Lying along the southern bank of the Drava, about 20 km from its confluence with the Danube, Osijek is a city with an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere.
The historical centre is full of beautiful parks and elegant Viennese-style buildings, restored to their former glory after the destruction caused by bombing during the 1991 war. You can easily get around by bike or on foot, but if you are lazy, you can take advantage of two tram lines that connect the various parts of the city.
For a bit of shopping, head for the main streets of the centre, Kapucinska Street and Europska Avenija, while if you’re looking for a breathtaking view or framing photos, linger on a nice walk along the river.
The local cuisine is one of the area’s great attractions, so you can’t leave without trying one of the typical dishes. Try the riblji paprikas, a stew of freshwater fish flavoured (and made spicy!) by a variety of local paprika.
A university town, Osijek has a lively nightlife, concentrated in the riverside cafés of Radiceva Street and a couple of clubs.
The city of Osijek is divided into three parts: the Upper Town, Tvrđa and the Lower Town. The first two are the most interesting from a tourist point of view.
The Tvrđa is the city’s main tourist attraction. It lies to the east of the Old Town and is an 18th century fortress built during the Habsburg reign to protect Osijek from Turkish attacks. Still perfectly preserved, the Tvrđa is a complex of squares, cobbled streets, defensive walls and buildings; today it houses museums, bars, cafés and nightclubs.
The main square of the fortress complex, Trg Svetog Trojstva, is overlooked by the interesting Slavonian Museum, whose ceramics, coins, sculptures and other exhibits tell the long and fascinating history of Slavonia from the Bronze Age onwards.
Note the 18th-century Holy Trinity Monument in the centre of the square, which commemorates the victims of a plague epidemic in the 15th century.
In the heart of the Upper Town is the admirable Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, which, with its imposing bulk and towering tower (the second tallest in Croatia), dominates the elegant Trg Ante Starčevića Square.
The church was built in the late 19th century and is adorned with 40 stained-glass windows and stone sculptures by Viennese artist Eduard Hauser.
The most important attraction around Osijek is the Kopački Rit Nature Reserve, a marshy area created by the confluence of the Drava and Danube rivers, surrounded by extremely diverse vegetation. The surrounding marsh lakes, forests and meadows are home to hundreds of animal species including birds, fish, deer, wild boar, foxes… and many mosquitoes!
The park can be explored on foot or by car, but the most atmospheric way is certainly with a guided boat trip.
The small restaurants in the area are perfect for sampling the tasty dishes of Slavonia’s rich gastronomic tradition.
Round off your visit to Osijek and its surroundings with a relaxing afternoon at the Bizovačke Toplice spa, a spa complex opened in the 1970s with numerous pools, six of which are fed by thermal springs.
Osijek is connected by train and bus to many Croatian cities including Zagreb and Rijeka. If you plan to explore the beautiful surrounding countryside, it is best to arrive here byprivate or rented car.
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Osijek is located about 150 kilometres east of Zagreb, in the region of Slavonia. The city is situated on the banks of the Drava River, not far from the border with Serbia.