Cultural and Historical Heritage

When on the Istrian island of Brijuni all the yet unexplored and mostly inaccessible monuments from all ages, from the early periods of the pre-Roman Istria until the 16th century, will be discovered and made accessible to research then this beautiful island will be a unique museum rich in architectonic inventory of high artistic and historic importance. To all the cultures, which settled through history on the northern Adriatic coast, will be possible to ascribe at least one monument of architectonic heritage or some other artefact witnessing its presence. (A. Gnirs, 1911.)

The archipelago of Brijuni is an extraordinary blend of natural, historical and cultural heritage. The mild climate and the favourable geographical conditions, deep retracted bays and easily defendable elevated fortifications, have secured a continuum in the human activity on the island from a pre-historic age until the present day. On a relatively small archipelago, of an area of around 7km2, have been registered some hundred sites and buildings of archaeological and cultural-historical value and which comprise the period from the first Neolithic settlements, the dugouts in the bay of Soline, until the creation of an elite summer and health resort at the beginning of the last century and the presidential residency visited by statesmen from one third of the world’s countries in its 25 years of existence (1954-1979).

This concise curriculum vitae of the island, which carefully preserves the traces of 5000 years of human history, makes the legend of its creation even more real and when arriving to the island a part of Heaven  discloses in front of our eyes in the unique harmony of the island’s flora, fauna and heritage. A unique bland of the green islands sank into the turquoise-blue sea whose bays and hills are laced with the white Istrian rocks.

Source: National Park Brijuni

Archaeological sites

Hill Fort

The fortified Bronze Age settlement on the hill with preserved walls, entrance and necropolis. It stands on the homonymous hill, north of Verige Bay. The strategically well protected elevated location was fortified with three concentric circles of walls adapted to the configuration of the hill. The central plateau covered an area of 80x 90m, while the diameter of the largest wall was about 300 m. The walls were built of drystone large blocks, while the area between the inner and outer wall facade was filled with rubble masonry.

Particularly important were entrances that were on several occasions annexed, assuming thus the shape of a labyrinth. The western so-called Gnirs entrance, at the beginning over three meters wide, at its end is not wider than one meter as to make the penetration of the enemy slow and more difficult. Many pebbles were found on the fortification walls, equally serving for protection, throwing or as artillery for slingshots.

Among the few bronze finds, typical for this period, we must mention the tip of the spear broken in some clash near Gnirs entrance and the dagger found as a grave offering.

Roman villa in Verige Bay

On the western coast of Brijuni, along Verige Bay, stands a magnificent Roman villa rustica. Its construction began in the 1st century BC, and it achieved its greatest splendor in the 1st century AD. Certain parts of the villa were used until the 6th century. It consisted of several buildings for various purposes situated at carefully chosen sites in different parts of the bay.

On the southern side of the bay stood a sumptuous summer residence also with an economic function with two peristyles. Also part of the complex were temples of the sea god Neptune situated at the end of the bay, Capotolium triads and deities of love and beauty Venus. Dieta, palestra, thermae, fishpond and the economic part were situated at the northern side of the bay. By an interesting system of promenades stretching one kilometer along the sea, all the buildings were connected into a unique whole, in ideal harmony with the landscape.

From the seaside this complex was bordered by the shore built of large stone blocks today being about 1 m below sea level. Access to the harbor was controlled by a chain, (verige in Croatian), connecting opposite shores, after which the bay was named. Besides this villa furbished with mosaics, frescoes, stucco decoration and precious marble, on  Brijuni there was a number of Roman villas of mostly economic function, among them particularly interesting the villa on Kolci hill.


The richest site by its strata on the Brijuni stretches on an area somewhat greater than 1 hectare. Finds from the period of the Roman Republic and Empire, Late Antiquity, Eastern Goths, Byzantium, Carolingian period and Venice testify to the long time settlement. The first villa in Dobrika Bay was built in the 1st century BC.

During Augustus' rule, partly on the site of the first villa, a new villa rustica was erected (size 51x59 meters) with a central courtyard and equipment for producing olive oil and wine, as well as cellars, and modestly arranged housing units.

Life within the villa went on until the end of the 4th century when due to social changes the villa grew into a closely-built-type settlement with houses, olive and grapes processing plants, storage rooms, workshops, blacksmith workshop, ovens, briefly, all elements necessary for an independent life of a community. The settlement gradually grew, and strong walls were erected for its protection. Apart from the main, northeastern entrance, there were four other gates that were connected within the settlement, and smaller squares were also formed. St. Mary's basilica, erected in the close vicinity was to serve  the cultic needs of the numerous population of the castrum.

The Frankish rule at the end of the 8th century introduced a new feudal property. The walls of the Carolingian villa were articulated by lesenes, while oil, at the time, was produced in the rooms by the sea. The entire process of oil production, from grinding of olives in the mill to pressing in one of the three presses is depicted here.

St. Mary's Church

The aisled church of square ground plan whose lateral walls have been preserved almost to their original height. The size of the church (11x 24 m) indicates a large population of the nearby castrum erecting this edifice in the 5th - 6th centuries.

