Updated: Sep 24, 2019
Situated just below the hillside settlements of Kaptol and Gradec, it has served as the city’s commercial heart ever since 1641, when it was designated as a place where fairs could be held. Most of the buildings around the square date from the 19th century, and display a variety of architectural styles, from Biedermaier to Art Nouveau and Post-modernism.
The square was Zagreb’s main marketplace and carried the name “Harmica” (Hungarian for “one thirtieth”), after the tax levied on the goods that were sold here. In 1848 the square was officially renamed in honour of Ban (“Governor”) Josip Jelačić. After World War II the name of the square was changed to “Republic Square”, only to return to its previous title in 1990.
Ban Jelačić Square stands at the centre of Zagreb’s social life and the most popular meeting points are “under the clock” on the west side of the square, and “under the horse’s tail” - a reference to the equestrian statue of Ban Jelačić in the square’s centre.
The statue of Ban Josip Jelačić is the work of the Austrian sculptor Anton Fernkorn. It was placed on the square in 1866, only to be removed by the communist authorities in 1947. In 1990 a public petition secured the return of the statue, and it was unveiled on October 16th – Ban Jelačić’s birthday. Originally placed facing northwards in order to symbolize the Ban’s defence of Croatia’s rights against Austria and Hungary, the statue now faces south to provide a better balance to the layout of the square.
The Manduševac Fountain was built above a natural spring that provided Zagreb with drinking water right up until the end of the 19th century. Court records about the persecution of witches mention the spring as their main meeting point. There is also a legend connecting the spring with the name of the city. Namely, one sunny day an old Croatian war leader was returning from battle tired and thirsty, and asked a beautiful girl Manda to scoop up some water from the spring for him. The Croatian word for “to scoop up water” is “zagrabiti”. So the spring got the name Manduševac, after the girl, and the town got the name Zagreb after the scoop of water.