The capital of Croatia, which forms the center of the country in the interior, is a beautiful European city, which mostly remains unfortunately undiscovered during a visit to Croatia. Yet the cultural, scientific and economic metropolis offers its tourists a range of fascinating opportunities.
In the city, besides the baroque atmosphere created by the many historical buildings and outdoor markets, you can also expect an enormous variety of museums and exhibitions in the center of Croatian art and science.
In addition, Zagreb is also known for its selection and stores and boutiques, which turn out to be the purest shopping paradise in the “Ilica” mile.
Although Zagreb is not located by the sea, on a hot day you can have a wonderful rest at the “Zagreb Sea”, the so-called Jarun Lake, and enjoy a wide range of water sports and beach bars. If you just want to take a little break in the city center, in addition to the many charming restaurants and cafes, you can take advantage of the many green parks that run through the entire city center.
Tip 1: St. Mark’s Church
The city center of Zagreb has numerous sights to offer. Some of them you will inevitably pass sooner or later, while others are rather hidden. Among the latter is the Church of St. Mark in Zagreb. It is popular mainly because of its eye-catching roof design and architectural features of the neo-Gothic style, although details of earlier periods can also be found.
In all likelihood, today’s St. Mark’s Church was probably not the first ecclesiastical building to be found on this site. This is because findings from the Romanesque period indicate that it had a predecessor. The present building was erected in the Gothic style at the end of the 14th century. Around 1400, the building was again significantly enlarged and expanded to its present size.
However, due to the great earthquake in Zagreb in 1880, which damaged large parts of the church, the original style has been preserved only in parts. The renovation and reconstruction of the church was done in the neo-Gothic style.
A striking feature of the church is the roof designed in colorful tiles, which is clearly visible from the large St. Mark’s Square in front of it. On it is emblazoned in oversized size the coat of arms of the city of Zagreb. It is even the oldest coat of arms of the city. Next to it is the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia.
For visitors to Zagreb, it is also worth taking a look inside the church. The high Gothic arches inside, together with the stained glass windows behind the altar, create a special atmosphere that can be found in only a few churches.
Tip 2: Lotrščak Tower
Lotrščak Tower in Zagreb once served as a defense of the southern border of the city. Even today, cannon shots are fired daily.
In the center of Zagreb towers a medieval tower, which has long won the attention of visitors to the city: It is the Lotrščak Tower. This is a worthwhile destination for many visitors to Zagreb due to its history, but also its current use. Not least the view from the top floor enjoys great popularity.
When King Bela IV declared the city a free royal city, this also entailed the obligation to strengthen the city’s fortifications. The Lotrščak Tower is one of these fortified towers, which is still very well preserved today. Its history dates back to the 13th century.
However, over the centuries the tower was enlarged and remodeled. With this tower the inhabitants of the city wanted to defend the south of the city walls in case of war. The name of the tower comes from the name of the bell that was once rung before the gates to the city were closed in the evening.
In 1877 a cannon was attached to the tower. Since then, this is fired daily at noon. Originally, this was so that all the bell towers in the city could follow suit.
A special experience is to take the funicular up to the tower. But if you want, you can also walk and take the stairs right next to it.
Tip 3: Ban Jelačić Square
Ban Jelačić Square is the central square in the Croatian capital Zagreb and was named after Ban Josip Jelačić. It is located in Zagreb’s Upper Town and is directly adjacent to the old Dolac Market.
Ban Jelačić Square is joined by Ilica Street, Radićeva Street to the northwest, smaller Splavnica and Harmica streets from the north, Bakačeva Street, and Jurišićeva, Praška and Gajeva streets.
The square has existed since the 17th century. There are buildings of different architectural styles here with buildings of classicism, modernism and Viennese Secession. The oldest building with the house number 18 was built in 1827.
On the square there is a large equestrian statue of Ban Josip Jelačić. The sculpture was created by the Austrian artist Anton Dominik Fernkorn. The statue was consecrated on October 19, 1866.
In 1947, the statue was removed by the then Communist government of Yugoslavia, as it considered Jelačić to be an Austrian collaborator loyal to the Emperor. Antun Bauer saved the statue from destruction by hiding it in the basement of the Glipkoteka Gallery. The square was renamed Republic Square at that time.
In 1990, after the attainment of Croatian state independence, the statue was returned to its original place and the square was given back its old name. Ban Jelačić Square is considered the most important meeting place of the Zagreb population.
Tip 4: Zagreb Cathedral
The Cathedral in Zagreb is one of the landmarks of the city and is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The imposing building does not belong to any specific architectural style. Rather, architectural styles from different centuries unite here to form a total work of art. The foundation stone for the construction of the cathedral was once the foundation of the Zagreb diocese in 1094. Still in the end of the 13th century, the cathedral was built in the early Gothic style.
The three naves in the late Gothic style were added in the 14th and 15th centuries. When the craftsmen came to the bell tower, the Turks were already outside the city. Only later, in the 17th century, the bell tower could be completed. The magnificent altars inside are due to the Baroque period. The south and east wings of the castle were rebuilt in the 18th century as a classicist bishop’s palace.
The great earthquake of 1880 severely affected the Cathedral in Zagreb, like many other buildings in the city. But it was rebuilt and renovated in neo-Gothic style. It was at this time that the two narrow church towers were built, which today can be seen far across the city. The towers are 105 meters high.
The Renaissance wall around the church with the defense towers was built to protect the building from the Turks. Today the renovated wall is one of the best preserved Renaissance defensive walls in Europe.
Tip 5: Mimara Museum
The Mimara Museum in Zagreb is an address in the Croatian capital that art lovers should not miss when visiting the city. The museum’s collection is based on the private, very extensive collection of art objects of the painter Ante Topić Mimara. The exhibits of one of the most important private art collections in the world are housed in Roosevelt Square in the former Zagreb Gymnasium.
The art museum is named after Ante Topić Mimara, on whose generosity the exhibition is based. For the painter, collector, restorer and, above all, great art lover donated most of his accumulated art objects to Zagreb’s museums. And this was considerable – in the post-war period it included more than 3,500 objects. The museum was founded in 1980, during Mimara’s lifetime. It has been open to the public since 1987, the year of the benefactor’s death. Today it includes not quite 4,000 works of various kinds.
There is a great variety of artifacts to be discovered in the Mimara Museum – from the Palaeolithic to the Middle Ages. Particularly noteworthy is the figure of the “Paleolithic Venus”, which was made in the Stone Age. But also ceramics, figurines, vessels, oriental carpets and other creations from different epochs and from different peoples can be admired here in the museum.