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10 Inspirations for Experiencing Culture in Zagreb

Culture in Zagreb
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Although Croatia is best known for a stunning coastline with pristine waters and idyllic islands, there are so many places to be found in Croatian capital that offer an awe-inspiring delight with a sublime mix historical attractions and hidden gems. Question for you. Want to discover culture in Zagreb?

Iconic in every way and truly one of the most memorable experiences in Europe, Zagreb is arguably the most cultural travel destination in all of Croatia. 

Culture in Zagreb — 10 Things You Cannot Miss

1. Meet in Front of Ban Jelačić Square

Experience culture in Zagreb: Ban Jelacic squareBan Jelačić Square in Zagreb
(cc) Roberta F. / CC BY-SA 3.0

You could say that this is the place to be in Zagreb. Place where young and old meet and place that you just cannot miss when it comes to exploring the capital of Croatia. Located just below the hillside settlements of Kaptol and Gradec, it has served as the city’s commercial heart ever since 1641, when it was designated as a place where fairs could be held. Most of the buildings you will see here were built in the 19th century and they present a vast number of different architectural styles, from Biedermeier to Art Nouveau and Post-modernism.

You may not know but once upon a time, this place carried the name “Harmica” (Hungarian for “one-thirtieth”), after the tax levied on the goods that were sold here. Then, in the year 1848, the square name changed in honor of Ban (“Governor”) Josip Jelačić. His statue stands in the center of the square since 1866 and represents a meeting point for most of the locals here. Just say meet you near the Ban monument, and everybody will know where you are going to be.

But there were times when some people had problems with his regime, so in the year 1947, communist authorities removed his sculpture. Years later, in 1990 a public petition secured the return of the statue, and it was unveiled on October 16th, the day that Ban Jelačić was born.

Originally placed facing northwards in order to symbolize the Ban’s defense of Croatia’s rights against Austria and Hungary, the statue now faces south to provide a better balance to the layout of the square.

You have heard so many things about Ban Jelačić, but we forgot to introduce him to you. The easiest explanation is that he was so many things. He was a nobleman, but also, one of the most important Croatian politicians. Not just of that time, but in the entire history of Croatia!

He was also a very know war general remembered for his military campaigns during the Revolutions of 1848 and for his abolition of serfdom in Croatia.

Today, he is one of the symbols of Croatia.

2. Explore Mimara Museum

Experience Culture in Zagreb: Mimara Museum Zagreb

Mimara Museum
(cc) Ximonic / CC BY-SA 3.0

The city’s mega-museum, this baby is the motherload of artistic treasures with more than 3,750 works in it at all times including sculptures, paintings, crafts, and much more. The museum got its name from a collector Ante Topić Mimara who donated most of the works.

Some critics claim that there are a number of fakes in the museum’s collection, and in one moment, the collector was linked with art theft during the Second World War and some forgery stories, but that was never proven.

Everything that is founded here today is pure history, Works by Canaletto, Rubens, Holbein, Velazquez, Goya, Monet, Renoir, and Degas are all on display here as a witness that Mimara stands as one of the most important museums in Ex Yugoslavia

P.S. In case you want to discover this museum in a completely new way, make sure you check out our travel audio guide, which will tell you everything there is to know about things you can see here. All you got to do is download the app and let the museum talk to you.

3. Head to Tkalčićeva Street

Culture in Zagreb: Tkalčićeva street

Tkalčićeva street in Zagreb
© Roberta F./ CC BY-SA 3.0

For all of you interested in live music, eating out and a warm local atmosphere, there is no better place than Tkalčićeva street. It´s not us that say this, ask all the locals in Zagreb. During the day, Tkalčićeva will welcome you as a very colorful and charming street of low-rise painted houses with balconies. Very romantic it looks. And when the sun goes down, just stroll down the street and enjoy one of Europe’s best atmospheres There are no words to describe how vibrant and live this place becomes. You really got to see it for your self.

If you want to pick up something to go or have an elegant meal with a loved one, you’ll find what you’re looking for Tkalca.

4. Localize at Famous Dolac Market

Culture in Zagreb: Dolac Market
Dolac market in Zagreb

In case you want to discover the real Zagreb, head over to the Dolac market, the best place in Zagreb to buy meat, dairy products, vegetables, and Croatian artisanal items. Not just that!

Here you will also find a great choice of seafood straight from the beautiful coast of Dalmatia. Some locals describe this place as the “Belly of Zagreb”, and as much as anything it’s a great way to see how locals go about their day. Let yourself get lost in the colors of Dolac Market, we are sure you will never forget it. And when we are speaking about the market and food, we want to share with you some local tips.

Traditional food is often a highlight of a trip to Zagreb with a wide variety of restaurants offering everything from sweet potato dumplings to traditional meat stew and Štrukli, a type of doughnut filled with sour cream and cottage cheese. Renowned for offering a very contemporary experience, the restaurants in Zagreb are also impressive as they remain true to a traditional themed menu while doing so in a very modern setting. Mundoaka, La Struck, and Bistroteka are all fine examples of these eateries while Mak Na Konac is one of the best examples of a traditional restaurant with a focus on local produce.

