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Secret Zagreb off the beaten path

10 Zagreb Off The Beaten Path Things To Do

by Family Globetrotters

Discover Croatia’s Capital By Getting To Know It’s Hidden Secrets. Zagreb Off The Beaten Path Is Dark, Exhilarating, Up With The Times And Just Plain Cool.

Zagreb is often not one’s first choice when we think of Croatia as a destination and travellers always wonder what to do in Zagreb. Synonymous with its stunning coastlines, sailing and beaches as well as being popularised by HBO’s Game of Thrones, we decided that on this girl’s only trip we would give it a miss and head to its capital instead. Zagreb is a city rich in history and is easy to navigate. We were however really interested to see a different side to this city and were so pleased when Iva Silla from Secret Zagreb agreed to show us around. Zagreb off the beaten path enlightened us on so many facets we would otherwise have never known and I was amazed by all the things to do in Zagreb.

Iva is a masterful story teller. We didn’t get a walking tour filled with facts and figures or in depth historical details. For 4 hours, she took us on a journey of contemporary street art, viewing sculptures celebrating prolific Croatians, dark and sinister tales and sights that were simply interesting or funny. Here are some of Zagreb’s off the beaten path highlights, veiled in slight secrecy.


In the heart of Zagreb, tucked away in the cobblestone streets, exists till this day, a secret dragon society. This Croatian historical and cultural society established in 1905 was banned by the Communist regime and re-established in 1990. Members of this society today are bestowed with the title of Grand Masters and are influential members of society. Conspiracy theorists suggests that it lodges the free masons in Croatia which only made it all the more exciting when Iva showed us where it was.

Did you know that Zagreb has a Secret Dragon's Society? No joke! It still exists today. Family Globetrotters just might show you where. #Zagreb #familytravel Click To Tweet

If your family are fans of dragons, witches, ghosts and all things dark, do check out her Ghosts and Dragons Tour.


Picasso and Dali are about the limits of my appreciation of “modern art”. I draw the line at Warhol and well yes, some sculptures and installations may be considered “cool” but that’s because I find them pretty, appreciate the difficulty in the assembly or creation process or perhaps technology had some play in it. Other than that, I just don’t get it.

But when Iva took us to check out a giant fish with human eyes surrounded by looming trees and green brushes, I did a “wow!” The fish is painted on an overturned abandoned old boat. Entitled the “Unnatural Habitat”, it was Lonac’s final exam piece for art school. This is a great photo opportunity, especially through the free-standing frame adorned with figures inspired by Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. All in all, a surreal experience in a most unusual setting.

Modern art fish sculpture zagreb Lonac

A Big Fish Installation Amidst The Bushes.

Tuskanac Forest Lonac art

Check Out The Edvard Munch and “Hear No Evil and See No Evil” Inspired Statues.


What is a miniaturist? A miniaturist is an artist who specialises in small, discrete works and Croatia’s most famous miniaturist is Giulio Clovio. Not only was he a miniaturist, he was also an illuminator, a painter of ornamental decorations. In meeting this man, I learnt of 2 new professions.

And have a good guess what tiny painting this man does on what “ornamental” object. In this instance, it’s a body part! Ask Iva and she’ll show you!


I am a sucker for a funicular because it denotes to me that it will lead to a higher place I’m unable to view from where I am. For me it also means that it is heading to somewhere so special that a dedicated mode of transport was commissioned to transport us there. Just like the funicular that takes us up to Sacre Couer in Paris, the steepest funicular that goes to the alpine resorts of Stoos in Switzerland or my very first experience when I was a child, heading up to The Peak in Hong Kong.

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So why is the funicular in Zagreb Old Town history making? It’s the world’s shortest funicular! We had wanted to take it up to the Upper Town but upon exploring the city on our own, we stumbled across the funicular, from the top! I had a good laugh albeit being disappointed. We did however discover a great vantage point to view it from and is definitely a quintessential Zagreb tourist attraction. Iva will show you where this great spot is.

