Croatia’s capital and largest city, Zagreb is the cosmopolitan hub of the country’s political and cultural life. The influence of its turbulent history can be seen all over the city in the varied architectural styles and this half-day walking tour with a private guide brings this history to life. With medieval churches in the Upper Town, Baroque Revival and Art Deco townhouses in the Lower Town, as well as the country’s august state buildings, you’ll discover a wide variety of architecture as well as markets, galleries and expansive squares.
After being met at your hotel, you’ll begin your tour in Zagreb’s Lower Town, where Austro-Hungarian architecture from the 18th and 19th century surrounds well-planned parks and squares.
You’ll pass the train station, once a key stop along the Paris-to-Constantinople Orient Express, and continue north through leafy parks to Ban Jelačić Square, the city’s main meeting point. Surrounded by Biedermaier, Art Nouveau and post-Modernist buildings, it also has a statue of Josip Jelačić who abolished serfdom in Croatia and led the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.
From here, walk around the corner to Zagreb Cathedral. Originally built in the 13th century, but rebuilt in neo-Gothic style in 1880, its twin spires are a city landmark. Inside, one of the city’s most renowned residents, Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac, is buried in a tomb designed by Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović.
After visiting the cathedral, take a tram north to Mirogoj Cemetery, the final resting place of Croatia’s most esteemed citizens. Its grand tiled arcade, which is topped by green copper domes, was designed by Herman Bollé, and the vine-covered trellises combine with the elaborate tombs, sculptures and gardens to give it a stately grandeur that’s rarely seen in such a setting.
Return to the Upper Town by tram to visit the city markets, where locals shop for fresh produce and fish. Continuing north, your guide will explain the history of the old stone city gate which is now Zagreb’s most important pilgrimage spot and a shrine to the Virgin Mary.
Following the cobblestone streets of the city’s historic core, you’ll spot the blue-, red- and white- tiled roof of Saint-Mark’s Church, which is surrounded by the Croatian Parliament, Constitutional Court and the former residence of the Croatian Bans (local rulers).
The tour finishes at Lotrščak Tower for panoramic views over the Lower Town, followed by a funicular ride to the Croatian National Theatre where Meštrović’s statue, The Well of Life, sits amid flower gardens. From here, your guide can take you back to your hotel or you can explore some of the nearby museums at your leisure.