City sights


At the beginning of the 18th century began the construction of the Osijek city walls known as Tvrđa (Tvrđa is short for Tvrđava, meaning Fortress in Croatian) in the shape of a large, irregular star. Upon the completion of the work in 1722 Tvrđa became one of the largest and most modern military fortifications in Central Europe. Within the walls, the buildings were built almost entirely in the Baroque style and four gates led into the city. Unfortunately, in the first half of the 20th century, it was decided to tear down the old walls. So today there is only a small part of the walls towards the river with Water Gates and a tower (Water tower) and a large part of the Crown fortification (Krunska utvrda) on the left bank of the Drava. The main purpose of Osijek walls was a defence against a possible new attack by the Ottoman Empire army that held Osijek under occupation from 1526 to 1687. The construction of the walls was run by a general Johann Stephan von Beckers and it is believed that his body was bricked into the walls of the Water Gates after his death. There is an interesting anecdote about Emperors Joseph II attempt to enter in Tvrđa. During his first visit in 1768, the Emperor came after sunset and even to him it wasn't allowed to enter the city gates. Therefor they offered him an accommodation in the Upper Town (Gornji grad) at the inn "K šaranu" in the place of today’s Esseker center. Another historical legend says that at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, at the end of 1805, when the great French conqueror threatened the capital of the Habsburg Empire, the whole treasury of the Empire was moved between the walls of the Osijek Fortress, which was the one of the safest fortresses in the whole land. When the danger ended one of the treasury chests allegedly remained in Osijek, but it has not been found until today...


In 1726 in the Holy Trinity Square in Tvrđa a monumental Renaissance-Baroque building of General’s headquarters was built. As the name says, the building was built on the order of the great Austro-Hungarian military leader Prince Eugene of Savoy and it was used for the needs of the imperial military rule in eastern Croatia (Slavonia and Srijem). Since 1975 it's known as the Seat of the Josip Juraj Strossmayer University, named after the bishop and founder of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb. The tradition of higher education in Osijek exists since 1707 and today our university with its 17 faculties and departments is one of the most important scientific centres in Croatia. When students come to Osijek for college they like the fact that just like in the 18th century Tvrđa is the centre of city's nightlife and entertainment with a variety of cafes and restaurants that were mostly visited by the military administration. It is interesting that this building together with the nearby statue is shown on the 200 HRK banknote.


Immediately after the liberation from the Turkish authorities in the late 17th century many of mosques in Osijek were turned back into Catholic churches. One such is the parish church of St. Michael the Archangel. This Baroque church was built by Jesuit monks from 1725 to 1748. With its two 47 meters high towers it dominates the rooftops of Tvrđa. Every Friday at 11 am, at the exact moment of liberation from the Ottoman Turks on September 29th 1687 the church bells ring in remembrance of that event. The painting in the main altar shows just that event. It's interesting that the citizens of Osijek eventually forgot the real reason for the ringing of church bells at 11 am so they "invented" their own explanation. In order to finish the Friday lunch by noon, favourite dumplings, they would begin to make them only after "all the churches told them so" and that eleventh hour on Friday was named "knedl sat" ("knedl hour"/"dumplings hour"). The base of the former Turkish Kasim-Pasha mosque are plotted in front of the church in the square and in the middle of the square there is a statue of St. John Nepomuk (Ivan Nepomuk), protector of all who live and work along the river. Since Osijek has often been exposed to deceptive tempers of Drava, statues of this saint can be found in several places in the town.


Franciscan monks built this church and the nearby monastery in Tvrđa in 1732 on the foundations of three former oratories: Romanesque and Gothic churches and an Ottoman masque. The main altar is adorned with a statue dedicated to Our Lady of Osijek which was saved before Rakoczi rebellion in the 18th century from the south Hungarian sanctuary of Maria Jud. Apparently, the local Franciscans are still looking for that statue. However, the favourite altar to citizens of Osijek is one of St. Anthony of Padua (Sv. Antun Padovanski). For this reason ever since 1727 on his feast day, June 13th church feast locally known as "kirvaj" (German: Kirchweih) takes place in the nearby streets. In the accompanying big fair you can find something for everyone, from toys to handcrafted goods. Particularly interesting are the stand with handmade candles and honey products such as traditional Croatian sweet honey-dough cookie named “Licitar" which is listed on the UNESCO list of world intangible heritage.


Dominating the main square in the old town, you’ll find the beautiful Baroque statue of the Holy Trinity. It was built in 1729 as a votive column from citizens of Osijek to God so that the plague that devastated the city never returns. On the other hand there's a legend that says that the city’s rats who were to blame for the plague were killed off by cute fury animals – pine martens brought in a large number into the city. And so the martens saved Osijek from new outbursts of the “black death”. According to many, this statue is the most beautiful Baroque monument in Croatia. Similar votive statues exist in many towns and villages in Slavonia and Baranja and all over the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. On the eastern corner of the square there's a building of the Main City Guard with a tower guardhouse built in the 18th century. Today it hosts the Archaeological Department of the Museum of Slavonia. Diagonally on the corner stands the Museum of Slavonia. In front of the museum grows an ancient gingko tree that remained there from the former large park. On the other western side of the square at the corner there is Musical School Franjo Kuhač. Kuhač was born in Osijek and in the second half of the 19th century he became known as the collector of Croatian and Slavic folk music heritage. His research proved that the world famous composers Ludwig van Beethoven and Joseph Haydn often borrowed parts of Croatian traditional music. It is interesting that Haydn's melody of today's German national anthem comes from the old Croatian song "Stal se jesem jutro rano malo pred zoru" from the north Croatian Međimurje County and Austrian state of Burgenland.


