Zagreb, Capital City of Croatia

Walking tour of Zagreb in a few short chapters...

Walking tours of Zagreb usually start in the heart of the town - Ban Josip Jelačić Square - where visitors can see an equestrian statue of ban Jelačić (the sculptor is Antun Fernkorn, 1866). The three historical parts of Zagreb are the Upper Town (Grič), Kaptol, and the Lower Town.

 

Radićeva Street (used to be called Kamenita Street) leads us to the Upper Town and the Stone Gate, the only preserved city gate from the 13th century. Once a guardian of the fortified town, today it is a place of silent prayer filled with the light of numerous candles because in 1760 a baroque chapel, Mother of God, was established there. As a matter of fact, it is a baroque altar in the town walls with a painting of the Holy Virgin which was saved from the great fire of 1731. The fact that the painting did not burn, despite the circumstances, was considered to be a miracle of God, so an altar with the preserved painting was set up in honor of the Mother of God. Passing through the Stone Gate we reach Marko's Square, a site of many important events from Croatia’s past and present. The highest government institutions are located here. The first Croatian National Theatre was established here, and in 1840 Croatian was for the first time on a theater stage in the play "Juran and Sofija", by Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski. Today it houses the Zagreb Town Council.

 

Another witness to the past is St. Mark’s Church that dates back to the 13th century, the central building of that historical Zagreb square. The church has been reconstructed many times, so it has properties that belong to different periods. Six centuries, Romanesque, Gothic, and the last re-gothic style (1876-1882) at the hands of architect Herman Bolle, contributed to the appearance of the church today and is a favorite of future spouses. Married couples would, and still do, take their vows under a picaresque arch with the coats of arms of the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonija, and Zagreb; however, it is also where town magistrates, Croatian governors and leaders of the country today take their oaths. If you choose to say a silent prayer in this church, you will be able to see sculptures by Ivan Meštrović - the large Crucifix above the main altar, Pieta and the silver cross, Madonna portrayed as a peasant woman and paintings of Joza Kljaković - frescoes from the Old and New Testament.

 

Nearby, on Catherine’s Square, is St. Catherine’s Church from the 17th century, the most beautiful and the most romantic baroque church in Zagreb. It was used by Jesuits and students of the grammar school founded by the Jesuits in 1607 on the Square.

 

Every street, palace, house, even the cold cobbles in the two squares have their story. It would take too many pages to tell each one, so it is necessary to take a walk and listen to your guide. The guide will tell you about the town palaces, luxurious dances, about Dverce and Lotrščak Tower, museums, and archives. The guide will tell you about Opatička Street, today the Croatian Institute for History, housing the five most beautiful halls in Zagreb. One of them, called the Golden Hall, is the gallery of Croatian art of the late 19th century. The guide will certainly mention the National House, where members of the Croatian National Revival movement used to gather, and the Revival Hall, where the most beautiful dances in Zagreb took place. You can stroll down the Strossmayer Promenade, which offers a spectacular view of the Lower Town, and you can take a seat on the bench beside the sculpture of A.G. Matoš. To end this tour, you can take a walk down the Vrazova Promenade and search for ghosts of the past in Palajnovka, a coffee-house from 1844.

 

The Lower Town is the part of Zagreb situated on the plain below Grič and Kaptol. Life in Zagreb moved to the Lower town altogether in the late 19th century, when Jelačić Square and Ilica, the longest street in Zagreb, became trade centers, where one came to see and to be seen. It was a time of new vistas which, to this day, remain the most beautiful images of Zagreb. One should take a walk along the Lenucci Horseshoe, a line of squares/parks, stand below the plane-trees on Zrinjevac Square and listen to the rustling leaves in the company of Croatia’s great men. In each green square, you will see buildings that are Zagreb’s cultural pride. I recommend the Croatian National Theatre, Art Pavilion, and the Mimara Museum. The Croatian National Theater situated in Maršal Tito Square, Cathedral towers, St. Mark’s Church and the Stone Gate are some of the most popular places in Zagreb.