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Zagreb is the stylish and cosmopolitan capital of Croatia, home to almost a million inhabitants and a quarter of the country’s businesses. It is a formidable urban metropolis, vital transport hub, economic powerhouse, and thriving centre of commerce – the cultural and industrial heart of the nation.
Situated on the Sava river on the southern slopes of the Medvednic Mountain, Zagreb’s medieval core is punctuated with a maze of cobblestone streets, grand civic buildings, churches, museums, galleries, and stone monuments. Elsewhere, bustling shopping centres, vibrant cafes, fine international restaurants, chic bars, and nightclubs infuse the city with modernity and energy. Every year, Zagreb plays host to a slew of festivals dedicated to film, fashion, music, and folklore.
The first recorded mention of Zagreb is in a 12th century document relating the establishment of a bishopric in 1094. At that time there were two different settlements: Kaptol in the east and Gradec in the west. The two were not united until 1850, at a time when the Croatian National Revival was underway. It was an exciting period for Zagreb, when many important cultural institutions and monuments were established.Read more
Today, Zagreb’s historical offerings are so rich, a complete exploration of them might require several days. Important religious buildings include the neo-gothic Zagreb Cathedral, the early gothic St. Francis church, and St. Mark’s church, a gothic structure built on Romanesque foundation. The Croatian National Theatre is worth a look for its sumptuous neo-baroque interior, whilst the state archives, constructed in 1913, remain a fine example of art nouveau. Opened in 1876, the Mirogoj, Zagreb’s cemetery, features impressive arcades and domes; All Saint’s Day, November 1st, is a particularly evocative time when families convene by candle-lit graves to remember departed loved ones.
Zagreb’s museums are extensive and require plenty of time and energy too. The Archaeological museum includes some 450,000 artefacts and monuments, including a famous Egyptian mummy wrapped in a Etruscan book made of linen. More intriguing than uplifting, the Museum of broken relationships is an award-winning museum exploring the emotional journey of break-ups.
Across the city, you’ll find plentiful art galleries. Housed by the elegant Vranyczany palace, the Modern Gallery is a vital store-house of 19th and 20th century Croatian art – its collection includes more than 10,000 paintings, drawings and sculptures. Equally impressive, the Mimara museum houses some 1500 historical exhibits and 3700 works of art, including hundreds of works by European masters like Rembrandt, Rubens, Bosch, Goya, Turner, and Renoir.
Unsurprisingly, some travellers to Zagreb experience moments of cultural burn-out. Fortunately, the city is home to several fine parks, lakes, and recreational spaces where you can rest your feet and relax your over-stimulated intellect. The largest is Maksimir Park, complete with coffee-houses, picnic spots, forests and a lake.