Varaždin, Croatia Guide – What To Do & Where To Stay

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Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

Welcome to Varaždin, Croatia – a place I’ve had the pleasure of visiting multiple times over the last decade. In this guide, I’ll not only share an exciting list of things to do in Varaždin but also offer insights on what to eat, how to get there, and where to find the perfect stay.

While Croatia’s coastal tourist destinations are undeniably stunning, there’s something truly magical about venturing inland. It’s where you can immerse yourself in the heart of authentic Croatia and almost step back in time. Just a short journey from Zagreb, suitable for a memorable day trip, lies the enchanting city of Varaždin. It’s a destination that deserves a spot on your travel itinerary, and I’m here to show you why!

Croatia Travel Blog_Things To Do In Varazdin Croatia

Packed with beautiful baroque-style architecture, culture, and plenty of history, you’ll love walking around the cobbled streets and finding hidden gems to explore. There is also delicious cuisine to try.

Varaždin used to be the country’s capital, but a destructive fire wiped out most of the town in 1776. At this time, the capital was moved to Zagreb. The good news is that much of the city was rebuilt and recaptured its importance by the start of the 19th century. Despite that, there is still a rich history and a sense of being far away from the hustle and bustle. It also looks a little like it wouldn’t be far removed from the set of Harry Potter, too!

Things To Do In Varaždin, Croatia

Things to do in Varazdin, Croatia - Baroque Varazdin

There is plenty to keep you occupied during the day in Varaždin. Expect to be pretty tired by the end of it! Here is our list of what to do in Varazdin.

Purchase Handcrafted Goods At The Square Of Traditional Crafts

This beautiful square is not only a fantastic people-spotting area but also a great place to purchase handcrafted goods, such as clothes, shoes, and any other crafty item you can think of. The square is located in front of the Ursuline Church.

Check Out The Creepy Crawlies At Hercer Palace

Hercer Palace is home to the World of Insects collection, which aims to teach visitors about nature’s weird and wonderful side. Whether you have a creepy-crawly loving child with you or not, this is a great spot to spend an hour or so and will probably teach you a thing or two you didn’t know before!

Attend Spancirfest

A woman in a red dress enjoying the things to do in Varaždin, Croatia.

One of the most famous events in Varaždin, Spancirfest is an international street festival that transforms the city’s streets into a vibrant open-air stage. It features street performers, musicians, artists and a lively atmosphere. The festival takes place in late August-Sepetember.

Explore History At The Varaždin City Museum

In the Old Town, you’ll find a permanent exhibition that explores the history of Varaždin, which happens to make our list of top museums to visit in the country. It’s a fantastic spot to visit, and you’ll see all manner of items from days gone by, including glass, clocks, ceramics, and even weapons. There are 20 rooms in total, so make sure you take your time exploring.

Appreciate Art At Miljenko Stancic Gallery

Art lovers should definitely put Miljenko Stancic Gallery on their visit list. Dedicated to the famous local artist, you’ll be able to explore 40 of their most famous paintings and learn more about them.

Fill Up Your Photo Reel At Sermage Palace

Best Castles In Croatia - Croatia, Varazdin castle in the old town

There are a few buildings that are as beautiful as Sermage Palace. The palace dates back to the 17th century and is still in fantastic condition. This is a short walk away from the castle in the Old Town, and the Rococo architecture will make your jaw drop. You’ll also find an art museum inside.

Check out the Old Town

A picturesque castle nestled in the lush greenery of Croatia's Varaždin region. Varazdin. Old Town

Stari Grad, or the Old Town, is a 100% must-visit and the city’s heart. The cobbled streets echo with whispers from the past, and you’ll be able to explore the small hidden gems within the city walls. The walls themselves date back to the 12th century, but the city’s drawbridge and moat date back to the 16th century. Expect crowds during the summer months!

The castle is beautifully designed in Baroque style, and this is where you’ll find the Varaždin City Museum, with countless artifacts to check out.

Explore Varaždin Cemetery

Cemeteries are not depressing places; they’re spots to celebrate life and explore history. Varaždin Cemetery is around 15 minutes from the Old Town, but it’s a beautiful spot to enjoy, and you’ll be able to appreciate the calm and peace, too.

The cemetery is beautifully kept with trees and sculptures. It’s one of the most beautiful cemeteries you’ll ever set your eyes on while also one of the oldest, dating back to the 18th century.

Visit The Croatian National Theatre Building

In the center of the city, you’ll find the beautiful Croatian National Theatre, and it’s a sight to behold, for sure. Designed in Viennese style, the building dates back to the 19th century. Surrounding the building, you’ll also find plentiful small cafes, boutiques, and galleries.

People Spotting At King Tomislav Square

You will find King Tomislav Square in the heart of the historic center. Not only is this an excellent coffee and people-watching spot, but it’s also packed with unique architecture to explore. This is also where locals meet, so it’s a busy square with plenty to see, including cafes, restaurants, and a few shops to check out.

Stand In Awe At The Museum Of Angels

The Museum of Angels is a unique celebration of art, namely the work created by Zeljko Prstec and his baroque angel paintings. Although small, the museum is close to Miljenko Stancic Square and has plenty to keep you occupied.

Explore Varaždin Cathedral

The city’s cathedral, formally known as the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, is a beautiful pastel pink, a Baroque cathedral dating back to the 17th century. Located in the city’s center, the church is magnificent, and the inside is decorated in the most opulent ways.

If you’re visiting Varaždin during September, check out a series of events called Varaždin Baroque Evenings centered around the cathedral. You’ll be able to listen to traditional music and enjoy a cultural feel in the air.

