Zagreb is the cool, cultured capital of the hot new country on every active travel itinerary. For that reason, BTG definitely recommends visiting Zagreb, running Zagreb, and checking out the central sites of the city. But let’s be honest – Zagreb is a city, and Croatia (Hrvatska in Croatian, by the way) is a country with 1,185 islands, 5,835 kilometers of Adriatic shoreline, and innumerable opportunities to bike, hike, and boat among them. We therefore advise active travelers max out their city stay at one day and one night, and expend their time and energy exploring the coast.
While in town, take in runs along the “i” portion of the Garden “Li” or put together some longer routes in Maksimir Park. There’s a lot to be gotten out of actively exploring Zagreb in this way. The city itself lies at the southern foot of Medvednica Mountain, and is spliced by the Sava River. Donji Grad – the Old Town – features great walking streets and substantial crowds at sidewalk cafés. This central area is anchored by Bana J. Jelacica Square (Trg), and most points of interest are within a few hundred meters of there. Take a quick stroll past the Cathedral of Assumption, the Dolac Market, and Tkalciceva, the ultimate café-hangout street. From there, a steep but short hill climb leads to old Kapitol, the Gornji Grad district, and fantastic city views.
Remember to pause as you take in the scene below you. After all, there are less than two decades between the city and civil war. And it is not the luck of every traveler – active or not – to roam such reconciled streets.
- The Spaces Between: There are a great clump of gardens in Zagreb’s center. City planners originally intended to connect them - Marsala Tita and Mazuranicev Gardens in the east to Strossmayerov and Zrinjskog in the west - and form a Garden U in the center of town. Unfortunately they never completed this project, and on a map it looks much more like a garden “Li” (Run #1). Individual parts of this route are okay; the links between them are not.
- Smokers: They were banned from restaurants in May 2009. In summertime this means lots of empty café interiors and throngs of people lighting up on the street.
- Trams: Actually, they aren’t that dangerous here. Zagreb’s are some of the most unobtrusive trams with the most polite drivers BTG came across in Eastern Europe. Yet because they run frequently and quietly, make sure you keep an eye out for them when crossing the street.
Did you know? While Zagreb is a fashionable city, even the most chic runners don’t commonly wear ties on the road. Still, the necktie is a Croatian invention. It gained its popularity in 1660, when the country’s military was on parade in Paris, and earned it original name “cravat”.