Zagreb’s sightseeing potential is largely exhausted once you’ve covered the compact centre, although there are a few worthwhile trips into the suburbs – all of which are easily accessible by tram or bus. Maksimir, Jarun and Mirogoj cemetery are the park-like expanses to aim for if you want a break from the downtown streets, while the Sava river embankment presents the ideal excuse for a long afternoon stroll. South of the river, the residential high-rise sprawl of Novi Zagreb is home to the city’s coolest cultural attraction – the Museum of Contemporary Art.
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Zagreb’s largest and lushest open space, Maksimir Park is 3km east of the centre. Named after Archbishop Maximilian Vrhovac, who in 1774 established a small public garden in the southwestern corner of today’s park, Maksimir owes much to his successors Aleksandar Alagović and Juraj Haulik, who imported the idea of the landscaped country park from England. It’s perfect for aimless strolling, with the straight-as-an-arrow, tree-lined avenues at its southwestern end giving way to more densely forested areas in its northern reaches. As well as five lakes, the park is dotted with follies, including a mock Swiss chalet (Švicarska kuća) and a recently spruced-up belvedere (vidikovac), now housing a café which gets mobbed on fine Sunday afternoons.
The Lauba House
The Lauba House
Cloaked in a sheath of matt black on the outside, and boasting a wealth of wrought iron and exposed brickwork within, the expensively restored former cavalry stable and textile factory that is the Lauba House(Kuća Lauba), 4km west of the centre, is Zagreb’s leading private art collection – and an increasingly influential player on the contemporary arts scene. It’s the brainchild of Tomislav Kličko (the name “lauba” is local dialect in Kličko’s home village for a circle of tree branches), who systematically bought up the works of Croatia’s leading contemporary artists at a time when few other individuals and institutions were making acquisitions. Unsurprisingly, Kličko ended up with the cream. Occupying centre stage in a regularly rotated collection are the figurative paintings of Lovro Artuković, light installations by Ivana Franke and the glitzy but disturbing sculptures and photographs of Kristian Kožul.
Kličko’s company Filip Trade occupies the same building – and the Lauba House’s idiosyncratic opening hours are partly based on the idea that the building is open for business during office hours, and open for art and leisure in the evening. The Lauba House’s café-bistro (run by Lari i Penati) provides ample reason to stick around.
On sunny days, city folk head out to Jarun, a 2km-long artificial lake encircled by footpaths and cycling tracks 6km southwest of the centre. Created to coincide with Zagreb’s hosting of the 1987 World Student Games, it’s an important venue for rowing competitions, with a large spectator stand at the western end, although most people come here simply to stroll or sunbathe. The best spot for the latter is Malo jarunsko jezero at Jarun’s eastern end, a bay sheltered from the rest of the lake by a long thin island. Here you’ll find a shingle beach backed by outdoor cafés, several of which remain open until the early hours. This is a good place from which to clamber up onto the dyke that runs along the banks of the River Sava, providing a good vantage point from which to survey the cityscape of Novi Zagreb beyond.
- Novi Zagreb