Vrsar is a seaside resort in southern Istria that, although not often included in the country’s discovery itineraries, boasts beautiful beaches and extraordinary natural landscapes. Nature lovers in particular appreciate this town not only for its crystal-clear sea but also for the lush wooded hills. From the town you can have an extraordinary view of the western coast of Istria, which is why Vrsar was chosen in the past as a place to build defensive forts; from there, it was easy to spot and intercept the arrival of enemy ships by sea.
Finds tell us that Vrsar was inhabited as early as the Iron Age and was later dominated first by the Histri and then by the Romans, who exploited the town as a trading centre. By the 5th century, Vrsar had become an important centre of Christianity, so much so that several monasteries and numerous churches were built here. Passing under the influence of the Poreč diocese around the 10th century, the town was then dominated for a long time by the Venetians, who exploited not only its strategic location to defend the kingdom, but also the Istrian stone quarries in the area.
With the fall of the Serenissima, Vrsar passed first to the Austrians, then to the Italians and finally under the rule of Yugoslavia. The town is unfortunately also internationally remembered for the ‘bombing of Vrsar’ that took place on the night of 21 December 1991 after Croatia had already proclaimed its independence from Yugoslavia. On this occasion, the small Vrsar airport ‘Crljenka’ located in the Lim Canal a few kilometres from the town centre was bombed by the Yugoslav army. The aerial bombardment not only razed the airport, destroying all the aircraft present, the runway and the control tower, but also killed two soldiers.
Despite its long and troubled history, Vrsar has transformed over the years from a small fishing village to a lively and welcoming Croatian seaside resort located between two of Croatia’s most famous resorts, Rovinj and Poreč. The town has much to offer, since on the one hand there is its small old town centre and picturesque harbour, and on the other hand, breathtaking beaches washed by crystal-clear sea. But what Vrsar has become particularly famous for in recent years is naturist tourism, since it is home to ‘Koversada’, which is known as one of the most famous naturist centres in Europe.
Vrsar is a popular destination in summer for its beautiful beaches, most of which have been awarded the title of ‘Blue Flag’ for the quality of the water, cleanliness and high level of services. Close to the harbour is the town beach, which is one of the most frequented, both by tourists and locals, as it is easily accessible. The shoreline here consists of pebbles and concrete slabs where you can lay out your towel to sunbathe. In addition to bars, restaurants and various shops, this area also has a children’s play area, a diving centre and other water activities.
To the south of the town centre, on the other hand, is Petalon beach consisting of small pebbles and a concrete platform where sun beds and umbrellas can be hired. Equipped with all amenities, this beach has calm sea waters with a gently sloping seabed and is therefore very popular with families with children. Those in search of a quiet and uncrowded beach, on the other hand, can go to Plaza Porto Sole, the beach at the campsite of the same name, which is also open to non-guests and stretches for almost a kilometre. The beach is pebbled and washed by a turquoise sea that is ideal for snorkelling.
Finally, as we have already mentioned, Vrsar is very popular with naturists thanks to the presence of the Koversada Naturist Park, which has numerous pebble and stone beaches surrounded by lush nature. Within the park is also the small island Otocic Koversada, known as ‘the nudist island‘, since it is also possible to walk around here without a swimming costume. The small island, surrounded by a lush pine forest, can be reached by a footbridge and in addition to several coves where you can sunbathe, you can also find a few bars and an excellent restaurant.
The old town of Vrsar is a maze of cobbled streets enclosed within medieval walls and characterised by churches, colourful houses and a few historical buildings. The entrance to the town is secured by its two gates dating back to the 13th century, and walking through the narrow streets it is easy to reach the summer bishop’s palace, which has a tower from which one can admire a magnificent view of the entire area.
Afterwards, a visit to the so-called ‘Casanova’s sanctuary‘, a tower once part of the city’s defence system that over the years had also become the residence of some families, is recommended. Among those who stayed in this building twice in the 18th century was Giacomo Casanova, who later recounted the experience in his ‘Memoirs’.
Other places not to be missed are the town’s churches. As already mentioned, Vrsar was the site of one of the earliest Christian communities, so much so that around the 10th century, the Benedictine monastery of St. Michael and the Benedictine monastery of St. Mary were founded here, which was largely destroyed; all that remains of this site today is the Church of St. Mary of the Sea, which is an extraordinary example of Romanesque architecture in Istria. Other important religious sites include the Church of St. Martin (19th century), the Church of St. Michael above Lim which houses one of the oldest frescoes in the region, and the Church of St. Fosca (17th century) which houses an extensive collection of artwork.
Along the coast, off the harbour, instead, is the islet of St. George on which stands the small Church of St. George, a Romanesque stone building once run by a confraternity; on the island, one can also find quiet, wild coves and bays in which to sunbathe in relaxation. Art lovers, on the other hand, cannot miss the Dusan Dzamonja Sculpture Park, which covers an area of 10 hectares and exhibits many works by Croatian artist Dzamonja. Just outside the town centre is also the former Montraker quarry, which not only houses numerous limestone sculptures but also offers numerous vantage points over the town. In addition, numerous theatre and music events are organised here during the summer season.
Over the years, the town of Vrsar has well developed and diversified its accommodation offer, which consists of numerous resorts, hotels, residences and campsites. There is a wide range of accommodation in the town at different price levels, although, as in almost all of Croatia, it is the flats that are the mainstay.
Vrsar is easy to reach both by car and public transport, while there are no ferries or trains to this destination. Those travelling by car from Rovinj can first take the D303 and then the D75 to reach Vrsar in approximately 40 minutes; from Poreč, on the other hand, you can take the D75/Ž5002 and reach Vrsar in less than twenty minutes.
If you prefer to travel by public transport, it is important to know that the town has good bus connections with other places such as Rovinj and Poreč. The nearest internationalairport, on the other hand, is Pula, which is approximately 52 km away and can be reached in less than an hour via the A9/E751.
Vrsar is a well-known Croatian tourist destination located on the west coast of Istria. The town is 10 km from Poreč, 30 km from Rovinj and 41 km from Umag.