Croatia has never been shy of innovation and as the home of a major university and thriving centre of culture and commerce for Eastern Croatia, the city of Osijek is no exception. Like most big city's Osijek can offer a wealth of cultural, culinary and creative distraction, but with the added charm of an uncommonly relaxed atmosphere, brought about by the riverfront calm and endless supply of vibrant university students.
Sitting in the far east of the country, Osijek doesn’t draw as much attention as capital city Zagreb or the resorts of the Adriatic coast, but those visitors who do come here will find a leafy, likeable city. Accommodation options include the 16-room Hotel Waldinger which is within walking distance of the main cultural sights; the larger, 147-room Hotel Osijek (Šamačka ulica 4), which sits close to the banks of the River Drava and has a steam bath and sauna; and the 17-room Hotel Millennium (Kralja Petra Svačića 12), a two-minute drive from the National Theatre.
Of the various shopping centres in and around town, the pick are Portanova Centre (Svilajska ulica 31a) and the Avenue Mall (Ulica Svetog Leopolda Bogdana Mandića 50a), a large complex full of fashion, beauty and leisurewear brands. The average tourist, however, is likely to be more concerned with picking up more regionally specific items such as local crafts and traditional textiles – the main city square has an open-air market with plenty such items, as do shops such as Rukotvorine (Županijska ulica 15). For general purpose purchases, Kapucinska is a busy shopping street in the centre of town.
The Slavonia region of which Osijek forms a part has a very tasty cuisine that’s generally spicier than elsewhere in Croatia. Specialties include kulen (flavoured pork sausage with paprika), and you’ll find this and other typical local dishes at Kod Ruže (Ulica Franje Kuhača 25a), which often has live gypsy music at weekends. There’s a similarly atmospheric option in the nearby village of Zmajevac at the brick-vaulted Josić (Planina 194), where dishes are prepared in front of diners. The regional firewater, a plum brandy known as rakija, ensures most Osijek meals go off with a swing.
Croatia is a religious country (some 86% of the population identify themselves as Catholic) so being here over Holy Week gives a good insight into how big a part faith plays in the life of some locals. The main place of worship is the Church of St Peter and Paul, a neo-Gothic structure.
Urban Fest Osijek
A music festival that’s now been running for a full decade, Urban Fest Osijek (known as UFO for short) showcases all manner of genres, from punk and metal to pop and rock. Dance music, film and photography also play a part in what is one of the main events of the cultural calendar.
Osijek Summer Nights
The baroque squares and streets of the town centre host all manner of art performances and cultural events over the summer, among them literary talks, film screenings, theatre productions, music concerts and exhibitions. There’s a local flavour – most performers are from the Slavonia region, but others come from different parts of Croatia.
Osijek Beer Festival
Central and Eastern Europe are renowned for the quality of their beer, and this four-day event in late September or early October is a great way of sampling some of the best brews Croatia has to offer, at the same time as sharing a few drinks with locals.
A national holiday to mark the date in 1991 when Croatia officially terminated its links with Yugoslavia, Independence Day is celebrated nationwide. The fact that the separation took place relatively recently means that national pride runs strong.
This is a summer only destination