Art Travel

Photo Diary: Architecture Tour Zagreb

22. June 2018

In the course of a contemporary art seminar in Croatia, I had the chance to participate in a customized architecture tour through Zagreb. As our seminar focus was contemporary art, the tour focused on buildings from the 20th and 21st century and offered us a unique insight far away from the beautiful, romantic but also crowded old town. Boris, our guide, took us to a different Zagreb – the Zagreb of current art, of political movements, of communists and fascists, of the war years and of places causing heated debates among the Zagrebians themselves.

I also managed to take pictures of other buildings we saw during our time in Zagreb and I would like to share my highlights with you below.

The Mestrovic Pavilion hosts exhibitions of contemporary art and is currently the centre of attention due to a construction site in the surrounding park. The park which used to be part of the architectural concept is currently being torn down and replaced by cobblestones. And it seems that nobody really knows neither the reason nor the duration of the renovation project.

The cupola of the pavilion was really impressive.

At about the same time of the Nazi regime in Germany, the Ustasha – a fascist and ultranationalist movement – ruled the country. Their former headquarters are opposite of the Mestrovic Pavilion. Today, most of the building is abandoned. According to our guide Boris, part of it is/was used as a dormitory. But as the building is not accessible anymore, there is not much information available.

Croatian Contemporary Art Zagreb Communist Headquarters

We also made our way to the outer part of Zagreb and got the chance to visit the former Communist headquarters. The building is still in use as offices for two ministries. The building is called “Cube” by the locals – for obvious reasons.

Croatian Contemporary Art Zagreb Communist Headquarters Interior

The Cube was built in the 1960s and also served as a meeting place for communist leaders. Also high-level visitors from abroad, for example politicians from America, were welcomed at the Cube.

Croatian Contemporary Art Zagreb Communist Headquarters Interior Glass Wall

The grim entrance lobby is lightened up by big blue walls made of glass tiles.

Croatian Contemporary Art Zagreb Communist Headquarters Plenary Room

The plenary room is still in use. The two side walls are decorated with artworks. We visited the Cube during a thunderstorm which contributed to the grim atmosphere.

Croatian Contemporary Art Zagreb Museum of Contemporary Art

As I mentioned in my post about my major learnings from the art seminar in Croatia, the Museum of Contemporary Art is an architectural prestige object. Its pure dimensions are impressive and also the debate about its collection is very interesting. (You can read more about it here.)

Another hidden gem is the building hosting the GMK – Galerie Miroslav Kraljevic, an independent art collective. The building formerly hosted the offices of INA-Industrija nafte, a Croatian oil company. The company offices were moved to a more modern building in the “new parts” of Zagreb. We got the chance to see the office building from the inside – especially looking up is a real highlight.

Croatian Contemporary Art Studentski Centar Zagreb

The Studenski Centar (student centre) of Zagreb University is a cornerstone of contemporary art. Since the 1960s it has served as a fertile ground for up and coming artists. What served as the French pavilion during business fairs was turned into an exhibition space. Around this pavilion, you can explore really cool street art as well. Read more about the murals at the Studenski Centar here.

PS: I am currently trying to find the organization through which our group booked the tour with Boris and will update the post to give you more information. I really recommend Boris’s tours if you want to learn more about Zagreb’s architecture.

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22 Comments

  • Reply Lori 23. June 2018 at 14:46

    Zagreb looks amazing! I love discovering architecture where I go. And I love to see different styles and the history behind them. I especially love the fact that you included lesser known buildings as well. You made me want to visit Zagreb soon!

    • Reply Liz 25. June 2018 at 6:53

      Thanks so much! I’m glad I could show you a different side of the city. This tour really was a great experience!

  • Reply Samara 28. June 2018 at 10:24

    What a great read! I am so happy to hear other people are as fascinated by the architecture while traveling. It is so cool to see the different styles among different places.

