Zagreb: The top 10 attractions - Global Storybook

Zagreb: The Top 10 Attractions

Monika Dabo

Monika Dabo

Monika Dabo is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (Croatia).

Monika is a pharmacy student from Zagreb, Croatia. She is interested in many different things and hobbies, like philosophy, nature, dance, science and traveling. She spends all of her free time and money on traveling and meeting new people and cultures. She has already traveled through half of Europe and can't wait to explore some farther destinations.
Monika Dabo

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Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia, as well as its cultural, scientific, economic, and administrative center.  Its first written record dates back to 1094, when Zagreb was standing on two hills called “Kaptol” and “Gradec”, which later formed into a unified city of Zagreb.

Thanks to its enviable position, Zagreb is home to almost 1 million residents, almost a quarter of Croatia’s entire population.  The city is protected by the mountain of Medvednica in the north and it spreads around the Sava river’s banks in the south.

When you first come to Zagreb, you will notice its relaxing atmosphere, warmly inviting you to explore its wonderful parks, charming squares, stunning churches and historic monuments.  Many know Zagreb for the “Lenuzzi’s Horseshoe” – a complex of seven squares, plus a botanical garden, located in the city center.  Altogether they form a letter “U” – hence the name “Horseshoe”.   So let’s review the entire list of the Top 10 must-see attractions in Zagreb.

Zagreb Cathedral, Zagreb, Croatia - Global Storybook1. Zagreb Cathedral

Zagreb Cathedral, located on Kaptol hill, is the tallest building in Croatia and it dominates the city’s skyline.  It has one of the rarest constructions in this part of Europe, which is a blend of neo-Gothic and Renaissance styles.  It’s dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and to Kings Saint Stephen and Saint Ladislaus.  It was proclaimed as a main cathedral back in 1093, when King Ladislaus moved the bishop’s chair from the city of Sisak to Zagreb.

The Cathedral was built in 1217 and was renovated twice since then: once after an invasion of Mongols in 1242 and a second time after an earthquake in 1880.  The second restoration of the cathedral, which added its present Neo-Gothic elements, was led by Hermann Bollé.  He was well known for his numerous restorations and building projects in Croatia.  In the 19th century, the Cathedral got a new pipe organ, which can still be found here.  It’s considered to be among the top ten most significant pipe organs in the whole world today.  Up to 5,000 people can attend a mass several times during a day.

  • Address: Kaptol  31
  • Time required: 1 hour
  • Hours of operation:  Monday – Saturday: 10:00am – 5:00pm, Sunday: 1:00pm – 5:00pm
  • Price: Free

2. Lotrščak Tower

Everyday, at noon sharp, a blast sound can be heard in the city center.  It’s actually a cannon shot fired from the Lotrščak Tower in the Upper Town.  In fact, it has been heard for more than… 230 years in the same spot!

The tower was built in the 13th century in Gradec, today’s Upper Town, to guard the southern gate of the city’s wall.  It got its name – Lotrščak for its signature bell “campana latrunculorum”, translated as “a bell of thieves”.  The bell used to rung every evening warning its citizens to return to the fort, before the city gates would be closed and locked for the night.  Although the bell is no longer there, the Grič Cannon is still fired from this same spot at noon daily.

The Tower is one of the best preserved fortified buildings in Zagreb.  From the top of the tower you can also get a beautiful panoramic view of the city, and its charming rooftops.

  • Address: Strossmayerovo šetalište 9
  • Time required: 30 minutes – 1 hour
  • Hours of operation: June – September: Monday – Friday: 9:00am – 9:00pm, Saturday – Sunday: 10:00am – 9:00pm; October – May: Monday – Friday: 9:00am – 7:00pm, Saturday – Sunday: 10:00am – 7:00pm
  • Price: 20 kunas (Adults), 10 kunas (Children)
  • Official website: http://gkd.hr/en/

3. Ban Josip Jelačić Square

The Ban Jelačić Square is situated just below the Kaptol and Gradec hills.  It’s been at the heart of the city since 1641.  Its first name was “Harmica”, a Hungarian word for “one thirtieth“,  since it was once a place where goods were sold and taxes were levied.  It got its present name in 1848.  For a brief period of time it was renamed to “Republic Square” but the locals started calling it the “Trg Bana Jelačića” or simply “Trg”, meaning “the square”.  It is the oldest and the most famous square in Zagreb.