Funicular Zagreb Croatia

I’m Having A Good Laugh At The World’s Shortest Funicular!


When Iva confirmed our tour, I actually had no idea where she was going to take us. I just told her that I wanted to see Zagreb in a different light that perhaps only the locals would be aware of, patronise or experience. So, imagine my delight when the first port of call was a forest. Yup, a forest! In the middle of the city! Although Tuskanac is neither hard to navigate or too far from the hub of the city, it certainly wasn’t in our radar.

And what a fascinating walk it was! She showed us an open-air cinema for dogs in the middle of nowhere, grand houses being built by some very rich Croatians, an abandoned park project turned police sleeping headquarters and folklore associated with the area. It was such a nice respite from the city and to be amongst the trees and nature.


Antun Gustav Matoš was a prominent Croatian poet in the 19th century that helped to shape the country’s modern literature. I have come to understand that it is a popular sculpture on Strossmayer’s promenade, with a stunning view. We didn’t know about the sculpture until Iva brought us here but it’s her story of why he was really placed there that cemented our liking for him.

Antun Gustav Matoš Croatian Poet

This is What Happens When We Leave The Kids At Home!


“Nine Views” is an installation in Zagreb which together with the sculpture of “The Grounded Sun”, makes up a consistent model of the Solar System.

The system is at scale 1:680 000 000. The sculpture of the sun which was erected first, became the epicenter of the installation. Artist Davor Preis then placed 9 models of the planets of the Solar System around Zagreb. The models’ sizes as well as their distances from the sun sculpture are all in the same scale. Earth’s model is about 1.9 cm in size and at 225 m distance from the sun’s model, while Pluto’s model is 7.7 km away from it. Of the few that Iva showed us, we had walked straight past on numerous occasions in the day’s prior. This is such a cool installation! It would be such a fun thing for the kids to try and discover all 9 planets. I can assure you they were not easy to spot.


Street art and murals are becoming a prevalent part of Zagreb’s cityscape and we went to see one of the coolest ones. Don’t ask me where it is, not because I’m being evasive, I simply have no idea where Iva took us! Not sure I would have found it even if you gave me an address. Had Hannah been with me, we would have been stuck there for ages trying to get the perfect photo. I thought it made for an interesting history lesson about famous Croatians and the kids would have found it fascinating. Here you’ll meet:

    • Slavoljub Eduard Penkala (1871 – 1922) who was an engineer and inventor. He created the mechanical pencil, the first solid-ink fountain pen and the hot water bottle.
    • Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943) was an engineer known for designing the alternating-current (AC) electric system, which is still the predominant electrical system used across the world today.
    • David Schwarz (1852 – 1897) who was famous for the construction of the world’s first directable all-metal airship.
    • Faust Vrancic (1551 – 1617) who invented and tested the parachute and actually experimented when he was a tender age of 65 and only ending up breaking a thigh bone.
YOU MIGHT LIKE:   12 of the Best Street Art in Budapest, Hungary
Zagreb street art off the beaten path Penkala

Here’s Penkala, Croatian Inventor of the Mechanical Pencil and Hot Water Bottle.

Zagreb street art off the beaten path Schwartz

Prolific Croatians Being Honoured on Large Murals.


Its no wonder that the Game of Thrones chose Croatia as its major filming destination. Its insatiable appetite for dragons and witches make it a natural backdrop for the show. Until the middle of the 18th century, witch hunting in Zagreb was rife and it was legal back then to place a woman on trial if they were suspected for practising the dark arts.

Iva will take you through many stories of Baba Roga, the hideous old lady who made potions using little children as a main ingredient and how Baba Roga’s evilness was used on her all the time to keep her quiet when she was a child. Then there’s the snake witch and the infamous Black Queen. The Black Queen is said to have sold her soul to the devil, and ever since, she’s been wandering the underground with her ravens, guarding her cursed treasure. If you’re lucky, you’ll survive Iva’s trip to the mouth of this so called underground and how street art has transformed folklore into modern day times.

