Digital Nomads

Why Zagreb is Increasingly Attractive to a Growing Number of Digital Nomads

By 22 January 2020

January 22, 2019 - As more tourists discover the diverse attractions of Zagreb, 10 reasons why it is becoming an increasingly popular destination for the digital nomad revolution. 

It has been another great year for tourism Zagreb, with 12% more arrivals and 11% more overnight stays during Advent in Zagreb the icing on the cake for a successful 2019. But in the increasingly competitive world of tourism, one must always stay ahead of the game and adapt to trends for the future. And the good news is that Zagreb is ideally placed – and already enjoying the early benefits – to take advantage of a growing tourism trend of the future.

Digital Nomads.

Before we investigate why Zagreb is fast becoming a digital nomad hotspot, it perhaps makes sense to define what a digital nomad is, how this type of tourism works, and what the size of the potential market is.

People often confuse digital nomads with bloggers and influencers. And yes, these types of people are digital nomads, but they make up just a tiny piece of this nomadic community. A digital nomad is simply someone who works digitally, or remotely. As long as they can plug in to an internet connection and do their job, they are considered a digital nomad. That could be a journalist, such as myself, who spends most of his time working from cafes and friends' living rooms, or it could be an IT specialist whose company allows him to work from home.

The clearest example of how this works in the Croatian context was demonstrated by two digital nomads I met in Jelsa on Hvar last year. He was Russian, she was Ukrainian, and they both worked for an IT company in Munich. Their boss had told them that he only needed them physically in Munich 2 months a year, and they were free to work from home, or anywhere else, as long as they were available and online from the working hours of 09:00 to 17:00.

They decided to do a European tour of Croatia, Italy, Spain and Portugal, choosing Jelsa from April 1 to June 30. Their day started with a swim and coffee on the main square, then to work online in Munich. Lunch in a Jelsa restaurant, back online in Munich until 17:00, then off for a swim and an evening of entertainment in Jelsa.

Working in Germany, living and spending in Croatia. For three months, out of season.


(Photo credit: S. Kastelan/Zagreb Tourist Board)

With the rise of the remote workplace, it is estimated that there will be one BILLION digital nomads in the world by 2035. With fewer places in Europe offering a better lifestyle that Zagreb and Croatia, imagine if 3% of that number chose Croatia – the 30 million longer-term arrivals (not dependent on a peak season) would stay longer, spend more, and contribute more to the community than the correct record number of tourists.

Tanja Polegubic is a Croatian-Australian returnee at the forefront of the digital nomad revolution, and she believes Croatia to be one of the up and coming digital nomad destinations in Europe, and a stop in Zagreb essential.

“Zagreb is a strong symbol and the heart of Lijepa Nasa. It’s also an eco-friendly city, with the iconic blue trams and a very walkable centre an ideal place for the car-less and carbon-conscious digital nomad.”

Tanja founded Saltwater in 2017, catering to digital nomads coming to the Croatian coast. On a remote working mission, she has also launched Virtualis Group (an IT, finance and engineering outsourcing partner) working remotely with clients in Australia, and partnerships with Zagreb-based businesses.


(Tanja's Saltwater co-working space)

“Our business meetings in Zagreb in October and November 2019 were very fruitful. Zagreb is easy to get around, meet clients and find talented collaborations. The connections into the country through the new airport are good - everywhere from Europe to the Middle East and Australia.

“The internet speeds are actually quicker than Australia’s nightmare of “NBN”- so it was with pride to actually show how ahead it is, compared to a country which should be áhead.”

Tanja has been coming and going from Australia for years, often stopping in Zagreb. She was able to base in Croatia as a remote working digital nomad early on in this now mainstream flexible work style. The many benefits to being a digital nomad in Croatia made her decide to service this audience, and ensure remote working is a possibility for all - Saltwater is for incoming digital nomads, and through Virtualis, which employs locals - enabling them to work remotely, and not forced to migrate.

digital-nomad-zagreb-1 (1).png

(Photo credit M. Vrdojak/Zagreb Tourist Board)

A special note on women:

“For women, Croatia in general - and of course it’s capital Zagreb - feels very safe and easy to get around. People are exceptionally helpful, and the level of English proficiency is high. Another advantage is certain beauty services are cheaper than in Australia. I often advise nomads, be they from the UK or New Zealand, to wait on getting things like hair done until here. It works out about 4 times cheaper.

“The other advantage across Zagreb is the numerous cafes - sitting, taking in the jovial atmosphere and getting a caffeine fix is fantastic. There’s also a growing number of specialty coffee places popping up - in Zagreb, I’m often at Cogito."

So what are the key things that digital nomads are looking for and Zagreb has to offer?

