the local artistic expressions and demonstrates the creativity deeply rooted in Croatian culture.


Another way to immerse yourself in the local culture is by exploring the vibrant local marketplaces. Dolac Market, located near the main square, is a bustling hub where locals gather to buy fresh produce, flowers, and handmade crafts. Engage in friendly banter with the vendors, sample the local specialties, and take part in the lively ambiance as you wander through the colorful stalls.


For a taste of traditional Croatian cuisine, be sure to indulge in the local gastronomy. Sample delicious dishes such as štrukli (a savory or sweet cheese strudel), peka (slow-cooked meat and vegetables), and kulen (spicy cured sausage). Take the opportunity to dine at traditional restaurants, known as konobas, where you can savor authentic Croatian flavors and enjoy the warm hospitality of the locals.


Zagreb is also a city deeply rooted in music and performing arts. Attend a concert at the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall, where you can experience classical music, opera, and modern performances. Alternatively, explore the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra or catch a performance at one of the city’s many theatres. By engaging with the local arts scene, you’ll gain insight into the cultural vibrancy of Zagreb.


Don’t forget to take part in the traditional dances and folk music of the region. Keep an eye out for local music and dance events, especially during festivals and celebrations. Whether it’s witnessing a lively folklore performance or joining in on a traditional dance, embracing the local music and dance traditions is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in Zagreb’s culture.


Experiencing the local culture and traditions in Zagreb is an enriching and rewarding experience. By participating in festivals, exploring local markets, and savoring traditional cuisine, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the city’s heritage. So, let yourself be captivated by the vibrant customs and traditions of Zagreb, and create lasting memories of your time in this remarkable city.


Sample Traditional Croatian Cuisine

A visit to Zagreb wouldn’t be complete without indulging in the delicious flavors of traditional Croatian cuisine. Croatian food is characterized by its rich and diverse flavors, hearty ingredients, and influences from Mediterranean, Central European, and Balkan culinary traditions. From savory dishes to mouthwatering desserts, here are some must-try traditional Croatian delicacies.


One iconic dish that you must sample is čevapi, a type of grilled meat, typically made from a mixture of beef, pork, and lamb. These small, finger-shaped sausages are bursting with smoky flavors and are often served with fresh bread, onions, and a side of ajvar, a roasted red pepper spread.


If you’re craving something hearty, try pašticada, a traditional Croatian beef stew. This slow-cooked dish is made with tender beef marinated in a flavorful sauce containing red wine, cloves, garlic, and vegetables. It’s typically served with homemade gnocchi or pasta for a satisfying meal.


For seafood lovers, the Dalmatian coast offers a plethora of mouthwatering options. One popular dish is brodet, a fragrant fish stew cooked with a variety of fresh seafood, such as shrimps, mussels, and white fish. It’s typically simmered in a tomato-based sauce with garlic, herbs, and white wine, resulting in a delightful and aromatic seafood medley.


No visit to Croatia would be complete without trying the iconic dish called peka. This traditional Croatian method of cooking involves slow-cooking meat and vegetables, typically lamb or veal, under a bell-shaped dome. The meat and vegetables are first marinated with herbs, olive oil, and spices, then placed in a pot or tray and covered with the bell-shaped lid. The dish is then cooked over an open fire, resulting in tender, flavorful meat and perfectly roasted vegetables.


To satisfy your sweet tooth, indulge in kremšnita, a classic Croatian custard and cream cake. This delicious pastry consists of layers of flaky puff pastry, creamy vanilla custard, and whipped cream. The combination of textures and flavors makes it a heavenly treat that pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea.


If you’re looking for a unique dessert, try fritule, small bite-sized doughnuts flavored with citrus zest, raisins, and a touch of brandy. These delightful treats are often dusted with powdered sugar and are enjoyed during festive occasions, such as Christmas and Carnival.


Pair your meal with a glass of local wine for a complete culinary experience. Croatia is known for its excellent wines, including the Plavac Mali red wine from the Dalmatian coast and the Graševina white wine from the continental regions.


When visiting Zagreb, be sure to explore the local food markets, such as Dolac Market, to sample fresh fruits, vegetables, and regional specialties. You can also visit traditional konobas, local taverns that serve authentic Croatian dishes prepared with love and care.


Whether you’re indulging in hearty meat dishes, savoring fresh seafood, or treating yourself to delightful desserts, traditional Croatian cuisine offers a gastronomic journey that will delight your taste buds and leave you wanting more. So, embrace the flavors of Croatia and enjoy the culinary treasures that Zagreb has to offer.



Zagreb, with its rich history, vibrant culture, and delectable cuisine, is a city that invites you to immerse yourself in its past and present. As you explore the historical districts, landmarks, and indulge in traditional Croatian delicacies, you’ll come to appreciate the unique charm and allure of this captivating capital city.


Cycling through the streets of Zagreb allows you to truly appreciate its historical heritage. From the medieval wonders of the Upper Town to the elegant squares of the Lower Town, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. Tracing Zagreb’s history through its landmarks, such as the Zagreb Cathedral and St. Mark’s Church, will give you a deeper understanding of the city’s cultural and architectural legacy.


But Zagreb is not just a city of stone and monuments. It’s a city that breathes with life, where you can experience the local culture and traditions. Whether it’s joining in the festivities at the Advent in Zagreb, sampling traditional cuisine at local markets, or embracing the arts and music scene, Zagreb offers a captivating array of cultural experiences.


As you bid farewell to Zagreb, you’ll carry with you memories of the city’s enchanting past and the warmth of its people. The journey through time on your bike will have allowed you to unravel the hidden treasures of Zagreb’s history, and the delicious tastes of traditional Croatian cuisine will linger on your palate.


So, whether you’re a history buff or a curious traveler, Zagreb promises to captivate your senses and leave you with a profound appreciation for the city’s cultural heritage. As you depart, don’t forget to take a piece of Zagreb with you, whether it’s a souvenir, a newfound love for Croatian cuisine, or cherished memories of a time travel adventure through this remarkable city.