Croatia was indeed a revelation, in more ways than we imagined. Croatia is well known for its beautiful coastline, natural beauty, lush green forests, waterfalls and so on. Our plan was to hit the coastal Dubrovnik and travel along the sea to Split, Zadar and to Plitvice lakes for its unique experience before going to Zagreb and exit out of there. However, once in Zagreb, we learnt of some nearby small towns that kindled our interest. Sisak in the Sisak-Moslavina county of Croatia was one such place. There were so many things to do in Sisak that we were truly amazed.
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Things to do in Sisak, the hidden gem!
Sisak, also called the town of Croatian victory, located about 60 KM South of Zagreb, is probably more known as an industrial town which boasts of the largest oil refinery of Croatia and the biggest river ports. Sisak is located at not one but two river confluences, that of Odra and Kupa and further south, the Kupa and Sava. This is easily one of the more beautiful towns of Croatia. It also has a history and culture going back to early Roman times when it went by the name Siscia. Wasn’t this a spectacular discovery for us? 🙂
The best way to explore this small town is on foot, which is true for most small European towns. It is the narrow lanes and small streets that hold magic.
Sisak Fortress or Tvrđava or Festung
Sisak fortress is on the bank of Kupa river before it joins Sava river further south about 3 km from the train station. The walk along the river was quite invigorating and after about 45 minutes we could see the distinctive conical towers.
Sisak Fortress was built in the middle of the 16th century mostly using bricks supported by stones. The triangle shape of the fortress is not like anything we had seen before. Each corner of the triangle is reinforced with a round tower covered on top with a conical roof.
The original purpose of this fort was to protect this region of Croatia from Turkish attacks from the south. It helped! When the Ottoman army attacked in the late 16th century, the combined Austro-Croatian army routed them and put an end to Turkish bravado once for all. History remembers this as the Battle of Sisak. It is said that over 8000 Turks were killed, including the commander, while only 40-50 soldiers were killed from Croatian side.
This stupendous victory earned the Croatians the nickname, “Defenders of Christianity”, accorded by the then Pope and the city was called the “City of Croatian Victory”.
Sisak Fort is also part of Stari Grad or the Old Town and has a decent restaurant by the same name, Restoran Stari Grad. It also has a small museum.
Close to the Fortress is a beautiful iron bridge which looks very old but strong. This is a railway bridge but also has pedestrian paths to cross the river to the other side.
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Željeznički Most or the Railway Bridge
This railway bridge is said to have been built in 1882 when railways were being expanded in Croatia.
It is quite photogenic by itself and also offers a spectacular view of the Sisak Fortress. This is not to be confused with the Stari Most or the old bridge.
Sisački Old Bridge or Stari Most, Sisak
Stari Most, a photogenic brick and stone bridge across the river Kupa, is located about halfway between the railway station and the fortress.
Although it is called the old bridge, this 7-arched brick and stone road bridge is not that old. It was built in 1934. However this bridge looks more recent because of the way it has been maintained and does not look its 80-90 years.
The name Stari Most stems from the fact that there used to be an even older wooden bridge at this place which was built in 1862.
Another unique fact about this bridge is that although concrete was already in vogue when it was built, the city decided to have an old fashioned stone and brick bridge. Maybe, to match the looks of the Sisak Fortress.
City Museum or Gradski Muzej Sisak
The city museum is not big and in fact you may mistake it for a large house. However, if you have the time, then it is definitely worth a visit, considering it is a small town.
Located close to the old bridge (Stari Most) and spread over two stories, there are artifacts tracing history right from prehistoric, Roman, also of the battle to the current times.
This is also a good place to pick up a souvenir or two.
Ruins of the Roman City of Siscia
Romans had arrived here in the 2nd century and by the end of the 2nd century, the city of Siscia became quite powerful politically and economically and became the capital of the important Roman province of Pannonia. It is said that the modern town of Sisak sits atop the ancient town of Siscia.
There are however remains of granary, walls, baths and tower, among others, which can now be seen in the protected archeological park Siscia ” in situ ”.
This is also located close to Stari Most, just outside the entrance of Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Mali Kaptol (Small Administration Building)
Mali Kaptol is one of the oldest brick buildings in this city and is just about half-a-kilometer north of the Old Bridge or Stari Most. One can’t miss it as it is right on the riverfront promenade. It is the one with a sundial on one of the walls. This was built in the late 18th century as a palace during the baroque period. That makes it over 200 years old! It now houses an excellent yet affordable restaurant inside. It is also one of the more happening places in Sisak during Summer.
