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Of the 1,200 islands that dot the Adriatic Sea along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, Hvar Island is the most famous. The island – Hvar Town, specifically – has long been known as a glamorous destination for posh party-goers, celebrities and uber-rich yacht owners. But the island does not consist of only one town. On the north side of Hvar Island tucked into a deep bay is Stari Grad, Croatia – one of the oldest towns on the European continent. We’ve spent numerous weeks in the historic town and discovered the top things to do in Stari Grad on Hvar Island.
Stari Grad, Croatia History
In the year 384 BC, Greeks settled Stari Grad (which, by converting BC to AD math, makes the town 2,401 years old as of 2018). The bay provided natural protection, while the flat interior of the island was ideal for cultivating crops. The land was divided and sectioned (the historic agricultural grid of the Stari Grad Plain still visibly evident where vineyards, olive trees and lavender grow today). The land was then claimed by the Romans, then the Slavs. In the 13th century, it was ruled by the Venetian Republic, but was destroyed by the Turks and then rebuilt. In the 1800s, Hvar fell under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the early 1900s, the island became part of Croatia.
Visiting Stari Grad, Hvar, Croatia
The historic, pedestrian-only Stari Grad Old Town consists of stone, orange-tiled rooftop dwellings and narrow alleys that cluster around the quaint Stari Grad marina. Churches and squares are sprinkled throughout the town; the rising bell tower of St. Stephen’s is a recognizable landmark. To the east of town is the Stari Grad Plain and to the northwest is the forest-covered Kabal Peninsula, which is carved with dramatic coastline and hidden Stari Grad beaches.
Things To Do In Stari Grad
What we liked best about staying in Stari Grad, Hvar was that we were never at a loss for things to do in Hvar, Croatia. Steps from our door we could be hiking, biking, sunbathing or exploring. In this post, we include the best tips and detailed information for Stari Grad things to do.
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A Note for Clarification: To avoid the common confusion between Hvar Island and Hvar Town, I refer to the island as Hvar and the town as Hvar Town. The Stari Grad Fortress is not on Hvar Island, but on the mainland coastal town of Omis, south of Split. Stari Grad, Hvar is not the only town in Croatia named as such; another Stari Grad (often spelled Starigrad) is located near Zadar. Yet, Stari Grad, Hvar is sometimes spelled Starigrad. Got it? Good!
#1 Stari Grad, Hvar Beaches
Finding a sunny spot on a Stari Grad beach is one of the top Hvar things to do! From the Stari Grad Marina, just follow the coastline paths (on both the north and south of the marina) that lead to small-pebbled beaches in shallow alcoves. The beaches that are close to town are convenient, but we preferred walking along the shoreline paths to where they entered the forest and the trail turned to dirt. From there, we found spots along the rocky beaches that were much more secluded.
Top Tip: Along the northern trail toward the Kabal Peninsula, there is an FKK (a.k.a. nude) beach.
#2 Bike the Stari Grad Plain to Jelsa and Vrboska
If you are looking for things to do in Hvar that you can’t do anywhere else in Croatia (or the world, for that matter!), then go to the Stari Grad Plain. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, the agricultural landscape is segmented by stone walls – just as it has been since the Greeks first settled the land 2,400 years ago. The Stari Grad Plain is one of the top Hvar attractions.
The Plain extends 6km from Stari Grad to Vrboska. One of the best Hvar, Croatia things to do is to hop on a bike and ride through the Stari Grad Plain. For an entire day-long adventure, take the northern route from Stari Grad and ride to the town of Vrboska. From there, follow the coastline road to Jelsa. On the return route, take the southern road (Route 116) back to Stari Grad and – if you have enough energy by the end – detour up the hill to Dol before getting back to the Stari Grad Old Town.
Top Tip: Pick up a Stari Grad Map of Bike Routes at the Tourist Information Office at the end of the Marina.
