Overview and History
Zagreb is the capital of the Republic of Croatia and has a population of around 800 000. In Zagreb metropolitan area (or Zagreb County) population is slightly above 1,2 million inhabitants.
The city of Zagreb lies along Sava river and the northern edge of city reaches the southern slopes of Medvednica mountain.
There are evidences that confirms the human presence in this area in the times of Stone Age, 35000 years ago. Most of archaeological findings have been discovered in the cave Veternica on the south-west sloaps of Medvednica mountain near Zagreb.
At the end of the 4th century BC. Celtic tribes arrive to this area, populating the teritory north of the Sava river. Celtic tribes are soon followed by Romans, and after they have conquered the area it becomes part of Roman province of Pannonia. The center of the province was city of Sisak (Roman name: Siscia), and most imortant Roman settlement at Zagreb area was Andautonia (today: Šćitarjevo), at the southern bank of Sava river. During the Migration Period, at the late 6th century Avars and Slavs, including Croats have begun to arrive in this region. By the arrival of a new population, Roman organization of life, roads and towns, are slowly dying away, and the old name Pannonia is being replaced by the new one - Slavonia.
In the late 9th century another nomadic nation arrives from the east into this region - Hungarians. At the same time, at the Adriatic coastal region, first independent states, ruled by Croatian dukes are being formed. The most famous of Croatian medieval rulers was King Tomislav. At the beginning of the 10th century he has successfully stopped the spread of Hungarians into Slavonia (name Slavonia refers to the region between the rivers Sava and Drava - not to be confused with Slovenia, a nearby country). From this period there is a very little data about Zagreb, only a few remnants of jewelry found in graves in front of today's Cathedral.
At the end of 11th century, dies a last king of the Croatian ruling dynasty. The right to the throne is inherited by the Hungarian royal dynasty, due to the kinship ties of thise two dynastys. Croatian nobility opposed this crowning, which led to 10 years struggle for the throne and finaly to recognition of the Hungarian ruler Coloman as the king of Croatia and Hungary in 1102 In return, Coloman promised to maintain Croatia as a separate kingdom, not to settle Croatia with Hungarians, to guarantee Croatia's self-governance under a Ban, and to respect all the rights, laws and privileges of the Croatian Kingdom.
The first recorded appearance of the name 'Zagreb' is dated in 1094 when the Hungarian King Ladislaus founded a diocese. In 1217 the construction of the first cathedral dedicated to Sv. Stjepan (St. Stephen), which was located in the same place as today's cathedral, was completed.
During 13th century, across asian steppes, Tatars arrived into this region. After he was defeated ni a battle with Batu Khan, and barely pulled out alive, King Bela IV was chased by Tatars. While he was retreating towards the Adriatic coast, he stopped in Zagreb seeking for refuge. Tatars also reached Zagreb, destroyed it and burned it to the ground. Newly built cathedral was also destroyed, and most of the citizens fled in the forests of Medvednica seeking refuge . Tatars soon went away, continuing their pursuit of the King Bela IV, and most of the population returned into the city.
In fear of new attacks citizens decided to fortify a settlement at a top of neighboring hill which was higher and surrounded by streams, creating two separate city cores. Smaller, eastern settlement that was formed around the Zagreb Cathedral was named 'Kaptol' and larger, western settlement, called 'Gradec' was located on the neighboring hilltop, divided from Kaptol by Medveščak stream, and it was inhabited mainly by farmers and merchants.
In 1242 King Bela IV, as a sign of gratitude for offering him a safe refuge, awarded citizens of Gradec with a charter called 'Golden Bull'. Charter was referred to the residents of Gradec settlement that became a free royal city .The resulting benefits had brought a certain self-governance, right to choose the city leaders, judges, to have control over the trade and trade fairs, but also brought the obligations that went with it. Among other things, the citizens were obligated to build and maintain a solid city walls. It is estimated that Zagreb was then about 1000 inhabitants.
Settlement was urgently surrounded by walls and in 1257 city was already completely fortified. In period 1249 -1254, on the southern slopes of Medvednica, fortress of Medvedgrad was built, by the order of bishop Philip of Zagreb.
In the 14 th century the first known census of houses and residents was performed. Around three hundred houses and 2810 residents was listed, among them there were 21 shoemaker, 6 blacksmiths, 4 goldsmiths, 4 potters, 3 butchers and 2 saddlers.
