Čakovec - Your Cultural Weekend Getaway

06 May 2024

Northern Croatia is home to a myriad of captivating cities and towns, but few can match the allure of Čakovec. Nestled 56 miles north of Zagreb (an hour or so by car), this is the largest city in Međimurje, a place that seamlessly blends history, culture, education, and modernity. Čakovec's story dates back centuries, all the way to Roman times when it was believed to host a military post and legionnaire camp. The city's first written mention was in 1328, but it wasn’t until the 16th century that its journey truly began. Under the rule of Nikola IV Zrinski, Čakovec flourished, gaining free market status on May 29, 1579, a date still celebrated as City Day here.


The centuries since have brought development, excitement, natural disasters and no shortage of change to Čakovec. Today, the town is a beautiful melting pot of its history, a gorgeous town recognised as one of the tidiest in the country (Čakovec is a two-time winner of the Green Flower for the tidiest continental city in Croatia) and a hotbed of innovation and organisation. Its cafes are alive with coffee and conversation, and its many landmarks make it a fantastic destination for anyone looking to explore the area beyond Zagreb. What is there to see, do and eat in Čakovec? The hard part is deciding where to start.

Čakovec Castle is the obvious starting point, as the old fortress mansion houses a conveyor belt of things to see and do that help put the city into context. The castle itself is mighty impressive, showcasing the development it underwent with the arrival of the Zrinski family in the 16th century, and the surrounding gardens provide some of the best walking conditions in the country. Furthermore, the castle is home to the Međimurje Museum, a brilliant deep-dive into Čakovec from the beginning to the future. The town's riches are on show for all to see, and the museum is a tremendous way to get to grips with Međimurje as a region. The multimedia exhibitions are engaging and exciting all at once, while the intangible assets of the area get plenty of space to shine.

Elsewhere in the city, the old Commercial Casino is a fascinating building, a Hungarian Secessionist structure completed in 1903 that used to welcome the rich and famous of town. While it no longer functions as a casino, it remains one of the most beautiful buildings in town. It might be the most beautiful casino you have ever seen. On the other end of the moral scale, the Church of St Nicholas and Franciscan Monastery dominate spiritual life in town. For those looking to venture further out of the centre, Feštetić Castle in neighbouring Pribislavec is well worth a visit.

Befitting a city with its energy, the Čakovec events calendar is packed with everything from food festivals to magical live music, with plenty occupying the space between. We’ve never met a Burger Weekend that we didn’t love, and Čakovec Burger Weekend (May 2 - 4) more than holds its own. The burgers are brilliant, the beer is fabulous, and Croatian hip-hop heroes Elemental provide a thrilling soundtrack to the 2024 edition. Elsewhere in May, Portland-born trumpet hero Chris Botti (May 15) is bringing his skills to town for one of the year's most anticipated shows. Botti is a Grammy Award-winning trailblazer who puts on some heck of a show, and he will be an apt headline act in the so-called City of Jazz. Throw in weekly live music at Mamas & Tapas and a bevvy of cultural extravaganzas for visitors of all ages, and you’ve got a city that knows how to have a good time. All weekend events are confirmed and announced through the excellent Čakovec Weekend service every Wednesday at midday on, as well as on Facebook and Instagram (@visitcakovec).

Are you feeling hungry after all that education and entertainment? If so, you are in luck, because the traditional tastes of Čakovec and the Međimurje region are guaranteed to satisfy. No trip here is complete without gorging on the town’s traditional soup, a thick broth made of sour cream, flour and milk. Buckwheat porridge is also very common in these parts and makes a brilliant addition to any meat-based meal, which accounts for plenty in Međimurje. Gluttonous carnivores should leave space for meso z tiblice, which is essentially a bucket of salted pork fat. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Speaking of leaving space, dessert is another must. The Međimurje layer cake is world-famous, and it isn’t difficult to understand why. Layers of poppy seeds, cheese, walnuts, and apples demand all that attention, after all. Cornflour zlevanka (a traditional cake) and krapci (pumpkin and poppyseed cake) are other dishes to add to any foodie's bucket list. Oh, and the wine? Simply divine.

History, creativity, architecture, jazz and layered cakes; what are you waiting for? Čakovec is one of the most underrated cities in Croatia, although this place isn’t going to stay secret for long. Get in before the rest of the world cottons on.


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