Croatia, like the rest of the world, highly values athletics. Sports, both professional and recreational, bring people together - and sometimes drive them apart! People are passionate about their favorite teams. By far the most popular professional sport is football (soccer). The two largest football clubs in the country are Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb.
Dinamo's supporters, nicknamed the Bad Blue Boys, are notoriously wild, but not usually dangerous, although fights can break out if tensions are high. Usually, their antics amount to loud singing and chanting and lighting flares in the stands. (Unsurprisingly, flares sometimes find their way onto the field, delaying the match for a few minutes.) Everyone living in Zagreb should experience a Dinamo match at least once - just keep your distance from the Bad Blue Boys if you're looking for a drama-free evening.
Zagreb's ice hockey team, Medvešcak Zagreb, is also very popular.
Maksimir Stadium is the home of Dinamo Zagreb. Located just across the street from Maksimir Park in northeast Zagreb, the stadium accommodates over 35,000 spectators.
Dom sportova, an indoor athletic arena in the Trešnjevka neighborhood, is the home of Medvešcak Zagreb. Dom sportova also hosts other sporting events and occasional concerts.
Arena Zagreb, a new stadium completed in 2008, is the venue of choice for big-name concerts and athletic championships. It is also the home of the handball team RK Zagreb.
Zagreb has hosted many sporting events, including the World Men's Handball Championship in 2009, for which Arena Zagreb was built, the Men's and Women's European Water Polo Championship in 2010, and the Ice Hockey World Championship Division II in 2011. In 2014, Zagreb will co-host the Women's European Handball Championship with Hungary.
A number of other local sporting events take place in Zagreb year round, and a schedule of upcoming events can be found on the webpage for the Zagreb Convention Bureau.
The Zagreb Marathon, which follows an urban course that stretches east and west of the main square, takes place every fall in October. You do not have to qualify to compete, and the registration fee is 180 kunas. The time limit for race completion is five hours.
In addition to the urban activities Zagreb offers, such as concerts, art exhibitions, and film festivals, there are also many opportunities for recreational athletics.
Though there are a few bike lanes in Zagreb, it's not exactly the most bicycle-friendly city. For recreational cycling, a great option is Jarun Lake. Paths around the lake are open to cyclists, rollerbladers, joggers, and walkers. There are a few cycling clubs and bicycle associations that organize regular group rides in and around Zagreb.
A favorite weekend activity among Zagreb residents is hiking to Sljeme, the peak of nearby Medvednica Mountain. The hike to the top, on paths shaded by leafy trees, takes about three hours. At some point during the excursion, it's tradition to stop at one of the restaurants on the mountain to have a hearty meal.
You can also reach Sljeme by public transportation. Take tram 8 or 14 all the way to Mihaljevac, then catch the special Sljeme bus to Tomislavov dom.
There is a community of runners in Zagreb, but you won't really see many people running along the streets in the city center. Instead, runners head to Jarun Lake, Bundek Lake, or the banks of the Sava River for outdoor running. For more information about running and running groups in Zagreb, visit Volim trcanje.
There are several public pools in Zagreb. Indoor pools are open year-round, while outdoor pools are seasonal. Jarun Lake is swimmer-friendly with beaches and lifeguards.
Gym-going is still catching on in Croatia, with a significant increase in the number of gyms over the past couple of years. Most neighborhoods have a gym or two nearby, although it's sometimes difficult to find information about them online. It's a good idea to ask around for recommendations on nearby facilities, but here are a few larger gyms that may interest you: