Vinkovci: 10 Things to Know About The Oldest European Town

Paul Bradbury

vinkovci oldest european town
Photo: Borna Jaksic/PIXSELL

March the 13th, 2024 – Did you know that the oldest European town to have been continuously inhabited is in eastern Croatia? Vinkovci really is a fascinating little place. 10 things to know.

Vinkovci is the oldest European town which has been constantly inhabited, dating back some 8,300 years. As you can imagine, it’s a real archaeological paradise. One doesn’t have to dig very deep to find some antiquities of the past, not great news if you are trying to build apartment blocks. Although digging without permits is not permitted, several people I spoke to when I visited Vinkovci finally had found pieces of pottery dating back thousands of years. 

Rather than go around digging, head instead to the nearby Vucedol museum close to nearby Vukovar, where thousands of years of the culture of Vinkovci and surrounding areas is beautifully and educationally presented in one of Croatia’s most modern museums. 

And it turns out that, in addition to being Europe’s oldest town, Vinkovci is rather a fascinating place in its own right. Here are ten things which define it. 

Vinkovci is the Birthplace of two Roman Emperors

Vinkovci is a long way from Zagreb, and even further from Rome, but the town is the birthplace of not one but two Roman Emperors, one of whom continues to shape the tourism story of Vinkovci today. Both Valentinian and Valens were born in Vinkovci and went on to rule the Roman Empire, but the name of Valens lives on due to his favourite refreshment – beer. 

 It’s a city of beer traditions like no other

Discoveries in Vucedol culture included a beer pot dating back 5,000 years – that is quite some beer-drinking tradition! And Emperor Valens certainly played his part. While most Roman Emperors drank wine, Valens was a beer man. So much so in fact that his nickname of Sabaiarius translated as ‘Beer Belly.’ Between WWI and WWII, there were no less than 14 different beers in Vinkovci, and the latest addition to the Vinkovci beer story would surely have Emperor Valens’ seal of approval – a craft beer in his name brewed in the town. 

It’s home to the oldest calendar in Europe

In 1978, during construction work on Hotel Slavonija in the centre of town, an ancient pot was found in the rubble, which experts dated at 2,600 BC, and whose patterns depicted the oldest known calendar in Europe. You can learn much more about the Orion calendar in the Vucedol museum, as well as enjoying the patterns, which have been immortalised in the paving in the pedestrian zone in the centre of town.

A sausage for Guinness – Yes, you read that correctly

You will not be in this part of Croatia long before you are treated to the wonders of its rich cuisine, which is very much meat-based. And in the finest culinary traditions of the region, a successful attempt was made in 2009 to make the longest sausage in the world, an impressive 530 metres in length. Since then, however, others have taken the challenge rather serious, and some dedicated sausage makers in Romania in 2014 made a sausage which was an astonishing 62.7 km long.

There’s a river flowing in two directions

There are only a handful of rivers in the world which can flow in both directions. The River Bosut, which flows through Vinkovci, is one. Apparently, there is a very slight incline as the Bosut passes through the town (0.8%) and when the wind gets up, the water heads backwards.

Folkore and autumn – Croatia’s biggest celebration

The most famous event in the annual calendar is undoubtedly Vinkovacke Jeseni – Vinkovci Autumns – a magnificent display of folklore and traditional dress. from all over Croatia.

The British influence, from phone boxes to Yorkshire puddings

One of the more unusual sights in town is an authentic red British phone box, not exactly what you would expect to find in the centre of the oldest town in the world. It is apparently due to the town’s best-loved foreign resident, Steve Gaunt, a Leeds man who first arrived in 1991 to volunteer in the war, became a Croatian citizen and stayed. Someone told me he was responsible for the introduction of Yorkshire puddings on the menu in one Vinkovci restaurant – what I can confirm for sure is that he is running a fine establishment just outside the town – The White Boar, a very authentic British pub.  

Casting metal – a gift to the world

I knew that Vucedol culture had several world firsts, but I didn’t know that they included the first metal casting in the world. Just one of many things you can learn on a walking tour of the historic centre, just one of many things you can pick up from the excellent tri-lingual signage (Croatian, English and German) around the town.

Roman Days – a festival fit for an emperor

And in a town which gave birth to two Roman Emperors, one might expect a Roman festival, which takes part each year in late May/early June, and is described by the national tourist board as follows:

Did you know that two Roman emperors, Valens and Valentinian, were born in Roman Cibalae (today’s Vinkovci)

Did you know that people used to drink beer, not wine in Cibalae?

Do you want to meet an emperor, to see a Roman legion, gladiators or Roman ladies?

Come to Vinkovci and experience the „Roman Days“ manifestation!

Gladiators’ battles

A craft beer festival

Tasting emperor’s beer

Workshops for children (straw workshops, ceramic workshops, circus workshops …)

Roman games

A knowledge Olympiad

A Roman fair

Roman food



A presentation of life in an encampment

A celebration of horses – Pokladno Jahanje

This area of the country has a proud horse-riding tradition, and the Lipizzaner horses in Djakovo are world-famous, even attracting a visit from horse-lover Queen Elizabeth II back in 1972. There is a very nice horse festival each February in Vinkovci and surrounding area, harking back to an era when Vinkovci was part of the Military Frontier. This tradition has been renewed, and so in Vinkovci we can see the horse riders from our County, dressed in traditional garments, passing through the old quarters of Vinkovci – Ervenica and Krnjaš. Some citizens stand in waiting to greet the cavalcade and offer food and drinks to the participants, who all get greeted in the City centre by the County Prefect and the Mayor.

The oldest European town, but one which also embraces the future, symbolised by the famous Croatian smart bench, which you can use to recharge your phone before continuing your selfie tour of 8,300 years of history. 


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment