The Role of Folklore in Zagreb’s Cultural Identity

I’ve written about my background and expertise (primarily photography and 15+ years of photographing and exploring Zagreb). Still, sometimes I want to learn more about stuff I’m unfamiliar with.

And this is one of those topics.

I’m writing this article after the International Folklore Festival in Zagreb 2023 just ended, so I got a little inspired by that event.

Before I say something about the festival, let’s learn what is the definition of the world “folklore“. Wikipedia (of course) says the following: “Folklore is shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture, or group. This includes tales, myths, legends, proverbs, poems, jokes, and other oral traditions. They include material culture, such as traditional building styles common to the group. Folklore also includes customary lore, taking actions for folk beliefs, and the forms and rituals of celebrations such as Christmas, weddings, folk dances, and initiation rites.“

Afte learning the definition, let’s dig into what I’ve found out about this topic.

As expected, folklore plays an important role in Zagreb’s cultural identity. The city has a long-standing tradition of celebrating its cultural heritage through various events and festivals. One such event is the International Folklore Festival (as mentioned), held in Zagreb since 1966. The festival aims to present and affirm traditional culture and folklore of numerous local and international participants from all continents, and in 2014 was pronounced as a festival of national significance.

It continues the old tradition of festivals organized from the time between the two World Wars.

This festival is just one of many examples of paying respect to the folklore history of Zagreb.

One example is also the medieval fortress on the south slopes of the Medvednica Mountain – the Medvedgrad Fortress. To be more specific, I’m talking about the visitor center. Medvedgrad Fortress is one of my favorite places in the city, but the newly renovated visitor center makes you appreciate Medvedgrad Fortress and Medvednica Mountain even more.

The center welcomes visitors with three innovative and award-winning multimedia museum exhibits, starting with an enormous three-story mural featuring animations, sounds, and special effects that bring the nearby forest’s plants and wildlife to life. On the upper platform, visitors can encounter stunning 360 degrees views of the surrounding area and listen to the legends of witches, fairies, and the famed Black Queen – Barbara Celjska.

Another spot to mention while talking about folklore and Zagreb is the Ethnographic Museum in Zagreb.

This museum plays a significant role in preserving and promoting the folklore identity of Croatia. Founded in 1919 by Salamon Berger, It lies in the Secession building of the one-time Trades Hall of 1903, designed by the architect Vjekoslav Bastl.

The museum has a vast collection of over 85.000 items, but only 2.800 are on display. The exhibits richly illustrate Croatia’s traditional way of life, with a display of gold embroidered costumes and ceremonial dresses, musical instruments, furniture, cooking utensils, and tools. The Croatian folk costumes are arranged according to the three ethnographic zones: Pannonian, Dinaric, and Adriatic. They showcase festive costumes from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

In addition to focusing on Croatian tradition and culture, the museum also displays artifacts from Africa, Australia, Asia, South America, and the South Seas.

There are more interesting and important connections between the preservation of folklore in Zagreb’s cultural identity. Still, these three are strong enough for a short article like this one.

While writing, I got a few ideas for future articles on this topic, so be sure to bookmark and visit it later.

Thank you for reading!

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

Read more

The Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb: A Beacon of Art and Culture

Nestled in the heart of Zagreb stands the Croatian National Theatre (HNK), a majestic beacon of culture and history. This architectural marvel, officially opened...

A Journey Through the Vranyczany-Hafner Palace and Archaeological Museum

Walking beside the serene Zrinjevac Park, I came across the magnificent Vranyczany-Hafner Palace, home to the Zagreb Archaeological Museum. As I explored its halls,...

Zagreb’s 150-Year Love Affair with Bicycles: A Lifestyle Revolution

This is a short one for all of you cyclists there! In 2017, the city of Zagreb celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first...

Zagreb Cathedral: A Historic Masterpiece of Faith and Architecture

Zagreb Cathedral was built on one of the two towns which are very important in Zagreb's history. In the days, Gradec (today Upper town)...