The city’s oldest park is home to a zoo and several lakes and is located in the north-west of Zagreb, not far from the upper town. It is the city’s green lung, a recognised and protected cultural asset and a popular place for the people of Zagreb.
Every major city has its own park, where city dwellers can enjoy green spaces and stroll under century-old trees, stroll along pedestrian walkways, admire flower beds and let their children play in safety. Maksimir Park is a perfect example of this. It’s even a forerunner in Europe that other capitals have copied to bring nature to their residents.
Maksimir Park was founded in 1787 by Bishop Vrhovac and covers 315 hectares. At the time, the aim was to enable the general public to enjoy the large church woods. Less than 100 years later, the first animals arrived on site. The park was not yet called a zoo, but over the course of the 19th century, it was gradually transformed: pavilions sprang up here and there according to the plans of Franjo Schücht, and a landscape gardener supervised the work on the forests and gardens and laid out the park in a neoclassical and romantic English landscape style. Those familiar with Laxenburg Park in Austria will find strong similarities, and rightly so, as the park at Hasburg Castle was taken as a model. Finally, in 1925, the zoo was established in the southern part of the park on a small island in one of the park’s lakes.
Pedunculate oaks and hornbeams are the most representative species in Maksimir Park. The fauna is abundant, and the little woodpecker, an endangered species, thrives here.
The park comprises several areas of varying degrees of wilderness:
- Areas of dense woodland where the noise of the city does not penetrate;
- Large openings and beautiful views of buildings at the end of long, undulating, grassy areas;
- 5 lakes of varying degrees of amenity;
- Numerous buildings (including an amazing echo building where you can play with your voice and its echo) and sculptures, observation points, a cycle track, sports equipment, children’s play areas and even a bunker;
- A zoo.
The park also features Dedek, the oldest oak tree in the area, over 600 years old. It can be seen to the south-east of the park, between the Mogila eagle monument and the playground.
In summer, the locals come here for walks and barbecues with friends and family. It’s a great place to enjoy nature and greenery. If you’re on holiday, a stroll around Maksimir for a green break or a quiet picnic is a good idea after a morning spent visiting the upper town, for example. For the more curious, the many pavilions and monuments are sure to introduce you to some local figures or key events in Croatian history.
For children, the zoo is a great place to discover. Admission is charged and there are local animals (wolves) as well as much more exotic animals. In all, more than 2,000 animals are on display for the public to see. The visit takes 2 hours.
To get to the park, in addition to the 15-minute walk from the upper town, there are several bus routes. The main stop is Bukovačka. The park is 3km from the centre and can also be reached by tram. Entrance is free, by the way, and everything is very well signposted.