Zagreb, the capital of Croatia since 1557, is located on the banks of the River Sava in the north of the country. It survived relatively unscathed after the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, although it suffered some bomb damage in 1995. Located on trade routes between the Balkans and the rest of Europe, it is Croatia’s most important industrial centre and has a burgeoning tourist trade.
The Roman Catholic bishopric founded in the area around 1093 comprised two distinct sections: Kaptol, inhabited by clerics and centred around St Stephen’s Cathedral; and Gradec, the commercial district, based around St Mark’s Church and built into the Medvednica Hill. Mongols took the city in the mid-thirteenth century and it was around this time that Gradec was fortified. Kaptol was fortified in the sixteenth century and the two settlements were linked following a rash of new building during the nineteenth century.
Zagreb was at the centre of an ideological debate during the second half of the nineteenth century between advocates of a united Yugoslavia and supporters of Croatian nationalism. After World War I, Croatia gained autonomy from Austria-Hungary in a state comprising Slavonia and Dalmatia. It then joined the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes that evolved into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929.
Zagreb became the capital of a Croatian republic between April 1941 and May 1945, although it was not independent. After the war Croatia re-integrated into Yugoslavia. When Franjo Tudjman unilaterally declared Croatia an independent state in 1991, Zagreb became national capital again.
Zagreb’s major industries include machinery, cement, clothing, printing, chemicals and food processing. It is a major road and rail hub and there is an international airport. In recent years Zagreb has developed its conference facilities and is a popular tourist destination.
Places of Interest
There are extensive parks in the city as well as many of Croatia’s most important museums, galleries and cultural institutions. The Church of St Stephen was re-modelled at the end of the nineteenth century but its interior includes artwork from the thirteenth century. Other landmarks include the Baroque St Catherine’s Church, the gothic Church of St Mark (with an exuberantly tiled roof), palaces, the university dating from the seventeenth century and an ornate cemetery at Mirogoj to the north of the city.