Discover Zagreb’s Upper Town: A Guide to its Iconic Sights

We divide the center of Zagreb into two parts – the Lower and Upper Town. These are two historical units of utmost importance to the city of Zagreb, and this time we will focus on one of them.

Upper Town or Gradec (as known in the past) is the historical core of Zagreb that, due to its significance to the city, is visited by numerous tourists. Founded in the Middle Ages, until the 19th century, it was in war with Kaptol, and in the 1850 they united (with other villages) into Zagreb.

Over time, numerous buildings were constructed there, shaping their current appearance. St. Mark’s Square is considered the main square of the Upper Town, once a trading place, and today the political seat of Croatia, with the buildings of the Croatian Parliament, Government, and City Assembly.

St. Mark’s Square is dominated by St. Mark’s Church, an original Gothic structure from the 14th century, later reshaped in the neo-Gothic style.

From the Middle Ages, the monumental southern portal with statues of the twelve apostles is preserved. The portal was created under the influence of the famous Parler sculpture workshop from Prague and represents the most significant achievement of Gothic sculpture in continental Croatia.

The church roof with the historical coats of arms of Croatia and the city of Zagreb dates from the 19th century, from a major renovation led by architects Hermann Bollé and Friedrich von Schmidt. The church bell tower is from the Baroque era, and the year 1841 marked on it signifies one of the more extensive renovations.

The second well-known Upper Town church is the Baroque church of St. Catherine (1620-32), considered the first Baroque building in continental Croatia.

A hall church with side chapels, the interior is richly decorated with stuccos by Antonio Quadri (1732), and the sanctuary is painted with the illusionistic architecture of the altar with the scene “St. Catherine and the Alexandrian philosophers”.

This significant work of Baroque painting was done by Slovenian painter Krištof Andrej Jelovšek. The black altars mostly date from the 17th century, except for the altar of St. Ignatius, which is from the 18th century, the work of the famous sculptor Francesco Robba.

Next to the church of St. Catherine extends the complex of the former Jesuit monastery, built in the 17th century and extended in the 1980s. Today, this building is the seat of the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery institution, where top artistic exhibitions are held (Croatian Galerija Klovićevi dvori).

Of the former monasteries, in Upper Town is also the monastery of St. Clare (today Museum of the City of Zagreb, one of the richest museums in Croatia.), or the Poor Clare nuns, in the street named after them, Opatička Street.

This is my favorite museum sin the city, and the building is interesting for its painted facades. It is assumed that the painted windows are connected with the enclosed function of this women’s monastery.

In Ćirilometodska Street, south of St. Mark’s Square, is the Greek Catholic co-cathedral of St. Cyril and Methodius, standing on the site of a former chapel damaged in the earthquake that hit Zagreb in 1880.

Hermann Bolle designed it, and since the Greek Catholics use the Eastern Rite, even though they are part of the Catholic Church, he built it in his distinctive version of the historicist Neo-Byzantine style. The church features an impressive oak iconostasis made in the Zagreb Craft School. It has been part of the Greek Catholic seminary in Upper Town since 1681.

Upper Town also has a series of Baroque houses and palaces. The most important among them is the Vojković Palace in Matoševa 9 (1764), in the style of Maria Theresa Baroque, with a very representative facade with shell motifs. Today, it houses the Croatian History Museum (I’m writing this in August 2023 while the museum is closed because it was heavily damaged in the 5.5 earthquake that hit Zagreb in March 2020). The nearby building of the Hydro-Meteorological Institute is currently being renovated, where the Croatian History Museum is planned to be moved.

Other notable palaces include Banski Dvori and the adjacent Rauch Palace (at St. Mark’s Square 1 and 2), today a unique object functioning as the seat of the Government of the Republic of Croatia.

At Ćirilometodska Street 3 is the Raffay Palace, which today houses the Croatian Museum of Naive Art, and nearby is the house of the famous Croatian noble family Zrinski (Marković Square 3) The Marković Square is considered to be the smallest square in the entire Zagreb area.

Three beautiful Baroque palaces are located on Opatička Street: Juršić Palace (Opatička 2), Rauch-Sermage Palace (Opatička 6), and Bužan Palace (Opatička 8) from 1754, the work of the most famous Zagreb Baroque builder Matija Leonhart.

At Opatička 10 is the building of the former Government Department for Worship and Education, the former Ministry of Culture and Education. It has rich interiors (the famous Golden Hall), and in front of it is a lavish Neo-Baroque wrought iron fence (from 1894), the work of architect Hermann Bollé, and the Craft School in Zagreb. Croatian Institute of History is located at Opatička 10.

From other residential architecture, it is worth mentioning the remains of a former Renaissance house with black and white painted decoration (corner of Mesnička and Vatroslav Lisinski) and the famous pharmacy in Kamenita 9 (Zagreb builder Bartol Felbinger made the facade). In this house lived the grandson of the famous Italian poet Dante. This pharmacy has interesting history I’m going to write about in the following articles.

Upper Town was once surrounded by walls with towers and several city gates, and to this day, only the eastern, so-called Stone Gates, have been preserved. Same as the pharmacy – this is one of the most important places of Zagreb history, so it deserves its own article, which I’m going to write, hopefully, very soon!

On the northern part of Upper Town is the tower Popov Toranj, where the observatory is located.

In the building at the base of the tower is the legendary Zagreb tavern Palainovka. I will also mention the famous tavern Under the old roofs (Basaričekova 9), which has been operating for decades, and was an inspiration for the tavern K Žnidaršić in the famous film Tko pjeva zlo ne misli (translated Who Sings, Means No Harm), which was partly filmed in the neighboring house.

And finally, the beautiful Lotrščak Tower, a famous lookout from which there is a beautiful view of the Lower Town.

Below the tower is Strossmayer’s promenade and the funicular connecting the Upper and Lower Town.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk around the Upper Town, one of the most beautiful places in the city, especially if you’re into history! I’ll write more articles about some of the places you’ve just learned about, so be sure to bookmark discoverzagreb.com for more content like this one!

Hi! My name is Ivan, and I'm an author of discoverzagreb.com. I have been photographing and exploring Zagreb for more than 15 years, and if you want to know more about me and discoverzagreb.com, read the Introduction articles by clicking here.

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