Pop open your map of Zagreb and one of the districts you’ll see is Trešnjevka (pronounced as Tresh – nyev – ka) and it happens to be one of the largest and most populated neighbourhoods of the city. In fact, it inhabits around 150,000 people and due to its size is split into two – northern Trešnjevka and southern Trešnjevka. This so called division makes the highway ‘Brotherhood and Unity’ the most famous and one of the longest routes that is now called Zagrebačka Avenue, which connects to the Slavonska and Ljubljanska Avenues.
Among other peculiarities, it’s best we explain how the district got its name. It was first mentioned in Kneidinger’s plan (Leopold Kneidinger, a surveyor from the 18th century) of the city municipality from 1766, which today can be seen in the Museum of the City of Zagreb. At that time, the area was uninhabited but there was a pasture named wild cherries (trešnje) that were growing there, hence the name.
Numerous discoveries have been made into the origins of life in what is now Trešnjevka. From three prehistoric stone axes found in the suburb of Rudeš to the acknowledgement of human activity from ancient times through to the great migration. Proof of that lies at the crossroad of the Savska and Vukovarska Avenue and dates from World War II when two ancient cremation graves with ceramic objects were discovered dating from the first to second century AD. At that location, and as part of the project ‘Zagreb before it came to existence - pre 1094’, a plaque with a relief of a ceramic jug with two handles was erected.
So when did people come to settle? Evidence dates from the mid-18th century when for instance the suburb of ‘Ljubljanica’ was mentioned and where inhabitants at that time mostly cultivated vine.
Recorded settlements of a larger scale took place during the second half of the 19th century; the construction of the railway line ‘Zidani Most - Zagreb – Sisak’, otherwise known at the South (today West) Station, not only marked the beginning of urbanisation, but also industrialisation.
More intense and more varied economic life was concentrated primarily along the railway line and Savska Street, where in 1891 on the site of day's Technical Museum, the first tram line with storage for trams was built. The Pulser and Moses Matches Factory, Hardwood, Horseshoer School, Royal Silk Factory - Bubara, Zagreb soap and chemical products factory, Schmidt and Hudetz machined cardboard factory, Canjk fabric, and many other factories which would close down over the years or change business, were also built there. The establishing of many factories in Trešnjevka added value to the district and formed the perfect place for the development of industry in Zagreb and for the settling of workers in search of a better life. Within the project ‘Mapping of Trešnjevka’, as organised by the Cultural Centre Trešnjevka, free educational and informative strolls around the city quarters were organised, including through Trešnjevka factories.
The period between the two world wars was a period of rapid development in Zagreb, primarily due to the expansion of industry which in those years gave life to the city and promoted Zagreb as a major industrial centre of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The growing number of immigrants to the city meant that Trešnjevka started to spread and its surrounding villages expanded with special settlements built in the industrial zone for not only potential workers but social cases, refugees and even the middle class. Among the first built settlements were Istrana and invalida and the First Croatian Savings Bank, which even today are used for residential purposes and are a reminder of the cradle of Trešnjevka industrialisation.
When it comes to the historical importance of Trešnjevka, we find confirmation in the works of famous Croatian filmmakers. For example, successful director and screenwriter Dalibor Matanić used one of the Railroad Houses between Magazinska Road and the Western Railway Station as as a set design in the award winning film, ‘Fine Dead Girls’. Magazinska Road is the first Trešnjevačka road whose name was mentioned on the city map, immediately after the construction of the railway.
In one of the most popular and best Croatian films of all time, ‘He Who Sings, Means No Harm’, the atmosphere of the drive through the local narrow-gauge railway Samoborček is clearly visible. Its regular operation was opened in 1901 and up until 1979 ran between Zagreb and Samobor, and later Bregana. Its purpose was mainly freight transport and due to the possibility of transhipment, it was associated with the Western Railway Station connecting freight track (traces are still visible today). The running speed was 15-20 km/h and throughout the summer passengers were transported in open wagons. Today, at the place of the former Zagreb’s Samobor Railway Station, stands the Trešnjevka Beerhouse in Adžijina Street.
The district with the lengthiest history among all of those in southern Trešnjevka is Knežija and Srednjaci. Even throughout the Middle Ages there was a village called Horvati in the area, but in the 19th century it was included in the composition of the city of Zagreb, together with the suburb Predgrada Sava (the then village surrounding Savska Street). The settlement is among other things known for its Horvati Elementary School from 1897 which, after the Rudeš Elementary School from 1895, is the second oldest in Trešnjevka. At that time, the rest of the southern part of Trešnjevka was somewhat baron and people would go to swim and sunbathe along the Sava River up until 1964, when the great flood destroyed the beach and half of the city. In saying that, it was soon after the flood that more people began to locate to Trešnjevka, certain periods were more sizeable than others in terms of settlement. In 1975, the construction of the Jarun sports and recreation centre for the Univerzijada held in 1987 began and was yet another reason for further population growth around Jarun and the rest of the southern part of Trešnjevka (Vrbani, Prečko).
Trešnjevka has plenty of green spaces with parks to stroll and many tree-lined promenades; Horvaćanska Street has a total of 795 trees alone. For lovers of shopping, the district offers a number of second hand shops which run through the whole of Tratinska Street across Ozaljska Street until Ljubljanica. It is also famous for all things vintage such as LPs and vinyl's, in places like the Free Bird Music Shop. Also of importance and deemed as integral in any district are its cultural and sports facilities, these include the Dražen Petrović Museum and Basketball Centre, Technical Museum, Remiza tram depots, Trešnjevka Cultural Centre, Gallery Modulor, Gallery Contour, Kutija Šibica, Dom Sportova, Trešnja Theatre, Jarun Sports and Recreational Centre, Volleyball Centre, Mladost Aquatic Centre, Athletic Stadium, and many others.
To further illustrate that the city centre is not the only be all end all place that has everything is partly due to the number of restaurants that are located in the vicinity. This can be confirmed by the fact that one of the greatest musicians of the Croatian hip-hop scene, Edo Majka, chose this very district for his little oasis called the No Sikiriki Club Bar which has great music and refreshments for all. We should also mention places like the Jiggy bar, Tesla Smart bar, the cake shop Magnolia, Choco café and one of the oldest, Meli. The district offers specialised facilities offering green, eco and natural products, such as the vegan restaurant Green Hut Zagreb. Be sure to visit Pizzeria Purger, which was among the first in the 1980s to have opened its doors and is still working to this day. For local atmosphere and food, the restaurants Kotač and Kod dede are indispensable. Meat lovers and those who crave more hearty food should definitely find time to visit the only house of ribs in the region, R&B Food, and can enjoy ribs and chicken wings that they have never tried before.
To prove that Trešnjevka is a district where things are alive and kicking is the fact that many people who come to live in Zagreb begin their new lives in this very district. If in Zagreb, then Trešnjevka is definitely a district to visit because of the many cultural events on hand and the great variety of restaurants and cafes available. We challenge and urge you to visit the Trešnjevka market and talk with local old ladies to get a first-hand experience of the surrounding atmosphere and to explore the magic of these special quarters.