- Medvednica
- Gornja Stubica
- Marija Bistrica
- Belec
- Lepoglava
- Trakošćan

Mount Medvednica is both a protected nature reserve and a favourite hiking and picnic spot for Zagreb folk. Beyond its northern slopes lies the Zagorje region, known for its rippling hills, romantic castles and unspoilt rural culture.


Mount Medvednica is both a protected nature reserve and a favourite hiking and picnic spot for Zagreb folk. Beyond its northern slopes lies the Zagorje region, known for its rippling hills, romantic castles and unspoilt rural culture.

The forested slopes of Mount Medvednica (often referred to by the name of its summit,Sljeme) provide a retreat into nature a tram ride away from the heart of the city. Hikers can choose among well-marked paths leading to mountain lodges (“planinarski dom”) serving cheap, fresh and hearty food. Medvednica Nature Park is a haven for plant and animal species,cultural and geological rarities. For example, the Veternica cave lies in a 10km2 karst landscape rich in rock formations.

The main cavern is over 2km long, the first 380m of which are open to the public. Here you can see the bones of a cave bear and visit (and even adopt) the current inhabitants, bats. Or, visit the Zrinski silver mines, worked from the 16th century when Count Petar Zrinski was awarded the right to mine for precious metals here. After two centuries of mining, some people say the system of caves extends all the way to Gornji Grad in the centre of Zagreb.

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Gornja Stubica

Gornja or “Upper” Stubica has a quiet village feel and hilly panoramas. For most Croatians, the name is synonymous with Matija Gubec, leader of the 16th century peasant revolts. For his pains, Gubec was captured, carted off to Zagreb, mocked with a hot iron crown and unceremoniously quartered. An old linden tree, which stands by a lovely old wooden house (today a pub), is the only living witness of Gubec’s times. Nearby, the rather lovely Oršić palace has a collection telling the story of Gubec and of life in Zagorje.

More information about Donja Stubica and Matija Gubec you can find on

Marija Bistrica

Marija Bistrica is one of the best-loved Marian shrines in Croatia, attracting thousands of pilgrims each year. It’s an attractive little town in spectacular countryside, and the pilgrim Church of St Mary of the Snows, set on the cobbled main square, is truly striking. The site is dedicated to the Virgin Mary because of a miraculous black wooden statue of the Madonna and Child dating back to the 15th century.

A parish priest, fearing invasion by the evernearing Turks, hid the statue but died before revealing the secret place. Decades later, the statue revealed itself by emitting light. The statue was once more hidden and revealed again in the 17th century, and has been revered ever since, not least because of its supposed healing powers.

More information about Marija Bistrica is available at

What is Gingerbread heart?

The bright red hearts (“licitar”) you’ll see at religious sites and souvenir shops are traditional decorations and gifts of the Zagreb and Zagorje regions. You’ll see the place you visited inscribed in icing sugar, or perhaps a message of love, wisdom or commemoration. They’re often given as a token of affection that is, at least in theory, edible. You simply can’t go wrong!


Tucked away beneath the Ivanščica mountain, the tiny village of Belec hides a sumptuous example of sacral architecture: the Church of St Mary of the Snows.Surrounded by walls to fend off Ottoman incursions, the interior is magnificently ornate, rich in 18th century frescos by local master Ivan Ranger, and a stupendous ensemble of gilded altars executed by Graz-based sculptor Josip Schokotnigg.

Recently restored, this masterpiece of the Croatian baroque is well worth visiting.


Another very important religious site, Lepoglava was settled by Pauline monks in the 14th century. The order not only built a splendid church and monastery, they also did much to support education, medicine, art and culture. By decree of Emperor Joseph II, the Pauline order was abolished and the monks left Lepoglava in 1786. In 1854, the monastery became a prison. While Croatia’s central penitentiary is still housed in the newer wings, in 2001 the monastery buildings were restored to the Church. The prison itself is also darkly notable for incarcerating political prisoners including Josip Broz Tito and Franjo Tuđman.

Something you have to see - Lepoglava lace
Lacemaking was among the crafts introduced to Lepoglava by the Pauline monks, and today the town is one of the centres of lace in Croatia, with established schools and workshops and an international festival of lace held every year. The award-winning Lepoglava lace is made on bobbins, while the equally famous lace from Pag island is needlepoint, and Hvar island lace is made from agave fibres.

More information is available at


When people say Zagorje is a land of fairytale castles, Trakošćan is probably what they have in mind. A white huddle of towers and battlements perched above a lake, surrounded by hills and forests, Trakošćan possesses a spectacular beauty. It developed from its initial use as a defensive lookout in the 13th century into the residence of the Drašković family, who expanded the fortress in a romantic style in the 19th century. The well preserved castle is home to a museum on four floors, with rooms representing various styles of interior decoration.

All about Trakošćan is available at


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