Croatia is a land of many wonders, some of which date back to early medieval times. Unsurprisingly enough, the location scouts working for HBO’s hit TV series Game of Thrones have chosen to shoot scenes in the cinematic backdrops of Dubrovnik, Trsteno, Split and Lokrum. But medieval Croatia doesn’t end with the great walls of Dubrovnik. Royal palaces and medieval strongholds are scattered all over the country. If you consider yourself a castle-chaser, here are the top castles in Croatia you should put on your bucket list.
Despite being built a century prior to the medieval period, Diocletian’s Palace is a focal point for any tourist visiting Split and its surroundings. The massive royal residence actually takes up about half of the city’s territory, although the peristyle courtyard and its surrounding columns are the most famous points of interest for tourists. The palace was meant to serve as the residence of Emperor Diocletian and nowadays remains of it can be spotted all over Split’s center.
The Trakošćan castle dates all the way back to the distant 13th century. At first it served not so much as a residency as it did as an observation point and a stronghold. It changed numerous owners throughout the ages, most of whom were Croats and Astro-Hungarians. In the 19th century it was reconstructed, expanded and refurnished in the Romantism and Gothic Revival movements, with said reconstructions significantly contributing to the castle’s present day looks. The castle is a property of the Croatian government and houses a museum.
Dating back to 1808, built on the account of Count Ladislav Mailath and inspired by the English Tudor style, this castle was commissioned as a grand manor that would be able to fully accommodate all guests of the Prandau family. With a lush park, extensive courtyard that once had a bowling alley, a plethora of rooms and bedchambers and tons of gorgeous balconies, the castle was a vision of style that hosted aristocratic guests all year round. Some legends say that it was built to impress the late Emperor Franz Joseph, whereas others claim the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand used the area as his personal hunting grounds.
Initially meant to be as a system of fortifications and later transformed into a residential castle, this early 13th century gem is perched on a hill overlooking the Kupa river. Regardless of its proximity to the Slovenian border, it’s not a typical overcrowded touristy destination. In the old days it served as a residential palace for the Zrisnki and Frankopan families. Moreover, it was also a key point in the infamous coup plotted against said two families, which would later remain in history as the Magnate Conspiracy. Nowadays the castle grounds hold a library and a museum.
Veliki Tabor should definitely be on your to-visit list of castles in Croatia, especially if you have children. This medieval façade isn’t as picturesque as some other palaces in the country, but it offers entertainment for youngsters and adults alike. Numerous art and history exhibitions are hosted here all year round and kids can enjoy a selection of workshops from January through December – medieval archery, clay-shaping, puppet making and other thematic workshops are constantly held inside. In other words, you won’t find a better kid-friendly castle for family trips in Croatia than Veliki Tabor.
The Klis complex (once consisting of fortifications, a royal castle, a church and other structures) used to be the royal residence of various rulers during the medieval times of the Duchy of Croatia and later the Kingdom of Croatia. The very first foundations were laid down by ancient Illyrians and the complex was reconstructed on countless occasions throughout the centuries. Even though what’s left of it is mostly ruined, the castle grounds still hold exhibitions of medieval weapons and armory, as well as occasional choreographed re-enactments of historical battles.