Made in Croatia

PHOTOS: The 21 Most Incredible Croatia Castles To See Year-Round

By 25 November 2020
The Old Town of Ozalj, one of the Croatia castles in Karlovac County
The Old Town of Ozalj, one of the Croatia castles in Karlovac County © Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

November 25, 2020 – Serving as Christian Europe's defensive front line for centuries, incredible Croatia castles can be found throughout the country. Whether on a summertime day trip, set next to the spectacular backdrop of autumn's colours or postcard-pretty covered in winter's snow, here are 21 of the best to visit year-round

Castle Mailáth
DM-DvoracZdenko Brkanić.jpg© Zdenko Brkanić

Mailáth Castle is located in Donji Miholjac in Osijek-Baranja County, just next to the Hungarian border in Slavonia. It's well worth making the trip to see this wonderful building, not least because it sits right next door to an earlier grandiose structure. After being gifted lands for services in fighting the Ottomans, in 1818 the Prandau family built its first castle in Miholjac in the Baroque style. But, in 1901 its grandeur was supplanted by Mailáth castle. Built over four floors, its decorative chimneys, spacious terraces with neoclassical balustrades and wrought iron fences identify its debt to the Tudor style. The building has some 50 rooms over around 3500 square meters. Its interior was decorated with hunting trophies from Count Mailáth's travels in Asia and Africa, set above oak panelling which lines every room. In recent times, the building was used to house city authorities, but considerable effort has been made to restore the building and open it up to visitors. Its grand hall now acts as an impressive host to events such as classical music performances, as do the immediate grounds in warmer months. These grounds extend out into a 16-hectare public park which was curated by the family and bequeathed to the town inhabitants. This is now one of the few Croatia castles to have a nationally certified horticultural monument attached. It has been classed as such since 1961.
croatia_slavonija_donji_miholjac_004NTB.jpgDonji Miholjac in Slavonija gives you two adjoined Croatia castles, Mailáth (right) and Castle Prandau (left)  © Croatian National Tourist Board

Maruševec Castle
AnyConv.com__2880px-Dvorac_Marusevec3MaGa.jpeg© MaGa

During its lifetime, the extraordinary Maruševec castle in Varaždin County has passed through a confusingly long series of different owners, many of whom have left a significant mark on the building. The original structure dates back to 1547 and it was privately owned from that time up until 1945 when it was seized by Yugoslavian Communist authorities from the Pongratz family. They fled to Austria, having established with zeal the splendid gardens that surround the building. In the first years after independence, the building was used by a section of the Protestant church in Croatia. However, over the last two decades the government began the process of returning many such Croatia castles to their rightful owners and Maruševec Castle now once again lies in the hands of the Pongratz family. Needless to say, the grounds are once again superb.
slika-dvoracOpćina Maruševec.jpg© Općine Maruševec

Prandau Normann in Valpovo
dvorac-air1greenroom.jpeg© Greenroom Festival Valpovo

The pictures don't do it justice. Prandau Normann in Valpovo is one of the Croatia castles that has to be visited to get a true sense of its size, significance and history. One of the oldest and largest castles in Slavonia, it sits within a small area of greenery upon which the surrounding settlement closely encroaches. Some trees at the edges of these thin grounds partially obstruct the view. However, stretching out from the southern ends of this green island is a glorious public park of 25 hectares. Formerly part of the hunting grounds of the castle inhabitants, it was designed as a grandiose garden in the English style and has been declared a national monument of natural and horticultural architecture. The castle sections now form a three-walled complex with an inner courtyard. The original triangular-shaped fortress and the shorter, round tower date back to the beginning of the 15th century at which time it was surrounded by defensive moats. During the first half of the 18th century, the Prandau family rebuilt one side of the medieval structure with the Baroque palace which now lies at the front. Its tower is 37 metres high. Badly damaged in a fire on New Year's Eve in 1801, it stylings were somewhat altered when reconstructed. A true giant, it has over 60 rooms and, together with the inner courtyard, has an impressive ground space of 4031 m2. The Museum of the Valpovo Region was established here as far back as 1956. Its continuous running was halted by both war and reconstruction work, but it is once again open. Although the building is of significant national importance, it is to the immense credit of its forward-thinking governance that the building and grounds have in recent years been utilised for public events, including very contemporary youth culture happenings such as the Reunited Festival. and Greenroom Festival
Dvorac_Prandau-Normann_dvorac_iz_zrakaRoko Poljak.jpg© Roko Poljak

