Zagreb is an old Central European city. For centuries it has been a focal point of culture and science, and now of commerce and industry as well. It lies on the intersection of important routes between the Adriatic coast and Central Europe.
When the Croatian people achieved their independence in 1991, Zagreb
became a capital - a political and administrative centre for the
Republic of Croatia. Zagreb is also the hub of the business, academic,
cultural, artistic and sporting worlds in Croatia. Many famed
scientists, artists and athletes come from the city, or work in it.
Zagreb can offer its visitors the Baroque atmosphere of the Upper Town,
picturesque open-air markets, diverse shopping facilities, an abundant
selection of crafts and a choice vernacular cuisine.
Zagreb is a city of green parks and walks, with many places to visit in the beautiful surroundings. In spite of the rapid development of the economy and transportation, it has retained its charm, and a relaxed feeling that makes it a genuinely human city.
A Brief History of Zagreb
Today's Zagreb has grown out of two medieval settlements that for centuries developed on neighbouring hills. The first written mention of the city dates from 1094, when a diocese was founded on Kaptol, while in 1242, neighbouring Gradec was proclaimed a free and royal city. Both the settlements were surrounded by high walls and towers, remains of which are still preserved.
During the Turkish onslaughts on Europe, between the 14th and 18th centuries, Zagreb was an important border fortress. The Baroque reconstruction of the city in the 17th and 18th centuries changed the appearance of the city. The old wooden houses were demolished, opulent palaces, monasteries and churches were built. The many trade fairs, the revenues from landed estates and the offerings of the many craft workshops greatly contributed to the wealth of the city. Affluent aristocratic families, royal officials, church dignitaries and rich traders from the whole of Europe moved into the city. Schools and hospitals were opened, and the manners of European capitals were adopted. The city outgrew its medieval borders and spread to the lowlands. The first parks and country houses were built. Zagreb confirmed its position as the administrative, cultural and economic centre of Croatia.
When Kaptol, Gradec and the surrounding settlements were administratively combined into the integrated city of Zagreb in 1850, the development accelerated still more. The disastrous earthquake of 1880 sparked off the reconstruction and modernization of many shabby neighbourhoods and buildings. Prestigious public buildings were erected, parks and fountains were made, and transportation and other infrastructures were organized.
In the 19th century the population increased tenfold. The twentieth century brought the Secession style to Zagreb. The city lived in the plenty of a civil society, with firm links with all the central European centres. With an increase in wealth and industry from the 1960s on, the city spread out over the wide plains alongside the Sava River, where a new, contemporary business city has develop.
What not to miss Zagreb
In the old town of Zagreb is where most of the points of interest, bars and restaurants are. In the upper part you can find monuments such as the Stone Gate, the old gate from where you could access the city that now has become a shrine of the Virgin Mary, or the sculpture of St George (Sveti Juraj in Croatian) slaying the dragon. Also don’t miss out on the Mirogoj cemetery north of the city, a complex of great architectonic and natural beauty that’s perfect for a nice afternoon stroll (in no way morbid) and see the beautiful gravestones of some of the most prominent figures in Croatian history. The views of the city from Strossmayerovo šetalište are also something not to be missed, as isn’t the Mimara Museum, which contains thousands of works by some of the most important artists in history such as Rembrandt, Caravaggio or Velázquez.
The districts of Zagreb
The old town is divided in two parts: the upper part, Gornji Grad and the lower one, Donji Grad.
All tourist interest in the city gathers in these two districts
although the area that goes from there to the river Sava is where the
city expanded in the 18th century, what today is known as Novi Zagreb, while west of there is Trešnjevka, a residential area.
When to visit Zagreb
Not being by the coast, Zagreb doesn’t have the same climate as Split or Dubrovnik. In general, temperatures are lower and are at about 70ºF in summer and close to 35ºF in winter. That’s why visiting the city between May and September is the best plan, as rain is not as commonplace and the sun brings a beautiful shine to the city.
Getting around Zagreb
Zagreb Airport is the most important one in the whole country and it connects the city with the whole world. Inside the city, its tram system is comfortable and easy to use. Make sure you buy a Zagreb Card during your holidays in Zagreb that will give you unlimited transport in the city for just 90 kunas (12€-$16) during 72 hours. It’s also advisable to see the city by renting a bicycle.