Tucked away at the end of Tomiceva Street, just a few steps north of Ilica, Zagreb’s bustling shopping street, it’s easy to bypass this novel attraction. A protected monument, the funicular has retained its original appearance and most of its technical specifications, offering a glimpse of Zagreb’s developing urban past.
D.W. Klein, a contractor from Osijek, presented the idea for Zagreb’s funicular to the city council in 1889. Inspired by the funiculars in other European cities, Klein counted passersby climbing the wide, wooden stairs on Bregovita Street (now Tomiceva) to confirm that it was the busiest path between Zagreb’s Upper Town and Lower Town. Klein planned to fund the project, and in return, he was to keep the rights to the funicular for 40 years. His proposal was quickly approved, and the following year, on October 8, 1890, the funicular embarked on her maiden voyage.
It didn’t go so well. In fact, the funicular broke down so frequently over the next two years that Ganz et co. stepped in to reconstruct it. Though the funicular continued to sputter, smoke, and get stuck (some accounts claim that passengers occasionally had to climb out and push the cabins), it somehow kept running for the next 38 years. During this time, the two cabins were divided into first and second-class sections. The first-class sections were reserved for Zagreb’s elite. Slightly pricier, they were also more comfortable and offered better views.
When Klein’s rights to the funicular expired in 1929, it was handed over to ZET (Zagreb Electric Tram). ZET renovated the cabins and tracks, and in 1934, replaced the steam engine with an electrical system.
Throughout the 1960s, the funicular transported approximately 55,000 passengers per year. By 1969, it was in need of extensive renovations. The funicular was shut down the same year and remained out of order while money was raised for the project. Finally, in 1973 construction work began, and the following year, the newly refurbished funicular opened. The stations were rebuilt as well. Apart from a few modern improvements, they are exact reproductions of originals. The original engine components were given to Zagreb’s Technical Museum.
Facts and figures
The Zagreb funicular boasts several records: it happens to be the safest public transportation system in the world, since no passengers have been injured while riding it in over a century. It is Zagreb’s oldest organized public transportation system, debuting a year before horse-drawn trams. And, at 66 meters long, it’s the shortest funicular in the world! The trip is brief – lasting just 64 seconds, but it’s a fun ride and an efficient way to reach the Upper Town. The funicular is equipped with a hydraulic lift platform and an access ramp, so it’s a great option for visitors who can’t climb the stairs.
The funicular actually keeps itself pretty busy: it departs every ten minutes, seven days a week, from 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. It travels 4,000 kilometers a year and transports 750,000 passengers annually.
For a one-way ticket price of just 5 HRK / 0.67 €, it’s a bargain. If you want, you can ask for an immediate departure by paying 40 HRK / 5.35 €.
Make it an event
Sixty-four seconds is a pretty quick trip. Why not bookend the experience with a couple more activities? Before your ride, stop at Vincek, a sweet shop on the corner of Ilica and Tomiceva, for a quick pick-me-up. You can’t beat a scoop of ice cream on a hot day, and Vincek’s dark chocolate flavor is especially tasty. Get it to go and finish it off while you wait for the next funicular departure.
At the top, Upper Town awaits you. This charming neighborhood, originally one of the two medieval towns that merged to create modern Zagreb, is home to the Museum of Broken Relationships and Summer on the Stross among other museums, galleries, and summertime events. The funicular will drop you off right in front of Lotrscak, a medieval defense tower built in the 13th century. You can even climb to the top for stunning views of the city, but take care to descend before the firing of Gric cannon at noon.