Ozalj Castle
ozalj-stari-grad-za-web-ivo-biocina_0NTB.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Around 60 kilometres from Zagreb, in Karlovac County, Ozalj is one of the most picturesque Croatia castles. It has simply everything you would want from a visit to a castle – an impressive approach, towers, defensive walls, surrounding waters, incredible views and a fascinating amalgam of different buildings. Sat spectacularly on a cliff above the Kupa river and the surrounding settlement of Ozalj, this castle was once the entire town. First mentioned as a free royal city as far back as 1244, the walled medieval stronghold was gradually built to become a castle in the 18th century. It is a building of great national significance as the site of the Zrinski–Frankopan conspiracy which, although unsuccessful, is an important marker in the country's struggle for autonomy. Between them, the Croatian families of Zrinski and Frankopan owned the castle from 1398 until 1671, when both family lines were severed with the execution of the conspirators by the ruling Habsburgs. The effects were felt throughout the region – some 2000 nobles were also arrested, the Protestant church was suppressed, Habsburg troops attacked commoners in both Croatia and Hungary and the position of Ban of Croatia, formerly held by Nikola Zrinski, would be left completely vacant for the next 60 years. The conspirators were executed on April 30 which became the city day of Ozalj in remembrance.
AnyConv.com__2880px-Zugang_Schloss_Ozalj1BernBartsch.jpeg© Bern Bartsch

Trakošćan Castle
TURISTIČKA ZAJEDNICA OPCINA BEDNJA.jpg© Turistička zajednica Trakošćan - Općina Bednja

One of the most-recognisable Croatia castles, from its surroundings Trakošćan looks like something out of a fairytale. Its position on a hill near Krapina, Varaždin County, not far from the Slovenia border, was obviously made for defensive reasons. But, today, it serves to bolster this romantic vista. Trakošćan dates back to the 13th century, although local legend says that it stands on the site of an even earlier fortress. Nobody really knows who commissioned it nor who originally lived there. In 1556 the castle came under state control, but just 18 years later it was gifted to the Drašković family. In the second half of the 18th century, the castle was abandoned. The Drašković family resumed interest in the building in the middle of the 19th century, renovating the house and constructing the surrounding gardens which are such a highlight to visit today. The family lived there until 1944 when the Drašković's were forced to emigrate to Austria and the state assumed ownership. It is today owned by the Republic of Croatia, has been renovated considerably and holds a permanent museum.
TrakoscanCroatiaTZ.jpg© Croatian National Tourist Board

Trsat Castle
Domagoj BlaževićTrsatKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

The city of Rijeka rises sharply from sea-level into nearby heights, the cause of its above-average rainfall. The cityscape vista is superb from some balconies of the residential tower blocks located in these overlooking neighbourhoods. But, the best view of Rijeka is from Trsat. The Rječina valley separates you from these competing high rises, the river itself immediately below you, scoring a path through an industrial landscape, to it right the old city and beyond, Kvarner Bay. Sitting 150 metres above Rijeka, it's thought that the castle lies on top of an earlier Illyrian and Roman fortress. Today, Trsat is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rijeka, the grounds containing a restaurant and its courtyard serving as a wonderful backdrop for cultural events like theatre and music concerts.
5.-TRSAT_gradina-trsat01-pogled-domagoj-blazevic-19.07-724x500.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

Stara Sušica Castle
DomagojBlaeviStaraKvarner.jpeg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

One of the most bewildering Croatia castles, the fantastical architecture of Stara Sušica comes from a series of restorations and additions that have taken place over many generations. It's far from being the biggest of Croatia castles, but it's certainly one of the most intriguing. By prior arrangement, you can actually stay in this castle. It has previously hosted organised groups of fantasy role-playing games, the mysterious-looking building acting as the perfect backdrop to wild imagination. This architectural gem of a castle is located 60 kilometres to the east of the city of Rijeka. It sits in the shadows of tall coniferous trees, just outside of the town of Stara Sušica, near Ravna Gora.
Stara_Susica_0004Domagoj BlaževićKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

Veliki Tabor
veliki-tabor-optimizirano-za-web-ivo-biocina_1600x900_0Croatia.jpeg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