Schengen. A significant number of digital nomads from outside the EU, including many from North America. With the current visa regime of 90-day stays, this means that these high-spending nomads have to leave the EU for three months. Schengen visa holders can stay a maximum of 90 out of every 180 days, and so nomads are on the lookout for great destinations close to Schengen borders where they can hang out. With the likes of Budapest, Vienna and Ljubljana three Schengen capitals close by, it is not hard to see why Zagreb is an attractive destination for these kinds of nomads. Croatia is of course on the road to Schengen entry, but even after entry, the Schengen factor will still make Zagreb attractive, as it will be in the country closest to the border, and a last stop for those exiting.

digital-nomad-zagreb-street (1).png

(Photo credit M.Vrdoljak/Zagreb Tourist Board)

Safety. Croatia is simply one of the safest countries in the world, with a very low crime rate. Zagreb is incredibly safe for a European capital city, and walking around late at night is not a problem. Many returnees from the diaspora cite the safety as one of the prime reasons to return and bring up children here. As Tanja mentions above, Zagreb and Croatia are increasingly attractive to single female nomads due to safety.

English language. The level of English spoken in Croatia, especially in the younger generation, is excellent. Already a tourist country with decades of experience with foreign visitors, English is also taught from an early age in schools. A recent global study found that Croatia had the second-best English in Central and Eastern Europe, and its rate of improvement was the second best in the world. German is also widely spoken.


Accessibility. The opening of the new 330-million-euro airport terminal in 2018 finally gave Zagreb an airport worthy of the Croatian capital. The expansion of intercontinental routes in recent years means that Zagreb is connected to the world via the global networks of the likes of Qatar, Emirates and Turkish, while seasonal routes to far-flung places such as Toronto and Seoul add to the intercontinental connectivity. Zagreb is also served by several other big airports which increase arrival options, including Budapest, Ljubljana and Split.

Affordability. Zagreb is one of the most affrodable capital cities in Europe, and tourists are often pleasantly surprised at the affordability of essentials, from beer to public transport. For a detailed look at the cost of living in Zagreb, where better to look than this detailed video breakdown from a digital nomad couple?

Thriving tech scene. Given the nature of the digital nomad lifestyle, it is not surprising that a significant number of nomads come from the IT sector. This is another reason why Zagreb is increasingly attractive, as the city is a lively hub for a start up culture which is growing in importance.

A great tourist destination. Nomads are looking for great lifestyle and things to do, and so the fact that Zagreb is a top tourist destination in its own right, as well as being part of one of Europe's most exciting tourism countries only adds to the attraction. Zagreb itself offers tourism attractions and events right through the eye, culminating in its now-famous Advent in Zagreb. But the proximity of the Adriatic coast, Plitvice Lakes and range of historic towns, makes it an enviable base. It is said that Zagreb has the most museums per capita of any city in the world, and there are certainly some unusual ones to check out – The Museum of Broken Relationships, Museum of Illusions, and the newly-opened Museum of Hangovers spring to mind.


Great food and wine. Legendary food critic the late Anthony Bourdain famously called himself an idiot for knowing nothing about Croatia's 'world-class food, world-class wine, world-class cheese.' He is not alone, and visitors are often blown away by the quality and diversity of the regional cuisine of offer in Zagreb. A rapidly expanding international restaurant scene is helping to deal with expat cravings. As with the food, so too does Croatian wine stun the visitor. Among the 130 indigenous grape varieties is the original Zinfandel, and a short drive outside Zagreb will bring you to the sparkling wines of Plesivica, as good a bubbly as anything you will find outside Champagne. And if you are a wine-lover, how many other cities have you visited which have their very own wine road?


(Bagatin Clinic was named International Cosmetic Surgery of the Year 2019 at the International Medical Travel Journal Awards in Berlin last month)

World-class medical tourism for your budget. Medical tourism is on the rise, as people look for affordable healthcare with international quality. Perhaps you have never heard of the excellent reputation of Croatian medical tourism, but Zagreb boasts some world-class products at Zagreb prices. In the Croatian capital, for example, you can find the International Cosmetic Surgery Clinic of the Year 2019 (as voted by 20 independent experts from International Medical Travel Journal), three of the top six dermatological clinics in Europe, the first hospital in Europe performing the revolutionary Mayo Clinic co-sponsored RightMed pharmacogenetic test, and an outstanding eye surgery which has performed successful surgeries on the likes of Ivana Trump and Tim Roth.


(Photo credit M. Vrdoljak/Zagreb Tourist Board)

The relaxed cafe lifestyle. But ultimately, it comes down to lifestyle. And there are few people who would disagree that the cafe culture lifestyle in Croatia is among the best in the world. As the Western world rushes into Starbucks for coffees to go, locals and laughing and gossiping in the cafes of Zagreb over an espresso which takes an hour. Along with safety, the lifestyle in Croatia is its biggest attraction. And lifestyle is the thing that digital nomads want most of all. As long as the internet connection is there and those jobs can be performed in Munich, London, Tokyo or San Francisco, why would you want to be a digital nomad anywhere else?

To read more about being a digital nomad in Croatia, especially for women, here is a great article Tanja wrote for TCN recently