If you’ve ever visited the coast of Istria you probably already know its towns are packed with beautiful historical sites, that its countryside is a fantastic place for a number of recreational activities and that its restaurants offer the best of Istrian dishes. But the inland of the Istrian peninsula hides secret gems, too, places that are just waiting for you to discover and enjoy them.
The town of Pazin is one of those places that proves you don’t need to have a sea view nearby to have more than enough to offer your visitors. Located in the very heart of Istria, this lovely town has its own fort, its own stunning natural sites (the trifecta of Pazin Abyss, river Pazincica and the Pazin Cave), its fair share of recreational activities (ziplining, adrenaline park, free climbing) and restaurants with traditional dishes, surrounded by the lush Istrian landscape.
And if you want to enjoy swimming and sunbathing while on vacation, the Pazin’s waterfall Zarecki Krov will prove to be the perfect spot for that.
Historical places in Pazin
1.1. Parish church of St. Nicholas
First constructed in 1266 this church is famous for its Gothic frescoes painted sometime around the middle of the 15th century. They are considered the best examples of the Gothic art of the Istrian peninsula.
1.2. Pazin Castle
The biggest fort in Istria, first mentioned in 983, was a much-coveted piece of property throughout history, changing owners and lords almost on a regular basis. Today it houses the Ethnographic Museum of Istria and The Pazin Town Museum.
1.3. Church of St. Mary on Skriljinah
Located just outside of Pazin, near the village of Beram, this church is adorned with frescoes made by Vincent of Kastav. During the renovations in the Baroque period all the frescoes were painted over, only to be uncovered and restored at the beginning of the 20th century.
1.4. Franciscan Monastery with the Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary
The simple but effective architecture of this monastery once served as both the hospital and the pharmacy run by the Franciscan monks. Its rich library is the oldest preserved of its kind in Istria and has been declared a cultural heritage.
1.5. Church of the Mother of God
The entire eastern wall of this church located on the main square in Gracisce is covered with a painting of the Adoration of the Magi.
2.1. Pazin Abyss
A site of nature that served as an inspiration to both Jules Verne and (allegedly) Dante Alighieri sits beneath the Pazin’s fort, leads towards the Pazin Cave, and can be explored along a walking trail or during an adrenaline ziplining adventure.
2.2. Zip-lining over the Pazin Abyss
You can zip line across Istria’s most famous abyss down four different zip lines. The most adrenaline-raising one is 280 meters long, offers acceleration up to 50 km/h and gives the best view of the cave and the fort of Pazin.
2.3. Pazin Cave
The legend says this cave was created by the giant Ban Dragonja. Science says it was created as a result of tectonic and hydrological forces. Regardless of what you believe visiting the cave will be a true speleo adventure since you’ll be ziplining your way across its lake.
2.4. Zarecki Roof - Zarecki Krov
Pouring over the plateau that is really the roof of a cave, the river Pazincica drops into a gorgeous waterfall, in a scene right out of a fantasy movie. This is the locals’ favourite place for swimming and sunbathing. The surrounding rocks have been set up for free climbing, so if you’re a fan of this recreational activity visiting the Zarecki Krov is a must.
2.5. Free climbing at Zarecki Krov and Lido
For all aficionados of this activity the rocks around these two locations are perfect for free climbing. Both climbing sites are marked and equipped with the climbing infrastructure, and the Lido location will have you climbing in the canyon of the river Pazincica.
2.6. Adrenaline park Kringa
Get your adrenaline running with quad riding, four zip lines and two obstacle paths that will engage all your muscles and give you the daily dose of excitement you need.
Best of culture and tradition in Pazin
3.1. Ethnographic Museum of Istria
With a dozen museum collections, model blacksmith’s and carpenter’s workshops, a library and the museum archives, the Ethnographic Museum of Istria is the custodian of Istria’s rural traditions. Located inside the Pazin Castle its permanent exhibitions depict the everyday life of Istrian villages in the 19th century while the temporary exhibits change yearly and cover a wide selection of subject matter.
3.2. Pazin Samanj: the traditional Pazin fair
The largest traditional fair in Istria takes place on the first Tuesday of any given month, but in the past it was held every Saturday and was the central market for the exchange of agricultural surplus. While a good deal of the merchandise sold today is contemporary, the fair still retains its vintage rural charm and is a great place to shop for old trinkets to take home as souvenirs.
Best of dining in Pazin
4.1. Crni Dimnjak - Black Chimney
This grill restaurant is a family run business where all the food is baked exclusively on a wooden grill and soaked in the home-made meat dressing, which gives both meat and fish that tasty smoky flavour while retaining the juicy softness. Aside from baked dishes the menu offers pasta, risottos and a selection of deserts.
4.2. Tavern Bani
This tavern, located in the lush landscape of the river Pazincica, will give you the perfectly rounded experience of Pazin’s traditions. The staff will greet you dressed in traditional Istrian clothes to the sounds of traditional music. Needless to say that the recipes followed while preparing the Istrian and Mediterranean dishes are traditional, too, including the home-made pasta and the most famous Istrian delicacy, the truffles.
4.3. Restaurant Je Suis Inka
For a taste of international cuisine in Pazin Je Suis Inka is the place to go. Its lavish menu consists of the best of Croatian, French, Japanese and Chinese cuisine and includes home-made sausages, cheeses and prosciutto on an Istrian food platter, as well as wok dishes with various vegetables and shrimp.
4.4. Tavern Marino
The old fireplace in this tavern is more than just an impressive piece of decor: it is used for the cooking of some of the dishes right in front of the patrons, a detail that adds to the cozy traditional Istrian ambience of the place. The menu is just as impressive, with a number of appetizers and side dishes to accompany the main courses, and a wide selection of home-made pasta and sauces.
Why visit Pazin?
The impressive scenery of the Pazin Abyss and the medieval Pazin Castle towering over it served as an inspiration to the famous author Jules Verne for his Mediterranean adventure novel “Mathias Sandorf”. The protagonist, the Hungarian count Sandor, is incarcerated at the Pazin Castle and, while escaping, falls into the Abyss, where the river Pazincica eventually carries him to his freedom.
You’ll be able to explore these sites yourself, whether by walking or zip-lining, and no doubt have a great vacation story to share with your friends and family when you come home.
Art and history buffs will enjoy a sightseeing tour of the Pazin Castle which houses two museums, and a visit to local churches that are famous for their frescoes.
For the adventurers, Pazin offers adrenaline activities in the Pazin Abyss and its cave, free climbing sites, and an adrenaline park nearby.
The landscape of Pazin and its neighbourhood is lush and green, particularly in the summertime, and a wonderful place to enjoy a picnic in the quietness of nature, as well as a swim by the river’s waterfall.
And if you’d still like to pop down to the beach, Pazin is only 30 kilometers away from the Istrian coast, a mere half an hour’s car ride.
We hope our guide helps you navigate this wonderful medieval town, its historical and nature sites, and all the exciting activities it has to offer. We’d love to hear your thoughts on Pazin, so kindly share your impressions in the comment section below, and have an amazing time on your holiday!