Wondering what to do in Zagreb? You are up for some Zagreb sightseeing but don’t know where to start? Walk along Zagreb Green Horseshoe is just the right choice for you. Zagreb Green Horseshoe is a series of impressive squares which encircle, like a horseshoe, the real center of present-day Zagreb. You will get magnificent views of great architecture, feel the pulse of the city and go beyond main tourist attractions.
Book Zagreb city tour with a local art historian or continue reading for self-guided experience.
Zagreb Green Horseshoe is a framework of eight parks situated in the city centre of Zagreb called Lower Town (Donji Grad) with a great artistic and urbanistic significance that, in the second half of the nineteenth century, defined Zagreb as a highly representative middle European city.
Zagreb’s model for urban planning and architecture have always been Central European cities, above all Vienna. The park complex of Zagreb Green Horseshoe was based upon the idea of the ring, the idea that has been applied in many other European cities of the nineteenth century in order to expand old historic city and connect it with the suburbs.
This form was applied in monumental proportions in Vienna’s Ringstrasse with a purpose of representation of political ideology and the same mechanism was later translated to Zagreb. However, Zagreb Green Horseshoe contrasts utilitarian rationalism of Viennese Ringstrasse and serves as a masterpiece of middle European historicist urbanism which reflects the sole of the city.
We could say that Zagreb Green Horseshoe is on track of art work of the future; urban space deprived of vulgar utility which serves for social mobility and aesthetic experience.
Zagreb Green Horseshoe is situated between main city square (Ban Jelacic Square) on the north and railway on the south. Before it was built city centre was Upper Town and the area of today’s horseshoe was agricultural area. In contrast to relatively young Lower town, we can trace the history of the Upper town to the middle ages. It was not until the nineteenth century that the city started to expand out of the city walls which surrounded the Upper town.
The idea was to build representative buildings which will symbolise national, cultural and educational identity of the nation and will put a national imprint on the image of the city. This ambition did not just determine the physical position of the new building area today known as Zagreb Green Horseshoe, rather it dictated the Historicist style that characterizes most of the buildings.
The squares that define the shape of the horseshoe are arranged in three straight lines on the west, east and south side. Starting from the north-east those are:
Nikola Subic Zrinski Square
Start your sightseeing Zagreb tour at Nikola Subic Zrinski Square or Zrinjevac as it is often called. It is the first square built on Zagreb Green Horseshoe and the first Historicist square in Zagreb in general.
Square is located just a few minutes south from the main square, on the northwest of the horseshoe, area which in the first half of the 19th century was considered a periphery of the city.
Area of the square is horticulturally decorated with fountains, sculptures and a music pavilion in the middle and is one of the most beautiful monumental spaces in Zagreb.
The most significant building on the square is building of Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. The palace was designed by Friedrich Schmidt in Neo-Renaissance style with three floors and a façade made out of bricks in the style of Italian Renaissance. Building today hosts Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters, fine art museum exhibiting works of European painters from 14th-19th century.
Josip Juraj Strossmayer Square
Second square on the east side of the horseshoe is Josip Juraj Strossmayer Square.
Space is horticulturally decorated with the sculpture of Croatian bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer standing in the middle rotunda.
Representative buildings on the square are Neo-Renaissance building of the Chemical Laboratory by architect Herman Bólle and monumental palace of Vranyczany Family which today hosts the Modern Gallery.
King Tomislav Square
The third square on Zagreb Green Horseshoe is King Tomislav Square dedicated to Croatia’s first king.
It is a immense horticultural complex enclosed by Art Pavilion – two wing pavilion with a monumental dome, mixture of Neo-Renaissance, Classicism and Secession and building of the main railway station – longitudinal Neo-Classical building with a symmetrical façade and focus on the middle part which is constructed in the manner of the temple.
Ante Starcevic Square
Ante Starcevic Square is one of the squares of the south part of the Zagreb Green Horseshoe and is placed west of the King Tomislav Square.
Decoration of the park was based on the model of the previous parks of the horseshoe in the style of English Garden. Square houses a building of Esplanade Hotel opened in the 1925 for Orient Express travellers as the most luxury hotel of the time.
Botanical garden was opened in 1891 and has maintained its function of city park and botanical garden up until today when it stands as protected monument of nature and culture because of its great educational, cultural and historical value.
The garden, surrounded by a decorative wrought iron railing, was designed and constructed in the landscape style, with free-standing clumps of trees and winding paths.
Besides the glass houses, the garden has some other architectural structures. There is the director’s or administrative building, in Art Nouveau style, the building of the Botanical Institute, the old exhibition pavilion which is a valuable and authentic item of pavilion architecture of 1891.
Marko Marulic Square
Marko Marulic Square is situated north of the Botanical garden. One of the most beautiful buildings in Zagreb overseen by the architect Rudolf Lubynski and finished in 1913 dominates the square. Building which is residence of the Croatian State Archives comprises Neo-classical style and early phase of Secession. It is characterised by gradual distribution of space along one axis of the building and domed central space.
Ivan, Antun and Vladimir Mazuranic Square
Ivan, Antun and Vladimir Mazuranic Square is situated north of Marko Marulic Square and is in axis with Josip Juraj Strossmayer Square on the eastern part of the Zagreb Green Horseshoe.
Most of the buildings on the square are Secessionist and Historicistic private palaces. On the west side of the square there is one building of public use, Ethnographic Museum – a fine example of Secession with a domed central space.
Republic of Croatia Square
You will finish your Zagreb sightseeing walk on the Republic of Croatia Square which is home to Croatian National Theatre – building in Neo-Baroque style with elements of Neo-Renaissance and representative sculptural repertoire what makes it one of the most beautiful Historicist monuments in Zagreb.
Other buildings on the square are building of University of Zagreb which is a great example of Rundbogenstil in architecture of Central Europe and Museum of Arts and Crafts, a three story building in style of German Neo- Renaissance.
The last architectural contribution to the square is building of the Academy of Music which was very controversial because it is post-modernistic impact in the centre of historicist architecture of Zagreb.
PHOTO: Pixabay, Flickr, Zagreb Botanical garden, Ethnographic museum Zagreb