- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Visit Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. It is located in the northwest of the country, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain.
Visitors to the capital of this new member of the European Union will find an ever-increasing choice of plush accommodation and chic bars and restaurants, as well as the chance to see some of Croatia's most important cultural sights.
Mount Medvednica rears up to the north of the city, which sits on a plain overlooking the Sava River. Picturesque Gornji Grad (Upper Town) is made up of higgledy-piggledy cobbled streets and buildings dating from medieval times up to the 19th century.
In contrast, Donji Grad (Lower Town) follows a geometrical grid-plan, with a series of green squares rimmed by Austro-Hungarian buildings erected from the late 19th century onwards.
The city is fuelled by caffeine: indeed, Zagreb’s café culture rivals that of Vienna. It’s not a place of Starbucks and people huddling behind their laptops nursing large flat whites. Cafés are Zagreb’s pulse - they’re where people go to chat, get powered up on espresso and dress for the occasion.
Tourist Attractions in Zagreb
Gornji Grad and the Church of St. Mark's
The splendid cobblestone streets and red tiled roofs of the buildings in medieval Gornji Grad, Zagreb's Upper Town, make for a beautiful place to begin a sightseeing tour of the Croatian capital. Once two separate towns known as Kaptol and Gradec, Gornji Grad is home to many of the city's most visited tourist attractions, including the cathedral, parliament building, and numerous museums and churches. Other highlights include the famous stone gate marking the entrance to the eastern side of Gradec Town; Kaptol Square, notable for its many early 17th-century buildings; and the Dolac fruit and vegetable market. Perhaps the most striking feature, however, is St. Mark's Church, easily recognizable by its brightly colored tile roof bearing the coats of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, Slavonia, and Zagreb City.
Zagreb Cathedral and Treasury
Zagreb Cathedral - the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, formerly known as St. Stephen's Cathedral - was erected on the site of a previous structure destroyed by the Tartars in the early 1200s. Famous for its two ornately decorated spires, the present cathedral was built in the later half of the 13th century, although many alterations and renovations have been made since that have changed the structure dramatically. Most recently, the earthquake of 1880 destroyed large sections including the dome and the bell tower, although reconstruction maintained the original medieval design. Be sure to also visit the cathedral treasury with its many fine works of religious art, garments, and sacred objects.
The Museum of Mimara
The Museum of Mimara (Muzej Mimara) was created to house a collection donated by a private collector, Ante Topic Mimara, in 1972. In an 1895 Neo-Renaissance building designed especially for it, this extensive collection covers a wide range of items from a variety of locations and time periods, including a fine archaeological collection containing pieces from Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, the Middle East, the Far East, India, as well as Inca and Pre-Inca South America. There's also a large glass collection from Europe and other Mediterranean countries, along with furniture from the middle ages and sculptures from ancient Greece.
The Art Pavilion and the Meštrović Gallery
Zagreb's Art Pavilion (Umjetnički Paviljon), built for the international exhibition in Budapest in 1896, was given its permanent home here after the original iron framework was transported and reconstructed on its current site. Notable for its colorful yellow Art Nouveau exterior, the Art Pavilion is now used for changing exhibitions of contemporary art and contains important works by revered Croatian artist Ivan Meštrović. The oldest exhibition hall of its kind in Croatia, this impressive facility faces Trg Kralja Tomislava, a large public square notable for its statue commemorating the first King of Croatia. Also of interest to art lovers is the Meštrović Gallery (Atelje Meštrović), housed in a 17th-century home where Ivan Meštrović once lived and sculpted.
The Archeological and Ethnographic Museums
With its focus on Croatia's rich history, Zagreb's Archeological Museum (Arheoloski Muzej) boasts five main collections containing some 400,000 pieces, many of which are from the local area. Of particular interest is the museum's display of Egyptian mummies (the cloth from the Mummy of Zagreb shows script that has yet to be deciphered), Greek vases, and a medieval section focusing on the Great Migrations of the Peoples. One of the most important pieces is the Head of Plautilla from the ancient town of Salona, as well as an extensive coin collection including Greek, Celtic, Roman, Byzantine, and modern pieces. Also of interest is the Ethnographic Museum (Etnografski Muzej) with its extensive collection showing the cultural history of Croatia through exhibits of ceramics, jewelry, gold, musical instruments, textiles, tools, weapons, and elaborate costumes. The traditional folk costumes alone are worth the visit, with various colors and styles illustrating the country's regional diversity.
The Croatian National Theatre
Built in 1895 by Viennese architects Hermann Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner, the Croatian National Theatre (Hrvatsko Narodno Kazaliste) sits at the northwest corner of Zagreb's "Green Horseshoe" in Donji Grad. Officially opened in 1894 by Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I, this imposing yellow structure in Trg Marsala is a landmark feature in the Lower Town. Built in Neo-Baroque and Rococo styles with two small domes at the front and a larger dome towards the back, the building also boasts a superb interior containing artworks by Vlaho Bukovac, and The Well of Life by Ivan Meštrović (if possible, try to take in one of the venue's regular opera, ballet, or drama performances).
Designed in the style of an old English garden, Maksimir Park (Maksimirska) is a beautiful green space encompassing almost 45 acres. The largest park in Zagreb, it contains two pavilions: Bellevue Pavilion, built in 1843, and Echo Pavilion, added after a Swiss design. The park also boasts many excellent paths and trails, as well as manmade lakes, wooded areas, and flower gardens, making it a great place to relax or have a picnic. For those traveling with youngsters, there's also a small zoo. Referred to by locals as Zagreb's "living monument," Maksimir Park is named after Bishop Maksimilijan Vrhovac, who was responsible for its construction in 1794. Across from Maksimir park is the Dinamo Football Stadium where Croatia hosts international matches.