The altar area is two steps higher and is divided from the church nave by a partly preserved triumphal arch. The altar basis is preserved in situ. The atrium of the basilica holds a small collection of stone monuments, exhibiting, among other, church finds, transennae, stone window grids. The front part of the basilica and around it was the site of an Early Christian cemetery 300 m long, stretching as far as the southeastern corner of the castrum.

The beginning of the 9th century saw the renovation of numerous churches, among them St. Mary's. It was refurbished with new stone furnishing bearing the recognizable interlace pattern. The large pagan population must have caused missionary activities carried out by the Benedictines from the many monasteries. If not earlier, this is when the Benedictine monastery was founded stretching north and south of the church.

Source: National Park Brijuni

Geological-Paleontological Heritage

The Brijuni Archipelago is today certainly one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Croatia. The paleontological findings of the dinosaurs, the magnificent "horrible reptiles" which ruled planet Earth for more tan 160 milion years (from Late Triassic period, about 220 milion years ago, to the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago when they went extinct). They are undoubtedly one of the prime issues of the socalled scientific tourism. 

Source: National Park Brijuni

Permanent exhibitions

Exhibition of copies of frescoes and Glagolitic inscriptions of Istria and Kvarner

The Gothic church of St. German was built in 1481. It was dedicated to the brave citizen of Pula who at the end of the 3rd century dared to object to the city administrator for intolerance towards the Christians and was thus sentenced to death. The feast day of this martyr is celebrated on May 30.

The church was decorated with Gothic frescoes but the entire inventory was damaged in a fire at the end of the 19th century. It was renovated in 1911 when a black and white mosaic from the Roman villa in Verige Bay was built in its floor. The following year the sacristy was added in the shape of a typical Istrian chapel with atrium - lopica in the walls of which stone fragments from the history of Brijuni were incorporated.

Since 1958 the church houses the exhibition of copies of frescoes and Glagolitic inscriptions from Istria and Kvarner that most clearly represent the cultural heritage of the Middle Ages of this area. Therefore in one place you can see frescoes from Beram, Hum, Rakotule and Lovran as well as the most significant stone inscriptions written in the Glagolitic script.

Memories of an old Austrian

On the occasion of the centenary of the arrival on the island of Paul Kupelwieser, one-time owner and originator of the Brijuni, in 1993 an exhibition entitled Memories of an old Austrian was put on show.

The words of  Paul Kupelwieser, quoted from his homonymous book as well as photographs, old postcards and printed material (books, magazines) illustrate a praiseworthy act of transforming a malaria-ridden island into a fashionable summer and health resort that became the meeting-place of European and world elite, and not only aristocratic but cultural, scientific, industrial and economic as well.

Josip Broz Tito on Brioni

The photo exhibition Josip Broz Tito on Brioni, which was opened in 1984 visually presents the activities of the Yugoslav president on the island from June 20, 1947 when he first arrived here until the very last day of his stay, August 29, 1979 when he left the Brijuni wharf to participate in the 6th Summit of nonaligned countries in Havana.

Over a period of thirty years numerous visits were recorded, ranging from various delegations, statesmen, associates and friends, as well as famous personalities from the world of culture, art and science. Brijuni were visited by numerous ministers, government and diplomatic representatives, ambassadors, as well as many state and party delegations.

The long series of flags shows 60 countries of the world whose representatives, 90 of them altogether, visited Brijuni. Between the first high-level state visit (Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, July 24, 1954) and the last (Luis Cabral, president of Guinea Bissau, August 13, 1979), the island was visited by many crowned heads from Europe and Asia, as well as presidents from four continents.

Natural history collection

During his longtime political activities Josip Broz received a large number of gifts from visiting heads of state. Apart from the usual protocolary gifts, he also received animals, both live and stuffed ones. Some animals that were once brought to the Brijuni zoo or safari park, as well as their young born on Brijuni, were stuffed after they had died. This is how the large collection developed, which has been arranged and exhibited since 1986.

The derma-plastic exhibits are placed in dioramas with painted backgrounds and plants representing a scene from their natural habitat. Almost 200 exhibits are displayed in 19 dioramas, of which 7 represent African, 4 Asian, 1 Australian and 1 South African fauna. The others present European fauna, especially focusing on Brijuni fauna which can be partly discovered during the excursion program.

Today in this hectic world, when we are aware that several dozens of plant and animal species become extinct every day, we should at least stop for a moment to admire the beauty of nature. This exhibition will therefore contribute to a better understanding of nature and preservation of beauty, richness and diversity of our planet.

Source: National Park Brijuni

Sites Worth Visiting

Belvedere Ciprovac

The best preserved among the three belvederes on Kupelwieser's Brijuni, which owing to their construction were even displayed at exhibitions. They were made around 1900. at the ironworks in Vitkovice, where Paul Kupelwieser had worked before coming to Brijuni.

Once a dominant tourist attraction, today it has been overgrown by trees. The second preserved belvedere stands on Saluga hill, above Brijuni''s central beach. A unique example of engineer architecture.

