Meet the charming capital of Slavonia: Welcome to Osijek! Where to stay, eat, drink, what to do and see. Getting around, festivals and more!

Welcome to Osijek: an introduction

Osijek Timelapse by Romulic and Stojcic

It is a long way from the fashionable Adriatic coast, but don’t let that deter you: Osijek is a fantastic city to visit. The largest city in Slavonia (and the 4th-largest in Croatia), Osijek is a delightful city to explore on foot, especially the old town and impressive promenade along the Drava.

Along with the rest of eastern Croatia, Osijek has undergone crushing emigration in recent years, as its youth heads to Germany and Ireland in search of better economic opportunity. While that loss is keenly felt, the spirit of Slavonia is intact. Arguably the country’s most hospitable region, Slavonians are warm and welcoming, and rightly proud of their big city. Come and visit!

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It is a city of parks, Baroque architecture and open space, as well as one of Croatia’s most important IT centres. Part of the European Danube region, river cruise tourism is on the rise, with the city some 20 km from the confluence of the Drava and Danube.

Osijek lies in a natural paradise close to Croatia’s eastern border. The majestic Kopacki Rit Nature Park, while local vineyards produce some of the finest wines in all Croatia.

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Getting to Osijek and around

Osijek lies just north of the main Zagreb to Belgrade A3 highway, and as such enjoys good road connections to the rest of Croatia. Driving time to Zagreb is about 3 hours.

There are also an increasing number of bus connections from the city to Western Europe, as the emigration continues. Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and Switzerland are among the countries which have direct services to the city.

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There are also numerous options by train. Osijek is connected to the main Croatian rail network, and there are several departures a day to Zagreb, which take about 4.5 hours.

While the previously popular Budapest-Osijek-Sarajevo route is no longer in function, services have resumed to the southern Hungarian city of Pecs, via Beli Manastir. Check out the latest train timetables online on the official site.

There were big hopes for tourism and greater international connectivity in general when Ryanair started flying to Osijek from London. The route was sadly short-lived, and Osijek Airport is operating well under capacity. Currently, there are only fuor carriers using the airport: Croatia Airlines, Trade Air, Eurowings and Wizzair. Basel and Stuttgart are the only confirmed routes for 2019 at time of writing. Learn all you need to know with the Total Croatia Osijek Airport guide.

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Getting around the city

Osijek is a very pleasant city to walk around. But is nicely covered by public transportation: local buses, trams and well-priced taxi services (around 20 kuna anywhere within 5 km, independent taxi drivers and companies like Osjecki taxi ). Check out the bus and tram routes below.

osijek bus and tram

Top 5 things to do in Osijek

  1. Take a long walk and selfies on the promenade by the Drava river, cross it over by a pedestrian bridge and if in love, leave love padlock on it. Enjoy the view of the old part of Osijek Tvrdja from the other side of the river, then cross another bridge that will take you to the Tvrdja where you can explore this baroque part of the city. In the end, finish your stroll by coming back to the centre of the city passing by gorgeous parks and secession architecture buildings.
  2. Visit the largest watermill in Croatia and take a ride over the river by the kompa (the cable ferry) and visit the city ZOO.
  3. Visit and take a photo of three million bricks co-cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, the second tallest church in Croatia and south-east Europe. The church dominates the city skyline, a most impressive construction.
  4. Cycle on the more than 40 km cycling trails around the city and its surroundings.
  5. Take a break in one of the cities pubs, wine bars and restaurants. While Slavonia is a famous wine region, which is also famed for its cuisine, did you know that Croatia’s oldest brewing tradition is here? Or that the Osijek craft beer scene is among the most vibrant in the country?
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Where to stay

Accommodation offer in Osijek is rising and improving and has something for each taste. From hotels, over private accommodation and guest houses down to modern hostels.

Many of the accommodation units are placed in old, beautiful baroque and secession buildings with a combination of modern and old interior. Many of them offer bike rentals too.

