Written by Bradbury Photography by Mario Romuliç and DraÏen Stojãiç
Zagreb is a very compact capital, with hotels, restaurants, business centres, and tourist attractions within walking distance of each other, the greenest of which is the legacy of a 19th century urban planner. Enjoy the natural beauty of the Lenuci Horseshoe.
A new destination, a new city to discover, and the good news is that there is plenty of fascinating variety in close proximity to central Zagreb. The Croatian capital has a rich cultural heritage, but is also very green, and the perfect introduction to the charms of the city is to take in the so-called Lenuci Horseshoe walking tour.
Named after a 19th century urban planner called Milan Lenuci (sometimes written Lenuzzi), who was born in Karlovac in 1849, the horseshoe is the legacy of a man who envisaged a green theme to the town of Zagreb, by planning a series of parks in the shape of a horseshoe. The result is not only one of the most pleasant strolls in a central European capital, but also an ideal way to become acquainted with the museums and other architectural gems along the way.
The horseshoe can be walked in half an hour or take all day, depending on the time one has to enjoy the offerings along the way. A good starting point is the central square of Ban Jelaãiç, from where the walk heads south.
Nikola Subiç Zrinski Square
Known simply as Zrinjevac, this is one of Zagreb’s nicest meeting points. A manicured lawn, fountains, enormous trees, a music pavilion, flowers, and a host of statues of Croatian heroes of yesteryear – it is all here. The Archaeological Museum is on the right.
With the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences at its head, Strossmayer Square begins across the road where Zrinjevac ends. It is probably the least interesting of the seven parks, but the statue of Josip Strossmayer in full contemplation is worth a look. He was an influential Croatian politician, Roman Catholic bishop, and benefactor.
King Tomislav Square
Continuing south, one reaches King Tomislav Square, which is dominated by a statue of the same name, the first Croatian king. Tomislav ruled in the 10th century, as is testified by the impressive monument by sculptor Robert Franges Mihanoviç. Tomislav guards the entrance to Zagreb Central Station, just behind the square, a neoclassical building that opened in 1892 and is the hub of rail traffic for the country.
Turn right and continue along the road until the magical Botanical Gardens come into view, a highlight of any trip to Zagreb. The gardens are a wonderful 4.7 hectare natural oasis, with more than 10,000 plant species from Croatia and around the world, several of which are endangered.
Owned today by the Faculty of Nature and Mathematics, the gardens were founded by Antun Heinz, a chair of botany at the University of Zagreb, who died in 1919. The gardens have expanded significantly since the first plants were introduced in 1892, and consist of ponds, artificial hills, bridges, caves, and a large arboretum, making it the perfect getaway after a stressful meeting.
Dedicated to famous Croatian writer Marko Maruliç, a distinguished 16th century humanist and poet, the square breathes culture with its close proximity to the wonderful Mimara Museum, which is housed immediately left of the square in a neo-Renaissance palace, and contains almost 4,000 paintings of masters of various schools, including Raphael, Rubens, and Goya. Additional collections include archaeological treasures from Egypt and Ancient Greece, rare items from the Far East such as jade and rhinoceros horn, and an impressive glass collection from Ancient Egypt.
Named after a famous independence leader, the green tour continues on Mazuraniç Square, home to several important and impressive buildings, including the Croatian State Archives and the Ethnographical Museum, whose attractions include a permanent collection of Croatian traditional costumes from across the country.
Marshal Tito Square
Referred to by some as the most beautiful square in Zagreb, the centrepiece of Marshal Tito Square is the Croatian National Theatre, which was opened in 1895 by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I.
Marshal Tito Square is also home to several interesting sculptures and monuments, including St George Kills the Dragon by Anton Dominik Fernkorn, the Well of Life and History of Croats by Ivan Mestroviç, and a monument to the founder of fire-fighting in Croatia, –Duro Dezelic. There are several important buildings around the square including the University of Zagreb.
From Marshal Tito, continue north for two blocks until you reach one of Croatia’s longest streets, Ilica, where a right turn will bring you to Ban Jelaciç square, the starting point of the horseshoe tour, and the perfect springboard to discover the charms of the historic quarter of Zagreb, but that is a tour for another day...
The Lenuci Horseshoe tour is an excellent introduction to the charms, buildings, and beat of the Croatian capital, a city that has yet to be truly discovered by the masses, and one that offers an enviable combination of nature, culture, gastronomy, and style at every turn.
Looking to check the accuracy of your watch? Midday at Lotrscak Tower is the place to be, as the daily Gric cannon is fired. A famous midday shot across the Sava into the Turkish encampment hit a platter of chicken destined for the Pasha’s lunch, according to local legend, leading to the Pasha calling off the attack on a city with such accurate defences. Once part of the city’s defensive walls, today the tower houses an art gallery in the old town, and the climb is well worth the effort for the views at the top.
Strossmayerovo setaliste 9
Discover the nocturnal secrets of historic ‘Upper town’ Zagreb with an hour-long tour of Gornji Grad: Secrets of Gric with costumed guides.
Fridays and Saturdays
Zagreb is a city of festivals, concerts and events. May 21-31 welcomes the annual Dance Week Festival, now in its 29th year, while Animafest – a world festival of animated film, will this year celebrate short films – will be held May 29 – June 3.
Experience Zagreb under your own steam with a hop on, hop off bus tour of the city’s main tourist attractions.
Museum of Broken Relationships
Zagreb’s most travelled museum is one of its newest, whose theme has touched most people in the world: broken relationships. The break-up of two Zagreb artists in 2003 led to the creation of a travelling exhibition around the concept of failed relationships, which eventually found a permanent home in the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb. An unusual concept, it has proved highly popular on tour, and won the Kenneth Hudson Award for the most innovative museum in Europe in 2011.
Why not pay a visit and judge for yourself?