Beyond Zagreb: What to Expect from Central Croatia

Croatia Game of Thrones

Croatia is an Eastern European country that should be a part of any savvy traveller’s bucket list. It is home to Dubroknik, Split, and other destinations that have been featured in the famous series Game of Thrones. It’s also where the popular city Zagreb is located. But these are not the only cities and towns in Croatia that are worth your time. 

Central Croatia is one interesting destination because of the unique experience it offers tourists. Marvel at the following characteristics of this region in Croatia: 

Architecture 

Located in northern Croatia is the city Varaždin, which is a prime spot for architecture lovers. It features baroque and rococo architectural styles, prominently on display at the Sermage Palace, where you will also find the paintings of international and local artists. Head to the Lisak Tower, the only surviving part of the city’s old walls, for a look into the beautiful past. 

The city aims to preserve its medieval aesthetic, and you will get to walk the historical streets with an appreciation for its rich history and old-world charm. It’s a refreshing break from the 21st century’s modern architecture you are accustomed to. It has earned the nickname “Little Vienna” with its music, flowers, and bicycles. This is a place for exploration, and it has all the awards to testify to its beauty. 

Museums 

 

Central Croatia is also home to some of the most interesting museums, lakes, and natural wonders. As you head to the Virovitica-Podravina County, visit the Park Priode Papuk, Jankovac Forest, City Library Virovitica, the Virovitica City Museum, Virovitica Ponds, St. Rocco’s church, and the Pejacevic Castle. Each establishment features rich architecture worthy of tourist attention. 

Another destination recommended for curious travellers is the Krapina Neanderthal Museum, which is found near the site of the Krapina Neanderthals “Hušnjakovo”. The museum tries to be as close to nature as possible, with a semi-cave made of concrete mimicking stone, following the proportions of the ancient Krapina semi-cave, as determined by a thorough analysis. The museum is surrounded by the countryside, comfortably situated between two hills. Visitors pass through a stream as they enter the museum. 

Landscapes 

Zagreb can be quite the busy city in the summer, especially with the throngs of tourists flocking to the capital city and all it has to offer. Zagorje, which is not too far from the capital, is a wonderful alternative, with its less crowded streets and splendid landscapes. Here, you enjoy the sight of medieval castles without the large crowd, especially on weekdays, even in summer. Take a bite of the Austrian-inspired cuisine, and ponder upon the majestic green landscapes that almost contrast the Mediterranean south. You may also take a dip in natural hot springs, for a relaxing end to your day. Zagorje is located north of Mt Medvednica, extends west of the Slovenian border, and even reaches north of Varaždin.

Lonjsko has a nature park worth visiting, as well. Here, you can join a bike tour that takes you through scenic routes throughout the region.

The beauty of Croatia is that depending on the region you are in, you will be greeted with the Adriatic Sea and its wonders, or the high mountains and their beautiful winding trails. Head to Kalnik for a taste of higher altitude, scaling the boundaries of Zagorje, Podravina, and Prigorje. Kalnik Mountain has a 400-500 metre high wall, and two parallel ridges. Make your way to its tallest peak, the Vranilac, which is also the only limestone peak in Northern Croatia. It plays a huge part in the country’s history, acting as a barrier against invasions of the Turks, Avars, and Tartars. To visit Kalnik, you will go from Zagreb to Gornja Rijeka to Vukovec. 


Festivals

Central Croatia is rich in tradition and music. Here, you can experience some of the best and longest music festivals internationally. Plan your trip in time for the Street Festival in the summer, and Varaždin Baroque Evenings in autumn. Medjimurje also celebrates Martinje, the day of the wine patron St. Martin, with endless supplies of wine, traditional pasta, and home cooked geese. This is usually held in November. Visit the wine town of Strigova and attend the Urbanovo wine festival, as well. 

History


Croatia is steeped in history, with cities such as Medjimurje providing a quiet but impactful introduction to the country. Also known as “Croatia’s flower garden”, it is located near popular cities, but it has a charm that draws in visitors of its own. Medjimurje is Croatia’s smallest county and most densely populated area, and it is also the home of the purest gold in the world. Pay particular attention to the city’s sandbars to see the purest gold shining through. 

This is also the home of some of the best wines in the region, with the cultivation of grapes dating as far back as ancient times. Take a tour down the Wine Road, which features about 30 wine establishments serving an assortment of white and red wine. As you explore the city, ask about the legend of pozoj, or dragons, that adorn their rich history. Legends say dragons still hide under the St. Nicholas church. 

Though Central Croatia is known for its historical structures, it is not without its rich modern culture. At Samobor, you experience a mixture of the two. For business-minded individuals, the financially stable city is a good place to visit. It is a destination for modern and developed investments–all while preserving its natural beauty, culture and heritage. Samobor is known as a gourmet destination, with menus spanning culturally significant dishes as well as modern cuisine. Here, visitors enjoy lush greeneries, cozy restaurants, and wine that is worth coming back to. 

Peace and Serenity

Croatia is a place that receives plenty of visitors each year. As a sunny region, it is particularly popular in the summer, especially for its long sunny days. Despite the number of visitors, however, the charm of Croatia is that it allows you to experience some form of peace in your travel. Particularly in Zagorje, which is a hidden gem so close to Zagreb, you are treated to good views and good music without the stress of the capital city. 

For summer travels, you may also use a rental car to drive from Zagreb to the region of Žumberak, which spans Slovenia and Croatia. Though the area is mostly used for farming and lumber, you may head to the burial site of an ancient Celtic prince, in Budinjak. 

Croatia has so many things to offer for the adventurous traveller. Don’t miss out on these popular attractions and destinations when you head there.