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Ancient castle ruins

Castle ruins in Zagreb

Among the many things to do and see in Zagreb, visitors can have an enjoyable few hours exploring the crumbled ruins of ancient castles.  Hundreds of medieval castles are scattered across Croatia, and most are fairly decrepit. From Zagreb, you don’t have to travel far or pay a cent to find them—in fact, there are a few that are right beside the city. Most of the castles in this area were built to protect the city’s inhabitants from the Mongols.  Later, most were expanded and renovated in order to defend against the Ottoman Turks. However, technological advances made the castles mostly useless by the 17th century. Some were destroyed during battles, and others were abandoned, but the castle ruins still provide visitors with a chance to see a slice of Croatian history. Many of the castles sit high on hilltops, providing tourists with a nice forest hike and a rewarding view at the top.

Medvedgrad ruins

Just north of Zagreb on the slopes of the Medvednica mountain range, visitors can explore two castle ruins within the city limits. Medvedgrad is visible from downtown about a third of way up the slopes of Sljeme Mountain.

Getting there

Visitors can reach the castle by driving, but if private transportation isn’t available, it is just as easy to take a bus.  On bus number 102, visitors should get off at the “Blue Church” stop in Šestine. Walk along the paved road that runs up past the church cemetery towards the mountain.  If walking, you’ll pass a restaurant on the right and follow signs for trail number 12, which will take you up to the forest and right to the castle. The hike up from the bus stop takes 35 – 45 minutes and is moderately steep in places. You can also drive to the castle in about ten minutes on the paved road. There’s a café in the restored section of the castle if you get a bit thirsty or need a snack.  In the front, a monument dedicated to the fallen Croatian soldiers is worth a look.  Walk around, enjoy the woods and maybe try a Kaffe Eis (Ice coffee). 

Importance in history

The Medvedgrad fortress was built in the 13th century.  The fortress was in a strategic location, and it was easily defendable during wartime. It took about 70 years to build, and over time, acquired several owners, including noble families.  Croatian king Béla IV, who ruled from 1235-1270 was also one of the many owners, and was in power when the Mongols first invaded the area. Though defeated, he retook the castle when Ghengis’s son, Ogodei, died soon after the battle.

Susedgrad ruins—getting there

Susedgrad is another castle ruin in the city of Zagreb. It is located on the western edge of Zagreb on a low hill, and is 12 km west of the main square, Trg bana Josipa Jelačića. Visitors can reach the stop, Podsused, by following Ilica, the main east-west avenue. Many city buses also take you there, as well as the trams 2, 6 and 11—just get off at the western-most stop. Once you reach Podsused turn right off the highway right before you approach a VW dealer. Behind the dealer is the trail, which climbs through a wooden park. To reach the top of the low hill with the ruins, hike about 10 minutes. These ruins are less spectacular than Medvedgrad, but their proximity to the town square and the pleasant hike makes it worth the little journey. And if you’re in the market for a Volkswagon, well, you now know where to find one in Croatia.

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