Trakošćan castle
Luka Stanzl/PIXSELLTrakošćan castle

4 great castles to visit outside Zagreb

With the Easter holidays upon us, here are four great day trips to historic landmarks within each reach of the Croatian capital

Written by
Jan Bantic

From renovated 13th-century fortifications turned museums to ruins sitting on mountain tops, the historic landmarks around Zagreb are waiting to be visited and explored. 

Trakošćan castle
Luka Stanzl/PIXSELLTrakošćan castle

Trakošćan Castle (Trakošćan)

Built in the 13th century as a defensive fortification in the north-western part of today’s Croatia, Trakošćan was first mentioned in written records in 1334. Perched upon a hill overlooking Trakošćan Lake, this is perhaps the most visually striking castle in Croatia, its position giving it a prominent and regal air. 

Having changed ownership many times throughout its history, Trakošćan has been the property of the Croatian state since its final private owners – the Drašković family – left the country for Austria in 1944. In 1954, it was opened to the public as a museum containing historical objects and is protected as a national treasure. Aside from the lake, it is surrounded by a garden, a forest park and additional buildings that complete the protected complex.

About an hour’s drive from Zagreb, Trakošćan Castle is an easy day trip. This English-language pamphlet available from the website shows a bird’s eye view of the grounds and offers greater detail on the castle’s history. Note that the lake is currently dry until June due a cleaning operation.

Open: Daily 10am-6pm (Apr 1-Oct 31); daily 9am to 4pm (Nov 1-Mar 31). Admission €7; under-18s €4.

Veliki Tabor castle (Zagorje)

Located in the Zagorje region of Croatia, about an hour’s drive from the capital, Veliki Tabor sits 333 metres above sea level, allowing visitors a wonderful view of the area and into parts of Slovenia. The exact date of its construction is disputed, but it has certainly existed since the mid-15th century. Its late-Gothic pentagonal structure is surrounded by four renaissance towers, and today serves as a museum, completely renovated in 2011 to preserve its original architecture. It also plays host to the Tabor Film Festival every July, short features screened against a magical backdrop. For more information, see the website.

Open: Tue-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm. Admission €5; under-18s & seniors €4.

Goran Stanzl/PIXSELLMedvedgrad

Medvedgrad (Zagreb)

Located on Zagreb’s very own Medvednica mountain (known as Sljeme after its highest peak) sits the Medvedgrad burg. It was constructed in 1254 following the catastrophic incursion by Tatars that saw the devastation of the capital and has sat upon the mountain overlooking Zagreb for nearly 800 years.

Great to visit for the castle itself, Medvedgrad also offers an excellent and unique view of the city and can be combined into a trip scaling the hiking trails throughout the surrounding area. Also, given that it is located on the outskirts of the capital itself, it makes it the most accessible location on this list. For more details, see the website.

Open: Tue-Sun 9am-4pm (last entry 2.30pm). Admission €10; under-18s €6.

Novi Dvori complex (Zaprešić)

First mentioned on record towards the end of the 16th century, the Novi Dvori complex in Zaprešić is perhaps most famously known for being under the ownership of Ban Josip Jelačić, whose statue is found on Zagreb’s main square, also named in his honour.

The complex consists of a castle in the classicist style, a neo-gothic chapel and expansive gardens. Visitors can book a golfing session in one part of these gardens, or enjoy a meal in a restaurant adjacent to the golf course, which serves specialities that Ban Jelačić himself may have once enjoyed in his time spent at the grounds.

The beautifully maintained paths around the grounds are punctuated by informative plaques explaining the history and purpose of each of the buildings. Novi Dvori stands 40 minutes by car from Zagreb, and an easy hop by bus or train.

The grounds on ulica bana Josipa Jelačića open at 9am every morning, the restaurant from 11am.

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