It is often noted that Zagreb has the highest concentration of museums per square metre than anywhere else in the world. While this is fairly impressive, it’s safe to say that not everybody wants to spend their whole holiday inside such institutions which is why we have rounded up the best activites to try when visiting Zagreb.
Such a focus also overlooks the plethora of other activities that are available to those travelling to Zagreb. The city itself is a playground for many past times and the stunning landscape of inland Croatia and neighbouring Slovenia are right on its doorstep, offering plenty of opportunities to get out and explore.
Wakeboarding on Lake Jarun
Other parts of Croatia may benefit from the extensive coastline, but Zagreb has its own watersports destination: Lake Jarun. This man-made body of water can be found in the west of the city and is a popular place for all sorts of recreational activities from jogging and cycling to swimming during the summer months. There is one extra special sport you can get involved in between June and September, however, and that’s wakeboarding. Wake Park Jarun has state-of-the-art facilities that make it perfect for those first starting out and require lessons from the watersports school, as well as anyone keen to practice the activity and improve their skills.
Exploring Plitvice Lakes
The stunning Plitvice Lakes, which have been recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site, lie around two hours’ drive from Zagreb. A number of buses depart from the city’s main bus station every day and during the peak summer months, the total is increased further to cater to demand. The national park features 16 natural lakes in every shade of blue and turquoise you can imagine, as well as 1,146 species of plants, 140 varieties of bird and more than 50 types of mammal. This makes the experience of wandering the walkways, boardwalks and bridges of Plitvice an opportunity not to be missed.
Being awed at Mirogoj Cemetery
It would be a shame to leave Zagreb without learning a little about the history and as we’ve eschewed museums, there is another way to explore the city’s past: by visiting the Mirogoj Cemetery. This burial ground is where many of the most famous of Zagreb’s citizens have been interred, offering a fascinating social history, but it is also set in beautiful surroundings and many of the tombs and pavilions are tantamount to works of art. Austrian architect Hermann Bolle designed the cemetery using the ground plan of downtown Zagreb during the 19th century, making it easy to navigate. Among the graves to look out for are Bolle himself; female Croatian writer Marija Juric Zagorka; Portland Trail Blazers and New Jersey Nets basketball player Drazen Petrovic; and Franjo Tudman, first president of Croatia.
Taking in the views at Zagreb 360°
High-rise buildings aren’t exactly common in the centre of Zagreb, so it’s well worth scaling the only one that is present in the main square. Zagreb 360° is the observation deck located on the 16th floor of the Ilica 1a building and offers views of many of the city’s attractions. Make use of the binoculars and see if you can spot any of the landmarks you have visited so far during your stay. It’s not just streets, squares, parks, fountains and buildings that are on show, however, as when the weather is good, you can see as far as the Moslavina Hills and even Slovenia. If you feel like lingering, then there is a good bar from which you can take in the views at your leisure and with a drink in hand.
Tickling your taste buds in Samobor
Just a 40-minute drive from Zagreb to the west is the historic city of Samobor and while there is plenty of culture to explore, the food and drink alone is worth making the journey for. You can hop on a bus from Zagreb’s main bus station if you don’t want to hire a car or intend to partake in a glass of Bermet. This sweet and sour liqueur is still made by a local family and combines red wine with nutmeg, star anise, dried figs and vanilla to a traditional, secret recipe. Another taste sensation to try before you leave is samoborska kremsnita, a delicious cream cake that has been made in the city for generations. Some of the best examples of this speciality can be bought at the U prolazu cake shop, which is situated in the main square.