Compact and understated, Zagreb is an intriguing mix of vibrant street culture, ornate neo-Baroque buildings and cobblestone streets, punctuated by elegant parks, stunning lakes and lush mountain peaks. As such, a trip to the Croatian capital allows you to combine a city break with the great outdoors.
With world-class museums, a dynamic fine-dining scene and a coffee culture like few others, Zagreb was made for city breaks. But beyond the chic cafés and innovative exhibition spaces, there’s a wealth of incredible activities luring visitors outside. From skydiving and stargazing to sketching and discovering secret passageways, these unbeatable outdoor adventures in Zagreb will give you your fresh-air fix.
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From the taxis to the trams and the 19th-century funicular, Zagreb’s transport options are all decked out in bright cerulean blue. And Blue Bike is bang on trend, offering chic city tours on their fleet of sky-blue cycles. “In just a couple of hours, you will get all the essential info about Zagreb,” Blue Bikes says on their website. “Not only crucial historical facts, but great insights into our present day way of life.” Rent your own bike for DIY explorations or join a themed tour. What sets their tours apart, according to Blue Bike, is that all their guides are “Zagreb locals, born and bred, who love our city deeply, know all its secrets and can’t wait to share them with you.”
Far from your average cooking class, the Walk and Cook tour from Kamauf Tours will engage all five senses, giving you a window into Zagreb’s history, its food culture and traditional delicacies. Accompanied by a highly skilled Croatian chef, you will first explore the city’s main sights before heading to scout out the best ingredients at the open-air Dolac Market – known as “the belly of Zagreb”. Baskets bursting at the seams with fresh, mouthwatering produce, it’s time to learn how to create your traditional Croatian dish. For wine lovers: try Kamauf’s Walk and Wine tour, which culminates at a rustic winery where you can watch the sun set and discover a bouquet of brilliant Croatian wines.
See the minutiae of the city in sharp relief with the remarkable Black and White Sketching Tour from Hello Zagreb. “This city tour is a one-of-a-kind, unique way of getting to know Zagreb,” explains Damjan Beusan, CEO of Hello Zagreb. “You’ll visit the city’s major sights, but instead of providing loads of facts and information, we encourage you to seek creativity in yourself, sketching the sights that appeal to you specifically.” Over the course of three hours, accompanied by an expert artistic guide, you’ll refine your craft and explore the city in unparalleled detail. Plus, Damjan adds, “Besides the great experience, you get to take home a unique piece of artwork that was handmade in Croatia.”
Though largely flat, Zagreb’s cityscape nestles against the backdrop of the 1,035m-high (3,400ft) Medvednica mountain. While there aren’t many climbing opportunities on Medvednica itself, you can experience this classic Croatian topography with a rockclimbing trip to the dramatic Dinaric mountain range, a one- to two-hour drive from the city. Natural Croatia offers adrenaline-pumping excursions packed with climbing challenges to suit all levels. Their one-day trips include specialised safety briefings and expert guidance, lunch at a mountain lodge or picnic-style snacks and transfers from Zagreb city centre.
Travel back to the Dark Ages with a spooky tour of Zagreb’s more sinister past. As night falls, gather in front of the horseman statue at Ban Jelačić Square to get acquainted with your tour guide and virtual guide (or ghost?) from the past. From here, you’ll wander the streets, exploring the city’s spine-tingling basements, alleyways and historic locations encountering dark spirits and learning about gruesome events from executions and torture to adultery, murder and witch hunts. Walk in the footsteps of formidable kings, queens, peasants and witches, and see if you have what it takes to uncover the city’s darkest secrets.
Laced with trails and lush forest, Medvednica was made for hiking. But why not take your trek to the next level with an otherworldly after-dark hike? Kitted out with head torches, walking poles and an expert guide, Lobagola Tours will help you navigate the moonlit pathways and planets above, and take you off-the-beaten path to discover 500-year-old fresh spring wells and medieval fortresses and to enjoy a picnic of Croatian delicacies under the stars. With low light pollution and a dedicated network of dark sky parks, Medvednica’s interstellar views will transport you far, far away from the bustle of the city below.
A secret network of underground passageways might sound like something from a sci-fi novel, but in Zagreb this fantastical scene comes to life in the form of the mysterious Grič Tunnel. Built in 1943 as part of a network of tunnels, Grič served as a bomb shelter during the Second World War. Left desolate for many years, ravers put the tunnels back on the map in the ’90s after discovering their incredible acoustics. And in 2016, Grič was opened to the public as an avant-garde, 350m-long (1,150ft) exhibition space. Check out an event, explore the history or beat the heat underground on a hot summer’s day. Opening hours are between 9am and 9pm, and admission is free. The five entrances are marked with the Zagreb coat of arms.
A great way to explore a new city is to see it from above – climb a church tower, hike to a mountain viewpoint or get the ultimate thrill ride with a tandem skydive! Launching from Lučko airport, a short 25-minute drive from Zagreb, Emir and Martina from the Skydiving Tandem Group offer a panoramic flight over the capital city of Zagreb. From the air, you can map the streets and trace the city’s history. “It’s the kind of feeling you can’t experience in your everyday ‘earthly’ life,” say Emir and Martina. You might not be able to stick it on your fridge or post it to a friend, but this souvenir is one you won’t forget in a hurry.
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