Varazdin is a wonderfully pretty baroque town located about 90km northeast of Zagreb and only about 45km from the Hungarian border. The town has a number of fine sights to explore, but it is also a delight to walk the streets, examining the impressive architecture, popping into a museum or two and enjoying the food and drink on offer. Varazdin is also home to the incredibly lively and fun Spancirfest each August – the largest street festival in Croatia.
Varazdin plays an important part in Croatia’s history – not only is Varazdin county the oldest in Croatia, but the town was also once the country’s capital from 1756 to 1776. In that year, unfortunately, a large part of the town was destroyed in a fire. (The capital reverted to Zagreb at this point.)
The town is very suitable a day trip from Zagreb, but a longer stay would also be a wonderful idea.
There are numerous daily buses connecting Zagreb with Varazdin, with a journey time of about 1 hour 45 minutes. Check the Zagreb Bus Station website for timetables and to book tickets. AP Varazdin is based in the town; you can see timetables of bus lines that exist in Varazdin county as well as long-distance lines. In the summer, there are direct bus lines from places on the Croatian coast (Porec, Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik) to Varazdin.
You can also travel by train from Zagreb to Varazdin. Although there is a good number of trains per day, journey time is considerably longer than going by bus – 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on which train you take.
If you’re driving, you’ll be able to enjoy the modern A4 motorway from Croatia’s capital all the way to Varazdin (and to the Hungarian border). That will make your journey pretty speedy – only about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The nearest airport to Varazdin is Zagreb Airport and this is undoubtedly the best place to fly to in reaching Zagreb. (Other airports in the region – Ljubljana, Budapest or even Osijek – would then require tricky onward journeys.)
Getting Around Varazdin
Varazdin is a town that is very easy to navigate on foot. However, there are 6 local bus lines – run by Vincek – that operate. You can also get around by taxi, or you can hire a bike.
Things to See and Do in Varazdin
Fortress & City Museum
Located in the northwestern part of the centre of Varazdin, this impressive fortress was built, renovated and added to between the 13th to 19th centuries. Today, the castle is home to the Varazdin City Museum, which was opened in 1925. The Museum houses archaeological, historical and cultural objects from the town. It’s an interesting museum to visit, and also gives you a chance to see inside the fortress.
Varazdin’s main square, Trg Kralja Tomislava (King Tomislav Square), is a wide square on which a number of inviting outdoor cafes are arranged. You will also find the Town Hall here – its central spire is somewhat unusual! Built in 1523, it is one of the oldest town halls in Europe.
On the main square, you will also find Draskovic Palace which was the home of the noble Croatian Draskovic family. (You will see their coat of arms in gold on the exterior of the building.) The Palace was used as the Croatian parliament during the years (1756 – 1776) that Varazdin was the capital.
Other impressive palace buildings in Varazdin include the Patacic Palace, built in 1764, the Sermage Palace – which is now a gallery dedicated to Old Masters and 20th Century Croatian Masters – and the Erdody Palace that was used as an army barracks after World War II.
The Cathedral and Churches
Varazdin’s Cathedral was built in the 17th century, and became a diocese in 1997. Amongst the town’s many other churches is the Franciscan Church which was consecrated in 1657. The Church’s tower – at 54m tall – is the tallest structure in Varazdin. Outside of the Franciscan Church is a smaller version of the famous Gregory of Nin statue in Split. Also by famed Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, this version of the statue was apparently deemed too small for Split, and came to be placed here instead.
World of Insects Museum
Located in Herzer Palace, the World of Insects Museum houses a collection of almost 4,500 items. The museum originally showcased the collection of natural scientist Franjo Koscec, who was the museum’s first curator. (The museum opened in 1954.)
The Museum of Angels
Varazdin has relatively recently adopted the slogan as ‘the city where the angels sleep’, so it is fitting that there is also a museum dedicated to this topic as well – the Museum of Angels. Independent artist Zeljko Prstec opened this museum in 2011 which features an exhibition of artistic works relating to angels.
Day Trips from Varazdin
Trakoscan Castle is an incredibly impressive 13th-century castle – built as a defensive fortress – set it a lovely forested park, next to a man-made lake. The permanent exhibition in the castle depicts noble life from the 15th to 19th centuries.
There are regular buses from Varazdin that take you to Trakoscan Castle.
15km southwest of Varazdin itself is a small town called Varazdinski Toplice which is home to natural hot springs. (Under the Roman Empire, the town was called Aquae Iasae.) The Hotel Minerva has a large indoor and outdoor pool complex which can be visited just for the day. The Hotel also offers various health, wellness and physiotherapy treatment programmes for longer-term stays; there is also a hospital that offers medical rehabilitation for neurological disorders.
Eating and Drinking in Varazdin
Palatin offers rich, hearty continental Croatian dishes (lots of meat!) as well as pizzas and pasta dishes, plus meat and fish platters for two – all in a comfortable setting with good service. They also have a small children’s menu.
You can try traditional cooking at Verglec in the centre of town – plenty of steaks and grilled meats, with tasty side dishes too.
Zlatne Gorice is a wonderful option for a countryside restaurant with glorious views over vineyards and Varazdin. As well as their wide-ranging food menu, they offer some excellent wines; you can even tour their basement wine museum. They also have a small selection of rooms should you wish to stay.
A decent fast food place is Santa Maria which has a pretty extensive Mexican menu, with a cantina-style interior!
American Bar Dollar is the place to go for burgers.
For sweet treats (and how!) head to P’alapassion for Croatian or American style pancakes piled high with all kinds of tasty toppings.
If you’re after beers ‘n’ cocktails, seek out Gossip Bar. Their large outdoor terrace is perfect in the warmer months.
Events in Varazdin
One of the best-known events on Varazdin’s calendar is Spancirfest which takes place at the end of August each year. This street festival takes over many of the open spaces in town with plenty of live music, street acrobats, exhibitions, food and drink stalls, kids’ events and more over the ten days.
Varazdin Baroque Evenings is an impressive series of concerts in September each year, featuring both Croatian and international performers. The festival celebrated 50 years in 2020.
Accommodation in Varazdin
There are a few hotels located in Varazdin, most right in the centre of town. The 4-star Park Boutique Hotel features modern rooms and a wellness centre as well as an on-site restaurant. The 3-star Hotel Varazdin, Hotel Istra and Hotel Turist also offer comfortable accommodation in a convenient location. Another hotel option is the 3-star Hotel Lagus which is just outside the town.
There also several B&Bs located here. The cute little B&B Garestin has twin, double and triple rooms as well as an on-site restaurant. Pansion Maltar Varazdin also has single, double/twin and triple rooms. The Arbia Dorka Heritage Palace offers some rather grand double and family rooms, and also features a bar and a lovely garden area.
There is plenty of private accommodation here – including apartments and houses/villas although most of the latter are located outside of the town itself. Use the search box/map below to search for more accommodation:
You can learn more about this lovely town on the Varazdin Tourist Office website.