The sizeable Veliki Tabor is another of the Croatia castles that sits atop a hill for defensive purposes. It dominates a beautiful rural landscape of agricultural land, gently rising hills and vineyards near Desinić in Zagorje, less than an hour's drive from Zagreb. Dating from the middle of 15th century, most of the castle was built by the Ráttkay family from Hungary, in whose ownership it remained until 1793. The castle is said to be haunted. Legend says a local woman was murdered upon false accusations of witchcraft and entombed within the actual castle walls, the ulterior motive being that the castle's then-owner did not wish his son to marry her. Her voice is said to still inhabit the building. Today, owned by the state, it holds a permanent museum and is a popular tourist attraction. It plays host to events of significance to the local culture, such as food festivals and also nationally recognised happenings, such as its famous short film festival.
veliki-tabor-web-ivo-biocina-1CROATIA.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Lužnica Castle
Luznica2ZCTY.png© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Set back from the main road and obscured by ancient trees, the immediate approach to Lužnica is impressive. Surrounded by neatly trimmed lawns, you can reach the castle from several different directions, the pathways leading to the building bordered by low-lying hedges. At the end of these sits a baroque castle that shares its name with the nearby settlement, just a few miles to the west of Zaprešić in Zagreb County. The castle was built in 1791 as a residence for a noble family but, since 1925, the building has been owned by the Convent of St. Vincent de Paul, with nuns thereafter using the building as a residential and care home for elderly members of the sisterhood. From 1935 the building was used for the care of poor children, and then for educational classes organised by the nuns. In 2005, a purpose-built modern property was constructed to assume the residential care of retired nuns, allowing greater public access to the castle. The nuns still hold spiritual and educational programs there and the castle also hosts secular conferences and seminars.
LuznicZaagrebCounty.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Krašić
KrasicZgC.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

So well suited to its contemporary purpose as a church does Krašić look that it's difficult to imagine that it was ever anything other. But, this complex of buildings originally dates back much further than the hundred or so years it has served as such. It was first built in the Gothic style of the late 14th century and later reconstructed in the Baroque style, only beginning its current role after reconstructions that took place between 1911 to 1913. It is now the Parish church of the Holy Trinity, serving the population of Krašić, which is located near Jastrebarsko, about 50 km southwest of Zagreb. Enthusiastic hunters of Croatia castles who are visiting Zagreb and Zagreb County will also not want to miss the nearby Pribić, which is located just three kilometres east of Krašić. It is the site of an incredible triumvirate of spectacular neighbouring buildings, two castles and one Greek Catholic church.
krasic08RegionalDevelopment agencyZagrebCounty.jpg© Regional Development Agency Zagreb County

Pejačević Castle
Dvorac_Pejačević._NašiceSamir Budimčić.jpg© Samir Budimčić

Though they were natives of Slavonia, eastern Croatia, the name of the Pejačević family extends significantly further than the borders of Pannonia or modern-day Croatia. Their name dates back to at least the 14th century, during which time some of them settled in north-west Bulgaria. Alongside Bosnians and Germans attracted to that region by mining, these immigrants were responsible for bringing Catholicism to the area around Chiprovtsi, the site of a famous 1688 uprising of Catholics and Orthodox Christians against the ruling Ottomans. For their services in the defence of Christian Europe, the Pejačević family were rewarded with significant lands in their native Slavonia and for centuries were very influential in the region's political, social, economic and cultural life. Pejačević Castle, Našice was the main family seat, although they have another castle in Virovitica, some 80 kilometres to the northwest, which is also called, rather confusingly, Pejačević Castle.
dvorac-velikaTZnasice.jpg© Našice Tourist Board

Stari Grad Varaždin
VarazdinZup.jpg© Turistička Zajednica Varaždinske Županije

The city of Varaždin once served as the capital of Croatia and, as its focal point, Stari Grad fortress is therefore of significant national importance. In acknowledgment, an image of the fortress used to appear on the back of the old 5 kuna bank notes, although presumably due to some printer's error, the image appeared in reverse to how it sits naturally. The building is mentioned as far back as the 12th century but was reconstructed as a Renaissance fortification in the 16th century. At the end of that century, it came into the hands of the Hungarian-Croatian family Erdödy. Today, Stari Grad holds a permanent museum and is one of the most-famous tourist attractions in a city not short of reasons to visit.
varazdin-ivo-biocina-NTZ.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Bosiljevo Castle
Dvorac,_Bosiljevo_-_panoramioKrittinskiy.jpg© Krittinskiy

