If you are in Stari Grad in 2017 you can easily find something to your taste. Museum exhibitions, concerts and plays on picturesque little squares, or cycling and hiking if you prefer adrenaline holidays. Stari Grad, as Vilma from Museum of Stari Grad says, gives you a true measure of beauty. Just wander around idle looking for hidden garden, or even better have a long coffee in vivid conversations while watching ongoing life theatre. That is what we do!
All the restaurants are giving their best and they doing it very well. With a delightful Mediterranean atmosphere and layback people who will gladly tell you a story about life outside of tourism frenzy. You just have to choose destination and give yourself up to a waiter to lead you to your favorite flavor. Stari Grad offers something for everybody, small cafes and bars, restaurants hidden in secret gardens or lined up in alley and formed with the stones, sea front or beach front, traditional Mediterranean food or modern, almost hipster vegan snacks. Dalmatian cuisine is among the richest and most complex in Europe, as Enzo Bettizza writes in his novel Egzile. Dalmatian melting pot of different cultural and ethnic traditions created delectable foodscape and hedonistic culture. Slow food philosophy comes natural when you are here. Fishing and agriculture, mainly olives and grapes, were main island industries through centuries giving us savoring history to be discovered. When you hear church bells you will know it is dinner time.
Stari Grad at night
The magic of Stari Grad lies in its cool, historic cobbled streets, which have seen centuries of strories and tradition. A walk around them by day enables one to escape the crowds and breathe in the history and atmosphere of two millenia of daily living. Come by night, however, and enjoy a different experience. Its numerous squares come to life, its bustling cafes, and numeous concerts and performances add an additional level of genteel to this oh so atmospheric old town. Or simply wander along the Stari Grad waterfront, the waves lapping at your side. The old town and the sea, coexisting in perfect harmony. Check the Stari Grad Tourist Board website for the full summer cultural programme of concerts and activities.
Stari Grad has its very own cultural and musical stars, boasting not one, but two, amateur theatre companies, with regular performances. For those who appreciate the unforgettable voice of Dalmatian men singing accapella, there are few better examples than the internationally renowned Faros Kantadura, while the famous Stari Grad brass band are well worth catching if they are performing during your stay.
Typical Island Souvenirs
Tourists looking for souvenirs and gifts from a holiday to the island of Hvar have a range of excellent local products to choose from and, while the current restrictions on liquids on aircraft may limit the options for tourists flying in, there are souvenirs on offer for the air traveller.
Known also as the island of lavender, the fields of Hvar are a colourful and aromatic delight in June and July as the lavender is in bloom. Lavender souvenirs are widely available in the boutique shops and waterfront stalls and make an ideal gift. The two most popular are lavender oil, sold in small, stylish bottles, and fragrance bags of Lavandula Croatica, filled with dried lavender flowers.
The island is also well-known for the quality of its olive oil, and olive farming is an important part of island life. Most families have an olive grove and produce their own oil, using the various presses available locally, and there are many signs in the back streets of the various coastal towns offering olive oil for sale direct to the public.
With its aromatic garden of herbs, Hvar is a fragrant island and there is an excellent selection of homemade honey to whet the appetite. Beekeeping has a long tradition on the island, and there are currently more than 3,000 hives and 100 beekeepers on Hvar, many of whom belong to the Lavender Beekeepers Society.
The bees turn the nectar of the island's rich variety of herbs into honey, with honey made from rosemary highly recommended, with its clear complexion and mild taste. Look out for the word Med meaning 'honey' while wandering through the alleys of the stone towns.
There is a wide choice of local drinks on Hvar, with strong liqueurs made from every conceivable herb. Quality varies considerably and one should be prepared for an insistent host professing his to be the best rakija on the island. There are some excellent liqueurs, which make for good souvenirs, the more interesting ones made from figs, walnuts and olives.
Hvar also has an excellent wine-growing tradition, which is undergoing a renaissance. Led by the Zlatan Otok range from the Plenkovic winery in Sveta Nedelja, the only Croatian Grand Cru and winner of several international awards, there are some excellent wines available locally. Prices, like the quality, vary considerably.
Benedictine nuns have been working on the island since 1664, and they made a significant contribution to education on the island, running a girl's school in Hvar Town from 1826 to 1886, before the first state school was founded that year. Another tradition that they uphold to this day is making lace from the agave plant, making intricate patterns of sun, flowers and other cheery motifs, each pattern individual and left to the nuns' imagination.
An interesting tradition in the lace-making tradition remains, namely that the nuns will not weave when the strong northern wind know as the bura is in full force, as the wind stretches the filaments, but the southern Jugo is preferred for artistic inspiration.
There are more generic souvenirs on offer, but for a fragrant and local memento, the natural resources of this stunning island generate a range of gifts that will linger fragrantly long after the holiday has finished.
There are also a few boutique shops selling arts and crafts from the island. A good place to have a look is the Made in Hvar shop in Hvar Town.
Exploring neighbouring islands
Hvar is ideally placed to explore other islands and destinations, if you can really tear yourself away from this gorgeous island while on holiday! The three neighbouring islands of Vis, Korčula and Brač offer their own unique attractions, all of them well worth a visit, while the regular ferries from Stari Grad to Split make the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Diocletian's Palace a fantastic day trip. Highlights of Vis, Korčula and Brač include:
Vis – a closed military island until 1991, the strategic location of Vis has played a major part in the region's military history, with the British influence in particular a fascinating part of the island's make up. Did you know that the oldest cricket club in Europe outside the UK is on Vis! There is a submarine base, several military tunnels from the Tito era, Allied cemeteries and the famous airfield which helped the Allied invasion in the Second World War.
Korčula is home to the most famous traveller of them all. When a 17 year-old Marco Polo sent off on his travels in 1271, little did he know what a contribution he would make to the world. But for those who have visited this slice of paradise, perhaps the bigger question is why he left Korčula at all? A delightful old town and the best white wines in Dalmatia (don't miss the unpronounceable Grk) are among the highlights.
Brač is the island of stone, whose famous white stone adorns buildings such as The White House and the Budapest Parliament, as well as Diocletian's Palace closer to home. It is also home to Croatia's most iconic beach, Zlatni Rat, one of the country's most intriguing attractions, the Dragan's Cave, and if you are looking for outstanding wine on the water, don't miss the Stina tasting experience in Bol.