Gornjogradske Coprnice: Zagreb’s Witch Tours

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Gornjogradske coprnice/Facebook
Gornjogradske coprnice/Facebook

Croatia’s answer to the Salem witch trials, the 17th-century witch hysteria had also made its way to the Zagreb upper town. We’ve briefly covered the story of Zagreb witches in this 2018 article, but to sum it up, every woman accused of doing some sort of harm was believed to be a witch. Known as “coprnice” (meaning “sorceress” or “wizard”), these women were blamed for every misfortune, from frost and hail to various diseases. This was followed by a trial carried out by the city court, with the accused witch being arrested, imprisoned, and subject to cruel investigations, during which she was tortured, until she confessed who she was, and who were her partners in crime. 

The legends of this historical event are now being told and re-enacted at streets of the old Gradec town and Tuškanac park, by Zagrebačke gornjogradske coprnice – the historical walking tour based on real stories about the women who were accused of and prosecuted for witchcraft – and the setting of witch executions in novels written by the most popular Croatian writer, Marija Jurić Zagorka. 


Photo: Gornjogradske coprnice/Facebook

Great for both adults and children, the tour is an interactive experience that includes both storytelling and acting, complete with costumes and revivals of historical scenes in which the visitors are prompted to interact with the characters. The organising and performing team includes historians, tourist guides and actors, joining forces to bring the dark tale of hysteria, crime, and magic to life.


Photo: Gornjogradske coprnice/Facebook

The tour begins at Tuškanac at the infamous Zvejdišče, the designated execution spot at which a large crowd would gather to watch a judge read an accused witch’s accused crimes and announce the verdict, after which the woman would be burned at the stake. She would be taken through Mesnička Street, bound and with a shaved head, ridden in a cart after having her legs broken through torture. On her way to the execution spot, she would be followed by the judge, executioner, and guards, and the crowd would throw stones, spit on her and insult her.

The walk carries on through Tuškanac park to the location where a revival scene based on 17th-century court records is acted out, featuring the introduction of Kata Cankovica, a Gradec resident who practised witchcraft for over 20 years, and a mysterious figure in a long black cape who casts a spell by leaving a piece of “enchanted strudel”, a sweet favoured by witches, on the visitor’s path – it is up to the tour guide to chase away the witch to save the group. 


Photo: Gornjogradske coprnice/Facebook

Other historical locations covered on the tour include the areas of the upper town associated with witches, from the Stone Gate to St Mark’s Square. Throughout the walk, the visitor will learn historical facts and legends associated with these areas, as they meet important figures who join the tour, such as one of the few aristocrats accused of witchcraft, in addition to Sybilla the fortune teller, who offers them a chance to learn about their future.

The tour must be booked in advance – contact [email protected], [email protected] or call 091 606 7770. For a price of up to 111 kn per adult, and 88 kn per children aged 7-16, the tour lasts two hours and may be made longer or shorter, or may use alternative locations, depending on visitors’ wishes. A short break for refreshments can be included in the tour, as well as the option of staying for a magical dinner, with costumed characters joining the party. More info on alternate tour routes and price range can be found here. And, if children under age 7 wish to join, they can do so free of charge.

The tour is both in Croatian and English (on request), and each visitor receives a small souvenir gift – a recipe for magic potion. It has won several awards, including a certificate of excellent quality issued by the Luxury Travel Guide awards, for three consecutive years from 2016-2018. And according to TripAdvisor, Gornjogradkse coprnice is the third most popular guided tour of Zagreb, with several thousand participants having joined to date. So it’s safe to say this tour isn’t one to miss, especially during the autumn season, or on Halloween – if you dare. 

Info: meetinzagreb.hr  

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