There are numerous reasons why you should visit Stari Grad. One of them is that this is one of the oldest towns in Croatia and Europe. It was found in the fourth century B.C. by Greeks who called it initially Pharos. Hvar’s “elderling” is located on the north coast of the island. The name of the settlement literally means “an old town”.
The whole place looks like a museum, so you have a perfect opportunity to see how Dalmatians lived centuries ago by exploring Stari Grad. Stari Grad owns its charm and the way it looks today to all those who once tried or did conquer this little segment of land. Among those who left their heritage in Stari Grad were the Illyrians, Greeks, Venetians, Austro-Hungarians.
Start from the picturesque promenade which lies along the deep inlet filled with yachts and fishing boats, surrounded with miniature quarters on one side and lane villas among pine and cypress trees on the other.
While strolling along the waterfront, you’ll neither meet here crowds of people, nor you’ll be disturbed by loud sounds. This though doesn’t mean that Stari Grad is boring and it has nothing to show to its guests. On the contrary, those who favor different architecture styles, artists and history enthusiasts will be satisfied with what they see here. Simply buzz of from the quay and you’ll discover a maze of narrow streets full of old houses, pretty doors and old windows, snug cafes with just several tables and miniature shops, where local merchants sell eco goods.
Being in Stari Grad you somehow feel as if you’re visiting a cosy little French village but with a special Adriatic hospitality. Its redolent fragrance, especially when orange trees blossom, daily symphony of various sounds, such as fishermen little wooden boats coming and going, anchorage of super yachts, church belling, windows shutters creaking, flap of birds’ wings, transform Stari Grad into a peaceful oasis with a special ambience.
It would be fair to say that the “Old Town” is more discreet than the city of Hvar, which is more popular among tourists. Unlike epicurean Hvar with its turbulent night life, Stari Grad is much quieter place. So it is not the place where you’d come to party, but rather to enjoy local atmosphere of life.
In case the yacht you charter drops the anchor outside of the town, you can easily get on a stand-up paddle board when it’s quiet in the early hours of the day and explore surrounding area. If you are swimmer and like to participate in marathons, then perhaps you’d be interested to take part in the international swimming competition Faros Marathon which has been taking place here every August for the past 40 years.
One of the most remarkable sites to visit in Stari Grad is not a church or a museum. It is a summer residence of Croatian famous writer, a historian, and a diplomat Petar Hektorović who lived in the 15th and 16th centuries. The place is known as Tvrdalj castle. The fortified residence was built by Hektorović. Tvrdalj has a beautiful garden and a fishpond with green waters.
It’s a marvel that a wonderful patio that was looked after by its owner five centuries ago still appeals to the eye the way it did before. It is one of the most romantic places in town and an oasis among ancient stone jungle, a sanctuary where one gets inspired and feels peaceful. It is a garden where another parallel world exists.
However, it would be a crime to say that this villa served only as a summer residence to the poet. The house represents humanist philosophy of the poet, and he built it as a safe ‘harbor’ to all the creatures created by God.
If open during the time of your visit, make sure to stop by the Church of St. Peter and the Dominican Monastery in Stari Grad. It is founded at the end of the 15th century. Numerous works of arts inside the church amaze with the beauty. A paining by Venetian master Tintoretto called “The Mourning of Christ” is the most valuable piece of art here.
Also stop by Stari Grad’s tiny baroque square Škor. Travelers call it one of the most beautiful squares in the whole Mediterranean.
It is imperative that you give a look in St. Stephen’s Square circled with ideal facades of houses, a church and a bell tower. There you’ll have a feeling that you are in a doll town, because everything looks perfect – a symmetry of building, their colors and shapes. Standing on this cobblestone piazza you just want to freeze for a moment and get an eyeful of history which gently whispers its secrets from every spot.
Residents or visitors of Stari Grad who wouldn’t stay put, rent bicycles and ride around the town and its suburbs. It is also an easy way to reach a famous site located just outside of the town. We’re talking about Stari Grad Plain – one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is a beautiful natural reserve, a cultural landscape with fields, stone wells and ancient remains. It is unique in many ways. One of the reasons it got under protection of UNESCO is that this land is still divided by locals using ancient Greek geometrical system. Plus, people still maintain these fields using the techniques of the Ionian Greeks who colonized this area more than two millennia ago.
Aside from the plain you can check local vineyards and olive groves, lavender fields if they still bloom and simply feel the cleanest and freshest air of the island on your face.
As for lavender, Hvar is the place where this violet herb grows and blooms. Many Croatian souvenirs are made of lavender. In Stari Grad you can buy something to remind yourself of a beautiful vacation in Croatia, for example, lavender honey.
Another reason why you’d want to come to Stari Grad is food, of course. Fruits and vegetables come from nearby extremely ferrite fields. The wine and olive oil are local too. So when you order a meal at one of plenty local restaurant, most probably you will have only fresh ingredients served on your plate. You just need to choose where to dine. Some of the places are located at the beautiful waterfront in little ancient hermitages with stone and wooden interiors, others you’ll find hidden in the nooks of the old town.
It is a true gastronomy pleasure to taste freshly cooked fish soup with home baked bread. Local delights to test are dainty lavender cake, homemade honey, and Paprenjak cookies.
Nevertheless, it would be unfair to tell you all the secrets which Stari Grad holds, that’s why let it be your own journey around this magnificent fraction of land. Come and discover it while being on vacation aboard a luxury super yacht or a beautiful motor-sailor.