Something of a bratić (cousin) to Ozalj Castle, Bosiljevo again lies in Karlovac County and was also owned by the Frankopan family. It is a sprawling structure, impressively situated on a hillside within forest land. The nature of the building and its remote location perhaps contribute to the fact that it is unrestored. However, it is still one of the Croatia castles worth visiting year-round, not least because the surrounding trees grant a spectacular backdrop that changes throughout the year's seasons. Although access is limited, you can get up close to the fascinating buildings, intricately decorated defensive walls and the towers of the complex. The earliest sections date back to at least 1344. Following its seizure by the Austrians in 1671, it passed through the hands of a series of private owners, including the Irish-born Laval Nugent von Westmeath, who started his career as a loyal soldier to Austria but finished his life in Bosiljevo as something closer to a Croatian patriot. The property was seized by Communist authorities after the Second World War, its decline beginning with its ill-purposing as a retirement home, restaurant and cheap motel between the 1960s and the 1980s when it was finally abandoned.
bosiljevoopcinacas.jpg© Općina Bosiljevo

Čakovec Castle
stari_gradcakovectz.jpg© Čakovec City Tourist Board

Situated within a sizeable park, right in the town centre of Čakovec, Međimurje, Čakovec Castle is a beast of a building. Like several Croatia castles, it is actually several buildings. Access to the park is great from all sides of the site and, this being the case, the grounds are a section of greenery much-enjoyed by residents and visitors, as are the spectacular buildings which lie at the centre. The original 13th-century fortress was built by Count Dmitri Čak, hence the town's name. Its walls form the basis of the complex's front section, behind which the 16th Century Zrinski Castle sits detached. The Zrinski castle houses Croatia's biggest museum, the Međimurje County Museum, and its courtyard plays host to cultural happenings like music concerts, theatre and gastro events. Although we call this independent structure the Zrinski Castle, they were not in fact responsible for the building's original construction, but rather rebuilt it. Also, the modern-day appearance of this palace cannot be wholly attributed to the Zrinski family, as it was severely damaged in an earthquake and rebuilt by later owners. However, this is one of the most significant of Croatia castles because it was the family seat of the Zrinski during a time in which several family members served as Ban of Croatia. As the most important man in the land, the building naturally held a similar stature.
MuseumMedimurjeCak.jpg© Museum of Međimurje, Čakovec

Feštetić Castle, Pribislavec
dvorac_festetic_01visit medimurje.jpg© Visit Međimurje

One of the most singular-looking of all Croatia castles, not least because of its unforgettable neogothic tower, Feštetić Castle in Međimurje actually pre-dates the Feštetić family who lends it their name. The original building dated back to at least the beginning of the 18th Century. Throughout its life, the structure that lay here was ravaged by war, fire and natural disasters, but we can attribute its striking neogothic stylings to the Feštetić family, whose work on the castle began in 1870. The building has been in continuous use ever since, serving at times as a retirement home and a school. It is therefore in great condition and sits in grounds that are also enjoyable upon any visit.
Feštetićvisitnorthcroatia.jpgGosh! The occasional darkened skies above Međimurje seem to suit the neogothic Feštetić Castle almost as much as do the clear blue! © Visit North Croatia

Nova Kraljevica Castle
Domagoj BlaževićKraljevicaKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

Located atop the start of a peninsula at the entrance to the Bay of Bakar, less than 20 kilometres east of Rijeka, Petar Zrinski started to build Nova Kraljevica in 1651. The castle has large towers at the corners of each of its four walls. They surround an inner courtyard decorated with archways on both floors. Petar's wife, Katarina Frankopan, is said to have paid close attention to its interior design and the couple spent much time within what is one of the few Croatia castles to sit upon the mainland's shoreline. The castle's main salon was decorated with gilded leather wallpaper, had marble fireplaces, floors paved with a marble mosaic and doors made of black and white marble. This spectacular and well-preserved castle also once held one of Croatia's very first museums. It is not only great to visit on foot but a spectacular sight when approached from the Adriatic by boat.
dvorac-nova-kraljevica07-atrij-domagoj-blazevic-11.07-1200x800.jpgThe ornate inner courtyard of Kraljevica Castle © Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

