Calling all art lovers! Zagreb, the vibrant capital of Croatia, is waiting for you.
Come with me on a three day quest to find the best art in Zagreb. We'll discover ancient treasures from Croatian island cultures that existed long before Greece and Rome...to the sleekest modern chrome and steel installations.
We'll wander among lavish Baroque paintings, heroic turn of the century sculptures, luminous impressionist landscapes, colorful folk art, and even bizarre collections of everyday objects. You'll get unvarnished opinions on everything from an artist's point of view, plus practical advice from a well-connected Zagreb local.
I'll guide you around the city, show you the best places to eat well and save money, and even where the best art supply shops are if you're an artist yourself. I'll teach you simple words that will help you get through most any situation, even if you are hopeless at languages. And you'll meet some of my favorite Croatian artists, both old and new.
Is this you?
- It’s your first time in Zagreb, Croatia. You want to experience the cultural highlights of the city. Art, art, art, and more art!
- You’ve been to Zagreb before, wandered around, tried to follow a guidebook, got frustrated, and ended up missing out on things you really wanted to see.
Believe me, I’ve been there. That’s why I wrote this guide. In it you will find what to see, why you should see it, when is the best time to see it, and where to find it. Whether your budget is modest, middling, or lavish, you can see lots of art and have a great time in Zagreb.
Zagreb is often overlooked by travelers hurrying off to the islands. That's a shame.
The most sophisticated of all the former Yugoslav cities, the capital of Croatia is as rich in culture as its former ruler, Venice – at a fraction of the price. The American dollar is at an all time high against the Croatian kuna, so right now is a great time to visit.
A vast hoard of cultural treasure awaits the intrepid art lover here, but the quest can be intimidating. The language is strange, the streets have more than one name, it’s easy to get lost, and you can’t count on finding an English-speaking person to help you. With this guide, you’ll know exactly where to go and what to do.
We will take all-day walking tours of these places:
- The “Green Horseshoe” parks at the heart of Zagreb and their 19th century architectural marvels
- Jelačić Square, the Cathedral, and Dolac Market
- Zagreb’s medieval upper town – the Gornji Grad, where lived a great Croatian sculptor whose work is known all over the world
- Gardens that inspired one of Croatia’s most gifted watercolorists
- Unique museum collections, from ancient marble sculptures to modern glass and steel.
- I take you through the train station and even advise you how to get on the right train. (They won’t tell you this at the station), how to cope if you’re stuck there for hours/overnight, how to buy a ticket when there is a language barrier.
- I will teach you four words that will get you through almost any transaction with a local who doesn’t speak English.
Along the way, you will get to know some of Croatia’s best artists, poets, and even explorers. Can you solve the mystery of an artist’s early death, or figure out what happened to an explorer who went missing in South America and was never seen since?
Free gift with purchase: a set of Ginsu knives my sarcastic humor and salty personal opinions!
Packed with all the information you could ever need and then some, this is the ultimate guide for art lovers to experience the best of Zagreb. Whether your budget is shoestring or silver-spoon, this itinerary will help you get the most for your money.
Sample from Itinerary
Local’s Tip: If you haven't had breakfast yet, the train station has two bakery shops selling yummy pastries. I am fond of the little round burek with spinaca (spinach) and cheese. The clerks don’t usually speak English. You may have to resort to my helpful guide, A Crash Course in Croatian: Fake it in Four Words. [included with itinerary]
When you walk out of the train station, the first thing you see is a magnificent statue of King Tomislav, by sculptor Robert Franges Mihanovic. Tomislav was the first king of Croatia way back in 910.
[Photo: Tomislav Square with Art Pavilion]
Fun Fact: Trg (pronounced "terg") means "square" and you will see this word in a lot of Zagreb street names.
Tomislav Square is the first of three parks in a row stretching north toward the older part of town. Together they form the eastern section of the "Green Horseshoe" which is the heart of Zagreb. This area is part of the Donji Grad, or Lower City, and it is laid out in a modern grid around the park. Get to know it, and you’ll never have to worry about getting lost in the city center.
Looks pretty grand from here, doesn't it? Zagreb was once a stop on the legendary Orient Express. On our left is the Hotel Regent Esplenade, the most spectacular hotel in Zagreb and it's where the Orient Express travelers stayed. You and I are not staying there, unless one of us wins the lottery. If you do, I’ll be your best friend.
[map from train station to Jelacic square]
Cross the zebra crossing in front of the train station, cross the tram tracks.
Watch out for those trams! They’re always coming. You might have to walk between them instead of waiting for them to go by, because as soon as one leaves another one arrives.
Walk north along Trg Kralja Tomiseva, on the west edge of the park.
[photo of train station and park]
[photo of park with Art Pavilion]
Cross the street at Baruna Trenka / Pavla Hatza (they’re the same street) and keep going north.
Now we are at the middle park. This is Strossmayerov Trg, which means Strossmayer's Square. There is a building in this park also, which we will be returning to visit very shortly.
Keep walking north, crossing another street called Andrije Hebranga.
Now we have reached the last park in the Green Horseshoe. It's called Trg Nikole Subića Zrinskog, or just Zrinjevac. There’s a tram stop here.
[photo of Zrinjevac tram stop]
At the end of the park, cross Teslina and keep going north. The street you are on is now called Praska. One more block and you will see the trams turning toward the left. Follow them.
[photo of entering Jelacic Square]
You are now in a big square with another statue of a feisty-looking fellow on horseback brandishing a sword. He is Ban Josip Jelačić, who was famous for leading a failed uprising against Hungary. The word “Ban” means a type of Ottoman ruler similar to in rank to “governor”.
[statue of Ban Jelacic photo]
The square is named Ban Josip Jelačić after him. It’s also called Trg Jelačića. This is the hub of upper Zagreb and we will be coming back here a lot.
Local’s Tip: Remember that you can always get back to the train station from Jelačić Square by going straight south on Praška. No matter how many beers you had.
Facing north, toward the statue, the tourist information office will be to the east, on your right.
[end of itinerary sample]
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Your satisfaction is guaranteed. I want you to have a great time!