Significantly, the decision to build a main train station, Glavni kolodvor, in Zagreb was taken in Budapest, when Croatia was part of the Habsburg Empire. Ferenc Pfaff, who also designed stations in some 20 cities in modern-day Hungary, as well as Osijek and Rijeka in Croatia, was responsible for this neo-classical pile that fringes Tomislav trg.
It is no coincidence that the most prestigious hotel in Zagreb stands alongside the train station. The Esplanade served the Orient Express when Zagreb was part of the Grand Tour in the 1920s. Opened in 1925 and restored to its stately glory in the early 2000s, the Esplanade has accommodated Queen Elizabeth II, Leonid Brezhnev, Ella Fitzgerald and Sophia Loren.
Hotel Esplanade, Mihanovićeva 1, Zagreb, Croatia, +385 1 4566 666
Created as an iron structure for Hungary’s Millennial Exhibition of 1896 and shipped up to Budapest, the Art Pavilion dominates the beautifully landscaped square of Tomislav trg facing the main train station. On its return to Zagreb, the building was made a permanent feature by Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer, also responsible for the National Theatre. Now a prestigious art space, it stages temporary exhibitions of international prominence.
Art Pavilion, Trg kralja Tomislava 22, Zagreb, Croatia, +385 1 4841 070
Created by the Viennese design team of Ferdinand Fellner and Herman Helmer, whose works stretch across central Europe, the National Theatre was unveiled in the presence of Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef in 1895. Ten years later, notable Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović created a fountain by the entrance, called The Source of Life. Referred to by its Croatian acronym of HNK Zagreb, the theatre has been the alma mater of some of the country’s most renowned actors and directors.
National Theatre, Trg maršala Tita 15, Zagreb, Croatia, +385 1 4888 488
The parish church for the old town of Zagreb, St Mark’s is best known for its distinctive roof of red-white-and-blue chequered tiles displaying the coats of arms of Zagreb and Croatia. Other external features reflect its lengthy construction, the Romanesque windows of the 1200s and the Gothic portals of the late 1300s and 1400s. Of particular interest are the 15 effigies by the Parler sculptors from Prague, spread over the south portal.
St Mark’s Church, Trg Svetog Marka 5, Zagreb, Croatia, +385 1 4851 611
One of the more unusual works by renowned sculptor Ivan Meštrović, the originally named House of Visual Artists is now known as the Meštrović Pavilion, or Meštrovićev paviljon. Today the home of the Croatian Associations of Artists, it was opened as a circular arts hall on the eve of World War II. The conflict led to Meštrović abandoning his homeland and the building being donated to Bosnian Muslims for use as a mosque. Then it was converted into a museum to celebrate the triumphs of Tito’s Partisans and today, the building hosts exhibitions and events organised by Croatia’s artistic community.
Meštrovićev paviljon, Trg žrtava fašizma 16, Zagreb, Croatia, +385 1 4611 818
Created in classic Baroque style in the 1600s, St Catherine’s lends its name to the pretty square in the Upper Town that also houses the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery in the former adjoining monastery. The church displays a number of coats-of-arms, belonging to local noble families who contributed to its reconstruction later in the 17th century.
St Catherine’s Church, Katarinin trg, Zagreb, Croatia, +385 1 4851 950
Created by the man who redesigned Zagreb Cathedral, Hermann Bollé, Mirogoj is the city’s main cemetery. Zagreb being Croatia’s capital, this is the resting place of the nation’s great writers, artists and politicians. Once a summer house and vineyard, it’s a suitably tranquil spot, Bollé’s grandiose main entrance lending the appropriate gravitas.
Mirogoj, Aleja Hermanna Bollea 27, Zagreb, Croatia, +385 1 4696 700