Movie-goers will surely remember the golden age of Hollywood when the great stars of the screen shined although the motion pictures themselves were black and white. On the Black and White Zagreb walking tour we want to take you, dear travelers, on a journey through history or, as we like to call it, a time-travel through Zagreb’s most glamorous times but also the times of fear, anxiety and despair. This tour will give you an insight into the social, urban and political change that Zagreb went through in its tumultuous history.
This history walking tour is accompanied by a photobook that the guide will use to show you some of the most moving, shocking and thought-provoking images of Zagreb as we explore the downtown squares and monumental landmarks. The tour begins in the corner of Jelačić square which in fact is the first place we discuss on the tour. The central Zagreb square was once a plain field opening towards the marshy riverbanks of the Sava. However, over time it was developed into a modern square, a place where people meet and interact but also protest and voice their concerns. It didn’t always have the appearance it has today and its most recognizable feature, the statue of the horseman ban Jelačić, was in fact removed by the communist regime only to be placed back with the birth of the young Croatian state in the early nineties. This is the time we explain some complicated political history of our country to give you a better understanding of certain historical events.
As we continue walking southward along Praška street, we will show you the location of the Jewish synagogue, demolished in World War II. A plaque stands to remind us of the dreadful history from 1941-1945 and on this location the guide will tell you about the notorious so-called Independent state of Croatia and explain how Zagreb fared through those dangerous times. Black and White Zagreb may be the name of our tour, but the history of World War II in Croatia was certainly not black and white. The guide will tell you about the ustashe regime and the antifascist resistance movement led by Josip Broz Tito and will also shed some light to the social and political background that gave way to the rise of the Nazi-controlled puppet state.
The tour continues along tho so-called Green horseshoe – a U-shaped system of city squares with parks in downtown Zagreb. It was conceived in 1882 by the Croatian urban planner Milan Lenuzzi. The construction was helped by the efforts to rebuild the city after the 1880 earthquake. The two ends of the horseshoe are connected by the Zagreb botanical garden, a later stop on the tour. The park system consists of seven squares aligned on three straight lines. As we continue walking along the famous Zrinjevac, Strossmayer and King Tomislav square we'll see the buildings of the Croatian Academy of arts and sciences, the Archaeological museum, the Modern gallery and the Art pavilion before reaching the Grand central station.
Our walking tour continues in front of the Central railway station and the guide will tell you about the rise of importance of Zagreb as a place on the crossroads of western, central and eastern Europe. This will be an introduction to the history of the hotel Esplanade, a historic luxury hotel built in 1925 to provide accommodation for passengers of the famous Orient Express train which traveled between Paris and Istanbul. The guide will stop in the small park with a fountain right in front of the Esplanade hotel and the group will hear about the rich history of this hotel, including the rather delicate times of World War II when it was the place preferred by the Nazi officials.
The tour then follows the southern border of the Green horseshoe, passing the Botanical garden and the building of the Croatian state archives before joining onto Savska road, from where we head north towards the most beautiful square in Zagreb, the Republic of Croatia square with the Croatian National Theater building at its center. This square went through numerous name changes in its history, and it was only in 2017 that it was named after the Croatian state. For many decades it carried the name of marshal Tito, the president of Yugoslavia. So why did the name change and what were the reasons behind that decision? That’s what you’ll find out on our Black and White Zagreb walking tour!
The building that dominates the square is of course the Croatian national theater, opened in 1895 for emperor Franz Joseph’s visit to Zagreb. His visit did not go without political turmoil as a group of Croatian students protested against the Hungarian governor of Croatia within the Austro-Hungarian Empire and burned the Hungarian flag. What were the motives behind this act? This is when we discuss the history of the late 19th century and the growing dissatisfaction of the Croatian people with the way their country was ruled.
Before going back to the city center we pass by the oldest high-rise in Zagreb, the city’s first skyscraper. Along Gundulićeva street the guide will point out the location of the famous Korzo coffee house, closed for many years, and will reflect upon the social life of the people of Zagreb and how they had fun a hundred years ago. They didn’t have smartphones and dating apps so they actually had to meet up over a cup of coffee. Imagine that!
We save the best for last – our tour takes you underground as we go through Grič tunnel, built during World War II by the ustashe regime under the historic Upper town to serve as a bomb shelter. We talk about the first rave party that was held in the tunnel in 1993, the Under City Rave, as well as some other curious stories. The Black and White Zagreb walking tour ends in a quiet backyard near Radićeva street, close to the pubs of nearby Tkalčićeva and just minutes away from the central Zagreb square of ban Jelačić.
Duration: 2 hours Price per group: 800 kunas (maximum group size eight people)
Meeting point: Model of the city, corner of Jelačić square
Please note: this is a private tour, available on request through our reservation system.
Departure time can be arranged according to your preferences.