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Zagreb History

Over the course of a millennium, Zagreb has bloomed from two vying medieval hilltop settlements into a sprawling modern European metropolis.

Stone Age peoples, Celts and Romans are all known to have rocked up in the spot where the city lies, but modern-day Zagreb kicked off in the Middle Ages.

Zagreb began life as two separate entities, Kaptol and Gradec, which today comprise the historic Gornji grad (Upper Town). Centred around the city's landmark cathedral, Kaptol was a religious centre, while Gradec was home to craftsmen and merchants. The two groups didn’t always see eye to eye. Outsiders collectively referred to the settlements as Zagreb (meaning 'behind the hill'), although they were not officially united as the City of Zagreb until 1850.

Boom time followed, with the late 19th century characterised by the arrival of the railways and the construction of Donji grad (Lower Town). A meticulously planned grid system created many of the wide boulevards, grand squares and neat parks you see in Zagreb today.

The 20th century was one of upheaval, bookended by optimism. When Croatia severed ties with the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 and forged a new union with Serbia, Slovenia and Montenegro, Zagreb’s population swelled and the city flourished.

After WWII however, Croatia became part of Yugoslavia. Although Zagreb continued to grow geographically and economically, it always stood in Belgrade’s shadow. It was only when Croatia declared independence in 1991 that Zagreb regained some lost pride and became capital city once again.

Did you know?
• Zagreb was struck by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in 1880, spurring a massive construction programme revitalising and rebuilding many of the city’s older buildings.
• Zagreb’s Art Pavilion started life as the Croatian pavilion at the Millennium Exhibition in Budapest in 1896; the pavilion’s iron framework was transported back to Zagreb, rebuilt and opened two years later.
• With a 66-metre track, the Zagreb funicular claims to be the shortest cable car in the world.

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Featured Hotels


Palace Hotel

The old dame of hotels in Zagreb, Palace Hotel still oozes the old-fashioned charm that once made it the city’s best. Opened in 1891, it’s Zagreb’s first luxury hotel, and the decadent elegance of the Habsburg Empire still reigns in the plush rooms. Front rooms have fabulous views of the park, so try to get one of those for beauty in and outside.

Esplanade Zagreb

This grand 1920s hotel in Zagreb was originally built for travellers on the Orient Express and has hosted royalty, artists and politicians in its many years. It remains the epitome of old-fashioned luxury and Art Deco elegance, with 209 plush rooms, fine-dining restaurant (one of the city’s best), health club and business centre.

Hotel Ilica

With a good, central location and rooms decorated in a rich (sometimes kitsch) style, complete with red drapes, gilded details and large paintings, Hotel Ilica is great if you like to have peace and quiet, but still be in the middle of things. It’s a small hotel in Zagreb, which means the service is friendly and personal.

Hotel Jagerhorn

Founded in 1827, Jagerhorn is the city’s oldest standing hotel. After the full refurbishment in 2015 it has become one of the most luxurious places to stay in Zagreb. Whether you like to enjoy a drink by the fountain or relax in spacious rooms, Jagerhorn is an oasis of style and comfort.

Panorama Zagreb

This gleaming business hotel in Zagreb has 279 comfortable, modern and well-equipped rooms, as well as a restaurant and meeting and conference facilities. It’s great value for an uncomplicated sense of comfort.

Hotel Antunović

Hotel Antunović is 8km (5 miles) from Zagreb’s city centre and has 210 rooms and suites, with rates to suit a variety of budgets. Dining options are equally diverse with a self-service restaurant, Mediterranean eatery and pastry shop all on site. The eighth-floor spa and pool command panoramic views over Zagreb.