Miljana Castle, near Kumrovec
DSC_0248-visitZagorje.jpg© Visit Zagorje

Though not open to spontaneous visit by the public like many of the Croatia castles on this list, you can go to the Baroque castle of Miljana near Kumrovec, Zagorje. You just have to arrange to do so in advance, as this picturesque building is undergoing gradual restoration. Miljana is impossibly pretty, as are its grounds. Three wings surround a central courtyard and striking black plaster covers the walls, periodically interspersed with white plaster ornamentation. Its construction began in the late 16th century under the Rattkay family although it was expanded and adapted several times before its last substantial remodelling in the 18th century. Its first floor has eight salons, seven of which hold frescos on the walls. These form much of the current restoration work and it promises to be incredible once the painstaking work is complete.
Miljana Castle, near KumroveKrapina Zagorje County Tourism Board.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Kutjevo Castle
dvorac-kutjevoTZK.jpeg© Tourism Board of Kutjevo

Built on the site of a much earlier monastery, Kutjevo castle still holds a wine cellar belonging to its predecessor. It dates back to the year 1232. The original buildings were destroyed by the Ottomans. After they left, the land was gifted to Zagreb canon Ivan Josip Babić in 1689 and he invited Jesuits to make a home for themselves there. They cleared the land and built the castle between 1704 till 1735. One side of the castle is a church, the other three wings have a less overtly religious feel to their architecture. They surround an inner courtyard and, beyond them stretches a large park area. It has a circular motif located centrally, around which pathways wind through the grounds and the large trees which live there. Perhaps the most striking feature of the building is its polygonal tower on which sits a bulb-shaped roof. The building is privately owned and its interior not open to spontaneous visits from the public.
Kutjevo-ParkCROATIA.jpg© Croatian National Tourist Board

Eltz Castle, Vukovar
Vukovar_Dvorac_Eltz_SKStjepkoKrehula.jpeg© Stjepko Krehula

One of the most famous, spectacular and oldest castles in Germany is called Eltz Castle. This one, located in Vukovar, eastern Croatia, is clearly something other. However, the two are connected by the same Eltz family, the descendants of which still inhabit the German castle, just as their ancestors did in the 12th Century. The family owned huge tracts of land around this section of the Danube, by far their most significant territory outside Germany, and Eltz Castle in Vukovar was their main residence until 1945, when they were expelled by the Yugoslav communist regime. The front facade is a sea of ornate baroque windows, painstakingly (but speedily) reconstructed following the building's near-complete destruction by bombing during the 1990s. Since 1968, the castle has housed the Vukovar City Museum, one of the most significant in Pannonia. It charts the history of all the peoples who have inhabited this area of the Danube and contains valuable exhibits returned to it from Zagreb, Novi Sad and Belgrade.
GradskiMuzejVuko.jpg© Gradski muzej Vukovar

Lukavec Castle, Turopolje
LukavecTZZC1.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Built on the site of a wooden fort first mentioned in 1256, could some of the wooden bridge that gives access to this castle be made of remnants of its ancestor? Maybe not, but it's nice to imagine the lineage being so palpable. This replacement structure dates from 1752 and is marked by golden plastered outer walls which contrast beautifully against white borders, the red-tiled roof and the darkened top of the main tower. In the building's courtyard sits an old cannon, this remnant of its military past perhaps surprising when you see just how well preserved and unblemished this building is. It is an integral part of the local community's cultural and social life and hosts many events.
The_Old_Town_of_Lukavec_6Zeljko.filipin.jpeg© Zeljko Filipin

Kerestinec Castle
kerestinec2-10svetaned.jpg© Grad Sveta Nedelja

The Renaissance-Baroque building in Kerestinec, Sveta Nedelja, is one of the Croatia castles that has seen much better days. Its interior remains unrestored. Its construction was started in 1565 by Petar Erdödy, then Ban of Croatia, so it would have been made to high standards and specifications. The castle was remodelled several times over the centuries and is today notable for circular towers that sit at two corners of its four wings. The central courtyard has in recent memory served as the host site to events such as a dance music festival. This may be far from its original purpose, but such events continue to breathe life into a spectacular building that perhaps otherwise would be completely abandoned.
dvorac_helikoptersvetanedelja.jpg© Grad Sveta Nedelja

All of the photos of castles in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner) were taken by Domagoj Blažević for the Route Of The Frankopans website, which allows visitors to trace a path through all of the former Frankopan properties in the county and is recommended reading for castle hunters

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