Stari Grad, Hvar: Exploring the Oldest Town in Europe

Croatia

The next morning I woke up in Hvar to find that my early night had had no beneficial effects on my brewing cold. I felt goddamn awful. My throat was inflamed, my glands were swollen, my nose blocked and my whole head felt like it was full of wool. It was really the opposite of how you’d want to feel on your first day exploring a new place.

I crawled from the tent into the outside world fairly begrudgingly. There have been plenty of times in my life during which camping has seemed like one of the least desirable activities on the planet, and I can confirm that this was one of these times. Why couldn’t I roll out of a duck-feather bed onto pool-side terrace and feel sorry for myself surrounded by luxury and room-service? Instead, I trudged over the rocky ground towards the block of campsite facilities, in hope that a warm shower would freshen me up a little bit. Turning on the shower, I waited shivering and snivelling for the water to heat up… and waited… and waited. Of course there’d be no hot water just at the moment that I needed a hot shower the most. After huffing and swearing at the shower like that would achieve anything, I quickly splashed myself with some icy water. I stormed back to the tent freezing cold and feeling worse than before, shouting and snapping at Josh and anyone else who got in my way.

Once I had chilled out a little and we were ready to go, we headed off into Stari Grad for some breakfast. The town was so cute that I almost forgot my ailment. The floor was paved with a creamy white stone that matched most of the buildings as we walked through. As we neared the centre of town, the buildings became more colourful, some painted baby pink or dusty brown. The town was centred around the port and little boats and some larger yachts lined the way. I loved looking at what the different boats were called and wondering why their owner had called them that. We stopped at one of the many gelato shops and I treated myself to a big warm, chocolate crêpe for breakfast, which half made up for my sub-par morning.

Once I had a belly full of crêpe, we decided to have a little wander around to get a feel for the place. Every street was immaculate and lovingly decorated. We came across one that had mini vinyl records in varying bright colours hanging on wires across the houses and a large painted double bass on a stand outside a shop. We wandered down the street and unsurprisingly came across some music shops. Meandering further down, we found many different art studios, with colourful canvases stood outside on stands or leaning against the walls. Some houses were adorned with stone statues of Jesus and other engravings and it was a delight to get lost for a little while in the details of the place. I found a large bright pink mansion surrounded by shrubs right at the back of the town and tried to imagine who lived there. As it was a small town, it didn’t take long for us to find ourselves back at the port and we asked ourselves what we should do next.

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Josh pointed to the top of one of the hills that overlooked the town, where there was a large statue of a cross stood erect. “Let’s climb up there,” he suggested. I was a little hesitant as I was wearing my flimsy sandals and feeling ill but once he had it in his head it seemed I didn’t have much choice. Before long we were climbing up a wobbly, rocky trail with a pretty steep incline. The worst thing about being ill for me is that it always makes my asthma deteriorate and I found the climb pretty hard on my ailing lungs. We didn’t cross with anyone else on the trail, or see anyone at the top, which I found strange considering Hvar is such a popular tourist destination. Perhaps many people didn’t think to explore the looming stone cross upon the hill. I tripped up on dusty rocks and wheezed whilst trying to keep with Josh who stormed off ahead. I was about to lose my temper when we turned a corner and there we were- Glavica Hill, the very top of Stari Grad.

There was a sign that told a little of the history of the town. Stari Grad is one of the oldest towns in Europe; it was officially formed in 384BC. The stone cross statue was erected on 1900 in celebration of the anniversary of Christianity and a common destination for Christan pilgrims, but it was destroyed in WWII. The current stone cross statue was erected in 1990 as a symbol of hope and the altar on which it stands is made of the remains of the old one. Glavica Hill is where Illyrian artefacts have been found, the earliest settlers of Stari Grad. It was crazy to think that we were standing freely where people had lived over 2 thousand years ago.

The ground was uneven and rocky and there were little rock formations scattered around, where travellers who had reached the top of the hill had balanced different rocks on top of each other, smaller ones on top of larger ones to make a tall tower. There was something that seemed weirdly sacred about them, and I took extra care not to knock any of them over. Who knows who had made each one? Josh occupied himself by making one himself to join in with the others while I relaxed. There were rows of benches facing the cross, as it is used as a site for religious worship throughout the year by the residents of Stari Grad. The views over the town from the hill were incredible. The little pink and cream houses were all clustered around the port and surrounded by woolly green hills. You could see the river expand as it merged into the Adriatic Sea.

