Things to do in Osijek
by Tajana Mohnacki
Recently, Croatia has become an extremely popular vacation destination thanks to places such as Dubrovnik, Plitvice Lakes and Zagreb, a capital of Croatia and a home to one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe.
You would probably feel baffled if you were told Croatia goes beyond Zagreb, wouldn’t you? Well, it does, and it’s a sight to behold! One of the most promising destinations of Eastern Croatia is Osijek, the 4th largest city in the country where you can find a variety of architectural styles, prosperous history, a blend of culture and an abundance of nature.
You’ve never heard of Osijek before? Too bad! But don’t fret, here are some cool things for you to do in Osijek better than anywhere else in Croatia.
Take a walk down the European Avenue
Every city has one of those extremely lively, colourful and Instagrammable streets – for Osijek, that’s the European Avenue.
European Avenue stretches all the way from the Old Town (Tvrđa) to the city center where it continues onto Korzo, a famous city promenade which leads towards the main square. No one will deny that the European Avenue is the most beautiful street in Osijek, with its string of Secession buildings and four parks, two on each side of the street.
Tip for architecture lovers: Osijek is famous for its Secessionist architecture, and the European Avenue is a home to the colourful row of palaces constructed in the style of Viannese and Hungarian Secession.
Tip for culture lovers: along the European Avenue you can find the Museum of Fine Arts and the city library – these buildings have some pretty interesting origin stories.
Experience the coffee culture
Croatia has a pretty strong coffee culture, one you will probably find pretty odd if you’ve never been to this part of Europe before. Our coffee culture consists of sitting down in a cafe and sipping the same cup of coffee for two hours minimum. Join the locals for “osječka subotnja špica”, which literally translates to “Saturday rush hour in Osijek”, in one of the many cafes either in the Old Town or by the Drava river in the city center.
Tips for coffee lovers: If you LOVE milk in your coffee, order “bijela kava”. If you like a small dose of a stronger coffee, order “macchiato”. If you LOVE a small dose of strong coffee, order “espresso”. If you like whipped cream, order “kava sa šlagom”.
And if you would like to spice it up, you can always order iced coffee on top of which you will get some whipped cream and two scoops of coffee flavoured ice cream. Or you can choose one of those delicious, syrupy coffee’s from the menu. Some of them come in a cool looking jars which look quite nice on your Instagram feed.
Try all the spicy food
Locals love their food meaty, fatty and spicy! You will be able to discern restaurants of traditional cuisine from popular, hip places instantly – you can dine in a rustic place, a modern one or even on a boat!
Don’t shy away from the local cuisine, even if it’s not something you would usually consume. You can always ask the waiter for recommendations, however, the food you should definitely have on your plate are paprika-flavoured sausages “kulen” and “kulenova seka”, as well as Slavonian cheese and cream. Since the locals also love their food served fresh and homemade, there’s usually some kind of vegetable involved in the mix. Spicy freshwater fish stew called “fiš paprikaš”, spicy beef stew called “čobanac” and barbecue and steaks stuffed with Slavonian ham, cheese and mushrooms is something you should try at least once in your life.
Locals have quite a big sweet tooth as well, so there’s a big chance you will find a honey layer cake, paws, peaches, poppy-seed and walnut loaves on the menu as well.
Climb on the top of Bastion
If you think the European Avenue is the only Instagrammable spot in Osijek, then you’re highly mistaken – try climbing on the top of Bastion, a defensive wall around the Old Town, for some pretty cool pics and an even better view.
The stairs leading up to the top of the wall can be found by the Water Gates. The top is covered in grass, making Bastion a perfect place for chilling and relaxing, and maybe even a picnic!
Pro tip: if you do opt for a picnic, you should avoid liquor. Drinking alcohol in public spaces is strictly prohibited in Osijek.
Take a walk down the Promenada
Promenada, a walking trail which connects Lower and Upper Town, can be found on both banks of the Drava river. Promenada is a place where people can ride their bikes, rollerskate, run or enjoy a slow, peaceful stroll. The stretch around the city center is especially lively thanks to the various cafes, bars and restaurants which are located there.
Here, you can also find the Youth Bridge, one of the most representative symbols of Osijek. The bridge changes colours, which is a sight to behold – and snap a pic of!
Take a bike trip to Kopački Rit
Croatia is all about nature, and its Eastern part is no different. Only 15 minutes from Osijek lies Kopački Rit, one of 11 Croatian Nature Parks, something you should definitely experience if you find yourself in this part of the country.
Now, since cycling is a big part of the local culture, you should try renting a bike and drive to the Park. It’s completely safe since there’s a decorated bike trail connecting Osijek to Kopački Rit, and the drive will take you no more than 30 minutes.
A 30-minute bike ride through the unspoiled nature of Eastern Croatia? Umm, who wouldn’t want to experience that?
So, next time you find yourself in Croatia, try to remember Adriatic isn’t its only treasure – there’s so much more the country has to offer. Head towards Osijek and discover the side of Croatia you’ve never seen before.