Everyday Life with its common problems was replaced with the hard times during the reign of King Sigismund of Luxembourg, who was not willing to recognize the privileges and status that Gradec had as a free royal city. Royal policy was most resolutly supported by a powerful feudalist Herman II of Celje, who had been appointed the as Croatian Ban (ban was the head of government, army and judiciary, as the king's deputy representative in Croatia). Thanks to good relations with the king, who married his daughter Barbara, he got in possession of Medvedgrad fortress. From fortress his man daily harassed local residents, and finaly completely abolished the former liberty and rights. Because of terror, many citizens fled their homes and left Gradec. Only by death of Count Ulrich, the last male member of the Celjski family, the situation got back to normal and in 1457 the former freedoms and privileges of city were restored, and residents got in posesion of their seized properties.
Unfortunately, the period of peace did not last for long, in september 1469 Ottoman army reached southern bank of Sava river, threatening the city of Zagreb, and probably would have been burned and destroyed it if the floods of Sava river didn't stoped its advance.
During the 16th century, the Turks gradually conquered central and southern parts of Croatian territory. The so called 'Personal union with Hungary' ended in 1526 with the Battle of Mohács and the defeat of Hungarian forces by the Ottomans. After the death of King Louis II, Croatian noblemen gathered in 1527 at the Cetin fortress and elected Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria as the new king of the Croatian kingdom, under the condition that Habsburg rulers provide the troops and finances required to protect Croatia against the Ottoman Empire. Despite all disagreements, the alliance managed to organise the defence of the remaining Croatian territories. At late 16th century, Croatia had been reduced to a narrow stretch of land reaching from Drava river in the north to the Adriatic coast.
In 1606, at the invitation of the city government the Jesuits arrived to Zagreb. They have built the first grammar school, the St. Catherine's Church and monastery. In 1669 they founded a University where philosophy, theology and law were taught.
By the end of the 17th century, most of Croatian territories were freed of Ottoman occupation.
In the 18th century, during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa major reforms have been implemented in all parts of the Habsburg monarchy. To accelerate the implementation of reforms, Empress avoided negotiations with the Croatian nobility, and instead established a government in Croatia that was directly subordinate to her and placed it in the city of Varaždin. In 1776, after Varaždin was devastated by great fire, the Royal Council (government) permanently moved from Varaždin to Zagreb, as well as administrative, judicial and academic institutions, and a substantial part of the aristocracy. Numerous palaces have been built in the city and surrounding area during that period, and besides craftsmen and artisans, the first manufacture production appears in the city.
The 19th century in Croatia was exceptionally turbulent. Under the influence of the French Revolution, a group of young intellectuals, known as the Illyrians, has initiated a series of changes.
The language was one of the key issues, and in 1835 Illyrians established the first newspaper written in Croatian language. Shortly after, the question of official language in the Croatian Parliament (Sabor), where Latin was still spoken, was discussed. At the same time the Hungarians were pushing for the introduction of the Hungarian language in public life. Fierce clashes between the Illyrians and the Hungarian supporters get the bloody epilogue in 1845 when conflict broke out during a county elections in Zagreb, 13 people were killed and some more were wounded. The language issue was finally resolved in 1847 when the Croatian language became official language in Parliament. These events were prelude to the dramatic 1848 and the Hungarian Revolution. The revolution grew into a war for Hungarian independence from Habsburg rule. Revolution was military opposed by the Croatian Ban Josip Jelačić who led his troops against the rebels.
In 1850 by the imperial decree, the free royal city of Gradec was officially joined with Kaptol, and some other surrounding settlements into the city of Zagreb. At that time Zagreb had about 16000 inhabitants. This act was the basis that enabled the development of Zagreb into modern Central European citiy.
The first railway line arrived to Zagreb in 1862 and in 1863 Zagreb received a gasworks. The Zagreb waterworks was opened in 1878 and the first horse-drawn tramcar was used in 1891. The construction of the railway lines enabled the suburbs to merge gradually into the Lower Town, characterized by a regular block pattern that prevails in Central European cities.
In 1880 the city was hit by a disastrous earthquake. Reconstruction of destroyed buildings required a lot of resources and efforts and a major role in restoring and building the city had the architect Hermann Bollé, whose works are scattered throughout the city. New residential buildings, hospitals and the cemetery were constructed, and the industry was relocated to the peripheral parts of the city.
