Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Discovering Continental Croatia

Discovering the highlights of continental Croatia | Adelante

Often overlooked for the glamour of the Dalmatian Coast, continental Croatia abounds with charms that are not to be missed. From the vibrant capital of Zagreb to the lush rolling hills of Zagorje, countless hidden gems are sprinkled throughout this underrated region.

Compared to the Mediterranean vibes of its coastal counterparts, continental Croatia boasts a distinctly central European flair. In turn, fewer tourists flock to the charismatic inland region. While its darling villages, medieval castles and impressive cuisine deserve a larger fan club, the smaller crowds allow for a more authentic taste of Croatia.

Though Croatia's coastal treasures are magical in their own right, it's worth getting off the beaten path to discover the highlights of continental Croatia.


ZAGREB

Zagreb | Discovering Continental Croatia

Croatia's quirky capital has become a vibrant hub of culture, arts and gastronomy. Surrounded by striking architecture reminiscent of the Austro-Hungarian empire, one may feel transported to nearby central European capitals, such as Budapest or Vienna. While some of its aesthetics may be similar, Zagreb playfully upholds a distinct personality.

From colorful street art to offbeat galleries, such as the Museum of Broken Relationships, there's no shortage of things to do in Zagreb. Explore the upper town, admire the picturesque cathedrals, indulge in the café culture, or experience the nightlife on Tkalčićeva Street. For some of capital's best cuisine, head to Vinodol for the roasted lamb and a phenomenal selection of wine.

Zagreb | Discovering Continental Croatia
Zagreb | Discovering Continental Croatia
Zagreb | Discovering Continental Croatia


After experiencing Zagreb's lively and unconventional charms, take a day trip to the lush Zagorje region, stopping at:


TRAKOŠĆAN CASTLE

Trakoscan Castle | Discovering Continental Croatia

Hidden in the hills of Zagorje, medieval Trakošćan Castle commands the countryside. Built as a fortress in the late 13th century and later inhabited by nobility, this historic manor functioned as a private residence until the state claimed the land in 1944.

The castle is adorned with historic furniture, decorations, weapons and photography displays. Among the well-preserved rooms, the antiquated kitchen is perhaps the most intriguing. Though the castle is not as opulent as other European palaces, Trakošćan gives a unique glimpse into the lives of Croatian aristocracy.

IMG_3668-9
Trakoscan Castle | Discovering Continental Croatia

VARAŽDIN

Varazdin | Discovering Continental Croatia

Straight out of a fairytale, the delightful village of Varaždin has all of the medieval charm of Prague without any of the crowds. Formerly the capital of Croatia, Varaždin is home to a majestic castle, an impressive array of museums and palaces, and a parade of pastel buildings.

With its quaint cobblestone streets, whimsical Baroque architecture and bright bursts of color, one can't help but wonder, "Where are the hordes of tourists?" While Varaždin's lack of crowds may initally come as a surprise, it is a decidedly refreshing change of pace.

The town itself is so darling, you halfway expect the locals to burst into song. If Trakošćan Castle didn't already make you feel like royalty, wandering the streets of Varaždin will surely turn Zagorje into a real life Disney movie.

Varazdin | Discovering Continental Croatia
Varazdin | Discovering Continental Croatia

RESTORAN BEDEM

Bedem, Varazdin | Discovering Continental Croatia

Named one of the Top 10 restaurants in Croatia, Bedem is the crown jewel of Varaždin. Two distinguished Croatian chefs have come together to establish this gastronomic gem, which is nestled just behind Varaždin's castle. Using fresh and local ingredients, Bedem serves some of the highest quality creations in continental Croatia.

Here I indulged on a five-course meal that was arguably one of the best dining experiences of my life. Every dish was bursting with flavor, and the chefs went above and beyond to accommodate my gluten-free needs. Out of all the incredible meals I devoured in Croatia, my feast at Bedem was surely the most memorable.

Bedem, Varazdin | Discovering Continental Croatia
Bedem, Varazdin | Discovering Continental Croatia
Bedem, Varazdin | Discovering Continental Croatia


Just a two-hour drive from Zagreb, you can also find the sublime natural wonders of Plitvice Lakes National Park


Is Croatia on your bucket list?
If so, would you venture inland?


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