Medvednica is a mountain in central Croatia, located north of Zagreb with its highest peak Sljeme, at 1,035 meters. Sljeme is one of the most popular places for a truly relaxing break near Zagreb, where locals love to spend their weekend afternoons surrounded by nature, enjoying in long walks, jogging, cycling or alpinism. Sljeme is also famous for Snow Queen, a World Cup alpine ski race. Most of the area of Medvednica mountain is declared a nature park thanks to its stunning beauty, natural and cultural heritage, geology, special and unique species of plants and rich fauna. Medvednica nature park offers numerous interesting sites to visit and many educational trails, some suitable for families with children and people in wheelchairs. Some of the most popular educational trails are the 500 Horvat’s stairs, Bistra educational trail and the forest trail Bliznec. 500 stone stairs trail was built in the mid-20th century, by Vladimir Horvat, journalist, and a great admirer of Medvednica mountain. These stairs will lead you through diverse forms of karst limestone terrain, small dark caves and over deep sinkholes.
On the southern slope of Medvednica, there is a stunning medieval castle, Medvedgrad (“The town of bears”) located on a small hill watching over the capital of Croatia. The castle was built in the 13th century after the Tartars invaded and burned the city of Zagreb and devasted the whole area. The castle was owned by several families during the following years, until 1590 when an earthquake devastated it. Medvedgrad remained in abandoned and in ruins until the late 20th century when some parts of the castle were reconstructed. You can observe the chapel of Saint Philip and Jacob, residential palace, part of reconstructed walls, the tower and enjoy the amazing view of the city of Zagreb. Just below the tower, there is a monument called “Oltar Domovine” (Altar of the homeland), dedicated to all the Croatian soldiers that were killed during the Croatian War of Independence.
Another stunning fort located in Medvednica Nature Park is Susedgrad (Sused). The fort was built back in the 14th century and it is famous for a battle during the Peasants Revolt. It marks the far western part of the Croatian capital. It gave the name to a village that developed under the fort, now one of the districts of Zagreb, Podsused, which literally meanes “under Sused”. It can be easily reached by the educational trail that starts in the center of Podsused. Also visit the Orašić Castle, built in the 18th century, located near Gornja Stubica. The castle was built on the ruins of an older castle built back in the 13th century. Today, the castle is a home to the Museum of Peasant Uprisings, founded and opened for public on the 400th anniversary of the great 1573 Peasants’ Revolt. On the lower slopes of the mountain, you can visit several small churches and chapels. The first one to have been built was the Medvedgrad chapel of Saint Philip and Jacob.
Other than its rich cultural heritage, there are several natural beauties well worth visiting. One of them is Veternica cave, the sixth largest cave in Croatia, located in the western part of Medvednica Nature park. Under the guidance of an expert guide, you can visit the first 380 meters of the cave, that has more than seven kilometers of branching canals. Veternica cave is also a habitat for 18 different bat species, and as they are unfortunately very endangered, Nature Park Medvednica developed a program “Adopt a Bat” in order to collect funds destined for the protection of Veternica cave and the bats. Click here to read more about this commendable initiative.