Croatian capital is a great base for day trips
With Eastern Europe appearing more often on the to-do lists of travelers, a visit to the Croatian capital – with its clash of old and new - should be near the top. Zagreb is just three hours from the Adriatic coast on the slopes of the Medvednica mountains and makes a great base for day trips.
If three hours to the coast is too long of a drive, it’s only a short hop from the city to Jarun Lake, a 2 km artificial waterhole created for the 1987 World Student Games. Cool off with a swim or rent a paddle boat, canoe or windsurfer. If you don’t like water activities, there is a sports center nearby, where skateboarders, rollerskaters and cyclists go when the weather is nice.
The pebble beach at Veliko Jezero is popular with picnickers. Sunbathers enjoy gathering at Malo Jarunsko Jezero on the eastern end of the lake. When the sun goes down, take advantage of the area’s excellent nightlife, which includes clubs and cafés along the shore.
Loosely translated as “Bear Mountain,” the hulking Medvednica Nature Park includes a ski resort and winter sports center, complete with cozy mountain huts. Popular activities include hiking and mountain biking. In summer, beech forests turn deep green and then transform into spectacular shades of orange in autumn.
While exploring the forests, don’t forget to stop by the Veternica Cave, which is open to visitors on the weekends during the summer. Also, make sure to visit Zrinski, the popular medieval silver mine that attracts historical re-enactors during Medieval Days at Mevednica.
West of Zagreb, the picturesque medieval town of Samobor boasts a pleasant climate. Along with attractive baroque architecture, the town has cultivated a bourgeoning art scene that includes painters, sculptors and poets.
Bustling market squares are surrounded by highlands, creating a charming spot to soak up the atmosphere at one of the local cafes. Sample a slice of the local kremšnite, a vanilla and custard cream cake, rumored to be among the country’s finest. The area also is known for Bermet, a local aromatic wine flavored with wormwood.
Known as the “City on Four Rivers,” this beautiful town was designed in the 16th century to resemble a six-pointed star as a fortification against invading Turks. With vibrant cultural life, it’s a nascent center for tourism and offers many activities, including paintballing, mountain trekking and swimming at the city beach.
With four rivers to choose from, pick one to suit your tastes. The Mrežnica river’s whitewater is ideal for canoeing. The calmer Dobra river is good for sailing and picnics while the Kupa and Korana rivers are popular for fishing.
Townsfolk often describe their beer drinking as the town’s fifth river, so it’s a great place to stay an evening and relax with a bottle or two. Until recently, Karlovac’s main industry was brewing the local beer, Karlovačko.
Slovenia lies west of Zagreb and its capital, Ljubljana, is a lively baroque city. One of Europe’s smallest capitals, its population of students, artists and street performers create a youthful atmosphere. Cultural attractions, such as museums and galleries, are plentiful. The medieval castle overlooks the city and the picturesque bridges that cross the Ljubljanica river.
For a unique experience, visit the autonomous Metelkova City, a hub of counterculture in the center of the capital.