Towards the end of the WWI a secession from the Austro-Hungarian Empire was declared in Zagreb. After centuries of shareing common fate, the relationship with the Hungarians and Austrians were ended. The newly created state didn't last long. On December 1st 1918 it was united with the Kingdom of Serbia and Kingdom of Montenegro into the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, colloquially known as Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
In period between the two world wars, the leading role in Croatian political life had the Croatian Peasant Party (Croatian: Hrvatska seljačka stranka - HSS) led by Stjepan Radić. Stjepan Radić and several other Croatian deputies were assassinated in Belgrade Assembly. This assassination was the beginning of the end of of the Yugoslav community and also the motive for further conflicts.
In the Kingdom of Yugoslavia Zagreb was a largest industrial center. The number of residents that was roughly around 100,000 in 1918, had more than doubled in the next twenty years, during the existence of Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Between the two world wars, due to massive population growth, the city has rapidly expanded. Meanwhile the attempts to create an Croatian autonomy within Yugoslavia were interrupted by WWII.
After the Kingdom of Yugoslavia collapsed under the impact of fascistic countries, on 10th April 1941 the Independent State of Croatia was declared. At the head of this regime were the members of the fascist Ustaša movement. Their policy of detente, particulary in relations with Italy, which was left to rule the Adriatic coast and islands, and atrocities against their opponents, especially against the members of other nations, has strengthened the anti-fascist movement. The first Partisan units entered Zagreb on 8th May 1945, just one day before the capitulation of Third Reich.
Violence lasted into the post-war period. First days after the end of the WWII were marked by a mass executions of captured members of Independent State of Croatia armed forces and other political opponents, committed by the victorious Partisans.
When the situation in post-war years finaly calmed down it led to further expansion of the city. In 1957 began the construction of new residential areas south of the Sava river, and the city also expanded westward and eastward, incorporating neighboring settlements.
The changes that started in Europe in the late eighties also affected Croatia. After the first multi-party elections in Croatia in 1990, a new multi-party Parliament was constituted in Zagreb. After a one year of unsuccessful negotiations with the other republics of former Yugoslavia, on 25th June 1991 the Croatian Parliament decided to proclaim the independence of the Croatia.
During the war for independence that followed, Zagreb was attacked on two occasions. First attack occurred in 1991, at the beginning of the war, when the Yugoslav People's Army air forces carried out an unsuccessful air raid on the residence of the Craotian government at Zagreb Upper Town, and then in the spring of 1995. when the entire Lower Town area was target of rocket attacks. In 1995 Croatian army forces successfully performed several military operations, and managed to liberate all territories that were occupied until then.
After the end of the war in late 1995 the situation quickly got back to normal.
In June 2004, Croatia became an official candidate for membership in the European Union and since 1th April 2009 the Republic of Croatia is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Trough 'Pleso' airport Zagreb is connected with 20 major European cities. Zagreb Airport is located some15 kilometers south of the city center. However, if the traffic is usual density, to arrive by public transport or car in the city center it takes about 45 minutes. Besides public bus lines and taxis the Croatia Airlines bus to Pleso airport leaves from bus station every half-hour or hour from about 4am to 8.30pm.
Public transportation in the city is well organized by combining the tram and bus lines. Extensive tram lines reach to peripheral parts of the city, so it is not unusual to hear that some tourists describe Zagreb as a city of blue trams. Tickets for public transportation can be bought at newspaper kiosks. Each ticket must be stamped when you aboard, and can be used for transfers within 90 minutes but only in one direction. So if you intend to move around the city using public transportation it's much better solution to get a day ticket (dnevna karta) instead of a single ride ticket, it's only four times more expensive (at the moment it costs 25KN, that's approximately 3,4€) then single ride ticket and it's valid on all public transport until 4am the next morning. Keep in mind that after the midnight, the trams and buss are not so frequent and they operate on slightly different routes than during the daytime.
People and Culture
The official currency of Croatia is the kuna (KN), which was 7,4 kuna to the Euro at the time of this writing. Croats are traditionally Roman Catholics.
Things to do, Recommendations
What to recommend? It surely depends on what type of entertainment you prefer, there are museums, architecture, parks, cafes, theatres, shady forests and streams of nearby mountain Medvednica... you can take a look at what other people recommended here or you can visit Zagreb-touristinfo web pages to get more informations.