Tunnel Zagreb off the beaten path

Croatian Folklore Immortalised in the Form of Street Art. Here we are with Iva.


The walking tour had so many more other highlights that if I mentioned them all I’d be giving away all her trade secrets! But here is a quick mention of some of the other Zagreb things to do which Iva showed us:

  • Best observation deck for star gazing.
  • 15th century medieval wall still in existence.
  • The only remaining water well in Zagreb.
  • A replica of a legal written monument in ancient Croatian Glagolitic Script.
  • Ability to meet a well-known Naïve Art artist in her own gallery.
  • Evidence of underground activities of the old days.

Throughout the tour, there was a lot of “oohhs!”, “aahhs!”, “no ways!” and “that’s so cool!”. All signs of a tour well received! When we met Iva, we already had 3 days in in this great city and had literally seen and done all the top things to do in Zagreb. And yet, Iva was able to show us a side of Zagreb we hadn’t explored.

One of the reasons we selected Zagreb as one of our destinations for an adult girl’s trip was because we didn’t think there was too much for the kids to do. How wrong I was! They would have enjoyed everything we did, and I encourage all families to add it to their Croatian itinerary as there are simple so many things to do in Zagreb!

I hope my obscurity has sparked some intrigue and excitement. Whilst you can Google your way to all these places, its just not the same without a local telling you tales from the past, intertwined with her personal accounts from growing up in this city. Thank you, Iva, for your generous time. We will be back with the kids next time and will take them on your walking tour of Zagreb!


Luxury: Esplanade Zagreb Hotel
There aren’t many 5 star hotels in Zagreb but what they do have is splendid. This hotel is a wonderfully restored historic hotel with great service, a very convenient location for sightseeing and accommodating, professional staff. You would feel like you have stapped back at a very grand time in history. Very classy, impecabble service, lovely restaurants and very quiet.
Book Now Pay Later – Check Prices Here

Hostel: The Dots Hostel
The location is incredibly central, easy to walk to any and all sights in Zagreb. The place is very clean and bright whilst the staff are very friendly and helpful. The shared bathrooms are also clean and the breakfast is considered generous by hostel standards. Suitable for families.
Book Now Pay Later – Check Prices Here

Affordable: Hotel Jagerhorn
The greatest advantage of staying in this hotel is the location. Located just off Ilica Street, you are a stone’s throw away from every major attraction in the lower and upper towns. The rooms are a bit on the smaller side but the staff are very friendly. Breakfast is good enough and they have a gorgeous courtyard area that looks straight up to the upper town. This hotel was cheap so we spent the rest of our money on shopping!
Book Now Pay Later – Check Prices Here

Apartment: Main Square Residence
You are at the heart of the city centre, amidst the action, at Ban Jelačić Square, the main square of the capital of Croatia. The 24 apartments are luxurious, immensely comfortable with handmade beds. The location is second to none, rooms are big and bathrooms are newly renovated. It comes with a small kitchenette and good wifi.
Book Now Pay Later – Check Prices Here



10 Zagreb Off The Beaten Path Itinerary With Secret Zagreb

Disclaimer: The Family Globetrotter’s website contains affiliate links which help us to maintain this blog and assists us with our travels. Family Globetrotters have also posted articles based on sponsored products and/or services but all opinions are our own, truthful and unbiased.


Family Globetrotters Joined Our Tour – Secret Zagreb January 28, 2021 - 12:47 am

[…] is just a tiny extract from the most amazing article by Family Globetrotters about their visit to Zagreb…and Secret […]

Jane Dempster-Smith February 24, 2019 - 8:34 am

What a great post. I love searching out unique and quirky tours to do in a new destination. This is perfect. The street art is amazing. I have visited Zagreb but will definitely return just to do this tour.

Family Globetrotters February 27, 2019 - 11:27 am

Thanks Jane! Yeah it sure put a differently light on the Zagreb for us and I definitely feel that it enhanced our impression of this city.

