Discovering the wonderful world of street art in Zagreb, Croatia, will leave you intrigued and fascinated.
Zagreb has a fantastic street art scene. You may not notice it when you first arrive, but it’s there and it’s thriving.
Gorgeous murals and quirky paintings are scattered around the city in abundance and the scene seems to be growing steadily.
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Many people visit Zagreb only for a couple of days and the move on to the beaches, but the city has a lot more to offer than meets the eye.
Walking around Zagreb you will see all kinds of street art and graffiti everywhere, from tagging to characters to magnificent murals. After spending a few days there and spotting some really beautiful street art, I realised that there was something special here.
I never knew Zagreb was famous for this kind of thing, so I did some reading online and found out that Zagreb indeed has an amazing street art scene waiting to be discovered.
Exploring by myself was nice, but way too difficult when you don’t know the city well enough. I knew that if I didn’t want to miss out on any hidden gems, I needed a local guide to show me around.
A quick search led me to Zagrebee Tours. They offer a unique 2 hour street art tour of Zagreb and after taking it I saw the city in a completely different way.
Seeing Street Art Like a Local
The tour guide, Vedran, is a big fan of the street art scene and knows many of the artists himself. We even met one of them randomly during the tour.
He has vast knowledge of the city beyond street art too – I learned quite a bit from him about the history of the city and about politics in Zagreb and he was happy to answer all my questions.
The whale is probably the most famous pieces of street art in Zagreb.
Etien is a french artist who was invited to paint it on an old galley building in 2015. He used a technique called anamorphosis, so you’ll need to stand at a certain angle to see the painting fully.
A year later Etien was invited to Zagreb again to make another piece. This time he painted a turtle on the pavement right next to the whale, but it is very difficult to spot unless you know where to stand. You can see more of his art on Etien’s Facebook page.
“Xenophora” is a large mural created by Lunac, a Croatian street artist. I think it’s a good demonstration of the high quality of street art in Zagreb.
This is legal street art, by the way, supported by the city, though ironically painted around the corner from a police station.
Another impressive mural called City Waterfall was painted by a fine artist by the name of Miron.
The piece is doubly impressive when you look closer and see the brush strokes. It was pained (not sprayed) and indeed it took two weeks to make.
The idea behind it is that you can find a peaceful place even in a crowded city. If you spend more than 10 minutes in Zagreb, you’ll realise it is one of the more laid-back big cities ever… so the city waterfall suits it very well.
Signs of Growth and Appreciation
The focus of the Zagrebee street art tour is on murals, which have become more and more widespread around the city. The beauty about them is that anyone can enjoy these murals when they walk around the city, just as you’d enjoy a city museum.
It indicates some maturity within the street art scene and a will to communicate with the public at large. There’s nothing cliquey about it and nobody is excluded.
Another sign of maturity or perhaps acceptance and appreciation of the art, is the support that street art has received in recent years from certain projects in Zagreb.
The Street Art Museum project was an initiative that let artists revive walls around the city with beautiful murals. The White Night cultural event organised by the French embassy supported some of the most interesting creations (like the whale by Etien).
While the scene seems to have grown organically at first, now there are those who are willing to support it further and help it develop.
This is not just a sub-culture anymore. Many artists who paint on walls are also gaining popularity in the art world and are appreciated by the city of Zagreb that commissions pieces of art.
One example of work commissioned by the city is this massive Gulliver painting in a park in the Upper Town.
We saw another great example of commissioned work on the tours which was a marvelous discovery. Even through I walked around that area quite a bit, I would never have found it myself… Several adjacent walls feature paintings of famous inventors from Croatia.
Famous Croatian Inventors – Zagreb Street Art
More than Murals
While the focus of the tour was murals, we did see other types of art as well. One of the most funky pieces I’ve seen is part of a project by the Pimp My Pump crew. They set out to decorate old pumps that were common around Zagreb in the time when people did not have running water at home.
Most of the decorated pumps can be found outside the city centre, but we saw one on the tour. I must have passed by it several times before (it was quite close to the place where I was staying), but never noticed it until we reached it on the tour.
As I mentioned, the city of Zagreb learned to appreciate the potential of street art in making it a better place. The decorated pumps project started as an independent project by the artists, but later received support from the city.
Another form of street art we saw was paste ups or stickers. This massive piece by Julien de Casabianca, a French artist, is surprising in size but also in content.
His method is copying paintings from museum walls onto street walls. The result is surprising and quite refreshing. It’s an unusual approach to street art. Not far from the big piece one we came across a smaller one using the same method:
Walking around the city I found some more pieces that I assume were his as well:
We ended the tour in a fantastic place simply called Art Park. It was a run-down park which was converted into a magnificent exhibition space for street artists.
Art Park, formerly “junkie park”, is now one of the coolest places in the city. It’s open during the summer. Artists from different countries were invited to collaborate in painting the walls of the park and the result is a treat.
On the other side of this small park, plates were placed so that any artists who wants to can paint on them. They are changed once in a while. Everywhere you look around this park you will see more surprises.
When the tour was over, I wanted to continue to explore. The tour guide pointed me in the direction of Medika, an autonomous cultural centre, just outside the city centre.
The place hosts concerts and parties and has artists’ studios, an infoshop and other activities. There’s amazing street art on every wall wherever you look inside the centre an also on the walls around it.
The Curious Visitor
Taking Zagrebee street art tour was one of my best experiences in Zagreb.
Zagreb is not a very big city, and after a couple of days you’ll feel like you know the place, but the hidden gems that only locals can show you are the ones that many tourists miss. Many of the pieces we saw on the tour I probably wouldn’t have discovered myself.
I cannot think of a better way to enrich your visit than to see a city through the eyes of a local, especially a keen, knowledgeable one.
I learned a lot about the culture, society, history and politics of the city, in the most entertaining way possible.
You absorb a lot of new information when you visit a new place, some of it stays with you and some disappears from your memory very quickly. Tours like this one make the difference between being a passive tourist and a truly curious visitor.
Read my post on 10 cool things to do in Zagreb
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I‘d like to thank Zagrebee Tours for inviting me to participate in the Street Art tour. All opinions are mine.