Zagreb, Croatia: Exploring the Lower Town (What to See, What to Do)

Zagreb Lower Town is one of 17 Zagreb’s districts. It is located in the very center of the city of Zagreb Croatia and this name is rarely used as its official name.

Donji Grad emerged in the 19th century and lies below the more famous Upper Town. This part of town is now considered as a center of business, shopping, art, museums and spacious parks.

Contrasting the narrow and cobbled street of Upper Town, streets of Donji Grad (lower) are mostly wide where most of the city’s museums are interlaced with parks, cafes and classy shops.

This part of the Zagreb city, may seem reserved and apparently hidden at first contact, but after you take a walk through the city’s streets, diving in its rhythm, exploring the architecture or talking with people, it reveals its most imaginative and festive face.

The elegant Viennese influences, is visible in the first contact with the Lower Town. The Lower city is dressed by the magnificent Austro-Hungarian buildings, facades in secession style that embellished the city in the early twentieth century, with the large garden squares.

Donji Grad begins at Trg Jelacic and includes Ilica Street, and ends at the main train station to the south. This large square lies under the sword of Ban Jelacic, a symbol of the Croatian revival, framed by buildings in the classical , Vienna’s Art Nouveau and rationalist style, always crowded with busy people.

So, what’s worth to see in the Lower Town ?

Zagreb Lower Town Museums

Mimara museum

Zagreb’s major art museum at Rooseveltov trg (Roosevelt square) 5 (Zagreb Lower town), is one of the most visited museums. The museum received its name from the art collector Ante Topic Mimara (1898-1987), who donated his collection to his homeland and the Croatian people.

There is something mysteriously about this donator, a close friend of Marshal Josip Broz Tito.

It consists of more than 3,750 pieces from various periods and regions. The archaeological section consists of almost 200 pieces dating from prehistoric times, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Crete, Greece, Etruria, Rome and early medieval Europe.

In this museum are also presented some original paintings from Rembrandt, Rubens, Renoir and Manet. It also houses sculptures, paintings, crafts and much more. Definitely worth a visit.

Opening hours are: from October to June (10:00 AM to 05:00 PM, from July to September (from 10:00 AM to 07:00 PM). Closed on Monday!

Museum of Arts and Crafts

This museum located in Zagreb Lower Town, focuses on the lifestyle containing about one hundred thousand items of the fine and applied arts, drawn from the period from the 14th to the 21st century.

It’s organized into a number of collections: furniture, glass, metal, ceramics, sculpture, painting, graphic art, clocks and watches, graphic and product design, architecture, photography (one of the oldest such collections in the world) and photographic equipment, fabric and fashion, musical instruments, painted leather, ivory, printing and bookbinding.

Very ornate and curious museum. Mobile guides in foreign languages are available and persons with special needs also have guides. These services do not cost extra.

Opening hours: From Tuesday – Saturday ( from 10:00 AM to 07.00 PM, Sunday (from 10 AM to 02:00 PM). The museum is closed on Mondays and national holidays. Admission fee 20 – 40 Kuna. The museum is located at Marsala Tita square, 10. To reach the museum take trams.12, 13, 14 or 17.

The Strossmayer Gallery

Situated at Trg (Square) Nikole Zrinskog 11 , in the heart of Zagreb Lower Town, only 5 minutes walk from Bana Jelacica Square, inside the same name park (Park Josipa Jurja Strossmayera), you can visit this museum in a beautiful 19th-century neo-Renaissance building.

The Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters (Croatian: Strossmayerova galerija starih majstora) is a fine art museum in Zagreb, Croatia exhibiting the collection donated to the city by Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer in 1884. This building also houses the Croatian Academy of Sciences.

Among the European paintings from the 14th to 19th century, noteworthy are the works of Fra Angelico, Giovanni Bellini, El Greco, Veronese, Tiepolo.

Opening hours of this museum are rather strange and I must say unusual if you decide to visit it, on Saturdays and Sundays (only from 10:00 AM to 13:00 PM). On Tuesdays from 10:000 AM to 07:00 PM, on Wednesdays to Fridays from 10:00 AM to 04:00 PM, on Mondays closed.

Modern Gallery (The National Museum of Modern Art)

Modern Gallery (Nacionalni Muzej Moderne Umjetnosti – The National Museum of Modern Art) is located in the center of Zagreb, housed in the impressively renovated palace built in the 80s of the 19th century, designed by the Viennese architect O. Hofer.

The Modern Gallery, originally the National Gallery for Croatian Art, offers more than 750 outstanding exhibits of painters and sculptors of the Croatian fine arts from the 19th to the 21st century.

Located in Andrije Hebranga 1 street, overlooking the Zrinjevac Park, is just a few minutes from Bana Jelacica Square. Opening hours are from Tuesday to Friday from 11:00 AM to 07:00 PM, weekends from 11:00 AM to 02:00 PM. The museum remains closed on Monday. Entrance fee is 50 Kuna.