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Outstation taxi service August 1, 2018 - 5:04 pm

Thank you for sharing this post really great and wonderful article. Your post has given very valuable information about Zagreb.

Followingtherivera June 25, 2018 - 6:55 pm

This is such a cool post on Zagreb! I really wish I had travelled here when I was last in Croatia. The fish boat in the forest is incredible, and I definitely learned something about miniaturists from reading this post. Would love to return there one day. Lovely photos as always Amy!

12 of the Most Instagrammable Street Art in the World June 19, 2018 - 7:19 pm

[…] This wall is located near Gradec in Gornji Grad (Upper Town) and was created by Boris Bare of Pimp my Pump and Dominik Vukovic. Pimp my Pump is a fantastic urban Croatian story. Pimp my Pump is made up of 5 artists who took it upon themselves to transform the old, dark, neglected and rusty water pumps around the city into pieces of art. Every water pump got a facelift and often painted in vibrant colours with pop culture references such as Marge Simpson. Street art in Zagreb continues to become a major part of the city. Hop on a walking tour of Zagreb to include a street art tour so you can enjoy all these amazing works or check out off the beaten track Zagreb. […]

Kavita Favelle May 18, 2018 - 6:48 pm

Having only been to Croatia to attend a wedding (my sister’s, in Dubrovnik) I really want to visit more of the country and Zagreb is high on my list. I love your suggestions for more unusual things to do such as hte Secret Dragon Society and the Witches of Croatia, the to-scale Solar System sculpture, and the modern art out in the forest.

Family Globetrotters May 21, 2018 - 10:26 pm

How wonderful your sistr is getting marrie din Dubrovnik! Gosh, that is going to be so beautiful! Well yes, if you’re already in the country you really should stop by Zagreb. Email Iva from Secret Zagreb and she’ll take you around:)

Kavita Favelle May 21, 2018 - 10:32 pm

Past not future, the wedding was a few summers ago and was indeed incredible. But we’ll need to do a return visit to see more of the country including Zagreb!

Mayuri May 16, 2018 - 2:03 pm

Wow this is such a great list to explore Zagreb. I like the murals and would love to take photos there. Zagreb also has a lot of odd beaten items to check off the bucket list

Family Globetrotters May 17, 2018 - 11:09 am

To be honest, I didn’t think it has so many of the beaten track stuff to do. Its a small city after all. Luckily I went on a walking tour with Secret Zagreb. They opened a whole new side to Zagreb and I’m so glad I got to see it.

Christina May 12, 2018 - 12:14 pm

Such fun things to see!

travelhelix May 12, 2018 - 3:27 am

Love this article about Zagreb! We didn’t make it there during our time in Croatia, but this article sure makes me want to explore! We love the “off the beaten path theme” – it’s something we try to incorporate into all of our travels, as much as possible! And the world’s shortest funicular? Had me laughing out loud…. 🙂

Family Globetrotters May 12, 2018 - 11:43 am

Hahaha! Glad that made you laugh:) Seriously, if I walked next to it, I could probably beat to the top! We love off the beaten track too. I feel it gives us such a different perspective to a city. Iva’s tour made Zagreb “cool”, especially since all we did was the historical stuff. Hope you can make it there next time!

Meghan May 12, 2018 - 1:57 am

I’ve been looking into a Croatia trip and had wondered if it was worth spending time in Zagreb. Thanks for this! Your photos are lovely too!

Family Globetrotters May 12, 2018 - 11:41 am

Yes Meghan! Please add Zagreb to your itinerary. It was such a great decision to go as I had zero expectation before I went. So glad we made it and do takes this tour. It’s so informative and interesting. You really get to see a different side to the city.

Ian Paterson May 10, 2018 - 7:29 pm

I like that street art is so prominant in Zagreb. I wonder if the city council allow street artists to do work without permission.

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 8:51 pm

Zagreb was also unfortunately filled with graffiti. Nothing talented. Just young Croatians vandalising walls and buildings which just spoils all the beautiful cityscape. Iva the tour guide said that it was a rampant problem and the government didn’t seem to be doing anything to clean it up or impose fines to try and stop it. Its heartbreaking when you see a 15th century wall with graffiti.

