Croatia's capital lies between the River Sava and Mount Medvenica, and has a population of about 974,000. The name 'Zagreb' was first recorded in the 11th Century, and probably derives from a Croatian phrase meaning ‘in the ditch.’ A popular legend talks of an army that was passing through the deserted region, suffering of thirst. Their commander angrily thrust his sword into the ground, and water suddenly gushed out. The soldiers dug to get to it, and that's how Zagreb got its name.
Two communities emerged in the area of present-day Zagreb in the 11th Century – a bishopric on Kapitol Hill, founded by Hungarian King Laszló in 1094, and a secular community on Gradec which was given the status of an autonomous city. After centuries of rivalry, the two merged in the 17th Century, forming the historical center of the modern city. Zagreb gradually expanded towards the Sava and beyond, and an industrial zone developed in the south-east.
Today, Zagreb is Croatia's largest industrial centre, including metallurgy, chemical industry, pharmaceuticals, electrical appliances, textiles, leather and wood processing. Tourism and commerce have flourished over the past decades. The prosperity of the new times is symbolised by the three tall buildings that dominate Zagreb's skyline – The Cibona Tower, Eurotower and HOTO Tower.
The city's heart is Ban Jelacic Square. At its center, there’s a large fountain commemorating the legend of the foundation of Zagreb. The square is flanked by stately buildings and cafés, and is the site of many social events such as the Folklore Festival. The historical city, known as the Upper Town, is situated north of Ban Jela?i? Square and contains Medieval churches, palaces and galleries. It can be reached on foot or by funicular.
Zagreb is rich in museums and galleries. The Archaeological Museum traces the history of the human presence in the area, and also features an impressive Egyptian collection. The Natural Sciences Museum boasts many Neanderthal artefacts. The Technical Museum displays some Tesla inventions and a reconstruction of a mine. The Mimara Museum concentrates on Classical art, exhibiting paintings by Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Bosch, Renoir, and others.
In the wider Zagreb area, villages such as Gracani, Remete and Sestine have preserved their traditions, costumes and crafts, including their famous gingerbread. Good skiing facilities are available at Sljeme, the highest peak of the Medvenica Mountains (1,033 m). The Medieval Medvegrad on Medvenica Hill has recently been restored for tourist visitation. Thermal springs attract visitors to nearby Krapinske, Stubicke, Varazdinske and Tuheljske Toplice.
Strategically located, Zagreb is also a favourable place for conference and business tourism, hosting a number of trade fairs. You might want to visit Zagreb during one of the many cultural events: the international festival of animated films, the festival of avant-garde music, the flower exhibition or the old-timer rally. You can also enjoy shopping for traditional Zagreb ware such as crystal, ceramics, wicker baskets and quality wines. At local restaurants, you can sample Croatian specialties such as cottage cheese strudel and nut rolls.