Eighteenth-century churches, houses, and public buildings are just some of the charms that make baroque Varazdin a popular excursion from Zagreb. Stari Grad is Varazdin'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. Varazdin owes its baroque 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 advantage when the ruined buildings were rebuilt as they appear today.
Trg Kralija Tomislava is Varazdin's main square and lined with the best baroque facades in town, which are conveniently identified with plaques that explain their lineage. Start at the 15th-century Town Hall (Gradska Vijecnica), with its 18th-century clock tower. 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 and other buildings in Varazdin. Just outside the Cathedral, you'll find Herzer Palace (Dvor Herzer) and the Varazdin Insect Museum (Entomoloski Odjel), which has especially interesting displays of butterflies. There are other pleasing buildings and museums to visit in Varazdin, but Stari Grad is unquestionably the town's top attraction.