The cosmopolitan buzz of Zagreb will soon strike you. Everything is accessible on foot – from your hotel to the theatre, wandering around the old Upper Town or through the bustling streets of the more modern Lower Town, which has not lost an ounce of its charm despite the eternal march of time. Venture out and let the moment take hold.There is something special about the rustle of leaves as you stroll through the autumn colours of downtown Zrinjevac Park. There is magic in the reflections of the gas lanterns in the Upper Town, as the songs of the street performers evoke their own emotions with their distinctive sound. As night falls, everything becomes soft and subdued; the twinkle of candles in the cathedral and at the mystical Stone Gate; the cafés beckoning you in the twilight with their warm hues. Zagreb is special. It is a long-running tale that allows you room to write your own chapters with your own impressions, something for you to add to the story.
Stone Gate is the only city gate that has been preserved out of the four that used to lead into the medieval Upper Town of Zagreb. Its appearance you will see today dates back to the 18thcentury. The niche in the western front contains the statue of Dora Krupi?eva, the beautiful and virtuous heroine of the novel “The Goldsmith’s Gold”, a work written by another chronicler of the city, August Šenoa. The pharmacy nearby has been open for business continuously since the 14th century. Niccolo Alighieri, the grandson of Dante, author of “The Divine Comedy”, even worked here as a pharmacist. In the 17th century, a mace was mounted above the Stone Gate to protect the city from witches and witchcraft. Legend has it that the nearby iron chain was originally from Admiral Nelson’s ship, The Victory, which famously participated in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The Stone Gate is most known as being the place where Zagreb citizens come to light a flame for their lost loved ones and pray. Legend has it that when the raging fire of 1731 devoured all the wooden parts of the Stone Gate, only the Madonna with Baby Jesus was spared. It was proclaimed nothing short of a miracle. This is where the tradition began and continues to this day, people of all ages kneeling here and making a pledge to St. Mary of the Stone Gate.
It is no surprise that Kaptol is the most extensively photographed of all Zagreb’s squares, with the twin Gothic towers of the Cathedral towering high above it. In the centre of the square you’ll find a fountain, with a sculpture in the middle; behind it, only a few steps away, stands the Cathedral of the Assumption of the
Kaptol has always been the ecclesiastical hub of Zagreb. While Gradec in the Upper Town was the city’s political centre, Kaptol was its rival, and on no few occasions battles broke out between them. The most significant building on Kaptol and indeed, in Zagreb as a whole, is Zagreb Cathedral. Blessed Virgin Mary, to give it its full title. Inside there is music too – ringing bells, the biggest weighing six tonnes, and the harmonious sounds of the great organ – which may
complement the experience as you gaze at the valuable works of art, the painted walls, the altar and the pulpits. The Cathedral holds many invaluable treasures, which have been collected since the foundation of the Diocese of Zagreb in the 11th century. The present Cathedral has seen its fair share of wars and fires during the seven centuries of its existence. The most recent upheaval was the terrible earthquake of 1880, after which Viennese architect Hermann Bollé redesigned the building – it was his idea to add the twin towers which form such a landmark in the city centre. The Cathedral, whose guests have included Pope John Paul II, is also the resting place of the Croatian heroes and martyrs Petar Zrinski and Petar Krsto Frankopan, as well as the Archbishops of Zagreb, cardinals Alojzije Stepinac and Franjo Kuhari?.
