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Learn more about the Brijuni archipelago in Istria and its turbulent past

Learn more about the Brijuni archipelago in Istria and its turbulent past

History of Brijuni - from the first tribes to presidential residency

The archipelago Brijuni consist of 14 islands which spread over 33.9 km2. Only two islands are available for tourist visits - Veli Brijun (“the large Brijun”) and the Mali Brijun (“the little Brijun”), which is open only for theatre performances of the Ulysses theatre in summer.
The biggest island, called Veli Brijun, is one of 8 Croatia´s national parks (since 27 October 1983). The most western part of the archipelago is the island Vanga. It is closed for public, as it serves as a military base. Let us take you on an informative walk through the main historic events of the breathtaking island Veli Brijun, to which this article refers. Did you know that the first golf court in Croatia was built here in 1922.
You can reach Brijuni islands easily from Fazana, as an interesting location to sightsee, while staying in one of our villas with pool in Istria.

Brijuni have a rich history which dates back to the third millennium BC (the Neolithic period). We still don’t know which tribes lived there back in the time. In the first millennium BC the Illyrian tribe Histri came to this territory. This tribe also settled on the Istrian peninsula, and this is how it actually got the name.

One of the 14 islands of the Brijuni National Park surrounded by emerald sea

From the 6th to the 8th century, after the Roman empire, the Byzantines started ruling Istria and Brijuni. According to Josephus Faustinus from 1530, the oldest written information about Brijuni islands says that “Brijuni are a nice settlement whose inhabitants work with stone.” The stone pit workers were of great importance for the island. Even in the time of the plague (14th, 15th, 16th and 17th century), the stone pit workers got special tax reliefs. The stone from Brijuni was really significant for building monuments. During the reign of the Habsburg dynasty, which started in 1815, the stone was imported from Vienna and Berlin. In 1893 the Viennese business magnate Paul Kupelwieser buys the entire archipelago and builds an exclusive tourist center, the first golf court, establishes numerous cultural events and makes it one of the most interesting holiday locations for the Vienna high class, imperial families and the European aristocracy.

The island was originally purchased with the intention of revitalising the island for the purpose of agricultural production. In 1899 the Kupelwieser villa was built. He also organised the first international polo tournament in 1924, which will be revitalized in 2004. In the year 1918, after the World War I, Brijuni were under the Italian reign. After the Wall Street Crash in 1929, all the tourism sector gets in bankrupt and Karl Kupelwieser commits suicide. Brijuni were part of Italy until 1943.

In 1945, after WWII, Brijuni became a part of Yugoslavia, ruled by the former president, Josip Broz Tito. The island becomes his private summer resort. Tito dies in 1980, and in 1983 the island becomes a National park. In 1991 four hotels on the island are reopened as well as the safari park with the elephants Sony and Lanka (a gift from Indira Gandhi). We already wrote about this story, if you are interested to find more about it. In 1991 Brijuni becomes the International Conference Center.

For the end, we will recommend you a few historical places on Brijuni to visit. If you love history and architecture be sure to visit the roman manor house, the venetian temple, the Byzantine Castrum, the st. Mary Basilica (5th - 6th century) and the church of st. German (built in 1478). Have a nice time in Istria, relax in one of our villas in Istria and discover all of the natural and cultural beauty of Brijuni!

Marta Lucic

+385 1 222 70 50