The thermal spa Bizovac is only 20 km away from Osijek.

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Diversity in food & drink: restaurants, wine and craft beer

Slavonia has a reputation of the region where you can eat and drink well and cheer along with traditional music tamburica players – tamburasi. The food variety is pretty wide, thanks to its fertile soil, forests and rivers. Along with its offer of different types of meat as well as game meat, river fish, bakery products, vegetable and fruit, northeast Croatia is a region where different cultures have combined with their cuisines, influencing the local gourmet offer.

The pig is king here, and any number of meat dishes are true specialities. Don’t miss Slavonia’s famed spicy kulen cured meat, or another local speciality for fish lovers, the also spicy fis paprika.

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Osijek can be proud of the oldest brewing in Croatia, ever since the 17th century. The world of craft beer can be easily discovered and enjoyed in pubs like Gajba, Runda, Beertija…

The wine bar Vinska Mušica is certainly the place where you can enjoy a wide range of Croatian wines and participate in one of the themed wine events in the environment of a beautiful decorated place and cute terrace during warm, sunny days. Wine store Vinoteka Vinita is a place where you can buy wine but also take a professional wine tasting. Both of the places place a strong emphasis on the wines of Slavonia and Croatian Danube Wine Region.

Restaurants in Osijek

Food offer can please any kind of food preferences, from traditional food restaurants like Kod Ruže or Đeram Čarda, fancy romantic ambient in Muzej okusa, over pizza lovers in SportHouse and La Rosa, hamburger lovers in Fabrique grill & beer and American Dollar Bar to vegetarians Lege Vege. Those with a sweet tooth will be glad to know that Osijek has its own sweet delicacy Osijek’s knedla. Cake-shops like Kavana Waldinger, Gold by Waldinger or Petar Pan will satiate your need for sugar speed.

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Museums, art galleries and theatres

Museum of Slavonia and Archaeological museum Osijek are places to go if you want to learn more about the history of these parts. Both these museums are on Trg Sv. Trojstva, the central square in old town Tvrdja. Museum of Slavonia is very active in organizing really interesting themed workshops, programmes and exhibitions.

Museum of Fine Arts is placed in an 18th-century neo-renaissance building with more than 5000 paintings, drawings, graphics and sculpture collections from 18th to 20th century. On the facade of the building is differently painted part, called “war wound”, damaged during the Homeland War by grenade.

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Croatian National Theatre (Hrvatsko Narodno Kazaliste). Osijek has enjoyed a theatre tradition since 1735, and the Croatian National Theatre was founded in 1907. Today’s theatre building was built in 1866 near the main square. It is a historical building with elements of Moore architecture. The theatre offers an annual repertoire of fifteen permanent titles and organizes other cultural events.

Children’s Theatre “Branko Mihaljevic” A puppet and children’s theatre in Osijek is located in the part of the city called Donji Grad i.e. the Lower Town. It is named after the author of the very famous Croatian children song “Zeko and Potocic“ (“The bunny rabbit and the creek”).

Day trips from Osijek

Baranja

The city of Osijek is nicely placed in the centre from where you can easily get to other places in the region within an hour or two. So, if you feel like going to the north of the city, you can spend a wonderful day in Baranja enjoying beautiful wines, exploring the wild world of Nature Park Kopacki Rit, enjoy food in one of the traditional restaurants in Baranja villages or even take pottery workshop.

Vinkovci, Vukovar and Ilok

There are some exceptionally interesting towns a little further to the east. Did you know, for example, that the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe was near Osijek? Vinkovci dates back 8,400 years, and it was the birthplace to two Roman Emperors.

Vukovar has become synonymous with the tragic events during the Homeland War, but there is much more to the City of Heroes. The war museums are essential, of course, but also enjoy this very pretty old town, which has been largely rebuilt.
Nearby Vucedol also has a beer tradition, which dates back some 5,000 years.

