Things to do - general

The city of Zagreb, capital of Croatia, on the historic and political threshold between East and West, illustrates both the continental and Mediterranean spirit of the nation it spearheads. Zagreb is the cultural, scientific, economic, political and administrative centre of the Republic of Croatia, and is home to the Croatian Parliament, Government and President. Its favourable location between the Pannonian plain, the edge of the Alps and the Dinaric range has allowed it to become a crossing point for mass international communication.

The city is protected from the cold northern winds by the mountain of Medvednica and opens up to the rest of the world thanks to a spacious plain and the Sava river. Zagreb, with a population of nearly one million, contains almost a quarter of the entire population of Croatia. Over the centuries, the city was inhabited by people coming from all over Europe; and, in recent years, by people coming from different parts of Croatia, ensuring a rich cultural life. Zagreb is a safe city whose doors are always open; a city with a tumultuous history teeming with interesting personalities; a city that warmly invites all those who wish to get to know it, and a city that will surely fulfill your expectations. In this city, you can easily meet remarkable people, make new friends and enjoy special moments. The façades of Zagreb’s buildings reflect the ebb and flow of history, while its streets and squares bear witness to the coming together of the many cultures that have shaped the identity of this laid-back capital. The best thing to do is when you first arrive is to take in Zagreb’s wonderful atmosphere, which, as many claim, is only surpassed by the legendary beauty of the local womenfolk.

Country Croatia
Languages spokenCroatian
Currency usedCroatian Kuna(HRK)
Area (km2)641

Sports & nature

Blue is the colour of Zagreb. It is found on the coat of arms, on city trams, buses and the funicular, while the shirts of its sportsmen are also the same colour. The people of Zagreb have always been passionate about sport, especially football. Dinamo, the football club with the most trophies in Croatia, also has blue as its team colour. Centres for recreation and professional sports can be found all around the city. The Cibona Basketball Club plays in a sports hall named after the legendary player Dražen Petrović. In addition, what used to be a branch of the Sava river is now the Jarun Recreational Sports Centre, built for the 1987 University Games.

Here you’ll find cycle paths, footpaths and sports courts for everyone to use – international rowing competitions take place on the lake. At Jarun there is also small patch of undisturbed nature, home to several hundreds of species of birds, fish, water animals and insects. A large catfish called Jura might just be an urban myth but anglers who fish here do hope to catch something big. In summer, Jarun is referred to as the Zagreb Sea, as its beaches fill with sun worshippers. Sport carries on through the winter.

At the beginning of the year Zagreb hosts the Ski World Cup, justifying another of its names, White Zagreb. Only half-an-hour from the city’s main square of Ban Josip Jelačić we find the highest peak of Medvednica Mountain, Sljeme (1035 metres), which holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Zagreb. This is where famous Croatian skiers and siblings Ivica and Janica Kostelić trained for their many medals and trophies. Their promotion of the ski run at Sljeme led to it being included in the World Cup schedule. Sljeme is also a favourite place for outings, whatever the season.

Nightlife info

Zagreb can be described as a city with the biggest lounge. The moment the sun appears in the sky in spring, restaurant, café and coffeehouse terraces open for custom. Streets become promenades, places to get a cup of coffee, relax or have a business meeting. A combination of Mediterranean cordiality and northern business sense make any visitor feel welcome. The traditional International Folklore Festival, the global festival of street performers Cest is d’Best, outdoor summer concerts on Zrinjevac, St. Martin’s Day and many other open-air events increase the feeling of communality.

Lounging in cafés has been a long tradition in this city. The Zagreb Green Horseshoe and the main square of Ban Josip Jelačić have always been hubs of social life in Zagreb. Nowadays, this has spread across the whole city centre, around the pedestrianised zone and even further. People from all walks of life can find something of interest here. Cafés around Ban Jelačić, or simply ‘Square’ as it is often referred to, attract prominent figures. Preradović, also known as Flower Square, is loved by artists and young people, as well as an older crowd. Tkalčićeva, once the border between Gradec and Kaptol, used to be full of pubs and served as the red-light district, but nowadays it is a trendy destination for rendezvous and relaxation for the whole family.

