In the spotlight: The Mestrovic Pavilion Zagreb Croatia

The Mestrovic Pavilion Zagreb Croatia is an often forgotten jewel of Zagreb modern architecture. Built in 1933 it was conceptually designed by famous Croatian sculptor of international reputation – Ivan Mestrovic.  The circular shaped building contains over 2.500 tons of white stone, carved by local stonemasons from the island of Brac.

The Mestrovic Pavilion Zagreb Croatia
The Mestrovic Pavilion Zagreb Croatia: a circular shaped stone building

It rests on a ring of thirty-six stone columns, with glass-concrete dome. This is the largest structure of its kind to be found anywhere in Europe. Mestrovic circular museum and gallery space was completed twenty years before the famous Wright's Solomon Guggenheim Museum (1959) in New York.

The Mestrovic Pavilion Zagreb– a home of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists

The history of the building perfectly demonstrates complex threads between different nations and their history on these territories:  it was first built as a memorial building in honor to the Serbian king Petar I, during the World War II it became a mosque (as the locals still call it today). By the year 1943, three minaret towers where built only to be torn down after the war in 1948. Ever since then the building serves as a museum and an art gallery. It eventually became the home of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists.

The Mestrovic Pavilion Zagreb Croatia Columns
The Mestrovic Pavilion Zagreb Croatia: stone columns

The Pavilion is located in the downtown, only two tram stations from the main square (trams no 17 & 1), or a short, 10 minute walk. The oval forms, stairs, and the smooth stone surface make the outside area a popular spot for the skateboarders. It adds to the vibrant eclectic energy of the monument.

Events not to be missed

The building is a home to many talented artists and there is always something interesting going on here. However, there are two spectacular events you shouldn't miss if you happen to be in Zagreb in December.

The first one is the Artomat, an art market but oh, so much more.  The Artomat takes place every December. It features every unconventional art form that you can imagine. Their motto is “creativity, solidarity, love”. You can enjoy various dance performances, exhibitions, workshops, sound therapies, concerts, lectures and auctions, while sipping your mulled wine or smoothie. Workshops are really interesting. They include mask-making, relief sculpturing, calligraphy, Christmas decorations, just to name some.

The Mestrovic Pavilion Zagreb Croatia
The Mestrovic Pavilion Zagreb Croatia: Kapulica & Lampioni Event

The second event, the Kapulica & Lampioni, also takes place every December. If I have to choose just one event demonstrating the spirit and the energy of Zagreb and its people, it would be this one, the Kapulica & Lampioni. The large paper lanterns are slowly filled with hot air, and let in the air. It takes a minimum of 2 persons (in reality even 5-6) to launch a single lantern. It brings a special feeling of fellowship. Of course, when launching a lantern you are supposed to make a wish.

The event took place for the first time four years ago with dozens of enthusiasts and friends. But its popularity grew quickly, and in 2013 few thousand people attended the event with more than 1500 lanterns of hope launched. Every lantern symbolically represents a good wish sent into the world and it is truly spectacular and unforgettable image to see the sky filled with lanterns of good wishes and hopes.

On a side note: I've been trying for years to get my friends involved more into this website. After the period of total ignorance, my best friend Zorana finally decided to give it a try. She lives in Zagreb for the last 15 years, and she promised to share her local knowledge with our readers. This is her first post. We hope you've enjoyed it. 

Have you visited the Mestrovic Pavilion? What do you think about the two main events we recommended here? 

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19 thoughts on “In the spotlight: The Mestrovic Pavilion Zagreb Croatia”

  1. Great job on the post, Zorana and I enjoyed learning about this unique pavilion. I would love to witness Kapulica & Lampioni and participate in it. I can just imagine how beautiful it must look with all those lanterns. But, I really like the special reason behind it too.

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  2. That lampioni event looks amazing! I’ve always wanted to attend a paper lantern festival (even before the movie Tangled came out ;) ) but have yet to have the chance. Maybe it will happen if I visit the Mestrovic Pavilion one day??

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  3. Frank and Zorana, thank you for sharing some insights about this interesting pavilion. I always wish that old buildings could talk and have us participate in what they have experienced and seen over the years. It almost seems like a shame that they removed the minaret towers, it would have been interesting to see the combination. The events sound both great and it must have been a great spectacle to see the 1500 lanterns rising into the dark sky… :)

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  4. Artomat sounds like a really interesting time – quite a variety of performances and things to do. I’ve been at a couple weddings where they do the paper lanterns and it’s such a fun sight.

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  5. I love this kind of posts, revealing secrets of places that might otherwise go unnoticed. I remember walking past the pavillion when I visited Zagreb and noticing it, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it. Agree with Michele on the paper lantern, would be an awesome thing to do!

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  6. That pavilion has such an interesting history, and I like that the skateboarders outside add an energy to a visit there. Both of those events sound fantastic to me. I’ve always wanted to launch a paper lantern. We tried to do a big group launch in Texas once, but the fire department vetoed the idea.

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    • oh, it’s really a spectacular event, such a simple idea, yet so effective. However, it really is not something easy to do. The artist had to get permission of the City of Zagreb and the tourist community, but more important, to coordinate the project with the police, Centre for Transport (since the road and tram traffic is suspended), police, fire department, ambulance, and of course AirTraffic control. taking into account the bureaucracy in Croatia, this project is actually a true miracle!

    • That’s funny, Michele. I am already imagining a group of enthusiasts with a great idea getting excited just to see their idea vetoed by the fire department :)

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