Top 10 Castles of Croatia: A Journey Through History

Croatia, celebrated for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, boasts a treasure trove of historic castles.

These magnificent fortresses stand as guardians of the country’s history, offering a glimpse into Croatia’s past as a land of knights, nobility, and dynasties.

If you are passing through Croatia, visiting these old preservers of time is a perfect educative journey that will not disappoint.

Moreover, as you’ll be exploring the iconic castles and the rich history artifacts they behold, you’ll also have an opportunity to immerse yourself in the intact nature of the castles are surrounded by.

The Historical Significance of Croatian Castles

Before we delve into the specific castles that grace the Croatian landscape, let’s take a moment to understand the historical context in which these fortifications were built. Castles played a pivotal role in Croatia’s history, serving as strongholds, centers of governance, and symbols of power.

During the medieval period, Croatia was a patchwork of kingdoms, principalities, and territories.

Castles were erected as defensive structures, protecting the realm from invading forces and ensuring the safety of its inhabitants.

These fortresses also served as administrative hubs, where rulers collected taxes, dispensed justice, and oversaw their domains.

As the centuries passed, castles evolved in both form and function. They witnessed the rise and fall of noble families, the clash of empires, and the ebb and flow of cultural influences. Today, they stand as architectural marvels, offering a captivating window into Croatia’s storied past.

Let’s explore preserved Croatian castles you can visit today and the activities and events that surround them.

1. Trakošćan Castle

Located in northern Croatia near the town of Varaždin, Trakošćan Castle is a fairytale-like fortress nestled atop a hill overlooking a picturesque lake. Dating back to the 13th century, Trakošćan boasts a rich history, complete with tales of noble families, artistic treasures, and the enduring beauty of its architecture.

Trakošćan is open every day including holidays and Sundays and it’s an active vibrant place where various events take place for tourists. For instance, they organize medieval reenactments, host special events such as the spooky Halloween or vibrant Christmas events, and make sure you have so much to do besides just visiting the cold walls of the castle!

Visitors can explore the castle’s well-preserved rooms, admire antique furnishings, and enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

When you are done with the castle take a walk around the castle through the forest and by the lake on an educative trail that will have an almost time-traveling feeling and calm your mind.

2. Veliki Tabor Castle

In the rolling hills of Zagorje, Veliki Tabor Castle stands as a testament to Croatia’s Gothic and Renaissance heritage dating from the middle 15th century. With its dramatic architecture and scenic location, this castle has been the backdrop for many historical dramas.

Everybody has heard of the tales of forbidden love and mystery that surround Veliki Tabor, making it a captivating destination for history enthusiasts.

According to the legend, the son of a powerful count Herman II fell in love with a golden-haired maiden named Veronika, but the count stepped in their way. He fought his best to get it to the court in the hope that the court would support his ideals and legally prevent the relationship between the maiden and his son.

Fortunately, not all people were evil back in the day and some really understood how love is the greatest virtue of them all, thus they said if Veronika is guilty of something it is of a selfless heart she gave to the man.

Unfortunately, out of pure hatred and egoistical urges the powerful counts were known for, Count Herman II directed his men to assassinate Veronika days after the verdict.

They drowned the poor lady and set her inside the wall connecting the pentagonal tower to the castle entrance.

If you dare to listen between the winds you can still hear Veronika weeping.

Visit Veliki Tabor and be part of workshops, medieval events, and more, you’ll love it there!

3. Fortress Klis (The Oldest in Croatia)

The Klis Fortress is considered the oldest fortress in Croatia because it pulls roots from the Roman fortress built around 10 years AD that served as an important military fortress that served as a perfect overwatch point over the Adriatic Sea.

Furthermore, as numerous archeological findings prove, the area around Klis was already civilized by the early Neolithic civilization 6000 to 4500 BC.

However, The Klis Fortress was officially built in the form it can be seen today in the early 9th century when the first Croats arrived and took control of the region.

The history then continues in a very traditional sense, the fortress served as a strategic military point and it has been ruled by different powers, including the Venetians, Ottomans, and Habsburgs.

What you might now know is that Klis Fortress gained international recognition when it was featured in the popular TV series “Game of Thrones.” It served as a filming location for the city of Meereen. This brought increased tourism and interest to the site in the last years.

4. Čakovec Castle

Built in the 13th century and Located in the town of Čakovec in northern Croatia, this Renaissance-era castle is known for its elegant architecture and lush gardens. The castle features a mix of architectural styles, including Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements. It consists of a central courtyard with various wings, towers, and a moat.

The castle was the residence of the influential Zrinski family in the 16th and 17th centuries and today serves as a popular tourist spot offering a variety of events and rich historical artifacts displayed in Međimurje Museum.

