Croatia's Most Stunning Castles
Visit Croatia's most stunning castles.
Over the centuries, the castle has served as a government center, a prison, a defense fortress and a setting for public festivals. Today, the castle also houses the Ethnographic Museum of Istria, which showcases 3 floors worth of displays that include Istrian bells, barrels, farm tools, musical instruments and clothing. While the castle itself is a point of interest, its location perched above the Pazin Pit -- an enormous, 426-foot-deep gorge cut by the Pazinčica River -- draws scores of travelers hoping to witness and photograph the dramatic views below.
Varazdin's Stari Grad is one of northeastern Croatia's most popular tourist attractions; the well-preserved castle also houses the town's historical museum, which displays furniture, weapons and paintings. Today, Stari Grad castle enjoys the status of a UNESCO protected site. Try to plan a trip to Varazdin at the end of August, when the town hosts the Špancir Fest, a 10-day festival during which the town is flooded with street performers, musicians and artists.
Other noteworthy features of the castle include a 102-foot-deep well, a wine cellar with a winepress and a great hall whose walls are decorated with weapons. A chapel also exists on the property that allegedly houses the skull of the doomed Veronika of Desinić, a woman who was drowned in the 15th century after a doomed love affair with the son of a count. As well as touring the castle, visitors can also explore a small museum that opened after the renovations. Exhibitions include collections of swords and armor, paintings and pottery.
The castle underwent a series of renovations over the centuries, but gained its current, neo-Gothic style in the 19th century when it was owned by Count Juraj V. Drašković. A tour of the castle will take visitors past restored 19th-century furnishings bearing the castle's coat of arms, as well as centuries-old weapons, tapestries and portraits in the knight's room, hunting room and music salon.
Visitors approach Bezanec via a 300-foot-long, tree-lined drive, at the end of which rise the castle's looming clock tower and triangular gables. The property rests upon a hilltop overlooking a verdant valley, and the castle grounds include a small park filled with gingko and basswood trees. You don't need to be a guest at the castle to enjoy the lavish decor and many antiquities, like furnishings and art, which fill the castle's halls and loggias. Bezanec is a tourist attraction in its own right, and fortuitously happens to house a restaurant specializing in traditional Croatian cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients. Try the štrukli, a type of cheese strudel, or the gibanica, a walnut, cheese and poppy pie.
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