LaiAriel Samangka May 9, 2018 - 10:07 pm

Wow, I should really spend time to amble around Zagreb. I love all the unfamiliar places you’ve shared in this blog post of yours. The giant fish with human eyes surrounded by looming trees and green brushes looks like really unique and new to me. I wonder that some of the scenery is familiar it is because GOT is being filmed here. I love the backdrop view of stunning scenery in the Witches of Croatia.

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 8:44 pm

Croatia has a love for all things witches and dragons so it makes for a great natural backdrop for the Game of Thrones. My understanding is that they didn’t film in Zagreb but definitely in Dubrovnik, which is why its so popular there! You can even do tours of GOT. Maybe I should finally watch it so I know what Dubrovnik looks like:)

Mike Aquino May 9, 2018 - 2:20 pm

“Secret Dragon Society”! I wonder how much of this secret society you’ll learn about on the tour you described above. “I could tell you more,” the guide might say, “but I’ll have to kill you.” (uncomfortable laughter ensues)

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:57 pm

Hahahaha! Well, Iva did tell us a bit about it and it was just cool to see where it actually was! I was so intrigued and wanted to see if I could break in. I mean, what do they even talk about?? Surely not dragons??

Sandy N Vyjay May 9, 2018 - 9:44 am

This is a totally new perspective of Croatia and specifically Zagreb. It is always thrilling to discover off the beaten track attractions and experiences, and Zagreb seems to have so many of them. They all seem unique in their own way. My attention was riveted by the contemporary sculptures in the middle of nowhere and I would love to ride the Funicular, reminded me of the Peak Tram in Hong Kong. The street art is another thing that fascinates me.

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:56 pm

My very first funicular was the Peak in Hong Kong! I remember it was so steep and I am afraid of heights so that was quite a daunting ride for me. We love off the beaten track. It is an awesome way to get to know and explore any new destinations.

Followingtherivera May 9, 2018 - 3:04 am

This is an amazing off the trail guide to Zagreb! I’d absolutely love to visit that park with all those unique works of art! I’ve only been to Dubrovnik, which was amazing, but it looks like I need to return to the capital and see more of what this city has to offer. Great photos too!

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:54 pm

Thank you! I’m the opposite, have only visited Zagreb but not Dubrovnik. What time of the year did you go to Dubrovnik? The locals tell me they avoid it like the plague in the summer as the crowds are unbearable and everything is so packed. But have also heard there are many islands to explore too so maybe next time I’ll just do a quick stop at Dubrovnik and then move on.

Verena May 9, 2018 - 2:15 am

My friend comes from Zagreb and she always tells me about it. Unfortunately, I haven’t made it there yet. But these secret spots – especially all the beautiful art places – make me really want to go now! Thanks for sharing this 🙂

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:53 pm

You welcome Verena! You should ask her if she knows where all these places I mentioned are! Yeah, it sure is one beautiful city. If ever in Croatia, you have to go.

Natalie May 9, 2018 - 1:56 am

I hear from everyone that Croatia is THE place to visit! I love the fun things you pointed out…definitely not the norm! These are the cool things I like to add for the kids .We always travel with them and they love quirky stuff like this!

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:52 pm

I LOVE quirky stuff! I think it makes the place even more interesting. Yeah, soooo much to do in Croatia and I only did the capital. I’ve heard the coast is the place to be although the crowds are horrendous in the summer. So now I have no idea when the best time to visit the coast would be!

Passportofawanderwoman May 9, 2018 - 12:10 am

This is a great post. Whenever I think of Croatia, I am thinking Dubrovnik. But this place looks great and can be a part of the itinerary. I would definitely consider it for my visit to Croatia.

