5 things to see in Novi Zagreb
Velesajam - where it all started
The best place to start is the birthplace of Novi Zagreb - Velesajam, the Zagreb Trade Fair. As its name says, Novi Zagreb was a whole new part of the town envisioned to grow on the southern bank of Sava. Zagreb properly crossed the river in 1959 when they built the Liberty Bridge (Most slobode). Construction of the big trade fair in the 50s and 60s marked the start of the Novi Zagreb expansion. It was a very urban start, indeed, with major international events and the signature of foreign architects who designed some of its pavilions.
The Chinese pavilion at Velesajam
If you visit Velesajam on a regular weekday, you might think nobody uses the place anymore. Evening comes, and all of a sudden it's full of people. A lot of residents practice all sorts of sports in the pavilions of the Zagreb fair. There are incredibly successful events, too, such as the big November bookfair Interliber. Let's not forget that Velesajam is a creative hub, as well. One of its pavilions hosts young enterprises and startups.
Mamutica and Superica - the big friendly giants
Novi Zagreb skyline
Let’s face it: most visitors intrigued by Novi Zagreb are after the brutalist architecture from the socialist era. They sometimes end up quite disappointed. When you look at Novi Zagreb from a distance, its skyscrapers seem very simple, social-housing styled, and very greyish... I've heard people having prejudices about Novi Zagreb due to its skyline (which I find beautiful). However, once you enter the neighborhoods, things seem livelier, greener, and kind to their inhabitants. Instead of finding a brutalist heaven, you will find a building that houses 5000 people while feeling and looking humane.
The view of the big Mamutica from the small Mamutica (there are, in fact, two)
The largest building in the city, nicknamed Mamutica (She-mammoth), is just like that. You know how some people never want to move from their part of town, even when they’re searching for a new place to live in? How about people who never want to leave their building? This is what often happens to people from Mamutica. They move.... all the way to another part of the same building.
The second biggest residential building is known as Super Andrija or Superica. By far smaller (in capacity) than Mamutica, it looks much more massive. Go on, and visit that one, too, especially if you are after brutalist architecture. This one comes straight from concrete dreams.
Bundek - drowning the grey vision of Novi Zagreb
Bundek area, photo by M. Vrdoljak, Zagreb Tourist Board
By now, you might form the idea that Novi Zagreb is a reinforced concrete paradise full of skyscrapers. It's time to change this image with a nature oasis.
Bundek Lake is another must-see of Novi Zagreb. Walking into its greenery completely changes the perspective of Novi Zagreb, and Zagreb overall. It's a true oasis, where you might forget you are in a city. Stop by Bundek Lake and feel the subtle connection between the city and its river. It's a wonderful place for a morning run or a quiet walk.
MSU & Avenue Mall - opposites attract
Museum of Contemporary Art, photo by J. Duval, Zagreb Tourist Board
I bet this joint subtitle will cause some raised eyebrows. Combining one of the best museums in Zagreb with a plain old shopping mall? Still, I like how the two buildings stand on opposite sides of a giant intersection. Together, they turned this corner of the city into a place of social gatherings, giving people a reason to come and spend time in Novi Zagreb.
Avenue Mall is a perfect-sized shopping mall. It has it all, but it's not overwhelming in size. You can easily reach it by public transport from the city center. What's not to like?
Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (MSU), the institution that exhibits some really good art, honors revolutionary artists, and art movements that dared to challenge the strict norms.
(Street)art - bringing color to Novi Zagreb
Speaking of art, Novi Zagreb hides some unexpected pieces. A while ago, a project called Street Art Museum took place in different parts of the city, including the Novi Zagreb quarters of Dugave and Siget. Street artists brought a lot of color and imagination with their murals. There are even some world-known names, like Phlegm, or Agostino Iacurci.
Mural by Agostino Iacurci, part of the “Street Art Museum” in Siget
You can stumble upon notable public art all over Novi Zagreb. You might have already spotted some true sculptural gems while wandering around Velesajam. Across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art, in front of the INA building, there is a statue of a figure under the shower by Ivan Kožarić, one of the most interesting Croatian contemporary artists. Uranus, part of the Zagreb scale model of the solar system, can be found in Novi Zagreb, too. If you're after art, especially contemporary art, come to Novi Zagreb.
Actually, one might argue that the entire Novi Zagreb is a piece of art. Architects and urban planners admire the vision, and the execution of that very vision as a beautiful example of 20th-century city planning.
Have you been to Novi Zagreb? What is your favorite discovery in this part of the town? Stay tuned for the next article, as I will share some more special treats of Novi Zagreb.
View from the top of Mamutica
Header image credit: J. Duval, Zagreb Tourist Board
Author: Iva Silla