A one-time capital of Croatia, Varazdin lies in the forested hills of the country’s northern Zagorje region, near its borders with Slovenia and Hungary. With its baroque townhouses, cobbled streets, museums, and medieval Varazdin Castle—called the Old Town (Stari Grad)—the town has plenty to offer sightseers and history buffs.
Varazdin is ideal for travelers wanting to experience a less-visited area of Croatia, far from the tourist spots of its Adriatic coastline. Those exploring independently can wander the historical center’s cobbled streets and squares; admire its cupcake-colored mansions, and watch the world go by from its al-fresco cafes and restaurants. Highlights include Varazdin’s 14th-century round-towered castle-fortress, Cathedral of the Assumption, and striking 16th-century Town Hall, one of Europe’s oldest.
Varazdin is a popular destination for day trips from places such as Zagreb. Tours typically pair a guided walk around the town’s baroque center with other, nearby attractions such as Trakoscan Castle and the folksy village of Kumrovec. Travelers staying in Varazdin, meanwhile, can explore and enjoy the surrounding countryside and Drava River on outdoor pursuits such as rafting and 4WD adventures.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Allow around three to four hours to explore Varazdin’s streets, squares, museums, and churches.
- Old Varazdin is largely wheelchair- and stroller-accessible.
- Bring sun protection: shade is scarce in the main square.
How to Get There
Located about 52 miles (84 kilometers) from Zagreb, Varazdin is easy to access by self-drive car from Croatia’s capital: follow the E65/71 toll road northward before taking Exit 4 for Varazdin. Regular buses and trains also connect Zagreb with Varazdin, although they include several stops on route. Alternatively, consider a guided tour that includes round-trip travel and a guide for an illuminating and stress-free day.
When to Get There
Varazdin is at its busiest from June to September. Plan to arrive before or after the swell of late-morning and early-afternoon tour groups if you want to sightsee when it’s quiet. The most colorful time of year is late August-early September, when the town’s annual Spancirfest festival brings entertainers, concerts, and food stalls onto the streets.
What to See and Do in Varazdin
One of the most popular activities for Varazdin visitors is to simply stroll around to see its baroque mansions before people-watching over a coffee and pastry at one of the open-air cafes. Sights worth visiting include the fairy tale-like, red-roofed castle, the rococo Sermage Palace—home to a top-notch art gallery—and the quirky Entomological Museum, where you can peruse displays of no less than 10,000 mounted insects.
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