Summer may be over, but the season is never-ending in Croatia’s most successful 12-month destination – Zagreb. A look at some of the cultural highlights coming up in the new cultural season.
Whichever way you look at it, the tourism story of Zagreb cannot fail to impress. Largely overlooked by more fashionable coastal destinations such as Dubrovnik, Hvar, Split and Rovinj, the Croatian capital has been working slowly at improving its tourism offer and has become what Croatia needs more of – a true 12-month destination. A city which was once a transit point to the beaches and islands of the Adriatic is now attracting people away from the coast to check out one of the most underrated capital cities in Europe. And the big boys are noticing, with Lonely Planet naming Zagreb as the top destination in Europe in May this year. Check out the Lonely Planet video below for more on the reasons why.
Its Christmas market, of course, has been lauded internationally recognised, and even voted the best in Europe for the last two years. Advent in Zagreb is an event which went from nothing to bringing in more tourists staying in the city in December than many medium-sized destinations manage in 12 months. The success of Advent in Zagreb showed that it is possible to create tourism opportunities out of season, and that the oft-discussed concept of year-round tourism in Croatia could – and has – become a reality.
Other factors have contributed to the growth and attractiveness of Zagreb as a destination. The opening of a state of the art airport terminal in March this year finally gave Zagreb an airport worthy of the city, and the airlines have responded. Emirates started direct flights in June, and Qatar Airways has boosted off-season tourism by confirming they will maintain two daily flights to Doha through the winter, thereby connecting Croatia to the world. Short-haul carriers are also following suit, with Norwegian confirming a year-round service from Copenhagen for the first time, and Lufthansa increasing its winter schedule to Frankfurt from this time last year. As this trend continues, Zagreb will be even more appealing for city breaks and longer stays.
An attractive destination can sometimes get by on looks alone, but a lively tourist programme is essential for a capital city. Hollywood legend John Malkovich returned to his Croatian roots to open the new season at Lisinski concert hall, just one of the many highlights as Zagreb moves from Autumn to Winter. Planning a visit to Zagreb in the coming weeks? Here is an overview of some of the things on offer:
“Croatia is Hrvatska” – An Interactive Time Machine Through Croatian History
Intelligent use of technology and multimedia have been features of Zagreb tourism, as well as innovative uses of city spaces. The popular Gric tunnel has recently taken on a very different look with an interactive time machine through Croatian history in an exhibition called ‘Croatia is Hrvatska.’ A joint cooperation between the Zagreb Tourist Board and Croatia Osiguranje, the oldest insurance company in the country. Enter the time machine that is Croatia, and embark on a journey through 13 decades of the course of history of Croatian society, economic development and modernisation. Learn more about the parallel histories of Zagreb, Croatia and its oldest insurance company through a lively mix of historical exhibits, multimedia depictions, themed music and interactive points aimed to interest visitors of all generations. As educational as it is attractive, Croatia is Hrvatska offers a snapshot of Zagreb delivered in a unique manner. The exhibition runs until November 1. Learn more about the exhibition here.
Vasko Lipovac – Retrospect
Croatia has a vibrant arts scene, and one of its favourite artists has an exhibition in Zagreb showing many of his works publicly for the first time. The unique style of Vasko Lipovac’s work is being displayed in some 250 pieces of his work in an exhibition at the Klovicevi Dvori Gallery by respected art historian, Zvonko Makovic. Lipovac’s work ranges from sculptures, paintings, prints, drawings, reliefs and installations to very intimate drawings created at the very end of Lipovac’s life, presenting deeply humanistic, thoughtful and artistic imagination of the artist’s world, of which the artist believed had its own purpose.The artworks, largely owned by the artist’s family, which will be presented to the public for the first time, underscore the importance of Lipovac’s origins in his earliest creative endeavours, including the local culture of his hometown of Skaljar as well as Kotor. This exhibition will provide a rarely seen cross-section through all stages of the artist’s exceptional creativity and prolific career, ranging from the first works made in the early 1950s to his last drawings created at the very end of the artist’s life in 2006. Click here for the Facebook event page. The exhibition runs until May 7.
Zagreb Film Festival
Film buffs will descend on the Zagreb capital from November 11-19. Now in its 15th year, the Zagreb Film Festival continues to grow in importance, and it is an important showcase for young, emerging and first time producers. The festival has been a strong supporter of upcoming talent over the years, both international and Croatian, and this year’s event will be no exception. More than 100 screenings will take place over the nine-day period, which conveniently includes two weekends. The main (competition) section has so far seen former first-time directors, now celebrities such as Steve McQueen, Cristi Puiu, Radu Jude, Xavier Dolan, Andrei Zviagintsev, Taika Waititi, Jeff Nichols. In addition to the numerous screenings, there is also a strong emphasis on industry education, and a number of workshops, talks and panels are also on offer for those interested in the film industry, including the return of My First Script for the 6th year, a workshop intended for filmmakers preparing a screenplay for their first feature. For more details of this year’s programme, click here.
The Passion of Creation – Masterpieces from the Collection of the Fondation Maeght
A treat for art lovers at the Art Pavillion in Zagreb until January 14, where an exhibition of masterpieces from the collection of the Fondation Maeght will be hosted. The Fondation Marguerite et Aimé Maeght, a globally important private foundation of modern and contemporary art, located in the small town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, near Nice (France). Visitors will be able to view works of some of the greatest names of 20th-century art history such as Georges Braque, Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, Joan Miró, Balthus, Pierre Alechinsky, Pol Bury, Erró, Sam Francis, Ellsworth Kelly, Barbara Hepworth, Paul Jenkins, Konrad Klapheck and many others – a total of 64 works (paintings, sculptures, lithographs and etchings, drawings and bibliographic works). The exhibition will feature 25 artists in all, of whom perhaps Georges Braque is the most important. The famous French painter and sculptor is regarded as one of the great art protagonists of the 20th century, and he will have 21 pieces of art on display. More information is available on the Art Pavillion website.
“Golden Threads, Restored Textiles from the Treasury of Zagreb Cathedral”
Zagreb’s stunning cathedral dominates the skyline in the historic city centre, and the treasures contained within its walls are no less impressive. The Cathedral’s treasury is home to several priceless artefacts, and some excellent cooperation between the Croatian Conservation Society and the Zagreb Diocese can be enjoyed at Domitrovic Tower at Kaptol, where an exhibition showcasing some rare and very fine examples of period textiles will run until daily until October 31 (except Sundays – entrance is free, opening times 09:00 – 17:00). The selection of restored items includes the baroque chasuble of Bishop Stjepan, the opulent dalmatics of Bishop Aleksandar Ignacije Mikulic from the 17th century, and lace with woven coats of arms of Bishop Martin Borkovic and his successor Aleksandar Mikulic. All these were the work of master weavers and lace workshops from Hapsburg era. Other exhibits include 18th-century tapestries made for the Dukes of Lorraine and six tapestries which were presented to the Zagreb Archdiocese by Empress Maria Theresa.
Zagreb has a lively music scene, with plenty of concerts of varying sizes catering to different musical tastes. A few concerts to highlight include the arrival of legendary Canadian rocker Bryan Adams, who will be reliving the Summer of ’69 at Arena Zagreb on November 9. Dire Straits fan? iThe Drazen Petrovic Basketball Hall is the place to be on October 24, when the 40th anniversary of the founding of one of the most influential bands of the late 20th century will be celebrated by The Dire Straits Experience – A Musical Spectacle. In the mood for some Icelandic post-rock? Sigur Ros from Rejkavic will be performing at Dom Sportova on October 20. Or for something completely different, the stunning voice of Sarah Brightman will be on display on December 21 at Zagreb Arena.
Just some of the highlights in a busy autumn schedule, and as autumn turns to winter, so the focus of Zagreb tourism change once more to the hugely successful Advent in Zagreb. And this is where Zagreb is leading the way over other Croatian destinations. While many other tourist locations sleep during the winter months, Zagreb’s calendar now offers a full 12-month programme. It is a great city to visit any time of the year, and with increased connectivity and activities, there has never been a better time. For more information on what is going on in Zagreb, check out the events page on the Zagreb Tourist Board website.