Discover Croatia: Veliki Tabor Castle
Once upon a time…..that’s how all fairy-tales begin, don’t they? Croatia is full of fairy-tale castles and legends. You just need to go further inland to discover more of Croatia, not just its stunning coastline.
Veliki Tabor Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Croatia. It’s been on my to-visit list for a while. When I discussed visiting it with my husband the original idea was to spend a weekend in Zagorje region of Croatia and to visit both the castle and the baroque town Varaždin as well as several other worthy tourist attractions in the area. But we had to let go of that idea this time and we settled on a day trip to Veliki Tabor Castle with our baby boy.
Zagorje region is a lush green area of Croatia full of small villages and hills. There are several spa centers there too as well as newly modernized Krapina Neanderthal Museum which I still haven’t visited. It really is a better idea to spend several days in the area and to visit more castles or to enjoy spa treatments but as I’ve already mentioned we couldn’t do that.
One sunny Sunday in September we left our home and drove towards Veliki Tabor Castle. The castle is situated in northwestern Croatia, very close to Slovenia and only over an hour from Zagreb. That was a proper day trip for us since the castle is more than two and a half hours drive one way from our home (basically it was the same distance as our day trip to Udine in Italy 🙂 ). And when you travel with a baby you have to think about the baby’s needs too (food, change of diapers, sleep etc.). It was a pleasant drive and our baby didn’t fuss much but we did have to make a stop before the castle so that I could feed him.
Definitely use a GPS to find the castle 🙂 There are road signs showing the way to the castle but only when you come relatively close to it. You can drive directly to the castle and park your car in front of it in an improvised parking lot. There are no parking meters or tea rooms nearby or any other facilities that you can find when visiting a castle in England, for example. There’s a tiny souvenir shop at the ticket office though and clean toilets.
The first thing you’ll notice about Veliki Tabor Castle is how new it looks. Don’t you worry, it’s a very old castle (dating back to 15th ct) but it was painstakingly renovated recently and that’s why it looks pristinely white. The best view of the entire castle is from the road below so make sure to stop when you’re driving towards it. A couple of minutes before the castle is some kind of a parking lot on the left and there you’ll see a model of the castle. So, stop there too and take several photos. You could also maybe leave the car there and walk on the road for a bit until you see a grassy pathway uphill to the castle. We didn’t do that. We parked right in front of the castle and put our baby boy in his carrier (my husband is in charge of the baby carrier:) ) and started our sightseeing of the castle.
There’s a grand courtyard at the entrance and stairs leading up to two levels.There are no elevators of course so if you’ve got a stroller for your baby, leave it at the courtyard and carry the baby. I admired the renovation works because frankly I felt like I could almost smell the paint that’s how new everything seemed.
There are several exhibitions at the castle telling the story of the castle’s history. You can learn about the families who owned it, for example an Irish family Kavanagh-Ballyane who acquired the castle in 19th ct. There are torture instruments and weapons at the castle too. I don’t want to spoil the visit for you by describing all that you can see at the castle so I won’t say much more. But I have to mention briefly the legend of Veronika Desinićka.
Veronika was a young beautiful girl who fell in love with a son of a mighty lord. The young couple eloped and secretly married but the lord sent an army to catch them. He imprisoned his own son in a tower for many years while he accused Veronika of witchcraft. The judges said she was only to be blamed for loving the lord’s son, nothing else and they set her free. However, the lord had Veronika drowned and he walled her dead body in one of the castles’s towers. The legend says that you can hear Veronika’s cries in the castle…
My husband and I enjoyed visiting the castle. There weren’t many visitors so we explored the castle leisurely. Our baby boy wanted to grab some of the big weapons displayed (can’t remember the right word for it in English, see the photo) so I think he liked the castle too :). There’s a research room for the children, some sort of quiz they can do after the visit. In the end I didn’t take that many photos because I was too busy just taking everything in.
We had lunch in a nearby village after our visit of the castle and then drove back home. Actually, before we went to the lunch we wanted to see Miljana Castle too which is just ten minutes away from Veliki Tabor. What I had forgotten is that Miljana Castle is privately owned castle and you need to make a booking in advance if you want to visit it so we couldn’t see it after all. Another gorgeous castle isn’t too far from Veliki Tabor Castle and that’s Trakošćan Castle (an hour away). I’ve visited it as a child so now it’s up to me to show it to my boy one day. In my humble opinion, those are the two most beautiful castles in Croatia.
Would you like to visit Veliki Tabor Castle? You can check my other discover Croatia posts too and check my category Croatia for all Croatian posts. Also, have you read my post about Croatia’s lesser known castle Ozalj Castle?