Zagreb the Outdoor Stage: Adapting Tourism in the Corona Era

Total Croatia News

Zagreb Tourist Board - J. Duval
Zagreb Tourist Board - J. Duval

Zagreb Tourist Board - J. Duval

August 21, 2020 – No destination in Croatia has adapted its tourism in the corona era as well as the Croatian capital. Meet Zagreb the Outdoor Stage.

All the world’s a stage, wrote Shakespeare. And that is certainly true of Zagreb.

This has without question been the most challenging year for tourism globally. Record drops in tourism traffic with the accompanying loss of income, social distancing, the cancelling of most events, the silent but omnipresent threat of COVID-19. 

Such uncertainty is hard to cope with, and many destinations had little more of a strategy of hoping that things would be alright, and that the bright blue skies and warm sunshine would keep the virus at bay. 


(Zagreb Tourist Board – J. Duval)

But there has been one destination which has consistently taken the lead with an innovative approach to deal with the unfolding new realities – the capital Zagreb. 

Until recently, Zagreb was not really even considered to be a major tourist destination – Croatian tourism was all about the coast after all.  

And then something changed, and suddenly Zagreb became a very cool destination. So cool, in fact, that Lonely Planet named it its Best Destination in Europe in 2017.

But it was the spectacular rise of Advent in Zagreb – voted Best Christmas Market in Europe for three successive years – that really took the Zagreb tourism story around the globe. A spectacular affair, lighting up its central parks and main square, until Advent expanded slowly year on year to cover more and more nooks and crannies of the centre and upper old town. 


It was a first-class display of Zagreb, the Outdoor Stage. The temperatures may not have been for the ardent t-shirt weather, but tens of thousands of tourists poured into the city to enjoy the concerts, exhibitions, ice skating, mulled wine and seasonal cheer. It was a perfect advertisement of one of the lesser – until recently – advertised aspects of tourism in the capital – the Great Outdoors. 

During the lockdown, as many destinations settled for a simple message of Stay Home, Travel Later, Zagreb went a lot further with great mini-campaigns such as Zagreb Loves You and From Zagreb Balconies. It seemed that there was hardly a piece of the capital which was not showcased in these two brilliant campaigns. 


The best was yet to come, however, with a new initiative in cooperation with the Zagreb County Tourist Board to truly show Zagreb, the Outdoor Stage. A new website, Around Zagreb, instantly gave Zagreb a completely new dimension as a tourist destination – and one which could not have been more timely or relevant. 

With a focus on the Great Outdoors, both within the city limits with its endless parks, open spaces, outdoor concerts, and cafe culture, to the equally impressive tourism offer in the close vicinity of the city – nature, hiking, cycling, culture, authentic gourmet experiences, glimpses of the traditional way of life. Here was a healthy and appropriately socially-distance tourism focus away from the crowds which brought Zagreb into the tourist framework from a completely different perspective. 

From truffle hunting – long assumed to be the preserve of Istria – to exploring the incredible street art of the city itself, Around Zagreb takes tourists away from the crowds and out into the fresh air, suggesting itineraries for families, culture buffs, romantics and nature lovers. 


Zagreb’s street art deserves a special mention, for it is a sub-culture genre which has really blossomed in recent years, attracting more and more creative designs all over the city. These include the famous Blue Whale mural, voted one of the top 10 in the world at the Festival d’Art Public in Montreal in 2016. Isn’t it beautiful? An expert guided walking tour of the street art of Zagreb is just one outstanding and innovative tour that did not exist a decade ago. 

And there are events… 


Art project Okolo/Around invites you to a unique artistic stroll ‘around’ Zagreb. From August 20 to 30, “Okolo” will bring life to a number of hidden streets, forgotten aisles and treetops of Zagreb parks using them as canvases for urban art.

This year’s event, in cooperation with the Zagreb Tourist Board, focuses on the wounded city, as the Croatian capital rebuilds after the devastating March 22 earthquake, with the goal of creating a more optimistic image of the city. Working with local artists, Okolo conducts a series of urban interventions with the aim of revitalising selected public spaces which congregate the community around positive and inspiring ideas. 

September calls you to Zagreb’s longest and most famous street to take part in a fantastic 5-year project to involve artists in developing some of the city’s derelict spaces in Project Ilica Q’Art:

The Ilica 2018 project (projekt Ilica 2018) is something of a continuation of the process that began nearly two decades ago, which is now making its return, more vital than ever, as a five-year project aimed at actively encouraging the cultural and artistic development of the city of Zagreb by developing a collective vision and corresponding models of participatory management of derelict spaces, involving artists, civil society organizations, educational institutions, trades and residents. The five-year framework is designed to boost the neglected cultural infrastructure through research and practice, based on which we will develop strategic guidelines for further action and establish appropriate models of the sustainable use of today’s empty urban spaces.


(Photo credit – Međunarodni festival umjetničkih zastavica)

There are many more such events taking place all over the city, all through the year. As previously reported on TCN, the centre of Zagreb received an additional dash of colour this month with Flag Art Zagreb

Tourism is changing around the world, but not all destinations are prepared or able to make that change. Zagreb is one such destination which is not only moving with the times, but actively looking to take the lead in new directions. If you haven’t visited the Croatian capital in a while, another visit may well surprise. 

For the latest news from Zagreb, check out the dedicated TCN section.  

This article was sponsored by the Zagreb Tourist Board


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