Kupelwieser's resting place, 1917

The mausoleum of the Kupelwieser family. Although it was conceived as the final resting place of the island's owner and his wife, only the mother and son are buried here.

Maria Kupelwieser (1850-1915) who faithfully followed her husband in realizing his dream of the Brijuni Islands, lies here next to her younger son Karl, who after his father's death (1919) tried to continue his work. Unfortunately, after a series of unsuccessful investments, due to the economic and then emotional crisis he shot himself.

Paul Kupelwieser died in Vienna and was also buried there. The only words on his tombstone below his name is the name of his beloved island.


By clearing the old quarries of stone that accumulated over the many years as a result of stone carvers' activities (ever since classical times), Alojz Čufar, forester and planner of all promenades on Brijuni, designed small hills. That is how promenades appeared which are pleasant and attractive all year round: protected from summer heat and sheltered from cold winter winds they became popular places for guests of the health resort.

Koch's quarry

In 1905 a memorial tablet was set up in honor of Dr. Robert Koch, the great scientist who exterminated malaria from the islands, with the following inscription: DEM GROSSEN FORSCHER / DEM BEFREIER DER INSEL / VON DER MALARIA / DR ROBERT KOCH annis 1900-1901 (The great scientist - who freed the island - from malaria - Dr. Robert Koch - 1900-1901). The marble relief is the work of Austrian sculptor J. Engelhart.

Čufar's quarry

To express their gratitude for the major contribution regarding the development of Brijuni, in 1909 the Kupelwieser family set up a bronze tablet in honor of Alojz Čufar, diligent collaborator and longtime director of Brijuni. The tablet is the work of Secession artist J. Engelhart, bearing the following inscription:

DANKBARER ERINNERUNG AN GUTSDIREKTOR ALOIS ZUFFAR DEN TREVESTEN MITARBEITER AN DER ENTWICKLUNG BRIONIS AD 1894-1907 DIE FAMILIE KUPELWIESER (In grateful memory of the property director, loyal collaborator who contributed to the development of Brijuni 1894-1907 - the Kupelwieser family).

Source: National Park Brijuni

Persons Worth Knowing  About

Paul Kupelwieser (1843-1919)

Austrian industrialist and steel expert who bought malaria-ridden Brijuni in 1893 and turned them into a fashionable seaside and health resort.When he first came to the island and sailed into the harbor where you could only arrive during high tide, there were just a few buildings, piles of rocks from quarries, whereas the sparse vegetation consisted of cypress, laurel and several olive and mulberry trees.

Some twenty years later a hotel complex sprang up in the harbor, with five hotels and swimming pool with heated seawater, as well as all accompanying facilities. The improvement plan was carried out, parks and woods, archeological sites, zoo and ostrich farm were all arranged. The island also had its farm for the production of dairy products and wine that could also be purchased in Vienna. Brijuni had excellent traffic connections not only with Pula (4-5 times a day!) but other Adriatic ports as well. The night train from Vienna brought guests not only to the Pula train station but also to the jetty where a boat transfer was organized to Brijuni.

Brijuni became the meeting point of European and world élite, the arrival of numerous guests, members of aristocracy, cultural, scientific, industrial and economic circles was regularly reported and published in the island newspaper(1910-1915). Paul Kupelwieser's grandiose work greatly influenced the development of Brijuni and has left an indelible imprint.

Alojz Čufar (Zuffar) (1852 -1907), forestry expert

Responsible for modifying the features of the island's landscape: clearing  macchia and afforesting (planting thousands of trees), removing unnecessary rocks from meadows and quarries, which were then used for the construction of numerous roads and paths (50 km), as well as transforming quarries into promenades that are attractive all year round. Being cooler in  summer and sheltered from the winds in winter, they have become popular places for guests of Brijuni. The clean meadows were turned into vineyards and the wine from Brijuni was sold both in Vienna and Budapest.

To express their gratitude, the Kupelwieser family erected a monument in one of the quarries in his honor.

Robert Koch (1843-1910), doctor, scientist, bacteriologist

Discovered the cause of tuberculosis and cholera and was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1905.

An exceptionally important task for Paul Kupelwieser was to exterminate malaria from the islands. Having read in the newspaper that Dr. Koch intended to carry out research on malaria in Italy, Kupelwieser wrote him a letter with his observations about the disease. Shortly after, Koch sent his collaborators and he himself visited the islands twice in 1900/1901. He discovered that that the cause of malaria was the anopheles mosquito with multi-colored wings. A monument in his honor was erected in one of the quarries in 1908.

Source: National Park Brijuni

Fun fact: Promenade of Dinosaurs - Proofs of the existence, behaviour, locomotion and diet of the dinosaurs in Istria and the Brijuni Archipelago, like in the rest of the world, are related to the fi ndings of their skeletons and fragmentarily preserved bones, and, especially in Istrian area, oftheir footprints, which can be preserved either as individual footprints or as a sequence of footprints (trackway).

Source: National Park Brijuni


Destination suggestions

Top 3 destinations
Nova Gorica
Triglav National Park