Zagorje, Croatia

The idyllic Zagorje, Croatia's "hinterland", with its quiet villages seems partly from the last century, but also impresses with magnificent castles and palaces and invites you to relax in several thermal baths.

In the very north of Croatia, the beautiful landscape of Zagorje provides fantastic opportunities for outdoor and active holidays. The "land behind the mountains", characterised by rolling hills and small villages, stretches north of the capital Zagreb from the Medvednica Mountains to the Slovenian border.



Photo gallery: Zagorje

Since Slovenia and Dalmatia ("dalmatinska zagora") also have a region known as Zagorje, Croatia often refers to it as "Hrvatsko Zagorje" ("Croatian land behind the mountains").

Sights of the Zagorje

The lush nature of Zagorje has so far been spared the crowds of Croatian holidaymakers and offers not only outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling or horseback riding, but also cultural sights for every taste. Especially in the Middle Ages, many castles and palaces were built in Zagorje, which today are worthwhile excursion destinations.

Varaždin - charming baroque town

Croatia's former capital Varaždin, with just under 50,000 inhabitants, is considered the tourist, economic and cultural centre of northern Croatia. Famous for a hit song from Emerich Kálman's "Csardasfürstin", the baroque town is now known for its impressive fortress, well-preserved old town and picturesque cemetery in the style of an English landscape garden.

PICTURES: Baroque town of Varaždin

Photo gallery: Varaždin

Krapina - Kajkavian stronghold

Krapina is the second main town in Zagorje after Varaždin and also the stronghold of Kajkavian culture. The dialect, traditions and folklore of this cultural branch are still lived here and celebrated at the annual festival of Kajkavian culture.

The fact that Zagorje was already inhabited in the Stone Age was shown in the 19th century by the most extensive archaeological find to date of hundred-thousand-year-old remains of Neanderthals. Krapina has its own museum dedicated to prehistoric people, which has already been awarded numerous international prizes.


In addition to the Neanderthal Museum, the 17th century Franciscan monastery and the baroque pilgrimage site of the Mother of God from Jerusalem are also historically significant.

Trakoščan Lake and Castle

The fairytale Trakoščan Castle in Zagorje is often called the most beautiful castle in Croatia - © xbrchx / Shutterstock
© xbrchx / Shutterstock

The fairytale Trakoščan Castle is often called the most beautiful castle in Croatia and is one of the most visited castles in the country, with around 40,000 visitors annually. Trakoščan Castle was built in the 13th century and received its current appearance in the 19th century.

Emperor Maximilian II gave the estate to Juraj Drašković of Trakošćan in 1584, in whose family the castle remained until the Communists seized power.

The picturesque estate, surrounded by a park-like forest near the man-made Trakoščan Lake, is today a popular photo motif and excursion destination. Within its snow-white walls it presents historical furniture, weapons, photos, books and paintings.

A hike around the lake or a boat trip on the calm waters, followed by a visit to the castle museum, is the perfect way to combine an active and cultural holiday in Croatia.

Veliki Tabor Castle

The defiant Veliki Tabor Castle in Zagorje near Desinić is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Croatia - © Phant / Shutterstock
© Phant / Shutterstock

The defiant Veliki Tabor Castle near Desinić is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Croatia. The bulwark with its massive round towers was built in the 15th century to defend against the Turks. Today's construction is due to the Rattkay family and dates back to the 16th century, but parts of the castle even go back to the 12th century.

Today, Veliki Tabor belongs to the Croatian state, which looks after the castle as a sight of Zagorje. The impressive castle can also be visited from the inside, revealing to visitors a 31m-deep well, the castle chapel and the (former) wine cellar. It also houses a historical museum presenting weapons, paintings, pottery, historical medicines and the Rattkay family.

Pilgrimage Basilica Marija Bistrica

The Basilica of Marija Bistrica in Zagorje, Croatia, is visited by around 800,000 pilgrims every year - © xbrchx / Shutterstock
© xbrchx / Shutterstock

In the Basilica of Our Lady of Bistrica there is a statue of the Virgin Mary from the 15th century, to which numerous documented miraculous healings are attributed. Every year, the Basilica of Marija Bistrica is visited by around 800,000 pilgrims. Their gratitude is immortalised in white marble slabs around the entire church.



Kumrovec is really steeped in history. The small village on the border with Slovenia houses an ethnographic collection, but is in itself considered Croatia's largest open-air museum. Living style, culture and traditional handicrafts still take place in Kumrovec today as they did in Croatia around 1900.

Kumrovec is also the birthplace of former Yugoslav President Tito, whose birthplace can be visited. On the edge of the village, an obelisk commemorates Antun Mihanović, who composed Croatia's national anthem in 1835.


Speaking of Antun Mihanović, he saw the light of day in Klanjec, as did several other prominent personalities, including the sculptor Antun Augustincic, whose works are exhibited in a gallery in the village.

In the Franciscan monastery and the 17th century church, in addition to valuable church treasures, there are some sarcophagi of the noble Erdödy family, whose palace, by the way, can be admired in Varaždin.

Gornja Stubica

In Gornja Stubica, a museum retraces the course of the peasant uprising of 1573 under Matija Gubec. The museum is housed in Oršić Castle, a Baroque manor house where a medieval castle once stood. In June it is the centre of jousting games with its magnificent garden. Incidentally, in the garden of the parish church there is a 400-year-old linden tree that is protected as a natural monument.

Recreational holiday in Zagorje

Among the rolling hills of Zagorje in northern Croatia, time seems to have stood still in some places - © xbrchx / Shutterstock
© xbrchx / Shutterstock

Besides sightseeing and outdoor activities, relaxation is not neglected in Zagorje. First of all, among the gentle hills of Zagorje, many villages give the impression that time has stood still. Stress and hectic are foreign words.

Secondly, several thermal springs provide bubbling healing waters in the Zagorje region, which have given rise to many a spa. Among the most popular are the Krapinske Toplice, Stubičke Toplice and Tuheljske Toplice spas. The latter is ideal for families in particular.


Zagorje kitchen

The cuisine of Zagorje can also be described as a sight in itself. Together with top local wines, especially the Zagorje soup, the regional cheese dumplings and the tempting honey cakes provide culinary delights.

Related links:

Official website of the Zagorje
Official website of the Tuhelj Spa
Official tourism website of Varaždin
Official website of Krapina
Official website of Trakoscan Castle
Official website of Veliki Tabor Castle