#3 Find Tito’s Caves on Kabal Peninsula
Wondering what to do in Hvar that’s off the beaten path? Find Tito’s Caves on Kabal Peninsula; for thrill-seekers, it might be one of the best things to do in Hvar. Although no longer a complete secret, we were the sole visitors on the afternoon we went searching for the Yugoslavia-era caves. Unclear to us exactly why the caves were built (except that Yugoslav President Tito seemed to like building secret places), the caves have passages to sea viewpoints and a series of vacant rooms. Deeper into the earth, the cement-fortified cave gives way to a rugged more natural cave where bats hang from the ceiling.
We reluctantly cut our investigation of the caves short, as it was nearing sunset and we only had the light from our phones to guide the way.
To get to Tito’s Caves, take the main road to Kabal Peninsula and stay on it until it dead ends. There, you will see TUNELI painted in green on the rocks. Follow the (overgrown) trail toward the cove and take the path that breaks off to the left. The dirt trail takes you along the coastline to the cave entrance.
Top Tip: Bring a real flashlight – or, better yet, a headlamp – to better explore the caves.
#4 Hike to the White Cross on Glavica Hill, Hvar
To the north of the Stari Grad Marina, a large white cross stands on Glavica Hill – and the views from the base of the cross are phenomenal. One of the top things to do in Hvar is climb up the hill to the cross. We made the hike a few times during our stay to enjoy a bit of nature and the stunning views of the town. The cross actually stands on an outdoor altar, next to a small church, where there are special masses throughout the year.
Top Tip: There are two routes to the top of Glavica Hill – or the hike can be done in a loop. Trailheads can be found on Kralja Tomislava (map) and on Put Rudine (walk north on Rudine and look for the marked trail).
#5 Explore Rudina and Zukova Bay, Hvar
Located just 2km north of Stari Grad is the village of Rudina: a place where time stands still. Sparsely populated with just 19 permanent residents, the village delivers big on charm. Visiting Rudina is one of the Hvar Island things to do to experience the island as it used to be.
The village is comprised of two communities: Vela (Big) Rudina and Mala (Small) Rudina. The stone houses in Mala Rudina were built in 1663 and are all owned by the same family. Although many of the structures have been abandoned and are in a state of disrepair, in the main square, a historic stone press and other artifacts stand as they have for centuries (because no one ever bothered to remove them).
Top Tip: Northwest of Rudina, trails lead through the forest to Zukova Bay. The long, narrow inlet has a multitude of secluded beaches along the rocky coastline.
#6 Walk the Stari Grad Stone Lanes
Interested in things to do in Stari Grad Old Town? Start by strolling along the waterfront and then navigating on foot through the web of Old Town streets. While aimlessly wandering the historic lanes, look for plaques identifying historic buildings and squares. Some of the top sights in the Stari Grad Old Town are the Petar Hektorovic Fortress (a 16th century villa built as a summer home for the famous poet), picturesque Trg Skor Square and St. Steven’s Catholic Church (an early 17th century church with separate bell tower that was once part of the city’s ancient walls).
Top Tip: For more information about the sights, pick up a handy guide from the Stari Grad Tourist Information Office at the end of the Marina.
#7 Wine Tasting at Hora Winery Hvar
Located in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Stari Grad Plain, Hora Winery offers a unique wine tasting experience. In addition to their range of locally produced wines, the family-run establishment also makes olive oils (try the herb-infused!), grows lavender and prepares local Dalmatian fare.
Top Tip: Hora is open daily from May 1 to October 1 from 12:00 to 20:00.
We participated in the Hora Winery tasting tour as part of our Croatia Island Hopping Explorer Cruise with Sail Croatia.
Best Restaurants In Stari Grad, Croatia
There are several Stari Grad restaurants in the Old Town. Most of the restaurants in Stari Grad serve traditional fare from the region.