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We didn’t spend too long upon the hill, as although beautiful, there was no shade and the sun was unrelenting. We carefully found our way back down the trail and wandered around the markets. We bought some fruit from the fruit stall and both of us got a pair of sunglasses as we were pretty fed up of squinting our way around Croatia. Then, we walked along the coastline for a good twenty minutes to find a decent beach spot. Croatia is known to not have many sandy beaches and there weren’t many suitable spots to lounge, but we eventually found a little shady bathing spot on a pebbly bay. It was pretty nice relaxing on the beach for the rest of the day after a couple of hectic few days rushing around Croatia.

That evening we went into Stari Grad for a meal. Most restaurants were pretty expensive but we found a pizzeria that wasn’t too bad. I definitely recommend staying in or nearby Stari Grad if you come to Hvar island, unless you’re a rich party-goer. Although Hvar is the main tourist hub of the island, it is so much busier and more expensive and I felt that it was nicer to just visit intermittently before escaping back to the quiet of Stari Grad. Stari Grad is also home to super cheap food markets and a lot closer to the beautiful natural spots on the island, which I’ll share in my next few posts. A lot of people have asked why we chose Hvar out of all the Croatian islands due to how popular it is with tourists and how expensive it can be but honestly, as we camped the whole time we were there and made our own food most nights, it was pretty damn cheap!

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Much love <3

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    setmeravelles
    November 17, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Looks like a very interesting place. Such a shame you had a cold while you were there. Thanks for sharing your adventure…I hope to go one day!

  • Reply
    ilive4travel
    November 18, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    It looks like a beautiful part of Croatia. I never made it there, but I would love to climb that hill and see that view. Maybe next time I visit I will add it to my list 🙂

  • Reply
    Ashley Smith
    November 18, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    I am dying to get to Croatia! And this town is so cute. Sorry you felt so awful–I had a day like that when I was visiting Montserrat outside Barcelona with the beginnings of the flu, it’s terrible! Love your pictures though and that one from the top of the hill is amazing!!

  • Reply
    CreativeTravelGuide (@CTGTravelGuide)
    November 18, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Stari Grad looks like such a cute little place! Your pictures of the architecture and that view point – just stunning! Thanks for the post!

  • Reply
    lydia@lifeuntraveledl
    November 18, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    I love that tiny street with all the music shops – it’s bursting with creativity! The town from the top is just so charming it looks like a postcard. I would definitely enjoy strolling through Stari Grad. 🙂

  • Reply
    EmilyGoesForth
    November 18, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Those are some beautiful pictures – I love the one of the music shop with the records as the decorations, I kinda want to try that at home! Also I really feel for you, being ill when you travel to a new place sucks. I got a fever in Bratislava and it definitely wasn’t fun.

  • Reply
    Abigail
    November 19, 2016 at 12:37 am

    That first photo is beyond gorgeous. Your photos perfectly encapsulated the feel of this town. The architecture, the cobblestone streets… they’re so charming!

  • Reply
    Neha
    November 19, 2016 at 2:23 am

    Such a beautiful place! I would love to spend a lifetime here. The narrow street and the beautiful mountain and river look right out of a fairy tale

  • Reply
    Janine Good
    November 19, 2016 at 6:41 am

    Croatia, no matter what city is featured, just looks utterly charming. It’s crazy to fathom that this is the oldest city in Europe, but the history speaks for itself. What gorgeous pictures!

  • Reply
    Soraya @ Hello Raya
    November 19, 2016 at 6:55 am

    Stari Grad sounds like such a quaint place in Croatia – it sounds so charming. Sorry to hear you weren’t feeling so well, but glad that when you got to Stari Grad that miserable feeling from your cold went away. The view from atop the hill looks wonderful – seemed well worth the hike up. Will save this for my trip next year.

  • Reply
    Ticking the Bucketlist
    November 20, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    I loved Stari Grad…its the other of Hvar..quiet and peaceful..away from all the party noise. There were some really nice restaurants by the sea …had such a great pizza there! Your pictures have got back some fun memories!

  • Reply
    World Inside My Pocket - Hvar Island: Perfect Two Day Itinerary on Croatia's Most Popular Island
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    […] your first day on Hvar Island, check out my previous post where I suggest walking around the town of Stari Grad, including climbing up Glavica Hill to […]

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    World Inside My Pocket - Croatia Travel Guide: Top Tips and Best Destinations
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    […] brief stop on an island tour. There’s so much to see and explore! Read about our time on Hvar here, where I explore Stari Grad- one of Europe’s oldest towns- and here, where I discover the […]

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