Keep going a little further and you will reach Ilok, one of the most important wine towns in Croatia. A visit to the world-famous Ilocki Podrum is essential, and this was the winery which supplied 11,000 bottles for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

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Djakovo and Slavonski Brod

Going to the south, Djakovo is the first town to stop at, to see its beautiful cathedral and then the visit Lipizzaner stud farm, which dates back to 1506. The memorial gallery of famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic is in Vrpolje on the way to Slavonski Brod, the town where you can learn more about the most famous Croatian love story of all. The storks Malena and Klepetan come together each year, an incredible love story, which you can see in the video below.

Then visit Tvrdjava, the largest fortress in Croatia built in the 18th century and find out more about the great Croatian fairy tale writer Ivana Brlic-Mazuranic.

The towns of Slavonia

Further to the west, there are more Slavonian beauties with their beautiful castles and parks in Nasice, Donji Miholjac, Kutjevo and Virovitica. There are more gorgeous wine to taste in Pozega region and more craft beer to drink in Nova Gradiska in the first craft beer tasting business registered in Croatia of Bosnjak Beer & Gin.

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And then take in more stunning nature and go hiking in Nature Park Papuk.

Cycling

In the end, it is very important to mention cycling. Northeast Croatia is on a way of several important international cycling routes with the type of roads for different likings.

A look at Osijek tours

The best way to interpret silent buildings and monuments is to go on a sightseeing tour with a local guide or take one of the theme tours connected to the certain subjects like Osijek city park or Suleiman the Magnificent, craft beer, tram sightseeing, sightseeing by bicycle etc. For those who don’t feel like walking or cycling alternative is to go around the city by rickshaw.

Festivals and events in Osijek

Something is always going on in Osijek and its vicinity. Osijek antique fair is an open antique market and it takes place at the Holy Trinity Square in Tvrdja every first Saturday in a month. Festivals such as the Craft Beer Festival and WineOs Festival are wonderful events for craft beer and wine lovers.

The Pannonian Challenge is the largest extreme sports event in the region. It is held each year at the recreation centre Kopika on the other side of the Drava river. The Osijek Cultural Summer a is theatre and art festival that begins at the end of June. It takes place in Tvrdja, the old baroque part of town. Other important events include Advent, Easter and Osijek Summer Nights.

5 things most people don’t know about Osijek

Osijek was the first city in Croatia and this part of Central Europe to have modern urban transport. A horse-drawn tram started to operate on September 10th 1884. At the time, Osijek had some 18,000 inhabitants along a 10 km route from west to east.

The Holy Trinity Square in the old part of the city Tvrja is on the 200 kuna note.

Franz Paul Karl Ludwig Alexander von Teck was the father of Queen Mary and great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II. He was born on August 28, 1837, in Osijek (then Esseg). The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited Osijek on March 15, 2016.

Ethnomusicologist and music historian from Osijek, Franjo Kuhac noted that The German national anthem had its origins in Croatian folk music. Not convinced? Have a listen for yourself, and then decide if there is any similarity.

Two hundred years old underground tunnels and canals are placed below the Osijek’s old city Tvrdja and the most intriguing Drava river too, which originate from the Austro-Hungarian times. Their purpose was to transfer soldiers, weapons and food between buildings in the times of danger.

Useful contacts

The Osijek Tourist Board is a very friendly place, and Mislav always has a warm welcome and something interesting to tell. My first introduction to the city was a walking tour with Mislav in the rain. I fell in love with Osijek instantly.

Check out the Osijek Tourist Board website for more information about the city.

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I am also enormously grateful to star tour guide Senka Vlahovic. Senka not only helped considerably with this article, but also with other excellent pieces on Slavonia for TCN.

Looking to learn more about Osijek? Here is Senka’s great piece, 25 things to know. And once you have finished that, move on to the region, with 25 things to know about eastern Croatia.

If you are looking to explore this magnificent region, get in touch with Senka via her regional tourism website, Slavonia Baranja Travel.

Keep up with the latest news from Osijek with the dedicated TCN news page.