Moreover, for all wine enthusiasts, the museum is located on the Međimurje Wine Road, a popular wine tourism 30km itinerary route in the region.

Visitors can taste local wines such as Graševina (Welschriesling), Moslavac (Furmint), White Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminac (Gewurztraminer und Red Traminer), Muscat Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

5. Medvedgrad Castle

Perched on a hill overlooking Zagreb, Medvedgrad is a medieval fortress with a storied past that began in the 13th century. In the 16th century, the castle was abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was only rediscovered and partially restored in the 19th century.

While Medvedgrad Castle isn’t the most preserved castle in Croatia, I put it on the list because it’s surrounded by mesmerizing nature and many hiking trails that lead to and around Medvednica mountain.

Croatia is perfect for hiking and if you like to hike then you’ll love the trails that lead to the castle and you can always continue the hike through the lush forests.

Medvedgrad Castle is blessed by its position and I’d like to see more restoration taking place in the future. Currently, you can enjoy the castle’s rebuilt walls, a small chapel with frescos, and the Shrine of the Homeland, the important pilgrimage destination where Croatians pay respect to the fallen soldiers in the war for independence in the 90s.

6. Castle of Stara Sušica

Nestled in the peaceful countryside of Gorski kotar just a short ride from Rijeka, the Castle of Stara Sušica is a castle that looks straight out of the Harry Potter movie franchise.

This romantic, picturesque castle has a rich history and is often used as a backdrop for weddings, children’s workshops, and similar events.

Stara Sušica was mentioned for the first time in the 14th century during the invasion of the Ottoman Empire. Although the Ottomans managed to destroy and pillage the nearby villages, the castle survived everything from the dark medieval ages to modern times.

7. Castle of Varaždin

Varaždin Castle, nestled in the heart of the charming town of Varaždin, showcases the grandeur of Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

The castle has a long and storied history, with its origins dating back to the 12th century. It was initially constructed as a defensive fortress against potential threats and it served as a residence for various noble families over the years, including the Counts of Celje and the famous Zrinski and Frankopan families.

Varaždin Castle hosts various events and festivals throughout the year. The most famous of these is the Varaždin Baroque Evenings, a renowned music festival that features classical music concerts in the castle’s beautiful settings.

If you don’t arrive in time for one of the spectacular musical events, a walk through the castle’s beautiful interior and garden will be a worthy experience!

Furthermore, Varaždin Castle has its share of legends, including tales of hidden treasure within its walls.

Some believe that a secret chamber holds the castle’s treasure, waiting to be discovered by those who can solve its mysteries.

I can’t help you with this, but maybe there are some clues that only you can discover.

8. Dubovac Castle

Perched on a hill in Karlovac, Dubovac Castle is a striking example of medieval fortification. Its stone walls, imposing towers, and drawbridge transport visitors to a bygone era. While the exact year when Dubovac Castle was built is unknown, it was finished in the 13th century.

Dubovac Castle is one of the best-preserved castles in Croatia and the fact that it likely predates the 13th century, having such a piece from medieval times still alive is a dream of every history lover.

Dubovac offers not only a glimpse into the military architecture of the past but also hosts cultural events, and concerts that breathe life into its ancient stones.

The museum in the tower speaks of stories about the Zrinski and Frankopani noble families who played a crucial role in Croatian history.

And if you get hungry you’ll feast on the finest dishes like a king in the restaurant set straight inside the castle!

9. Castle of Ozalj

Built-in the 13th century and located on the banks of the Kupa River, the Castle of Ozalj boasts a riverside setting that adds to its charm. This fortress, with its impressive Renaissance architecture, has witnessed centuries of history, significant events, and notable owners such as the noble Frankopan family.

Today, it houses the Ozalj Homeland Museum which offers visitors a glimpse into the castle’s illustrious past.

Visitors can explore the interior of the castle, including its museum exhibits, and enjoy the picturesque views of the Kupa River from the castle’s terraces.

10. Pazin Castle

Pazin Castle is the epitome of a tourist attraction in Istria that pulls high numbers of visitors year after year.

The Castle of Pazin was first mentioned in 983, and it was built to protect the goods and people against the invaders throughout the long Croatian history.

How tough the walls speak the fact that they successfully served in a war against powerful Venice, and while the castle has gone through turbulent times as the battles always leave a scar it was rebuilt so it can today stand as one of the oldest and biggest Croatian castles.

Moreover, if you are scared of the abysses, don’t peek out the windows as you won’t like what you see!


Dino is a local who has spent 27 years of his life in Croatia. He's here to provide you with useful information and some local guidance.

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