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A statue of Ban Josip Jelačić stands proudly in the middle of the square, symbolizing Ban’s defense of Croatia’s rights against Austria and Hungary.  It was placed there in 1866, though it was removed by the Communist authorities in 1947.  It was soon brought back to its original position in 1990.  A famous local meeting point “under the horse’s tail” or “under the clock”, is located some twenty meters from the statue.

  • Address: Trg bana Josipa Jelačića, between streets Jurišićeva ulica and Ilica
  • Time required: 30 minutes
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Price: Free

4. King Tomislav Square

The King Tomislav’s Square is the second most famous square in Zagreb and it’s dedicated to the King Tomislav.  He was the first King of Croatia, as well as the founder of the first united Croatian state.  You can find a monument raised in his honor at the square.

If you look south from the square, you can see the “Glavni kolodvor” – the main railway station in Zagreb.  It’s a beautiful neocassical style building, which was opened in 1892.  It’s also the biggest railway station in Croatia.  Tomislav park lies just north of the square.  Locals and visitors alike love to have a picnic on its soft green grass during the warmer months.  There is also the Art Pavilion, right behind the park, which is the oldest gallery in South-Eastern Europe.

During the Christmas time, an ice-skating park would be operating in the Tomislav park.  It takes part in the huge Zagreb’s Advent Festival, which was actually voted as the “Europe’s Best Christmas Market”, since the day it was opened.

  • Address: Trg kralja Tomislava, between streets Branimirova ulica and Ulica Grgura Ninskog
  • Time required: 30 minutes
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Price: Free

5. The Croatian National Theatre

The Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb is one of the four biggest theatre houses in Croatia (the other three are located in Split, Rijeka and Osijek).  It’s considered to be the premier theatre and opera house in the whole country.  This theatre has its roots in the first city theatre built in 1834, in the present day City Hall in the Upper Town.  The present building was constructed and opened in 1985, in the Trg Republike Hrvatske Square, as a part of the Lenuzzi Horseshoe complex.

Many of Croatia’s leading artists have performed at this theatre, including Ivan Zajc and Branko Gavella.  The theatre also had the honor to host numerous international artists, such as: Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss, Jean-Louis Barrault, Jose Carreras, and many others.

A magnificent fountain called “Zdenac života”, or the “source of life”, is located at the theatre’s entrance.  It was designed by the famous Croatian artist and sculptor, Ivan Meštrović in 1905.

  • Address: Trg Republike Hrvatske 15
  • Time required: 2 -3 hours
  • Hours of operation: depends on the show
  • Price: 50 – 160 kunas on average
  • Official website: http://www.hnk.hr/en

6. Dolac Market

The Dolac market was opened in 1930 in the place of the old city walls, after the old market Harmica was moved from today’s Ban Jelačić Square.  It’s located right above the Square, between the oldest parts of Zagreb – Gradec and Kaptol.  Farmers and traders from all around Croatia come here to sell their goods.  There’s a wide selection of various fresh vegetables and fruits, along with meat, fish, nuts, flowers, honey, souvenirs, and much more!

A monument of a local woman “Kumica”, who grows fruits and vegetables and makes traditional cow cheese and sour cream, which she later sells on the market, stands right at the market’s entrance.  You can also buy the famous red parasols, with their multicolor horizontal stripes, made in the honor of the “Šestine umbrellas” – one of Zagreb’s symbols, at the market.