The romantic among you can take the funicular on Ilica, the shortest one in the world used for public transportation – you’ll reach the Upper Town in 55 seconds. All of these locations form part of the phenomenon known as špica. Every Saturday around noon people of all ages come to the centre because that is the time and place to see and be seen. The ritual is always the same: people slowly sip coffee, read the Saturday papers, stop off at Dolac market to pick up fresh produce and then go home to prepare lunch. In every neighbourhood there is a favourite meeting place where regulars feel welcome and where everybody knows your name.

Culture and history info

The twin settlements on the hills prospered. Baroque mansions and churches were built in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Jesuit order built St. Catherine’s Church, considered one of the best preserved examples of Baroque ecclesiastical splendour. In the second half of the 17th century, Zagreb became a university centre, one of the longest existing in Europe. In the meantime, Zagreb also became the seat of government. Differences between the ecclesiastical city and the free royal borough slowly disappeared and the two finally merged in 1850 to form the unified city of Zagreb, with a population of 15,000. The new city’s position enabled unhindered growth and Zagreb soon spread around the valley of the river Sava. The development of industrial production, commerce, transport and banking during the second half of the 19th century made their mark on the city’s appearance.

In 1862 Zagreb expanded to the railway that has connected it with all other central European capitals to the present day. This is when the city started to develop along gridlines. The townplanning scheme strictly outlined that all streets must be straight and of the same width, and all buildings of the same type and height. Spacious squares and monuments in the neo-styles of the 19th century are seen among the many parks and green spaces that comprise the appearance of present-day Zagreb. Praška leads us away from the main square to the so-called Green Horseshoe. This series of open green spaces, not unlike the Ring in Vienna, is formed in the shape of the letter ‘u’ and contains important institutions of public culture. The ratio of greenery to the urban architecture, fountains and pavilions was carefully planned out.

This is where the main railway station, Glavni kolodvor, is located, as well as the Academy of Sciences and Arts, the University Library, the National Theatre, noblemen’s palaces and numerous colleges. Yellow-tinted façades and lines of wild chestnut trees echo the era when Croatia was part of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy. The old Upper Town evolved into a systematically organised area with clearly defined sections of greenery and carefully located monuments. Building entrances around the Lower Town provide a link between public thoroughfares and the private sphere of residential courtyards. This atmospheric mix of small town and luxurious Central-European metropolis raised Zagreb to the level of contemporary cities to be reckoned with during the nineteenth century.

The historic events of the 20th century transformed the map of the world and left a mark on the lives of citizens of Zagreb. In 1918, after the World War I, Croatia severed all bonds with the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, a new state formed by the south Slav peoples. The population of Zagreb increased and new districts emerged in the eastern and western parts of the city, while impressive residences were built in the foothills of Sljeme. In this early part of the 20th century, Zagreb developed close links with other European centres of art, culture and science. It was at this point that the first radio station in this part of Europe began to broadcast; the Zagreb Stock Exchange opened; the first automatic telephone exchange was built, as well as the city’s first skyscraper.

Modern times continued to change the everyday life of local citizens until the outbreak of World War II. After the war Croatia, with Zagreb as its capital, became one of the six republics of Yugoslavia. The post-war years lead to the further expansion of the city. It finally spread over the south bank of the river Sava with the construction of residential blocks. For centuries, the Sava had been flooding the valley while protecting citizens from medieval invasion and serving as a link to distant lands. From the mid-20th century it became the border between the old town of Zagreb and Novi Zagreb. Today there are twelve bridges connecting north and south, new and old. The Zagreb Fair, a venue for international business conventions, moved across to the south bank of the river. Pleso airport was built in the valley; around town, office blocks sprang up, along with a new National and University Library.

In 1991 the Croatian Parliament proclaimed the independence of Croatia as a sovereign state. Zagreb became the capital of a newly independent European nation, in a society of free and equal citizens. The Parliament of Croatia and the Government have their seat in the Upper Town, the oldest secular centre of the city, where historic decisions have been made for centuries. In the new millennium, the city of Zagreb is the business centre of the region, a place for multilingual business communication, political debate and cultural exchange. Business quarters just outside metropolitan Zagreb are a response to the demands of modern life. Zagreb continues to be as involved in events in Europe and the world, as it always has done.

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