Here’s my Ljubljana to Zagreb train trip itinerary, featuring the best things to see in both these amazing cities and how to travel between them. You could do this itinerary either way. I chose to start off in Ljubljana because it worked better for our flights. But you could easily do Zagreb to Ljubljana too. Just flip reverse it, much like Blazin’ Squad (that noughties cultural reference will be lost on most of my readers, but I’m going with it).
Anyway. Here’s my suggested itinerary for seeing both these gorgeous cities within 7 days, including how to do the stunning Ljubljana to Zagreb train journey between them…
Days 1 to 3: Exploring the fairytale city of Ljubljana, Slovenia
I’ve never fallen for a city as fast as I did with Ljubljana. You can read more about it in my full post on Ljubljana here, but I’ll sum it up as being probably my joint-favourite European capital (along with Copenhagen, and I’ve done a lot so that’s high praise).
I’m not sure if it was the amazing food, the riverside café culture or the fairytale beauty that did it, but I now rave about Ljubljana to everyone I know. It’s 100% up there with my beloved Scandinavian cities. This may be because it shares many of their qualities: green, clean, pretty, everything being good quality, amazing shops and style, a general feeling of calmness… The only difference is it leaves much less of an indent on the old bank balance.
If you’re wondering about the pronunciation, it’s Lub-liana. But it’s Loob-lana to the locals. So there.
Where to stay in Ljubljana
We stayed in Apartment House Trta.
It was clean, had a good shower and was perfectly located on the banks of the river just a little walk into town. It was also above allegedly one of the best pizza restaurants in the city, but that was shut every night we were there. Typical.
Things to do in Ljubljana
- Explore the fairytale old town, featuring cobbled streets, a river, beautiful old buildings. It’s like someone painted the perfect city. A good way to see it is via the free walking tour. You can’t miss the super Instagrammable pink Franciscan church too.
- Go on a river cruise. I chose Barka Ljubljanica because out of all the river cruise boats, theirs was the only wooden one, which made it much cuter.
- Discover Ljubljana’s many bridges. There’s the famous Triple Bridge and the Dragon Bridge. Just please don’t put another bloody love lock on any of them.
- Eat your way through Ljubljana’s central market. As well as having loads of lovely local, organic food, you can get milk from a vending machine. Udderly unbelievable eh? (SORRY).
- Visit Ljubljana Grad (Castle). To get there, you can enjoy a
relaxing strollsweaty climb up a hill. It’s worth it though because the castle ticks every fairytale box going and offers up an INCREDIBLE view of the city.
- Visit Metelkova, an autonomous, alternative area (a bit like Christiania in Copenhagen).
- Go to the Museum of Illusions for an evening slot. It’s only 9.5 euro each but is great for something to do on a rainy day or before your evening meal. It allows you to briefly become a floating head on a plate, and who doesn’t want that?
- GO SHOPPING. Ljubljana is my favourite city for shopping where you’ll actually buy stuff rather than just going ‘oh that’s nice isn’t it’ repeatedly. Some of the best little concept/design/trinket shops were on Stari Trg. A lot of them sell local Slovenian products – handmade jewellery and homewares all with a bit of a Scandi look to them. Everything feels rustic and warm but effortlessly stylish. My favourite was GUD shop but I have a whole list of shops I liked in my full Ljubljana post.
Where to eat in Ljubljana
The food in Ljubljana was incredible. I had no real expectations about what Slovenian cuisine would be like, but I’m now in love with it. I actually have an entire post about where to eat in Ljubljana, but here’s a small snippet of my picks:
- Pri Skofu – cosy, delicious food in a restaurant full of locals, tucked away off the main drag. Small menu – always a good sign. Homemade pasta too.
- Ek Bistro – the best brunch in the city.
- Organic Garden – a small vegan chain, great for lunch or an afternoon cake.
- TaBar – a beautiful modern tapas restaurant, which also serves ORANGE WINE. Yes, orange wine is a thing in Slovenia and it’s incredible.
Day 4: Getting the Ljubljana to Zagreb train
I did my research and found that there are several direct trains every day between Ljubljana and Zagreb. They never sell out, so you can take your pick timing-wise. To check the times, you can use the trusty old Bahn.de website.
Make sure you ignore any departures that say BUS in them. Unsurprisingly, they involve a BUS (why are we shouting?), not a train. But not like a nice normal city bus: these are hideous long-distance buses. Avoid with your bargepole of choice.
How to book your train tickets
At the time of writing this, you have to book your tickets in person at Ljubljana train station (pictured above). There’s no option to buy online. It costs about €9 if you buy a day (or more) ahead of the journey. If you have to buy on the day, it’s €18.
