Visiting the hill-towns of Grožnjan and Motovun in Istria, Croatia

October 13, 2009 by  

On our holiday this summer in Istria, the northernmost province of Croatia, I particularly enjoyed getting away from the coast into the rural interior and the picturesque hill towns of Grožnjan and Motovun. It’s easy to do a day’s driving tour between the different hill-top towns, such as Buzet, Draguac, Hum and Boljun as well as the better known Grožnjan and Motovun that we visited. These towns started off many centuries ago as fortified settlements on the top of the hill, were rebuilt in the Middle Ages and then strengthened further under Austrian or Venetian colonisation.

Old Houses at Grožnjan in Istria, Croatia

Old Houses at Grožnjan in Istria, Croatia

Grožnjan

After the second world war most of the Italian Inhabitants abandoned this town but in the 1960s it regained somethng of it’s previous success and the town was designated as a ‘City of Artists’. Now, you arrive and park on the edge of the town, then wander through the church square and through the pedestrianised lanes. Many of the picturesque old stone buildings have been converted into art galleries, selling ceramics, paintings, jewellery and gifts, as well as the odd stalls selling honey and other local produce.

Wooden sculpture in Grožnjan in Istria, Croatia

Wooden sculpture in Grožnjan in Istria, Croatia

When we visited, we had just missed the summer Jazz festival, Jazz is Back, with a stage set up in the local square and performances every night throughout July.  That was a big disappointment, as I’d have loved to have sat in the balmy air in a cafe listening to the music. I had to console myself with lunch in one of the main tavernas, Bastia where I ate a plate of pasta in creamy sauce with the local truffles shaved over it. Read my post about the truffles from this region of Croatia here.

Heather at Grožnjan in Istria, Croatia

Heather at Grožnjan in Istria, Croatia

Motovun

When you reach this old hill-top town in the province of Istria in Croatia, you have two choices for parking, either park for free at the bottom of the hill, or pay a small amount to park higher up at the edge of the pedestrianised area. You walk up through a stone gateway with carved Venetian stonework on display inside the archway. This old medieval town still has the old fortified town walls encircling it and you can walk all around them with fantastic views over the valley and looking down onto the teracotta tiled roofs below.

Motovun in Istria in Croatia

Motovun in Istria in Croatia

The town is particularly known for the local food and wine specialities that are sold in many of the shops, often with the opportunity to taste before you buy. There are also many restarants serving the local specialities and a pleasant Kastel hotel with a garden where I wouldn’t have minded staying. By the time we’d done out little walk around, it was ate afternoon and there were rumbles of thunder in the distance, so we hurried back to our car before the storm blew in.

Even if you’re based by Istria’s beautiful coastline for sea and swimming, I’d highly recommend you hire a car for a day or two and explore some of these beautiful hill-top towns. This is the gourmet heartland of Istria, so do time your visit to take in a good lunch and taste the local specialities of the region. Many thanks to the Istrian Tourim board who hosted me on this visit to Istria in Croatia.

Carved stone at Motovun, Istria, Croatia

Carved stone at Motovun, Istria, Croatia

Resources

Istria Official Tourism site
Istria Gourmet Site
Groznjan Summer Jazz Festival – Jazz is Back
Grojnan website

Check for the best hotel prices in Groznjan and book here.

Other articles about Istria

Cycling by the sea in Istria
On the hunt for the Istrian truffle in Croatia
A room with a view – staying at Plava Laguna Resort in Istria

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heatheronhertravels' Croatia - Istria Grožnjan photoset heatheronhertravels’ Croatia – Istria Grožnjan photoset


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Comments

13 Comments on "Visiting the hill-towns of Grožnjan and Motovun in Istria, Croatia"

  1. Fly Girl on Wed, 14th Oct 2009 12:04 am 

    Absoulutely gorgeous. This little village is loaded with charm. That pasts dish sounds like it was lovely as well.

  2. Plavi on Sat, 17th Oct 2009 8:40 pm 

    Well done for getting to these beautiful villages. You can get to Movotun by bus from Porec – there are six trips a day.

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  4. My travelling year in 2009 | Heather on her travels on Fri, 8th Jan 2010 8:36 am 

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  5. Peter Ellis on Sat, 9th Jan 2010 2:22 pm 

    Hi Heather

    Glad you enjoyed Istria and sorry you missed the jazz festival at Grosnjan. I’ve been going for years and it gets better all the time. The last two years we’ve had Georgie Fame as the final night special.
    The carved stone lion holding a book was the symbol of the Venetians. Whenever you see it, it shows it was a place that was part of the old Venetian Empire. You’ll find it in other parts of Istria, too.
    Come back to Istria soon !

    Cheers

    Peter

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  8. Morten Croatia on Wed, 1st Sep 2010 7:41 pm 

    Great travel blog you have here Heather!

    I am an expat living in Croatia where I also do a bit of blogging about the country, I have visited both Groznjan and Motovun several times (Actually some Australian friends of mine have a house there), anyway I as you also recommend everybody to visit these two cities, they are really nice. Last time I went there was this spring where I actually stayed in Hotel Kastel, which was very nice.

    At my last visited I had opportunity to visit a few of the wineries in the area, I can assure the do some really good wines here, so I can only recommend everybody to make a short stop when the see signs to one of the wineries.

    Brgds, Morten

  9. Heather Cowper on Wed, 1st Sep 2010 8:49 pm 

    @ Mortun – we had such a wonderful time in Croatia, you’re lucky to live in such a beautiful part of Europe. I’m a great lover of wine tasting – wine always tastes better where it’s grown – if I get back I’ll make sure I visit some wineries but we were there with our 2 teenage children and wine tasting’s not top of their list, although we did bring some home.

  10. Morten Croatia on Wed, 1st Sep 2010 9:19 pm 

    You for sure should go there again and try some of the wine, and i totally agree wine taste the best where it is grown.

    Winery Tomaz, which is just bit the foot of the motovon hill is one of my favorits 🙂
    Morten Croatia´s last blog post ..Motovun Istria the city of Big Joe

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  12. Istria-Apartments.co.uk on Tue, 5th Jan 2016 10:48 am 

    Both places are lovely and the views from either are spectacular. I love Groznjan but it makes me sad. There is no permanent population there and it only comes alive in the summer when it hosts numerous music festivals including music courses for student. Motovun is larger but still amazing and you can virtually see the whole of Istria from its walls, including Mount Ucka. It has earned a bad reputation because it has become a magnet for tourists and gets incredibly crowded in the tourist season.

  13. Heather Cowper on Fri, 8th Jan 2016 7:31 pm 

    @Istria Apartments We were there in the summer and just missed the music festival in Groznjan – I can see how they get very crowded in summer

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