For some reason most big guides and sites direct you to the Old Town (understandable, but over-priced) or the margins (still over-priced). I've stayed six or seven times in Zagreb and finally on a hunch I started looking in the area south of the train station, close to the cultural centre. Bingo. There are several very reasonable and well-maintained hotels in the area, which is only a 5 minute walk through an underground passageway which connects to the train station (about 8 minutes from the bus station), walking). The best hotel I've tried in Zagreb is the Lisinski. It's on a quiet street, small, with internet access in the lobby and each room is named after a famous composer. In 2009 I stayed there three times at about 61 Euros a night, far cheaper than anything you're likely to find in the Stary Grad. The rooms are exactly what a good budget traveller is looking for: clean, not cramped, working television, walking time to various amenities. A very reassuring and comfortable place to stay, especially if you're toting a heavy bag and trying to avoid Zagreb's notorious taxi pirates.
Unique Quality: Each room is named after a famous composer, and the walls are covered with portraits or pieces of musical scores connected to the musician your room is named after. Buddy the late night lobby guy will sell you a beer just about any time of night from the small bar.
Directions: Outside the train station take underground passageway. Take a left and go straight to cultural centre. At the big intersection cross it, stay on the left. Behind the building on the corner is Trnjanska Cesta (there are several similarly named streets).
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Address: Trnjanska Cesta 70, Zagreb, 10 000, Croatia