Osijek is famous for secession (a variation of art nouveau), the style that was once very popular in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. The magnificent city palaces in the European Avenue today are mostly luxurious office spaces. They were built at the beginning of the 20th century in the style called "Viennese Secession" and largest among them is the Post Palace which is built in the style of "Hungarian Art Nouveau" ("Hungarian Secession"). In the same street there is a series of classicist buildings from the 19th century with the monumental Palace of Justice. From all the houses on this street the most popular is probably the one of the Museum of Fine Arts. In the museum, you can find a variety of paintings and sculptures. Some of the most interesting paintings are portraits of the Slavonian noble families from the 18th and 19th centuries and romantic landscapes of Slavonia and Baranja, sketches and paintings by the founder of Osijek School of Drawing, Hugo Conrad Von Hotzendorf and his best student Adolf Waldinger.


By the initiative of Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer in 1894 began the construction of the church of St. Peter and Paul, co-cathedral of the Đakovo-Osijek Archdiocese. That is why citizens of Osijek simply call it “the cathedral". After the demolition of an earlier Baroque church it was built in only four years and since 1898 the panorama of Osijek is best known for its 90-meter high bell tower that's second highest in Croatia and south Eastern Europe. It was built in red brick in neo-gothic style and its builders were German architects Franz Langenberg and Richard Jordan. Painting the walls with frescoes was executed by the famous Croatian painter Mirko Rački. The church has five bells. The largest one is also the third largest in Croatia weighing more than 2.5 tons dedicated to St. Peter and Paul, located in the main tower above the clock. In the War for Croatian Independence in 1991 it was hit more than a hundred times by Yugoslavian Army and currently is pending a complete renovation. It is interesting that in the German metropolis of Köln the somewhat younger church of the Secret Heart of Jesus stands and is almost an exact copy of the Osijek Cathedral.


South from the Tvrđa old town stands the impressive business and cultural center “Eurodom”. This glass skyscraper which citizens of Osijek call "twin towers" is 61 meters high and it's the third tallest building in the city and central Danube region after and the Cathedral (90 meters) and the Hotel Osijek (62 meters). The building is located on the site of the old Workers Hall, a monumental multifunctional building from the early 1940’s of the 20th century. It was suspected that the hall was built in order to strengthen the sense of belonging to the Third Reich during the occupation of the city in the Second World War. An interesting fact is that the foundation stone was laid on April 14th 1942 and the city was liberated on the same date in 1945. Next to the Eurodom you will find the "Chapel of sorrows", small Baroque building from 1780, famous for the legend of the "Romeo and Juliet from Osijek". At the beginning of the 18th century a man was sentenced to death for a theft he didn't commit in order to protect the reputation of his girlfriend.


At the heart of the Upper Town there are two old cinemas separated by the romantic Sakuntala Park. Urania Cinema is from 1916 and Europa Cinema is from 1939. Today Europa Cinema is used for projections and various cultural events from time to time. Considered by many it is the finest work of modern architecture in Osijek. On the other hand Urania Cinema is according to many experts one of the best works of Art Nouveau (Secession) in the city and beyond. Cinema was supposedly built not only for performance and projections but also as the seat of the Masonic Lodge "Vigilance". The building itself is full of symbolism visible on the facade, from pyramidal shape to the relief of the Sphinx, the guardian of "temple".


Probably the most common motif on the postcards from Osijek is the view from the left bank of the Drava River with the suspension pedestrian bridge, the cathedral bell tower and glass facades of the Hotel Osijek skyscraper in the background. The Bridge of Youth as it is named, was built in 1980 and today is popular among couples who place their love padlocks on the fence of the bridge. It is believed that their love will be safe as long as the key is deep at the bottom of the river Drava. In the part of the Drava promenade between the suspension bridge and the Winter Harbour another symbol of Osijek stands, the great art nouveau (secession style) well. It was built as a present from the noble family of Counts Pejačević to citizens of Osijek in 1903.


Županijska ulica street stretches to the south from the main square. In the street are two very important institutions, the building of the Osijek-Baranja County assembly known as County Palace built in classicist style in 1842, and the building of the Croatian National Theatre built in Venetian-Moorish style in 1866. Performances in the theatre were initially performed in German language and since 1907 in the Croatian language. To the right from the theatre a Jewish synagogue used to rise until the Second World War. Today there is a memorial plaque as a reminder. While walking down the street you can look for the "runaway" cannonball. In the mid-19th century a cannon ball was shot accidentally from the old town of Tvrđa and was stopped by the of the walls of the County Palace.


