Varaždin is one of the most important tourist centers of northern Croatia. The old town fortification, the central part of the town, numerous museums, galleries and collections as well as the Varaždin cemetery, protected as a horticultural monument, represent the main tourist attractions of this Central European Baroque town and ancient Croatian capital. Varaždin is located on the right bank of the Drava river in north-western Croatia, 79 km north of Zagreb.
The first written reference to Varaždin dates back to 1181, when the nearby thermal springs Varaždinske Toplice were mentioned by King Bela III in a legal document.
In 1209 Varaždin was declared a free royal borough by the Croatian-Hungarian King Andrew II which allowed it to develop into the economic and military centre of northern Croatia. Due to the frequent Ottoman raids, the town was structured defensively around the old fortress, thus acquiring the shape of a typical medieval Wasserburg. As early as the 13th century the Knights Hospitaller (in Croatian Ivanovci) came to Varaždin, where they built a church and a monastery.
At the end of the 14th century the Varaždin fortress passed into the hands of the Earls of Celje. Over the following centuries Varaždin had several owners, the most influential being Beatrice Frankopan, Margrave Juraj of Brandenburg, who built the town hall; the last was Baron Ivan Ungnad, who reinforced the existing fortification. When at the end of the 16th century Count Toma Bakač Erdödy became its owner, assuming the hereditary position of Varaždin prefect (župan), the fortress remained in the ownership of his family until 1925.
In 1756, Ban Franjo Nadasdy chose Varaždin as his official residence turning Varaždin into the capital of all of Croatia. It hosted Croatian Sabor and the Royal Croatian Council founded by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.
Reformation and the counter-reformation left a lasting mark on Varaždin. With the arrival of the Jesuits, the school and the convent were founded. Furthermore, a number of churches and monasteries were built in the baroque style. As Varaždin was the seat of many Croatian noblemen in 1756 it became the administrative center of Croatia. However, when the great fire of 1776 destroyed most of the town, administrative institutions moved back to Zagreb.
By the 19th century Varaždin had been completely rebuilt and expanded. Crafts and commerce, and later the manufacture of silk and bricks flourished resulting in the creation of the town's theatre, music school, and fire department.
Due to its adventageous geographic location, the town is easily accessible to many neighbouring countries.
Buses are very frequent from Zagreb and take around 90 minutes - check the timetables or the Zagreb Bus Station's website  for times. Services into the neighbouring areas are quite frequent, some going over the border into Hungary. Buses also leave from other major Croatian cities almost daily for Varaždin. Online information for buses to Varaždin can be found at the Varaždin Transit website .
International departures (especially for Austria, Germany, Hungary and beyond) often make a stop in the town, and if there is a later bus that day, companies normally honour a 'break of journey' to visit the town for a few hours.
Note in Varaždin that the bus station is located on the western side of town, and the railway station is located on the eastern side, with a distance of around 2km between.
Travellers from Zagreb can use A4 motorway which will take them to their destination in less than an hour.
The most scenic and cheapest (but slowest) way to get to Varaždin from Zagreb is a local train (2h20) stopping at every station between the two cities. The price of a return ticket is 80kn (roughly 10 euros), with discounts for ISIC card holders. Recently, the speed of the journey dramatically improved with the addition of a faster (though more expensive) alternative of the high-speed tilting train connection operated by Hrvatske željeznice (Croatian railways).
As of May 2008, the train station in Varaždin was closed for renovations. Trains still ran, but timetable information and tickets needed to be purchased elsewhere.
Decent lunch can be found in Zlatne ruke (Golden hands). Best place for pizza and pasta is Angelus, accross the street from the city park. One can find delicious pizza in Rebus, about 10 km in Kučan (dirfections have to be added). Zvonimir restaurant provides great pizzas and there are many restaurants outside of Varazdin such as Cesljas on Varazdin breg. McDonalds is i Vrazova street. Next to the McDonalds there is Billy Kebab. The best kebap can be found in Zagtrebačka, 50 m south of the post office, and Gajeva street (same oweners). One can get pizza slices 30m from McDonalds.
There are numerous cafés in the centre. Bars with R&B music are Soho, Tiki Bar, Morgans Bar, Mea Culpa, Hard Rock Caffe. Main stream alternatives can have a good time in Lavra. One can enjoy a good beer and rock music in Vienna or Caffe Theatre (formerly known az Rogoz), and Kult. Vienna is across the road from the town theatre, Caffe Theathre is in the theather, and Kult is 200 m from the first two bars.