    • Reply Liz 29. June 2018 at 8:10

      I really liked that it offered me a totally different view of Zagreb. Unfortunately, the old town was only briefly covered. For me, it would have been nice to see a bit more of it but these buildings were a real experience.

  • Reply C-Ludik 28. June 2018 at 15:12

    Zagreb, Croatia likely is not on my list of cities to visit… Your post completely changes my mind ! Zagreb is really an Architectural Feast 😉

    • Reply Liz 30. June 2018 at 8:56

      It was the same for me before that trip. It actually really changed my view!

  • Reply Dorothy 28. June 2018 at 16:31

    Love your photos! Interesting to see how much of a variation there is even in the modern architecture. And how much history there is Zagreb.

    • Reply Liz 30. June 2018 at 8:57

      For me it was so interesting to learn about what happened in the second half of the 20th century. I knew a bit about Croatia’s history but not too much and it was great to dive in much deeper.

  • Reply Nafisa Habib 28. June 2018 at 19:15

    Really impressive architecture from Zagreb. Loving almost all design but the blue colored glass tiles one is the exceptional one. You nicely captured the cupola of the pavilion. 🙂

    • Reply Liz 30. June 2018 at 8:58

      Thank you so much! I really liked the glass tiles, especially because the building looked really grim from the outside.

  • Reply Neha 28. June 2018 at 20:15

    It was really cool to see a totally different side of Zagreb from the one that we normally see in travel blogs (the old town etc). You must have loved the tour. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    • Reply Liz 30. June 2018 at 8:59

      I really enjoyed seeing the other side of Zagreb. I expected the standard tourist stuff, but Boris’s tour was great and I loved how he customized it for us.

  • Reply Kellee 28. June 2018 at 20:18

    You know, Croatia is on my travel challenge that I need to complete before March next year. I was thinking Dubrovnik or Split for a more relaxing break but cities always take my eye, especially architecture. I have this thing with looking up. You see so much more sometimes. So pleased you included a map which gives an idea of a walking route. Thank you.

    • Reply Liz 30. June 2018 at 9:00

      Thanks for your lovely comment! You could fly into Zagreb and then go to Split and Dubrovnik from there. I think it would be interesting to see both sides of Croatia.

  • Reply Diana 29. June 2018 at 1:24

    Ahh this just brought back so many great memories from Zagreb for me! I love your photos of the Cube – one of the things I actually want to do most when I go back is take a communist tour of Zagreb. Beautiful photos!!

    • Reply Liz 30. June 2018 at 9:01

      I definitely recommend visiting the Cube and other communist and post-communist architecture. It was tough to hear about Croatia’s past but it was definitely interesting.

  • Reply Aimee horgan 29. June 2018 at 1:29

    Zagreb looks gorgeous, somewhere I’d certainly like to visit. The sheer scale of the GMK is crazy, cool photo by the way. I do love looking at unique architecture when travelling.

    • Reply Liz 30. June 2018 at 9:03

      I was amazed by the building hosting the GMK too. The gallery only takes up a small part of the building and they are currently not sure how long they can stay in there because the company abandoned the building. It would be great if the building could be renovated and used again.

  • Reply Ufuoma 29. June 2018 at 1:47

    Zagreb looks incredible. The architecture is stunning. I love the photos and it looks like such a great city to explore in Europe. It’s on my list.

    • Reply Liz 30. June 2018 at 9:03

      It is definitely a city of contrasts and there is so much to experience and learn about the country. I highly recommend it!

  • Reply Shivani 29. June 2018 at 5:15

    I am an architecture enthustiast and love to explore and photograph unique buildings. Architecture usually has a deep connection to the place’s history which I love to know about. I love your pictures, never seen side of Croatia 🙂 I liked the cube in particular the most!

    • Reply Liz 30. June 2018 at 9:04

      I totally agree with your opinion about architecture and its connection to history. The Cube was really impressive, thinking about all the events and negotiations happening in there.

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