5. Embrace Culture at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Broken Relationship

Culture in Zagreb: Museum of Contemporary Arts

The Museum of Contemporary Arts in Zagreb
(cc) Myriam Thyes / CC BY-SA 3.0

For all of you museum lovers, Zagreb offers 2 very interesting treats. The first one we recommend you is the Museum of Contemporary Art, where you will find around 1,500 m2 exhibition space and works of many modern painters, architects, and sculptors. The museum also houses a library, a multimedia hall, a bookstore, a cafe, and a restaurant. To discover all that is to see here, make sure you download the Cultural Places app.

This other museum we have to admit is quite unusual. It is one of only a few museums of this type in the world that will welcome you with exactly what the name says, many different items that represent broken relationships. Each of the items has its own story to tell you. Some stories are funny, others are sad, but the entire museum offers a unique and enjoyable experience.

P.S. There is a little bar to have a drink and talk in case you have problems with your partner. Don’t end up as one of the items in the museum 😉

6. Discover the Zagreb Cathedral

Culture in Zagreb: Cathedral in Zagreb

Cathedral of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Like every major European capital, Zagreb has its cathedral as well, and we have to say it is amazing! Formally known as the Cathedral of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is definitely a must-visit place in the Croatian capital, and one of the most iconic monuments in Zagreb.

In case you are wondering is why this jaw-dropping beauty is decorated with a big number of Gothic architectural elements, the reason is that it has survived one earthquake and many reconstructions that transformed it into a neo-gothic monument.

When you go inside the cathedral, you will be welcomed by an interior full of statues, paintings, and inscriptions in a Slavic script. For those of you not familiar with the local language, it will very cool to see all these ancient Slavic scripts and drawings.

Culture in Zagreb: Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Zagreb Cathedral
(cc) Jorge LáscarCC BY 2.0

Whenever you get lost in Zagreb, just look for its twin towers to show you your way.

7. Visit St. Mark’s Church

Culture in Zagreb: St. Mark's church in Zagreb

St. Mark’s Church in Zagreb

Croatians are known to be a proud and patriotic nation. I have never seen such a level of national pride in any other country than here. Honestly. In many places alongside the Dalmatian coast, you will spot houses decorated with the national flag and a vast number of local products. Not to mention how strong they support their sports teams.

The roof of St. Mark’s Church is a true testament to that. The White Castle (Zagreb’s Coat of Arms) and the National Red, White and Blue tiles emblazoned on the roof for all to see, give the St.Mark’s Church a touch that is rarely seen anywhere else. Make sure to check it out.

8. Get in Touch with Nature at Lenuci’s Horseshoe

Culture in Zagreb: Lenuci’s horseshoe

Lenuci’s Horseshoe in Zagreb

A large complex with luscious green gardens that offer the perfect hideaway and escape from the bustling city outside. In fact, this is one of the most appealing aspects of Zagreb in that there are many natural parks such as Orlovac, Cmrok Prekrizje, and Jelenovac which all feel a million miles away from life in the city. 

9. Stroll down Ilica Street

Culture in Zagreb: Ilica street

© Miroslav Vajdic/ CC BY-SA 2.0

If you are on a lookout for a street in Zagreb where everything happens, this is the place to go. Ilica street is Zagreb’s main shopping area, with a lengthy shopping location where you will find almost every known brand in the world.  From countless local boutiques to well-known clothing shops for fashion lovers, it is very easy to get lost around here.

But Ilica is not just some shopping district. Here you can also enjoy a cup of coffee or have some nice meal in case you get hungry from all the shopping. Just chose a bar you like, sit down, relax, order some coffee, and enjoy Zagreb as the locals do.

10. Pimp my pump

Culture in Zagreb: Pimp my pump

Pimp My Pump

We have already shown you some very interesting cultural spots in Zagreb, but what you may not know is that this city is becoming the hotspot of incredible street art in recent years. There are in fact several street art museums in different neighborhoods. The most famous street art initiative around is Pimp My Pump. where you can see some very old water pumps displayed in a very artistic way.

Something for the End…

But besides all those obvious sights and landmarks, Zagreb’s Upper town is famed for its secret sights, many courtyards tucked away from the main streets behind unassuming facades. Two events particularly celebrate this side of the upper town: Secrets of Grič, and Dvorišta.

Secrets of Grič, a night tour of the upper town with costumed historical characters (and some fictional), is based on historical facts but blended also with known urban legends, and stories of famous Croatian novelist, Marija Juric Zagorka. This tour takes place from May through September, every Friday, and Saturday, at 9.00 pm. It lasts for one hour, and it’s a great opportunity to experience different Zagreb, a history of the town as told by great Croatian novelist.

And here it is. 10 things you can see and do in Zagreb.

Thanks, Frank about Croatia and Zagreb2015, for providing us with information to write the article.

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