By Andrea Pisac
Zagreb's official colour is blue, but after a short walk through the city, you'll be dazzled by green. Lush parks and leafy squares pop around every corner, and streets, even those busy with traffic, are lined with trees.
Head north from the centre and you can quickly be on shaded trails that meander through Tuškanac forest. Even the city's northern skyline is adorned with the green Medvednica mountain. Not many European cities have such an easy access to pristine nature like Zagreb.
But green is not only the colour of Zagreb's looks. In recent years, it's become the city's outlook too. Sustainable living, eco-friendly transport, slow and organic food and clothing – all these are ideas that have taken root and are now blossoming in Croatia's capital.
The city's inviting green spaces now host various events and festivals which promote ecological thinking. Restaurants and deli shops are stocked with healthy food, even getting around Zagreb can be done in a mindful way. So here's the list of all things green that show Zagreb's true colours.
Lounging among greenery
Nothing is more leisurely than enjoying a quiet moment in a park. The centre of Zagreb boasts plenty of landscaped oases but the dearest one to the locals is Zrinjevac Park. During summer, this nature retreat lined with century-old plane trees is home to various open air festivals: from street food to film screenings. Every evening (4-13 August, 19:00-23:00) you can join a retro dance party or catch a promenade concert held in the park's Music Pavilion (Saturdays 29 July-28 August, 11:00-13:00).
Plant lovers will thrive in the Botanical Garden – a true island of tranquility in the city centre. This 4.7 ha large English-style arboretum features more than 10,000 plant species, lily-covered ponds and plenty of shaded benches to enjoy a peaceful moment (open Mon-Tue 9:00-14.30; Wed-Sun 9:00-19:00).
If you want to be surrounded by green expanses without leaving the city, head east towards Zagreb's biggest and oldest park Maksimir. With countless walking trails, open commons and five lakes, Maksimir is the best place to escape the urban hubbub. Every Saturday (10:00-19:00) throughout the summer, join Picnic in Maksimir and have your lunch on the grass with plenty of entertainment. You can even take the little ones to the nearby Zagreb Zoo (open daily 9:00-20:00) to see 275 animal species, including the rare snow leopard and red panda.
Those who love straying off the beaten path will enjoy Zagreb's hidden pockets of semi-wild greenery. Just around the corner from the busy Ilica street, several walking trails lead into Tuškanac forest. The prettiest one, Dubravka Trail, meanders gently uphill until it reaches Cmrok – a delightful meadow with a view of the famous Mirogoj cemetery. If you're looking for a secluded place, ideal for a romantic picnic, head to Rokov perivoj – a small park above Britanski Square.
Only half an hour's drive, Medvednica nature park is heaven for outdoor activities. Do as the locals do and go on a two-hour hike to Sljeme hilltop (1035 m). You can also catch the regular bus 102 from Mihaljevac and walk along the mountain ridge where trails are not as steep. For a bigger adrenaline rush, do some cycling, trail running, even free rock climbing – all available on the mountain. When you feel tired, stop in one of many mountain huts and replenish with a hearty home-cooked meal.
Getting around with no carbon footprint
When it comes to eco-friendly transport, nothing beats the simple art of walking. With elegant streets built to human measure and most highlights close at hand, Zagreb is a ramblers’ delight. If you want to shift to a higher gear, join the growing community of runners and joggers. For recreational purposes, the banks of the river Sava are ideal, but exploring the city's highlights while running is quite unique too. You can join CulturRun (www.minutadvije.hr) guided tours that accommodate all fitness levels.
By Andrea Pisac