Stari Grad on Hvar: A Quality Destination Quietly Raising the Bar

Total Croatia News

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January 27, 2020 – While Hvar Town attracts most of the media attention on Croatia’s premier island, the former capital town of Stari Grad is quietly building up a quality tourism product of its own. 

Having lived in Croatia for 17 years, 13 of them on Hvar, I have been able to watch the process of change in certain destinations. And while many coastal destinations on the Adriatic have traded in a little of their charm in exchange for those all-important (at least to the ministry) numbers of arrivals and overnight stays, there are thankfully some exceptions. 

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I am always struck, for example, by the old town of Korcula, which has not only managed to retain its authenticity, but also to promote the local artisans and gourmet experts as part of the experience. It is impossible to wander around that delightful old town without quickly understanding that this is an island of fine local wines (Posip and Grk), olive oil, great traditional food, and quality and original arts and crafts. If you are looking for an example of how to grow an historic town to excellent tourism based on quality not quantity. 


Stari Grad on Hvar is another great example, and one which is quietly adding considerable class to its already-impressive 2,400-year charm. 

Already home to UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Stari Grad Plain, Stari Grad’s timeless pedestrian cobbled streets store the secrets of two millennia of civilisation, and the old town is arguably one of the most attractive on the Adriatic to explore. Similar to Korcula, there is an emphasis on art and local crafts in the old town shops, where others peddle cheap plastic Chinese souvenirs. Stari Grad has the best year-round dining options on the island, and there has been an explosion in new restaurant openings in recent years which has helped widen the culinary choice considerably. And it was a restaurant in Stari Grad, Apolon, which was the first on Hvar to get a mention in the Michelin Guide

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There has been significant investment in infrastructure in recent years, most notably in a sewage system, as well as the lengthening of the riva. This, coupled with the protected harbour the very deep bay offers has helped enhance the town’s nautical tourism, which has seen an impressive rise in both numbers and quality in recent years. 


But it is in the accommodation sector where the biggest progress has been made, an area which has held Stari Grad back attracting more discerning guests in the past. The troubled Helios hotel group, whose 2-star hotels suffered from underinvestment and financial problems for many years. These have now been taken over by leading Croatian company, Valamar, which will transform them into 4-star hotels over the next few years. 

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Across the bay around the corner from the main island ferry terminal, construction of the Olive Bay Resort continues apace, and its 5-star hotel is set to open this May, the second 5-star hotel opening on the island in 8 months, after Palace Elisabeth, hvar heritage hotel in Hvar Town last September. There are currently only two other non-boutique 5-star hotels on all of Croatia’s islands. 

And the big unknown – the Four Seasons resort at Brizenica Bay, just north of the town. Heralded at one of the most important tourism investments on the coast, Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli endorsed the project in June 2017, saying that the 140-million-euro investment would be opening its doors to its first guests in 2019. As 2019 turns to 2020, the project is still awaiting a building permit. Should the project ever happen, it will only add to the top-end tourism offer of the town. But if it does not, it would seem that Stari Grad is already on a very good path. 

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At the other end of the accommodation level, there is also good news for those who want to keep the party away from this very relaxed destination – in October 2018, Stari Grad mayor Antonio Skarpa announced that no more hostels would be built in the town. 

A new tourist board director, Jaksa Damjanic, with an impressive commercial background in hospitality, has injected new energy and ideas into the tourism calendar, focusing on the traditions and heritage of the town, while working on new ideas and festivals. 

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And, even in the peak of the season, the old town of Stari Grad retains its relaxed pace, never too busy, and offering refreshing coolness and shade from the midday heat. 

A delightful destination moving in the right direction. Dalmatian tourism as it should be. 

To learn more about Stari Grad, here are 25 things to know.





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