Stari Grad is the oldest and most urban settlement on the island Hvar. Featuring historic sights, beautiful old town, nice beaches, and direct ferry line to Split, Stari Grad is the top tourist destination of the island, alongside Hvar Town. I could go a step further, and say that the Stari Grad is a great place to live all year round. If you want to live in Croatia, consider buying a house in this nice place with a Mediterranean soul.
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How to get to Stari Grad
The most common way of arrival to Stari Grad (and to the island Hvar generally) is a ferry line from Split. The ride takes approximately two hours.
The alternative is a fast ferry (catamaran line) from Split or Makarska to Hvar town, then taking a bus ride to Stari Grad.
History of Stari Grad
The history of Stari Grad dates from 385 B.C., when when the Greeks established their colony on Hvar. They called it Pharos. A few hundred years later the Romans took control of the place. Unfortunately, there are no preserved monuments from that time.
After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Hvar was exposed to barbarian attacks, as were other places in the former empire. A few hundred years later, Slavs came to Stari Grad. After their baptism, the first churches were built, many of which are still preserved today.
Like other Dalmatian towns, the Stari Grad was under Venetian rule during the Middle Ages, until the dissolution of the Venetian Republic, and Napoleon's conquest at the beginning of the 19th century.
After the fall of Napoleon, power was taken over by the Habsburg (Austrian) Monarchy, which ruled over the Croatian coast until the beginning of the 20th century.
Attractions in Stari Grad
As we already said, there are no remains from the Greek or Roman period in Stari Grad. Most of the preserved monuments are from the Middle Ages, and later periods.
When you walk from the ferry port towards the town, the first place of interest will be Mausoleum and Palace of Sime Ljubic, famous 19th-century archaeologists from Stari Grad. The mausoleum is currently under reconstruction, while the palace is turned into a nice hotel. You will notice the city government building nearby, which was made by the Austrian monarchy in the 19th century as well.
As you walk more towards the town, you will notice a beautiful square featuring a fortress (or better to call it a castle) Tvrdalj, built by Petar Hektorovic, the most famous Hvar's renaissance architect, literate, and intellectual. Hektorovic built Tvrdalj, as he says, "for himself and for his friends". It is a unique architectural achievement, which is, we can say, a small town in itself.
The square near Tvrdalj is a great place for coffee.
Walking further, you will enjoy the Mediterranean atmosphere of this place. It is a great thing that there are no large yachts and sailboats on the waterfront that would spoil the Mediterranean intimate experience, so you can enjoy the spirit of the destination.
Most of the preserved monuments in Stari Grad are churches from Medieval and later periods. Church of St. Stephen, which is also a parish church, is the most prominent masterpiece of art from the 16th century.
Today's Dominican monastery dates from the end of the 19th century. Unfortunately, today's building is not as good as the older one, which was destroyed. The monastery itself has been fortified, which is an interesting phenomenon visible in some coastal places, like Jelsa and Vrboska. Due to the need to defend against the Turks, the locals were fortifying the churches.
Churches of St. Rocco and St. Nicholas are also preserved in the town. Take a moment to look at these nice baroque buildings.
While walking alongside the coast, you will notice church of St. Jeronime, an early Medieval church located just near the sea. The church is dedicated to travellers and sailors. Above the church is an inscription in Latin: "Before entering the church, be reconciled to God and your neighbour."
Beaches in Stari Grad
The coast of Stari Grad consists of rocky and pebble beaches. If you want a more intimate experience of the beach, choose a rocky one. Especially nice once is located between Stari Grad and the ferry port.
If you want a more urban beach, choose the pebble one called Stari Grad beach, located in the north part of the town.