Both the fashions and generations change, but Maksimir has remained Zagreb’s most extensive area for public recreation.Maksimir is one of the earliest European parks developed according to the original 18th century design. When it was opened, it was the first public promenade in the region of south-east Europe as a whole. Thanks to its skilful combination of a park, forest and English-style gardens, it soon became the most popular destination to head for in town. The city as we know it today was much more marginalised before 1892. Then the introduction of horse-drawn trams changed Zagreb almost overnight by reducing distances and bringing neighbourhoods together. From that moment on, the number of visitors to Maksimir Park began to spiral upwards. Decades passed and the park kept on adding new features. The zoological gardens were opened in 1925. Wildlife was not only confined to cages. Even today, it is still a particular pleasure to walk along one of the three lakes and watch the swans and little row boats gliding nearby. At the time when winters were harsher and sports halls were still a thing of the future, the lakes served as Zagreb’s main skating rink. The park’s pavilions, gazebos and sculptures still contribute to its romantic atmosphere. There’s even a mock Swiss chalet and a belvedere with a café, crowded at weekends but ideal to visit during a quiet weekday
Strossmayer Square is much more than just a peaceful space of superficial beauty. In the park, you are surrounded by the busts of eminent Croatian personalities, with pride of place going to Bishop Strossmayer’s monument, created by the equally famous Croatian sculptor, Ivan Meštrovi?. The palace housing the Gallery of Modern Arts, the temple of Croatian 19th and 20th century art, accommodates another precious collection in the Department of Prints and Drawings of the Croatian Academy of Science and Arts. The Strossmayer Gallery, housed in the building of the Croatian Academy of Science and Arts, holds the works of famous artists, mostly belonging to various Italian schools of painting, as well as masterpieces by the likes of El Greco, Goya and many others.
At Roosevelt Square sit down for a moment and take in the beauty of a former lycée, with its floral patterns in the foreground, another element to add to your initial impressions of Zagreb. Venture a bit further and open the door of the treasury of art that is the Mimara Museum and find yourself face-toface with priceless exhibits which echo faraway worlds. When you embark on the adventure to explore the treasures of the Mimara Museum, you will become familiar with one of the richest art collections in Europe. As many as 3,750 varied and valuable works of art cover many millennia, dating from the prehistoric period and running right up to the 20th century. The exhibits in the Mimara Museum were donated to the nation and Zagreb by the collector, painter and restorer, Ante Topi? Mimara. Having offered this invaluable collection to Croatia, his homeland, and in particular to Zagreb, Mimara allows Zagreb to share it all in turn with any visiting lover of art.
The Croatian National Theatre is another key symbol of Zagreb. When night falls upon the streets and squares of the city, another life is starting here – on stage.
It has been this way since 1895, when the Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef ceremoniously opened the theatre with a silver hammer as if saying: ‘Let the show go on’.The neo-Baroque building is the centrepiece and symbol of Marshal Tito Square, where the Well of Life by sculptor Ivan Meštrovi? is another striking feature.
The atmosphere generated by the Croatian National Theatre is not only as a result of its memorable façade and outer beauty – it derives from the illusion of worlds and destinies changing right before your eyes, created at the hands of inspired artists. This ambience surrounds the Well of Life monument and the nearby Zagreb University building which always seems to be swarming with young people, and happens to be proudly guarded by another of Meštrovi?’s sculptures, the History of the Croats. Even the nearby Theatre Café exudes its own special atmosphere.
Ilica is the backbone of Zagreb. It can be measured either in simple kilometres or by the number of chance encounters that happen down it every day. You will never see it deserted – there is always traffic down it, whether it is just passers-by, young businessmen with their briefcases, flirty girls with their eyes cast on the glittering merchandise in the shop windows, or humming trams on the night shift. The street was first mentioned more than five centuries ago. Ever since, Ilica has grown together with the city of Zagreb. Ilica is dynamic whatever the time of day or night. Just a few steps away from Ilica is the city’s funicular, forever shuttling up and down between just two stops, the shortest link between the Lower Town and Upper Town. At the upper terminus, you will find yourself at the foot of Lotrš?ak, the 13th-century defence tower. This monument is pretty hard to miss, but even if you fail to see it, you will certainly hear it, however strange this might sound at first. For more than a century, the cannon mounted at the very top of the tower has been fired at noon every day. On Sundays, a leisurely stroll or a short tram ride down Ilica will bring you to an antique fair. On display you will find little treasures from a grandmother’s chest of drawers, remnants of a bygone ages, keepsakes that will tell you stories of their owners and their destinies. Lined with shop windows and restaurants, cafés and pastry shops, Ilica is comprised of living elements that give the street its own special character.
Information courtey of Zagreb National Tourism Board
Discover a wealth of information on travelling by Motorhome, Caravan or Boat when planning your holiday or trip of a lifetime
Which ever way you wish to travel, do it with style!