There is an interesting permanent exhibition called the Sisak Ring of History where information on the seven most important historical periods are exhibited. These are embedded at the street level, covered by glass and well lit. There is an information plaque showing the map and the name used at the time among others. An excellent initiative to illustrate their history and culture, useful to both locals and tourists.
There are also many street sculptures nearby, all created by locals, commemorating this as an industrial town and life in general. This building also houses Sisak Tourism Information Centre (TZG Sisak or Turistička zajednica grada Siska)
Street Art in Sisak, the Mural Capital of Croatia
“The world is your canvas”, someone has said rightly.
The Sisak people said, “We don’t know about the world, but the walls of buildings in Sisak, surely, is!” Sisak is also fondly called the “Mural Capital of Croatia”.
When we reached Sisak, we actually did not expect to see street arts as we were not even looking for them. The best thing about walking into side streets, is you never know what beauty you may behold. We found a few beautiful ones, but it was already time to rush back to the station to catch our train to Zagreb.
We gathered more information on the street art as follows. .
In the year 2016, ‘Re:Think Sisak’, an organization promoting art came with an idea to encourage local talent and thereby the street art festival came to life.
Now, it is so popular that even foreign artists come here to showcase their talent.
How we wish we had had more time!
Sisak Jazz & Blues Festival
Mali Kaptol is home to the Siscia jazz club, owned by Damir Kukuruzović, which is one of the better jazz clubs of Croatia. Every year in summer they organize the Siscia Open Jazz & Blues Festival, where bands from many countries participate.
This is a must visit event if you are a jazz aficionado and can time your visit.
Oldtimer Club Sisak, Vintage Car and Motorcycle Rally
For those travelers who are interested in vintage motorcar and motorcycle rallies, there is the Oldtimer Club which organizes rallies every year around September. Guess what? When we visited Sisak, it was exactly the day of the rally and we got to meet the winner of one of the categories near Mali Kaptol!
Oldtimer Club was founded in the year 1991, soon after Croatia declared itself as an independent country. The idea was to form a club of people who love vintage vehicles and meet periodically to exchange news.
Sisak Knights Tournament (Sisački Viteški Turnir)
Don’t be surprised if you see a few knights, in their shining armour, on their horses here and there when you visit Sisak Stari Grad Fortress. It may be June. Every year in June, the Sisak Tourism board celebrates the year 1593 victory over the Ottoman army, organizes Sisak Knights Tournament (Sisački Viteški turnir).
It is one of the biggest draws for the locals and tourists both. Under the walls of the Sisak fortress, modern knights are fighting on the ground or jousting atop horses, to win the “Juran and Sofija” Cup and finally the Golden Sword (zlatni mač).
We promise, that you will be transported to the medieval age when you walk the grounds around the fortress, which has a festive ambiance with medieval music, dance, craft markets, souvenir shops and eateries.
Fishing & Other Activities in Sisak
Sports and recreation facilities in the town and the surroundings include mainly the waters and alluvial plains a public beach on the Kupa. All rivers (Kupa, Odra, Sava) with their backwaters offer fishing and kayaking opportunities.
Sisak is the starting point for sightseeing tours into Lonjsko Polje (Field of Lonja river) nature park. The local football club is HNK Segesta. Sisak features the oldest ice hockey club in Croatia, KHL Sisak est. 1934 and also has a indoor Olympic size swimming pool.
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Useful Information on Sisak
How to Reach Sisak?
By Car: Sisak is about 60 KM from Zagreb by A11 highway and takes about an hour.
By Train : On an average there are around 11 trains to Sisak from Zagreb which takes about 55 minutes.
Getting Around Sisak
There is no public transport worth the name. You could rent a car (Iznajmiti automobil) in Sisak or even Zagreb. We suggest walking, although all sights may not be close to each other. Be ready to walk for at least 10 KM. Other option is to take a cab for some major destination and then walk. For example, one can take a taxi/cab from the Railway station to Sisak Fortress and then cover all the sights on the way back by walking.
Where to Stay?
It is best to stay in Zagreb and make a day trip to Sisak. However, it is possible you may want to stay a few more days to imbibe the Croatian small-town ambiance. Click below to book your accommodation.
Interesting Information about Sisak
- Kupa river is about 300 kms long and forms the border between Croatia and Slovenia for about 120 kms
- Sisak is the place where Kupa river ends its course when it merges with Odra river at the North Sisak which merges again with the Sava river at South of the town.
- It is called Kolpa river in Slovenia and we had a wonderful glamping experience at Big Berry, Bela Krajina, of living on its banks on the Slovenian side.
- The meaning of the name Kupa or Kolpa could either be “Meandering Water” or “Clear Water”.
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