Set on the northern side of the island of Hvar, opposite Hvar Town, Stari Grad is the other major tourist destination on the island.
Those who have visited claim that Stari Grad doesn’t hold quite the same appeal as Hvar Town, but if you’re interested in history and culture, then you should definitely take the time to visit it anyway.
The town’s history is impressive after all – it is the oldest town in Croatia and one of the oldest in Europe.
It was settled by Greeks who came here from the island of Paros in 384 BC.
Later the Romans inhabited the ancient town, and later still the Slav people.
The Slavs named the town Hvar, but when the island’s capital was moved to what’s now known as Hvar Town, this town became known as ‘old city’ – Stari Grad.
Stari Grad Plain
Today the town is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Stari Grad Plain, which is an agricultural landscape recognised by UNESCO for its cultural importance.
Those first Greek colonists set up the ancient agricultural plain in the 4th century BC, and today it is still used in largely the same way as back then.
It’s amazing to think that the walls that divide the land, and the water collection system, actually dates back to Greek times and has been meticulously maintained over a period of twenty-four centuries!
You can hike into and around this area to get a look at the ancient way of agriculture yourself.
The main crops cultivated back then and still to this day are vines and olives.
While exploring, you should look out for the remains of several Roman period buildings, as well as a couple of Illyrian forts.
The old town is centred around the agricultural plain, while there was a newer section of the town built by the Venetians in the 13th century.
The Venetians offered protection to the people of Stari Grad as long as the town on the southern side of the island (now Hvar Town) was expanded so that the Venetian fleet could use it.
The Turks attacked Stari Grad in the 16th century, and many buildings were destroyed, but rebuilding quickly began.
Now you’ll find a good selection of buildings with medieval Renaissance architecture dating from just after that period.
There are numerous churches to visit, and on the edges of town is a castle built as a fortified summer residence for Petar Haktorovic, a Croatian poet.
Today it is a well preserved Renaissance-style building with an interior courtyard that contains a sea-water fish pond.
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Getting to Hvar Island
There’s no airport on the island of Hvar so you’ll have to arrive by boat.
If you’re chartering a luxury yacht around the Adriatic, this scenic island should be one of your planned stops.
There is a yacht marina named Riva in Hvar Town or several other places you could stop offshore.
Most of the visitors coming to Hvar will arrive on the ferry from the mainland.
There are two options – the slower car ferry takes around two hours and arrives near the ancient town of Stari Grad, or the faster hydrofoil service that takes about an hour and arrives at Hvar Town.
This service comes from Split on the mainland.
Suppose you prefer a more personalised, luxury service. In that case, there are a couple of other options – the Dalmatia-Express is a 24-hour boat service from Split or the airport, or there’s the Adriatic-Express which offers a similar high-speed transport option.
Weather and climate
Hvar is hugely sunny and benefits from a wonderful Mediterranean climate.
On average, in a year, the town of Hvar has 2,800 hours of sunshine and 7.7 hours a day, compared to Dubrovnik, which has a respectable 7.2 hours.
July and August are the busiest months because they have the best weather – an average high of 29C and low of 21C, and only minimal rainfall.
June’s temperatures are very similar, while September is just a couple of degrees cooler but does experience more rainfall.
For a quieter atmosphere come in the winter; it’s mild, but typical of a Mediterranean climate, this is the wettest time of the year.
Main Attractions on the Island
Known simply as Hvar but often called Hvar Town or Hvar City to distinguish it from the island of Hvar, this city is the largest on the island and its top tourist destination.
The beautiful streets, architecture, coastal location, and surrounding hills and mountains make Hvar Town a very scenic place, and it’s busy in the peak summer season without being too overcrowded.
When visiting Hvar Town, here are some of the top things to see and do.
The Town Square
The giant town square (known locally as Pjaca – meaning Piazza) is the heart of the town, and it’s easy to see why!
It is the largest town square in the Dalmatia region, measuring 4,500 square metres, the whole of which was paved way back in 1780.
Various buildings are lining the square, but all beautiful in their ways – they date from the period between the 15th and 17th centuries and include St Stephen’s Cathedral.
This cathedral has soma parts that date back as far as the 14th century, but with additions from the following three centuries, the cathedral has many different infusions of architecture.
Other significant buildings to see include the Bishop’s Palace, the Paladini Palace, and the Hektorovic Palace, which remains unfinished.
The Loggia (Loza) is a magnificent building, and it has more Venetian influences in its architecture. Along with the clock tower, this is all that remains of the former Governor’s Palace.
Town Walls and Fortress
The Town Walls of Hvar date originally from the 13th century though there have been some alterations and additions in later centuries.
You can get a view of the walls if you look up toward the fortress as they stretch from here down to the square, where some houses and buildings have been built into the walls.
The fortress itself, known as the Spanish Fort, dates from the 1580s when a new defence had to be built following the destruction of the old one due to a gunpowder explosion.
Outside the Town
If you have time to venture a little farther outside of Hvar Town, there are several other charming places to visit.
To the south of town, a cape is a Franciscan Monastery and church, built in the late 15th century to the Renaissance style.
There is also a Renaissance style country home to the east of the town, built in 1530.
This is a lovely historic home to visit and was the summer home of Hanibal Lucic.
You can visit the house as it is preserved as a museum and set among beautiful gardens.
More things to do on Hvar Island
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