Art pavilion in Zagreb Lower Town

The Art Pavilion in Zagreb is an art gallery in Zagreb located in the Zagreb Lower Town area of the city, south of Nikola Subić Zrinski Square and just north of the King Tomislav Square with the Zagreb Central Station.

The yellow Art Pavilion presents changing exhibitions of contemporary art and also the history of fine arts of the 20th century in Croatia. It is the oldest exhibition hall on the Slavic south and the only building that has been purposely built for big, representative exhibitions to be held in it.

Zagreb Lower Town Parks

The first thing you’ll notice in Zagreb, are numerous parks. Green spaces in cities are very important because of its recreational and relaxation functions, but also because of aesthetic appeal.

The park tradition of Zagreb is rather long and rich. Just to mention that at the end of the 18th century , it was opened the biggest park in this part of Europe – Maksimir. Today Zagreb has 30 parks which cover a total area of about 400,000 square meters.

Lenuci’s Green Horseshoe

The most representative example is considered a complex of parks in the center of Zagreb Lower town, called Lenuci’s horseshoe (also called Green Horseshoe). Its Croatian name is Zelena Potkova.

The author Milan Lenuci is considered the most significant Zagreb urban planners of nineteenth century but many believe that was not based on actual historical sources, considering Lenuci was just one of the collaborators on the project. However this complex park structure, bears his name.

This unique park unites the 7 squares on three sides, in the form of the letter U and wtth its green spaces frame the urban blocks of the Lower Town. These squares are Nikola Subic Zrinski, Josip Juraj Strossmayer Square, King Tomislav Square, Ante Starcevic Square, Botanical Garden, Square Marulic, Mazuranić square and Marshal Tito Square.

Maksimir Park

I’ve already mentioned this park as one of the largest and oldest in this part of Europe. It is considered as the greatest masterpiece of garden architecture in Croatia.

It’s the most beautiful Zagreb’s park where Zagreb families gather for nice walks,rides or pick-nick. It doesn’t belong to Zagreb Lower Town district but it’s only 4 km from the center. It’s easy to reach the park no matter where you are.

  • If you are located in the city center, you can reach Maksimir Park from Ban Josip Jelacic square with trams number 11 and 12 from east direction. Find out more how easy is getting around Zagreb.
  • If you are located near Bus terminal you can reach Maksimir with tram number 7 from north direction.
  • If you are located near Railroad terminal you can reach Park Maksimir with tram number 4 from east direction.

if you are visiting Zagreb with a family this park can be an ideal place for a whole day trip. I recommend families a trip to the Zoo (entrance fee 30 Kuna) with more than 275 animal species.

Zagreb Lower Town Monumental Hotels

The most hotels in Zagreb’s center were built for the bourgeois that started visiting at the end of the 19th century. This was a period when these grandeur hotels were the epicenter of politics, and high society.

These hotels are mainly urban and city center located with its particular historic elements where visitors can find an authentic atmosphere of former Zagreb lifestyle. Most of them are in in neo-classical or secessionist style typical for 19th century. Among them, the most famous are:

Esplanade Zagreb Hotel – 5 stars

Situated next to the train station this renovated neoclassical gem at Mihanoviceva street, was built in 1925 as a refuge for passengers from the Orient Express.

Located within easy reach of key attractions such as the Cathedral and the Art Pavilion, the city’s most iconic hotel, reopened in 2004 after a complete renovation, combines art decoration glamour with every contemporary convenience.

The 209 luxurious and “wireless” rooms range from $ 116 with large, clean rooms and large bathrooms. With perfect location in vicinity of the city center, shopping area, sightseeing top sights, close to all public means and train station, makes this 5 stars hotel, the best city hotel.

Palace Hotel Zagreb 4 stars

This hotel built in 1891 in the Art Nouveau style is located at Trg (Square) Josipa Jurja Strossmayera 10. In 1907, the building was renovated and reopened as a hotel called the ‘Svratiste (Inn) Palace hotel’ , which is considered to be the first hotel in Zagreb.

Since then the hotel has been upgraded and renovated several times, it has been technically upgraded, and the rooms now combine modern technology with the attractive old Art Nouveau style of the 19th century, in which the hotel was built.

Zagreb Lower Town Hotel Dubrovnik 4 stars

Located at central Zagreb Square, Trg Bana Jelecica, has been welcoming guests since 1929 and has won a number of awards for its facilities and services.

The hotel is ideally located in the heart of Zagreb, surrounded by all the city’s top business, cultural and entertainment attractions as well as parks and colorful cafés. Hotel has also a new modern wing.

The Hotel Dubrovnik’s facade on Ban Jelacic square has still its original origin that makes it a distinctive part of the city’s architectural heritage.

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