8 legendary castles and fortresses to see and do in Croatia

Château médiéval de Nehaj surplombant la mer Adriatique

Want to visit Croatia? We’ve put together a list of must-see castles and historic fortresses.

Croatia ‘s castles and fortresses are majestic witnesses to a past rich in history and legend. From their imposing ramparts to their majestic towers, these medieval architectural gems invite you to immerse yourself in the fascinating heritage of this enchanting country. Stories of knights, princesses and decisive battles await you in these legendary places.

The Saint-Laurent fortress (Tvrdava Lovrijenac)

Tvrdava Lovrijenac

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Discover the majestic Saint-Laurent fortress, also known as Tvrdava Lovrijenac, located west of the city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Perched on a rocky spur overlooking the sea, this fortress is a true architectural gem. Rising to an impressive height of 37m, it is nicknamed the « Gibraltar of Dubrovnik ». It was in the 11th century, in just three months, that the building was erected by Dubrovnik’s civilian population to thwart the Venetians’ plans for conquest. A motto carved into the stones proudly proclaims: « Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro » (Freedom cannot be sold, even for all the gold in the world).

The Saint-Laurent fortress is also famous for being the setting for the Game of Thrones series. Come and meet this place steeped in history, which will transport you to a distant past, where fearlessness and courage were the watchwords.

Klis fortress (Tvrdava Klis)

forteresse de Klis

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This imposing fortress perched on a slender rocky spur, just 17km from Split, offers breathtaking views of the coastline and the Klis Pass. With its three superimposed walls, it played a crucial role in the defense of Dalmatia against the Ottomans, testifying to its strategic importance in the face of numerous invasions. And don’t forget to visit the small adjoining historical museum to discover some fascinating artefacts.

Close to the Klis fortress is Split’s old town, where you can discover the famous Diocletian‘s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Stroll through the cobbled streets and soak up the unique atmosphere of this ancient Roman palace. Complete your stay by relaxing on the magnificent beaches of the Dalmatian coast, where you can enjoy the sun and the Adriatic Sea. Immerse yourself in history and soak up Croatia’s architectural beauty with a visit to the Klis fortress and its surroundings.

Trakošćan Castle

Le château de Trakošćan

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Discover Trakošćan Castle in Croatia’s Hrvatsko Zagorje region. Built in 1334, this castle is a cultural and historical symbol of the region. Restored in neo-Gothic style, it now houses a museum dedicated to the Croatian aristocracy, where fascinating collections are on display. Perched on a hill, the castle offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding waters. The nearby gardens and lake create a magical atmosphere. Then explore the ramparts and towers, and let yourself be captivated by the captivating stories that surround this site.

St Michael’s Fortress (Tvrdava SV. Mihovila)

forteresse Saint-Michel

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Discover the majestic St. Michael’s Fortress in Sibenik. This medieval fortress, perched on St. Anne’s Hill 70m above the sea, offers a breathtaking panorama of the city and canal. Considered one of Sibenik’s most important cultural monuments, this fortress, steeped in history and mystery, was built in the 11th century. Over the ages, it changed hands many times, passing from Croatian nobles to Croatian-Hungarian kings, then to Byzantium and finally to the Venetians until the 18th century.

Today, the fortress is home to a renowned arts center offering exhibitions and concerts, providing visitors with a unique cultural experience. Whether you’re a history buff or simply in search of new discoveries, the Saint-Michel fortress is a must-see when visiting historic Croatia.

St. Nicholas Fortress (Tvrđava Sv. Nikole)

forteresse Saint-Nicolas

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Discover the St. Nicholas Fortress, a veritable architectural treasure that stands on the islet of Ljuljevac, at the mouth of the Krka River in Šibenik. This majestic fortress was built by the Venetians in the 16th century to protect the port. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017, it tells a fascinating story and bears witness to the heritage of this region.

A Benedictine monastery dedicated to St. Nicholas once stood on the islet, giving its name to the fortress. Its primary role was to repel attacks from Turkish ships and ensure the safety of the port. Today, you can reach the fortress by water cab, or spend an enchanting night on board a sailboat in the surrounding islands. Every summer, classical music concerts are held here, adding a unique atmosphere to this place steeped in history. So don’t miss this opportunity to immerse yourself in Croatia’s heritage.

Veliki Tabor Castle

château de Veliki Tabor

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Discover Veliki Tabor Castle, one of Croatia’s medieval treasures. Standing on a hill 333m above sea level, you can see enemies coming from 30km away! Its late Gothic architecture and imposing ramparts bear witness to its original role as a defensive fortress against the Ottomans.

What makes this place particularly fascinating are the mysteries and legends that surround it. It is said that the skull of Veronika de Desenice, executed for her forbidden love affair with the son of the castle’s owner, still rests here. Some even claim to hear her screams nearby. Immerse yourself in this ghostly atmosphere with a visit to Veliki Tabor Castle, an immersive experience of the life of the Croatian medieval aristocracy. Nearby, you can also explore the town of Krapina and its fascinating Neanderthal museum.

Nehaj fortress

forteresse de Nehaj

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Built in 1558 from the stones of ruined churches, monasteries and houses, this cube-shaped fortress instantly takes you back to the region’s tumultuous past. To reach it, you’ll climb stairs, cross a wooden bridge and pass through narrow gates. At the top of the hill, you’ll be rewarded with a sensational view of the region and the bay. Close to the fortress is the charming town of Senj, with its cobbled streets, ancient churches and coastal ambience.

Ozalj Castle

château d'Ozalj

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Located in the Karlovac region, this 13th-century castle takes you on a journey through time. Its architecture, magnificently renovated and restored over the years, is now more baroque than medieval. Perched on a small cliff on the banks of the River Kupa, Ozalj Castle overlooks the surrounding lush forests and plump hills.

In addition to its enchanting setting, Ozalj Castle has played an important cultural role, once hosting literary and artistic circles. Today, it houses a museum tracing the history of the region, as well as a library where you can delve deeper into the captivating tales of this place steeped in history.

So, are you ready to plunge into Croatia’s medieval world of legendary castles and fortresses? From Dubrovnik to Zagreb, via Split and Šibenik, these historic sites are brimming with fascinating stories and breathtaking architecture. Don’t hesitate to share your suggestions for your favorite castles and fortresses in the comments, and come and discover the magic of these emblematic places for yourself. So, are you ready to be transported back in time and enjoy an unforgettable experience in Croatia?