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:50 pm

everyone associates Croatia with Dubrovnik, especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan! But Zagreb is actually the capital of Croatia but it certainly isn’t the most popular. But for my next Croatian adventure, I will have to go to Dubrovnik! I’ve heard its beyond stunning:)

FlySoulmates May 7, 2018 - 5:13 pm

Zagreb is on my bucket list. I’m planning visit Zagreb in September. How many days you recommend to stay there?

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:49 pm

Oh you are? Great! We had 5 days there. You can do all the sights in 3 but we wanted some extra time to be lazy and not rush. Going on this tour actually saved us a lot of time. Iva covered a lot of ground in 4 hours.

Katie May 7, 2018 - 1:42 am

This is a very useful post. Thanks for sharing. Myself and partner are planning to meet up with our family in Croatia this summer and want to visit a few places. This post has certainly inspired us to add Zagreb to the itinerary.

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:48 pm

Oh perfect! Yes, please add Zagreb to the list. quite a few people always skip it and head to the coast instead but its such a beautiful city. And it will be lovely in summer. Their al fresco culture is huge and everyone sits outside on the main squares and pedestrian walkways.

Anita May 7, 2018 - 12:20 am

I have not been in Zagreb yet, so it’s something for my future reference. It’ s always interesting to explore off the beaten path sights. Thanks for the detailed information and beautiful pictures!

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:46 pm

You welcome Anita! I hope you’ll make your way there someday. We love to go off the beaten path and I think its actually best to do it after a few days at a destination. Its just gives you a whole new light on the place. I found it fascinating!

Ami May 6, 2018 - 1:26 pm

Now those are really some unique things to do in Zagreb. The wall art is quite interesting as is the contemporary art amidst nowhere. I love the sound of that secret society and that might me on top of my list for sure. Thanks for these

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:45 pm

Street art in Zagreb is quite cool and its becoming increasingly popular and more and more murals are being painted. The secret society was so cool! when she brought us there we were like kids discovering a big mystery! LOL!

Carl Obrien May 5, 2018 - 4:16 pm

The lush landscape lightly echoes of children’s laughter, chirping birds, the breeze blowing through 100-year-old oak trees, and the crunching of pebbles while walking amongst the park’s trails. To take a break from Zagreb’s tame wildlife there are ample opportunities reachable from Jelačića main square. Maksimir Park is several minutes via tram or 30 minutes by foot trailing those tram tracks from Jelačića.

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:43 pm

And that was one place we didn’t end up going. Despite having almost 5 days there, we didn’t quite make it to Maksimir Park. I have heard it is stunning and our tour guide Iva did mention it to us. Next time…

Raul (@ilivetotravel) May 4, 2018 - 10:22 pm

Great list of off-the-beaten path things to do/see! Love all the street art. But, having studied engineer, my favorite spot for a pic would be next to Penkala: those mechanical pencils were a life saver in school!

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:42 pm

Hahaha! Yeah, I couldn’t live without the mechanical pencil too. It was so cool to know that was created by a Croatian… who knew?

Alice May 4, 2018 - 8:42 pm

I didn’t make it to Zagreb the last time I visited Croatia, but I really wanted to. But now I want to even more, I had no idea about at least half of these spots! Looks like you had such an awesome time!!

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:40 pm

Hey Alice! Oh yeah….we had an awesome time. Next time I go to Croatia I will have to head to the coast, maybe go sailing? Where in Croatia did you go?

Perri May 4, 2018 - 8:07 pm

I have visited Zagreb once but didn’t know about many of these places. I will save this post to refer to on my next trip there, thank you!

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:39 pm

We were there for 3 days before we did this tour and we literally did everything there was to be done in terms of Zagreb highlights. so I loved it when she took us to places I would never have known to go. Was well worth it.

Snita May 4, 2018 - 7:14 pm

Aw I love Zagreb! One of my favourite cities in Croatia! Looks like you had a fabulous time! Great pictures! Makes me want to go back!

Family Globetrotters May 11, 2018 - 4:38 pm

Oh it was such a stunning city. So glad I went because everyone only ever goes to the coast! If you ever go back you should do this tour. It was amazing:)


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