By Nika Bogdanic
The great thing about the charming Croatian capital is the fact that nature is not an unknown as it happens to be in many capitals of the world. There are numerous parks, promenades, forests, lakes and an impressive mountain. So if you’re in need of a nature getaway you won’t have to go far.
Maksimir is the oldest public park and one of the nicest places in Zagreb. It was founded in the late 18th century at what was then the outskirts of Zagreb and it was the first large public park in South-Eastern Europe. Nowadays, this 800 acre park isn’t in the outskirts any longer as the city has grown – it’s between the central and the eastern part of Zagreb, accessible to everyone. The enchanting forest, lakes with swans and ducks, green meadows, hills, walking and running paths form this natural fairy tale. This park is also a home to Zagreb’s ZOO. Trams number 4, 7, 11 and 12 can take you to Maksimir.
Situated in the northern part of Zagreb and marking the southern border of the Zagorje region, Medvednica mountain is a natural treasure whose name could translate to bear mountain. This 1 035 meters high mountain behaves as an “island” in its climate characteristics – it has lower temperatures than Zagreb, and the snow cover lasts longer which is why people enjoy winter sports there (a famous ski race The Snow Queen Trophy takes place at Sljeme). If you’re not into winter sports you can visit the medieval castle of Medvedgrad which is also an amazing viewpoint from which you can see Zagreb, you can take a hike through the glorious forests or you can have a typical Medvednica meal – grah s kobasicom (a traditional stew with beans and a sausage). Whichever you choose Medvednica is a remedy for your mind. Trams number 14 and 8 can take you to the base of the mountain. And if you’re too lazy to hike you can take a bus ride up.
Jarun is a 2km long artificial lake surrounded by cycling tracks, a promenade, forests and parks. It’s located in the southwest part of Zagreb and you can get there by taking trams 5 or 17. It’s a popular nature getaway at any time of the year, but especially during the warmer seasons. People come here to do sports, to stroll, to sunbathe during the summer, to relax and enjoy the nature. It’s also an important venue for rowing competitions, with a large spectator stand at the western end. Veliko Jezero (the big lake) is the part of the lake for rowing and windsurfing, while Malo Jezero (the small lake) is reserved for swimming, pedal boat rides, bars and cafes.
In the northern part of Zagreb, on the slopes of Medvednica mountain, there’s a park/meadow and a promenade called Cmrok. Cmrok is a great place for a picnic during the warmer seasons, it’s a meeting point for dog owners and their pets, and it’s a famous sleigh ride slope for kids when it’s snowing in Zagreb. It’s quite close to the center so you can walk (it’s located behind the Upper Town) or you can take a bus ride with buses 101, 102 and 105 from Kaptol or Britanski square.
Bundek is located in Novi Zagreb north of Zapruđe and Središće neighborhoods. Since it was renovated in 2005 it’s a famous nature getaway. Besides the lake, there are cycling tracks, a promenade and parks. There are contents for kids as well as for grown-ups – under the trees you can find barbecues, which you can use for open-air parties. Special attention is given to gardening so the flowers around the promenade look amazing. There are bars and cafes around the lake as well. During the summer people swim here and there are lifeguards on duty. Bundek is not as big as Jarun, however it’s more accessible from the city center and it’s very charming. To get there take any bus from Glavni kolodvor and get out on the third stop.
The Zagreb Botanical Garden is located at Marulić square in the city center so no trams or buses are necessary to get there. It was founded in 1889 by Antun Heinz, a professor of the University of Zagreb, and opened to public in 1891 as a part of the Faculty of Science. This nature utopia is a home to over 10 000 plant species from around the world, including 1 800 exotic ones. It also has large ponds for aquatic plants. The easiest and the fastest way to get lost in the nature while in the city is to pay a visit to this wonderful garden. The entrance is free and it’s open to public April to November.
Zrinjevac, Strossmayer square and Tomislavac
Between Zagreb’s main square and Glavni kolodvor – the main railway station, there are three wonderful squares and parks in a row. Zrinjevac is the closest to Jelačić square and it’s famous for charming fountains, enormous trees, wooden benches, carefully arranged flowers, a meteorological column and a music pavilion which is set as the centerpiece of the park. The second one is the quieter Strossmayer square, behind the Croatian Academy of Science and Art. And the third one is King Tomislav square with an enchanting park dominated by a statue of King Tomislav. People enjoy these parks during the whole year, however as soon as the meteorological column shows higher temperatures the parks get fuller.