Visit The Town Hall

Varaždin's Panorama of Varazdin Townhall er - one of the must-see things to do in Croatia.

The Town Hall in Varazdin dates back to 1523, making it one of the oldest on the continent. The baroque architecture is beautiful, and it’s an excellent spot for photographs. You’ll also see the town’s coat of arms featured on the building.

Check Out Varazdin’s Many Churches

The cathedral isn’t the only stunning church in Varazdin, as the Franciscan Church & Monastery of Saint John The Baptist is a wonderful place to visit. The bell tower is really beautifully designed.

There is also the Church of St. George, which is a Serbian Orthodox Church from the 19th century. The architecture is really interesting here, and although it’s a small church, it’s worth a visit. The Ursuline Church of the Birth of Christ is a spot that draws crowds with its pastel pink exterior.

Grab Some Luck at the Grgur Ninski Statue

This isn’t the only statue of Grgur Ninski in Croatia, as you’ll find them in many locations; however, this one is said to be good luck. If you rub the big toe, you’re supposed to attract good fortune into your life. It’s pretty easy to see many people have tried, as the toe is a lot shinier than the rest of the sculpture!

Varazdin Fortress & Museum

This huge fortress is definitely a must-visit, and it dates back to the 13th century. Inside, you’ll find the city Museum, which helps you learn all about the local area and its history. There are countless artifacts inside, and this is a great way to beat the heat or escape a rainy day.

Day Trip to Trakoscan Castle

A large white castle - Trakoscan Castle near Varaždin, Croatia.

Just outside of Varazdin, you’ll find Trakoscan Castle, which is accessible by car or bus. This castle dates back to the 13th century, and the parkland around it is beautifully preserved. The museum inside the castle helps you learn more about the noble life that inhabitants once enjoyed.

Day Trip to Veliki Tabor Castle

Another local castle is Valiki Tabor, which dates back to the 15th century and is shrouded in legend. The story goes that the Count of Celje owned the castle, and his son fell in love with a local girl from a low-income family. Rather than allow his son to marry the girl, the Count had the girl killed by drowning. Some visitors have heard her cries reverberating around the castle.

Day Trip to Varazdinske Toplice

A short drive away from the center of Varazdin, you’ll find some beautiful hot springs in the town of Varazdinski Toplice. There is a large hotel with a hot spring complex inside, and you can buy a day pass if you don’t want to stay. There are also plenty of health and wellness facilities inside the hotel you can take advantage of.

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What To Eat In Varazdin

Chow Down On The Local Cake

Kremšnite Recipe_Croatian Custard Slice

While you’re exploring the city, be sure to take a load off for a few minutes and enjoy the most delicious cream cake you’ve ever tasted. Custard cream encased in flaky puff pastry layers is a famous cake in the region and has a unique chocolate layer. You’ll be hooked and want to take more home with you!

Varaždinsko Zelje

This is a type of cabbage that is grown locally. The taste is quite bitter, but it goes well in soups and stews.

Varaždinski Klipič

This long baguette-style bread is a firm favorite in Varazdin, and its history goes back to the 18th century. Each roll has a strict measurement – it must be 23cm long at least, and it is folded to show four folds on the outside. It’s then brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with sesame seeds. You can then enjoy it on its own, with soup, a sandwich, or to mop up a delicious stew.

Varaždinski Mlinci

This is a local savory dish that includes paper-thin, dried sheets made with flour and water. It is then cubed and fried alongside sour cream, cheese, and seasonings. They’re then left to dry out before being baked and topped with cheese.

Varaždinska Pečenka

This local dish is made of pork, and it’s never served warm. The pork’s skin is left on, and it’s scored and stuffed with garlic, cloves, and rosemary. It’s then baked for more than 12 hours and served with vegetables and potatoes.

Goveđi File Patačić

This rich and delicious stew is a favorite in the Varazdin area. It is made with onion, mushrooms, bacon, beef steak, mustard, and red wine. The sauce creates a thick gravy, and it’s delicious when mopped up with fresh bread.

Varaždinska Torta

This local cake is a must-try. It’s quite a heavy chocolate-based cake, but it’s truly delicious. You’ll find it mostly during the autumn because it includes chestnuts, which are in season at that time.

Salata Varaždin

You’ll see this salad everywhere, and it’s genuinely delicious. The salad includes red pepper, gherkins, mustard, chicken, apples, and white wine drizzled over the top.

How To Get To Varaždin & Getting Around

Things to do in Varazdin, Croatia - Varazdin Croatia

You can easily reach Varaždin from Zagreb in around one hour, traffic permitting. It is only 54 miles away, and the route is pretty scenic, so be sure to stop along the way.

You can easily rent a car and drive or use the local bus service. You can expect to travel for around 1 hour and 30 minutes by bus, and several buses run in either direction daily. Once you arrive at the bus station in Varaždin, you need to walk around 5-10 minutes, and you’re right in the heart of the main sightseeing spots.

Varaždin is a very walkable city, so there are no issues with taxis or buses once you’re there.

When To Visit Varaždin, Croatia

Things to do in Varazdin, Croatia - Varazdin city square architecture_Depositphotos_237515824_S

The high temperatures between June and August may make exploring a little difficult, but certainly not impossible! However, if you visit between April to June and September and October, you’ll find pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds.

It’s entirely possible to visit during the winter months, but be aware that it could snow, probably rain, and it will be cold, so bring a jacket! Although Christmas is a beautiful time to visit, the fairy lights and music will create a magical scene.

Varaždin is undoubtedly a fantastic choice for a day trip from Zagreb. You might even choose to stay for a night or two!

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