How long the Ljubljana to Zagreb train journey takes
The average travel time between Ljubljana and Zagreb is 2 hours and 53 minutes, but the fastest is 2 hours and 15 minutes. On an average weekday, there are nine trains per day travelling from Ljubljana to Zagreb. The journey time may be longer on weekends and national hols, so make sure you check.
The Ljubljana to Zagreb train journey itself
It’s a lovely scenic journey through rolling hills and along the River Sava.
‘What a photo opportunity, I hear you cry, ‘Where are all your photos of it?’
And to that made-up conversation, I reply with three choice words: Revolting. Scratched. Windows.
All I managed to get that didn’t look like I was viewing it through an old polythene bag was this amusing photo of Chris living his best life and bloody loving the journey. Enjoy! Despite the lack of decent photos, the windows didn’t spoil the journey in real life and seeing the countryside rolling by with your actual eyes is well worth it.
Days 5 to 7: Having a hip city break in Zagreb, Croatia
Croatia isn’t somewhere people associate with city breaks because it’s all about the coastline, but that’s a shame because Zagreb is really good as a cool and pretty affordable city break. You can read more about it in my full post about Zagreb, but to sum it up, I’m predicting it’ll take off as the next ‘in’ city break at some point.
There was loads going on and although it has a touristy restaurant area, you’re never going to be in a swarm of other British holidaymakers there. It feels like a bit of a hidden gem for now.
Where to stay in Zagreb
We stayed in the lovely Praska 8 Apartments. It was huge! All white and modern with a dream shower. It was just off the main square, so much more central than we’d usually stay but this actually worked out really well. Chris went out successfully to forage for pastries to bring back every morning while I straightened my hair. The joy of not staying in a hotel where you have to go down for breakfast!
Things to do in Zagreb
- Do Zagreb’s free walking tour. It meets in the central square, Ban Jelacic. If you don’t know much about Croatian history, the tour is a must. There’s nothing like hearing about it from a local and it was surreal walking past the government building that was bombed in such recent history, listening to him describe living through the Croatian War of Independence.
- See St Mark’s Church, the Lego-like iconic building of Zagreb. The tiles are… loud. It’s brilliant and features some amusing lions on the roof. Keep an eye out for those.
- Get the funicular up to the Gradec (old town) area of the city before noon. This is just in time to hear/see the city’s cannon being fired from the 13th-century tower above. You also get this on the free walking tour, but if you don’t do the tour then you should definitely seek it out for yourself. The man who does it waves out the tower window afterwards. What a guy. This area also has gorgeous views of the city (especially at night/sunset).
Museums and art
- Visit the Croatian Museum of Naive Art. The artwork here was unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s all done by artists who were not traditionally trained and has a simple, primitive feel to it.
- Spot the street art around the city. Good areas were round Tkalčićeva Street (where a lot of the bars and restaurants are), Opatovina Park, and the terrace in Gradec (at the top of the funicular).
- The Museum of Broken Relationships is the best museum I’ve ever been to. Its concept is that after a breakup, people send in an item that represents the former relationship with a caption to go with it, explaining its significance. Most of the relationships are romantic, but it also includes friendships and familial relations. I’ve never been in a museum that was such an emotional rollercoaster. One minute I was reading someone’s mum’s suicide note and welling up. The next minute, I was pissing myself over this: ‘Here’s a stupid Frisbee, bought in a thrift store. It was my ex-boyfriend’s brilliant idea – as a second anniversary gift. The moral was obviously that he should be smacked with it across the face’. It was all the highs and lows of life represented by everyday stuff that had no meaning on the surface.
Where to eat (and drink) in Zagreb
- Heritage – 100% worth waiting for a space in this minuscule café. Everything is locally sourced and prepared on site. An excellent introduction to Croatian food.
- The Garden Brewery – home to Croatia’s best hoppy, American-style IPA beer. It’s an out-of-town warehouse in a sort of retail park area but the effort to get there is absolutely worth it. If you’re going to do one thing out of all my recommendations for Zagreb, it should be this (as long as you like beer, that is). Not only is the beer bloody brilliant, but it’s in the most gorgeous setting (fairylights in an old warehouse, yes please) and it is a real haven for locals. I think we were the only tourists there. If you need to eat, there’s a burger bar on site where you can get veggie/vegan burgers and fries. There are other craft beer places in Zagreb worth visiting, but Garden Brewery was by far my favourite. If you’re a UK reader and you’re a fan of Manchester’s famous Cloudwater, you’re going to love it.
- Vegehop – another good find. Nothing pretentious or fancy, just lovely homemade food that all happened to be vegan.
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