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7. Mirogoj Cemetery

Mirogoj is Zagreb’s main cemetery, a gorgeous park, as well as an open space art gallery – all in one.  It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Europe.  The cemetery was officially opened in 1876.  It was designed by Herman Bollé – the same architect who restored Zagreb Cathedral (sight #1), after an earthquake in 1880.

Unlike most older cemeteries, which were church-owned, Mirogoj was owned by the city and hence it was the first cemetery open to all religions.  Moreover, the cemetery is divided by religious groups, though it is forbidden to erect any walls between them.  With its breathtaking arcades, cupolas and churches, Mirogoj is one of the biggest and most valuable monuments of Zagreb’s architecture from the 19th century.

  • Address: Aleja Hermanna Bollea 27
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: April – October: 6:00am – 8:00pm, November – March: 7:30am – 6:00pm
  • Price: Free
  • Official website: http://www.gradskagroblja.hr/default.aspx?id=253 (Croatian only)

8. Mimara Museum

The Mimara Museum is an art museum, whose official name can be translated as “The Art Collection of Ante and Wiltrud Topić Mimara“.  It was founded in 1980 and was opened to the public in 1987.  Of the total 3,700 artworks located in the museum – more than 1,500 exhibits contain permanent holdings, starting with the prehistoric period, and going up to the 20th century.

The building itself was constructed at the end of the 19th century in a Neo-Renaissance style.  It was first built as a gymnasium and only later converted into a museum.  As of today, Zagreb’s V. Gymnasium still occupies its north wing.

  • Address: Roosvelt square 5
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: October – June: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 10:00am – 5:00pm, Thursday: 10:00am – 7:00pm, Sunday: 10:00am – 2:oopm, July-September: Tuesday – Friday: 10:00am – 7:00pm, Saturday: 10:00am – 5:00pm, Sunday: 10:00am – 2:00pm
  • Price: 40 kunas (Adults), 30 kunas (Students and elderly)
  • Official website: http://www.mimara.hr/ (Croatian only)

9. Maksimir Park

The Maksimir park is the oldest public park in the South-Eastern part of Europe, founded in 1787.  It’s located in a neighborhood sharing its name – Maksmir, next to the NK Dinamo’s stadium.  There is also a City Zoo inside the park which has been there since 1925.  The zoo is home to 275 different animal species, and is definitely worth a visit.

The park is comprised of several large meadows, numerous creeks, as well as five lakes, some natural and some artificial.  It is a habitat to various plants and animals.  An old oak tree called Dedek, the “Old man”, grows in the park which is more than 600 years old.

  • Address: Maksimirski perivoj
  • Time required: 2-3 hours
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Price: Free

10. Medvedgrad

Medvedgrad is an old castle from the 13th century.  It’s located on the south slopes of the Medvednica mountain.  It was built in 1254 after a Mongolian invasion of 1242.  It was placed in a very good strategic location since it provided best views of the potential invaders from the south.  Although this fort was well equipped and ready for a fight, it had never seen any action.  You can still see it very well from Zagreb’s city centre on a clear day.

Medvedgrad, Zagreb, Croatia - Global StorybookThere is a famous legend about “Crna kraljica”, or the “Black Queen”, who once lived in the Medvedgrad castle.  Some also connect her with Barbara Celjska, a Queen of Bohemia and Hungary.  There are a lot of scary stories associated with this evil woman who studied alchemy and occultism and lived in this castle.  Some even claim that she had a relationship with Transylvanian Count Dracula and later became a vampire.  A lot of adventurers came searching for her alleged treasures, which she had supposedly hidden somewhere in the city, but they never found anything.  At least, not that we know.

  • Address: Prilaz Kraljičinom zdencu
  • Time required: 1 -2 hours
  • Hours of operation: April – October: 11:00am – 7:00pm (every day except Monday), November: 10:00am – 6:00pm (weekends only), December- March: closed
  • Price: 15 kunas

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