The food prepared by the chef at Konoba Batana is divine. The Stari Grad restaurant is located within the depths of the Old Town and diners sit on an open-air patio. Our favorite dishes are the Istrian Fuzi Pasta with Truffles and Beef Filet Risotto with Wine Sauce. We also recommend ordering the house wine, which is fabulous. Read reviews
The quaint, family-run Jurin Podrum is tucked into a lane just one street back from the water. Delivering on atmosphere, the small restaurant has both indoor and outdoor tables. The menu includes traditional Dalmatian starters and meat (try the lamb!), fish and pasta mains that are prepared with local recipes. Read reviews
A casual eatery with phenomenal pizzas, Marko’s is our go-to spot for an easy-going and inexpensive night out in Stari Grad. We enjoy the house specialty pizza (look on the second page of Pizza listings), but pasta and meat dishes are also available. Read reviews
Kod Barba Luke
We have never eaten at Kod Barba Luke, but it came highly recommended to us by our local Stari Grad friend. The harbor-facing restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner…or just wine! Read reviews
Stari Grad, Hvar Map
Where To Stay In Stari Grad, Croatia
When we visited Stari Grad, we stayed at Hidden House Stari Grad. It’s a beautifully remodeled and cozy B&B where you’ll be hosted personally by the fantastic owners, Amanda and Chris. For more information about booking, go to their official website.
For other Stari Grad hotels, apartments and holiday homes, start your search on Booking.com.
More Things To Do On Hvar Island, Croatia
Visit Hvar Town
While Hvar Town has a party reputation (one they are attempting to transform), there are more things to do in Hvar Town than party.
Climb to the Hvar Fortress: The 16th century Fortica Spanjola watches over Hvar Town and the harbor from its lofty perch. Climb to Hvar Fortress for stunning views of the town and sea.
Visit the Hvar Cathedral: The Baroque St. Stephen’s Cathedral is located on the main square, with portions dating to the 15th century.
Watch the Sunset: Follow the coastline to the west of Hvar Town and find a rock along the sea to take in the summer sunset. If you would rather watch the sunset from a bar, keep going until you find the infamous Hula Hula Bar (and overpriced cocktails) – or continue on until you find the FALKO Beach Bar, which has a much more subtle atmosphere.
Hvar Town Map
Stari Grad or Hvar Town
With so many things to do on Hvar Island, Croatia, it can be difficult to choose where to stay. We have spent time in both Stari Grad and Hvar Town – and like them both! Both cities offer historic settings, beaches and plenty of restaurants and cafes. Hvar Town offers a bit of glitz and glam, while Stari Grad is more low-key and better located to explore more of the island. If you have time in your Croatia Itinerary, we recommend enjoying both places, which is easy as the two cities are well-connected (as is travel from Split to Hvar…to either city!)
Plan Your Best Trip To Croatia!
Ferry from Split to Hvar
Getting from Split to Hvar is best done by ferry (well, unless you have your own yacht). If you see signs for the Hvar airport around the island, don’t get too excited. The Hvar airport is just a grass field, not designed for commercial flights. Croatia ferries make the trip from Split to Hvar several times a day to both Stari Grad and Hvar Town.
There are two types of boats from Split to Hvar: Car Ferry and Catamaran. The car ferry from Split to Hvar only docks at Stari Grad. The smaller Split to Hvar catamaran docks at Hvar Town. The Stari Grad Port is 2km from the Stari Grad Old Town. The ferry from Split-Hvar Town terminal is Hvar Port, which is in the Old Town. The Stari Grad ferry takes about 2 hours from Split, while the catamaran from Split to Hvar Town only takes about an hour.
See The Best Of Split, Croatia!
Stari Grad to Hvar Town
The scenic drive between Hvar Town and Stari Grad takes about a half hour to drive. For getting around Hvar, you can rent a car in Stari Grad if you want to explore the island on your own and don’t want to travel from the mainland with a vehicle. There is a bus from Stari Grad to Hvar Town for those traveling without a car. Check directions on Google Maps.
See More With Our Top Day Trips From Split, Croatia!
For those who want a little guidance on Hvar Island, there are tour guides that lead the way to some of the best things the island has to offer! Check out these tours on Hvar Island:
- Lavender Fields Tour
- Island Wine Tasting Tour
- Wine and Dalmatian Dinner Tour
- Abandoned Village and Dinner Tour
- Hidden Gems Half Day Tour with Meal
Note: Many of the tours depart from Hvar Town; request pick up in Stari Grad if available.
What You Will Need For Your Trip To Croatia
A few final tips before you travel to Croatia!
We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip to Croatia. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual travel camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight).
We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
We want to know: What would you add to our list of things to do in Stari Grad, Hvar? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
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