At the beginning of the pedestrian zone at the corner of the main square and Kapucinska street stands the Baroque church of St. Jacob the Apostle with the Capuchin monastery built in the 18th century. Although the facade of the church is very simple the interior is richly decorated with frescoes and paintings which show usual images for that period - conflict of Christians and Muslims (it is interesting how some of the architecture of the nearby gothic Cathedral shows the Muslims and Christians coming together). A little further down the street there is the former Hotel Royal built in 1905. This historical building is perhaps the best known for stories about one of its most faithful visitors from the first half of the 20th century, the thief Čaruga. He liked to dine and eat good food only in the finest restaurants and he called himself „Slavonian Robin Hood“ with one important difference, he didn't share his prey with the poor.


The main square in the Upper town is named after Dr Ante Starčević, Croatian politician from the 19th century guided by the idea of Croatian independence. Next to his monument in the southern corner of the square stands the favourite statue to the people of Osijek a „Group of citizens" which represent scitizens of Osijek with all their differences. With the Cathedral in the background there are two neo-Renaissance buildings that dominate the square, on the south the County government building known as the Normann Palace from 1890 and in the west the so-called Town House from 1873. Across the street, at the intersection of the square with Ribarska and Šamačka Streets there is a beautiful Baroque corner building with a statue of an elephant on the front. It was placed there by a trader from Osijek Ivan Leipzig in order to attract customers to his shop with goods from the Far East. Another possible reason for placing the elephant statue on the building’s façade was the superstition that a statue of an elephant brings good luck to the players of the at the time very popular Hungarian lottery. Today the square is a favourite meeting place for citizens from everyday friendly meetings to large celebrations like New Year’s with champagne, fireworks and the traditional „Viennese" Waltz.


One of the two central squares in the Upper town is the Liberty Square which a part of a large the pedestrian zone that connects Ulica Hrvatske Republike Street with the Drava river Promenade and the main square. Probably the most famous shopping center in Osijek is located here, the Supermarket which opened in 1967. On the northern junction with the promenade there are two monuments. In the passage along the Capuchin monastery stands the statue of Franjo Krežma, famous violinist who in his short career managed to become the concertmaster of Bilse Orchestra, forerunner of Berlin Philharmonics. The next monument was erected in memory of the first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman, founder of the free and democratic Republic of Croatia in 1990. Unfortunately process of independence from communist Yugoslavia was conducted in war conditions. In the memory of that event a third monument was placed in the south of the square. Monument to soldiers and victims of the Croatian War for independence was built in 2005. Next to it there is the fourth statue, favourite the famous writer August Cesarec, in this pedestrian zone simply called “the Walker”.


The famous Croatian noble family of the Pejačević counts had properties all over Croatia. In the 19th century the first Croatian female composer Dora Pejačević was born. Male family members performed duties of Croatian ban, today referred to as prime minister and their political and economic influence spread throughout the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. After 1945, members of the family of the sole survivor "Našice" branches were forced to leave Croatia under the pressure of the communist authorities. In Slavonia, they owned three large castle, including the one in Osijek neighbourhood of Retfala. The palace, or a large manor house, was built at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century in Baroque-Classical style. Since the beginning of the 20th century this castle it was owned by the Society of Mary’s Sisters of the Miraculous Medal, and in the west wing a private clinic is now located. Interesting and colourful descriptions of the castle and its inhabitants can be found in the popular historical novel of Marija Jurić Zagorka “Vitez slavonske ravni” (the Knight of the Slavonian plain).


One of the most splendid Baroque churches in Osijek is located in the Lower Town (Donji grad), near the bank of the Drava. Church of The Most Holy Name of Mary was built in 1732. In this parish there are two very interesting parts of inventory, an instrument similar to the organ, so-called Positive from 1674, made in Graz and the statue of Our Lady of the Snows made according to the original from the Marian pilgrimage of Mariazell in Austria, a present from a local soldier. Near the church, down the street to the west and the Clinical Hospital there is a chapel dedicated to St. Roch (Rocco). It was built in 1744, as a vow of citizens who survived the plague. In addition to the chapel is the baroque votive statue of the Virgin Mary and a nice baroque house with arcades, one of oldest in Osijek.


The main square in Donji grad (the Lower town) is named after the most famous and most popular Croatian ban (viceroy), Baron Josip Jelacic. During the 19th century, he helped to suppress the Hungarian revolution in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which slowed down the Hungarian efforts for supremacy on the Croatian territory. In the Jelacic Square you will find the Osijek Children's Theatre and the beautiful church of Our Lady of the Snows. It was built in 1898 in neo-Gothic style in the site of an earlier chapel. In the square, there is a strange statue of a cracked egg in two parts which symbolizes "the birth place" of Osijek. The old Roman town of Mursa was located here from the 1st to the 5th century AD, and its parts can be seen in the archaeological department of the Museum of Slavonia.