Hum, Istria: Smallest city in the world
Hum is a fairytale-esque village in Istria known for being the smallest city in the world. It is situated 14 kilometers from Buzet, west of the mountain of Učka.
This petite village has only 30 inhabitants and 2 streets. Hum’s size may be notable, but the city itself is also a monument of architecture and culture of the Middle Ages. Its history is rich and unusual.
In this article, we cover:
Let’s take a stroll around Hum…
Hum in Istria, Croatia – the smallest city in the world
Hum is located in the županija (county) of Istria, in the northwest part of Croatia. It is 33 km west of Opatija, 80 km north of Pula, 20 km south of the Slovenia border, and 14 km from Buzet, west of the Učka mountain.
[Read: 5 hiking trails on Učka mountain]
Check out a map below.
The city of Hum was formed in the 11th century when the first houses were built. At the time, Istria belonged to the Frankish Empire. The Count Ulrich I both built and rebuilt a number of castles in the empire including the ones in Hum.
In 1102, Ulrich II gave Hum to the Patriarch of Aquileia. This was the first time the name of Hum was mentioned. For the next 500 years or so, Hum remained under the control of the Patriarchate of Aquileia during which it was referred to as a city-fort.
Even now, Hum is a rare example of urban development within its early medieval walls. The castle was built inside the defensive walls and the settlement was built beside the castle. The settlement has always remained inside the city walls since the 11th century and new buildings have never been built outside the walls.
Houses were built in three parallel sequences, which extend from east to west. The castle is connected with all parts of the tiny city’s two streets. Houses in all three sequences were facing the streets. This enabled quick arrival of the military as well as speedy evacuation of citizens to the castle in case of emergency.
Between the 12th and 15th centuries, art came to life. The chapel of Saint Jeronim was painted with frescoes. In the 17th century when Hum was under the control of Venice, the defensive walls were restored, and two towers, double city doors, city lodge and other administration buildings were built.
Throughout history, Hum often suffered in conflicts, robberies, and war campaigns. Its fortification system was often demolished and rebuilt. Today’s appearance of the city was completed in the 19th century when the church of Saint Peter and Paul was built.
Hum and Roč, a small city located 7 kilometers to the north, were centers of the Croatian medieval Glagolitic literacy and literature since the 9th century. In Istria, an old Croatian letter called Glagolitic letter or glagoljica in Croatian was used in church, administration, and literature.
Glagoljica is an Old Slavic letter invented by Saint Ćiril when he was translating the church books from Latin to Old Slavic. It was used between the 9th and 19th centuries. In Hum, glagoljica was used until the beginning of the 20th century.
One of the biggest cultural attractions of Hum and Istria is Aleja glagoljaša (The alley of Glagolitic letter). This is a 7-kilometer long street that connects the cities of Hum and Roč.
This street is decorated with 11 stone monuments built in honor of glagoljica built between 1977 and 1985. The alley was the inspiration of academic Josip Bratulić. The monuments were built by the sculptor Želimir Janeš.
Aleja glagoljaša includes the following monuments:
- Stup Čakavskog sabora (Pillar of the Chakavian Parliament)
- Stol Ćirila i Metodija (Table of Cyril and Methodius)
- Sijelo Klimenta Ohridskog (Seat of Clement of Ohrid)
- Glagoljski lapidarij (Glagolitic lapidary)
- Klanac hrvatskog Lucidara (Gorge of the Croatian Lucidar)
- Vidikovac Grgura Ninskog (Belvedere of Gregory of Nin)
- Uspon Istarskog razvoda (Rise of the Istrian Demarcation)
- Zid hrvatskih protestanata i heretika (Wall of Croatian Protestants and Heretics)
- Odmorište Žakna Jurija (Resting place of Jacques Yuri)
- Spomenik otporu i slobodi (Monument of resistance and freedom)
- Vrata Huma (Doors of Hum)
Although Hum is the smallest city in the world, it is rich with many city monuments.
#1 Humske freske
Humske freske (Frescoes of Hum) are unique pieces of art that can’t be found anywhere else in Istria and surrounding areas.
They were painted in the second half of the 12th century in the Romanic chapel of Saint Jeronim. These paintings show motives from the life of Jesus Christ including the Last Supper, removal from the cross, and his torture.
#2 Main city gate
The main entrance to the city of Hum was built between the 11th and 12th centuries. They received their final look in 1562. In 1981, new copper doors with big handrails in the shape of ox horns were installed.
The lapidary includes three Glagolitic inscriptions of Hum.
Polača was the place where citizens discussed public questions related to Hum and Humšćina.
#5 Bell tower
The bell tower was built in 1552.
#6 City lodge and county table
Since the 16th century, citizens of Hum have elected their prefect in the city lodge and county table. This custom was renewed in 1977 and it still lives on today. It is called biranje župana na leto dan (election of the prefect for one year).
#7 Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This baroque church was built in 1802 on the site of the older church. It contains special silver and gilded liturgical dishes and glasses.
#8 Gallery of Hum
The gallery of Hum contains a collection of traditional Istrian household furniture and agricultural tools.
In 2005, Hum was declared the city of biska, which is a great honor in Croatia. Humska biska is a domestic rakija made of komovica, white mistletoe (bijela imela) and four types of medicinal herbs. It is made according to a 2.000-year-old recipe of old Celts. White mistletoe was their cult plant.
Humska biska is used as a natural medicine against atherosclerosis, which also supports the regulation of blood pressure. You can try it only in an authentic Humska konoba. This original recipe is the legacy of the Hum pastor Josip Vidal.
There is a traditional rakija festival called Smotra istarskih rakija that occurs in Hum every autumn in October. In 2021, this festival was organized for the 21st time. Most of the Istrian producers of rakija prepare it according to traditional Istrian recipes, which you can sample at the festival.
The most common Istrian rakija is prepared out of grožđani trop or komina (grape trope) and aromatic herbs or fruits. This type of rakija is called komovica.
The two most popular types of komovica are:
- Ruda – it is made of the plant of the same name
Other popular types of Istrian rakija are made of:
- Med (honey)
- Kantarion (St John’s wort)
- Višnja (cherry)
- Menta (mint)
- Orah (Walnut)
Festival industrijske konoplje (The Industrial Hemp Festival) is the first and only festival of this type in Croatia. In 2019, it was held for the 5th time and then it was paused for 2 years. This event is usually scheduled for August.
The date of the festival for 2022 is August 27. View the Facebook event here.
Festival visitors can try products made from hemp including:
- Food products
Some of the many delicious foods to taste include:
- Hemp cheese
- Hemp cookies
- Hemp crackers
- Hemp bread
- Hemp bread burgers
- Gin with hemp
View Croatian UNESCO monuments
- Croatia’s tradition of dry-stone walls
- Sinjska alka – Croatia’s annual knightly competition in Sinj
- Strict nature reserves of Croatia: Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi and Bijele i Samarske stijene
- UNESCO monuments of culture and nature in Croatia
Hum najmanji grad na svijetu u srcu Istre by Renata Cisar
Istarski biseri – Od Roča do Huma alejom glagoljaša
Map of Hum by TZ Buzet
Aleja glagoljaša by hum.hr
Glagoljica u Humu by hum.hr
Povijesni razvoj Huma by hum.hr
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.