Only 25km to the west of Zagreb is the delightful town of Samobor. We took a day trip there in our rental car.
Samobor has been around from the early thirteenth century and was on an important trade route. Because of its important location a fort and then castle was built on a hill (Tepec hill) just above the town. Today it is a popular day trip town for Zagreb locals to get out of the city and enjoy a more sedate pace of life.
The town sits at the bottom of some hills on the edge of valley floor and the small river Gradna flows through the heart of the town. The hub of activity centers on the Trg kralja Tomislav (King Tomislav Square) where outdoor cafes have commanding views up the hills and the cool waters of the Gradna bubble gently by.
Although the square is the hub of activity it intersects a long promenade that branches out to the east and the west which is lovely for a walk.
Following the river out to the east takes you deeper into town and presents some great views of some old buildings, some pretty small parks and an art gallery.
Out to the west is the Šetalište (promenade) doktor Franje Tuđmana following the path of the Gradna. This is a delightful walk, cool in the shade of the trees and with the water streaming by, lovely gardens lining the river, small bridges to cross back and forth, and the views of the hills and eventually of the ruins of Samobor Castle.
If you follow the promenade all the way to the end and out onto the street you'll find the pretty Sv. Mihalj (St Michael's) church at the base of the steep way up to the Samobor Castle ruins. We only found this church because we actually missed the main trail up to the castle!
It was a short but steep climb from St Michael's up to the castle and we were pretty apprehensive about going back down it. Luckily once we got up we found the proper trail - it was a lot more manageable.
The Samobor Castle ruin was fabulous. Being the only people there, we had that sense of spookiness that you get in an old abandoned building. But after wandering around for a while and with the sun shining brightly in our faces from the upper levels we truly appreciated the serenity of the nature slowly trying to reclaim it. We were amazed by the vine-covered walls and soaked in the stunning view back towards town and even of Zagreb.
The rest of Tepec Hill is a great forest criss-crossed with hiking trails, picnic areas, a few churches and an observation tower. The observation tower is a bit daunting for those of us that are not a fan of heights - but the views all the way to Zagreb were amazing.
After spending just a day in Samobor we found ourselves wishing that we were staying there for a week so we could explore and savour a bit more.