The reading room in the old National University Library, Zagreb (now the Croatian State Archives). There are more than 25 million volumes in the 1,800 libraries throughout Croatia, including 2.2 million in the National and University Library. In 2011 museums and galleries recorded a total of 2.9 million visitors.


Museums, galleries and libraries

Museums and galleries

The tradition of collecting and preserving cultural heritage among the Croats is very old; it began with the development of ecclesiastical treasuries and private collections, while the first public museum collection was established in 1750 in Split. In the 19th century, institutions were founded to collect and exhibit works of art and items of various types of heritage – the national museums in Zadar (1832), Dubrovnik (1872), Osijek (1877) and Zagreb (1866), within whose collections archaeology, natural history, ethnography and history departments were organised, some of which have since grown into separate institutions in their own right.

Specialist museums were founded from the late 19th century onwards, mostly in Zagreb: the Museum of Arts and Crafts (1880), the Old Masters Gallery (1884, based on a donated collection from Bishop Strossmayer), the Modern Gallery (1905) and the City Museum (1907). The Museum of Croatian Antiquity was founded in Knin in 1893, but was moved after the Second World War to Split, where it was renamed the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. In 1925, the year in which one thousand years of the Kingdom of Croatia was celebrated, museums were founded in Požega, Varaždin and Šibenik. After the Second World War, many civic museums appeared, some of which specialised in preserving regional heritage, for example in Rijeka, Gospić, Poreč, Čakovec and Kutina. New institutions continued the tradition of art galleries in Dubrovnik (1945), Rijeka (1949), Osijek (1954), and Vukovar (1959).

Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb
Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb
National University Library, Zagreb

In 1954, the Gallery of Contemporary Art opened in Zagreb, today the Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a new, appropriate building since 2009. Among memorial museums, one of the most prominent is the Meštrović Gallery in Split, founded in 1954 with a donation of works by the artist himself. The most important ecclesiastical collections are the Permanent Exhibition of Church Art (1976) in Zadar, the cathedral treasuries in Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, and the collections of individual monastic orders. Newer institutions include the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery in Zagreb (1982), which does not have its own permanent collection, but hosts exhibitions of world and national heritage, the Narona Archaeological Museum (2007) in Vid, near Metković, the Museum of Antique Glass (2009) in Zadar, the Krapina Neanderthal Museum (2010) in Krapina, on the site of the former Museum of Evolution, and the innovative Museum of Broken Relationships (2011) in Zagreb.

Klovićevi dvori Gallery, housed in a former Jesuit monastery in the old part of Zagreb. It displays representative exhibitions of national heritage and hosts guest exhibitions from world famous museums and galleries, such as a selection from the Picasso Museum in Paris, which arrived in March 2013. 

In 2011, there were 281 registered museum and gallery institutions, with a further 171 collections owned by religious communities. The work of museums and galleries is coordinated by the Museum Documentation Centre, founded in 1955.


The first libraries in Croatia were founded by the Benedictines, and later by other religious orders. Medieval bishops had libraries, as evidenced by information from the late 14th century on the inventory of books in the library of the Diocese of Zagreb, which even today forms part of the well-known Metropolitan Library. When Jesuit colleges were founded, libraries were also established in their schools, while during the Renaissance, private libraries were also well known. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the number of public, school, expert and other libraries grew rapidly. According to data from 2011, there are 155 separate public libraries with a network of branch libraries in over 300 locations and an inventory of over 9,700,000 volumes.

Entrance hall of the National University Library, Zagreb
Reading-room in the old National University Library, Zagreb (now the Croatian State Archives)
Library of the Friars Minor, Dubrovnik

The largest are the Zagreb City Library, the Osijek City and University Library, and the city libraries in Rijeka, Karlovac, Split and Zadar. The largest higher education library is the National University Library in Zagreb, which also fulfils the function of the country’s national library (a copy of any book published must be filed there and it keeps a constantly updated version of the national bibliography). Today, there are university libraries in Osijek, Pula, Rijeka and Split as well, which also receive copies of new books, as do the general libraries in Dubrovnik and Zadar. The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts has its own library, in which valuable manuscripts, incunabula and rare items are housed, and which cooperates with academies and scholarly institutions in Europe and throughout the world.