Eighteenth-century churches, houses, and public buildings are just some of the charms that make Baroque Varaždin a popular excursion from Zagreb. Stari Grad is Varaždin’s magnificent 12th-century castle, and the centerpiece of any visit to the former Croatian capital, which today is one of northern Croatia’s main cultural and economic centers. Varaždin owes its character and its title of “Baroque Capital of Croatia” to an unfortunate 1776 fire that destroyed most of the town (though not its historic center)—a tragedy the town turned to its advantage when the ruined buildings were rebuilt as they appear today.
Trg Kralija Tomislava is Varaždin’s main square and it’s lined with the best Baroque façades in town, conveniently identified with plaques that explain their lineage. Start at the 15th-century Town Hall (Gradska Vijećnica), with its 18th-century clock tower. From there, go south to the Cathedral of the Assumption, the town’s first Baroque building. The cathedral was built in the mid-18th century by the Jesuits, who also built a monastery among their other contributions to Varaždin.
Every year since 1971, from late September into early October, the town has hosted Varaždin Baroque Evenings (www.vbv.hr), a festival of after-dark concerts that attract Baroque music enthusiasts from Croatia and beyond.
Most recently, “The New York Times” listed Varaždin as one of “52 Places to Go in 2014.”