Designed by Milan Lenuci, a popular Zagreb engineer in the 19th century, Zagreb’s green horseshoe frames the city centre. Just like the Ringstrasse in Vienna.
The horseshoe forms a ‘U’ shape and encompasses eight squares and green surfaces in the Lower Town, along with cultural monuments and institutions.
Construction began in the 1880s and lasted until the 1920s. Moreover, the horseshoe is considered the biggest urban achievement of culture in both Zagreb and Croatia.
If you stop in at every museum on the walk, this itinerary may take a full day, possibly a day and half. It all depends on your particular interests and time available. However, if you do a quick loop around the horseshoe without entering the museums it will take 60 – 90 minutes.
Starting at the top of the U at Trg Bana Josipa Jelacica (Jelacic Square), you’re walking south along Praska towards the Railway Station. The first square you’ll come across is probably the most popular: Nikola Subic Zrinski Square, known as Zrinjevac. Stop at the Meteorological Pillar and the ‘first fountain’ both designed by the father of Zagreb architecture: Herman Bolle.
Across from Zrinjevac the Archaeological Museum houses an outdoor cafe where you can sip a latte among the stone sarcophagi.
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Next door to Zrinjevac is the second Square of Josip Juraj Strossmayer. Known for housing the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences, inside is the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters. Across the street The Gallery of Modern Art.
Continue along to the third and final square on the right side of the horseshoe – King Tomislav Square. You can’t miss the statue of King Tom sitting proudly on his horse welcoming passengers off the train into Zagreb. Duck behind the yellow facade of Art Pavilion to see which exhibition is in town. Take a peek into the five-star Esplanade Hotel and the railway station to relive the days of the Orient Express.
In front of the Esplanade, you’ll find our fourth green space, Ante Starcevic Square. Turn right onto Mihanoviceva, named after Antun Mihanovic who wrote Croatia’s national anthem ‘Our beautiful homeland’, and next stop is the Botanical Garden which makes up the southern end of the horseshoe.
Turning right onto the street of the same name is Marko Marulic Square which houses the Croatian State Archives. This was once the National and University Library. Designed by architect Rudolf Lubynski in 1913, it is Zagreb’s best example of Art Nouveau architecture.
Here we come to the square of brothers Ivan, Antun and Vladimir Mazuranic or Brothers Mazuranic Square. To the right of the square you’ll find the Ethnographic Museum.
The last square in the horseshoe is Marshal Tito Square housing The Croatian National Theatre. In the front courtyard of Zagreb University (opposite the theatre) is the famous sculpture ‘Well of Life.’ To the left of the square there’s a statue of Saint George slaying the dragon in front of the Museum of Arts and Crafts.
To the left of The Arts and Crafts Museum is Roosevelt Square, which though not part of the horseshoe houses the Mimara Museum, well worth a look and our final stop on the tour.
Time to give yourself a pat on the back or at least a coffee – you have now completed Zagreb’s Green Horseshoe.
From here continue along Masarykova, turning left onto Margaretska and you’ll arrive at Illica and our starting point, Ban Jelacic Square.