Perched high on the western slopes of the Fruška Gora hills above the Danube and built around a medieval fortress, Ilok, Croatia’s easternmost town, affords resplendent views of the gently rolling, vineyard-draped hills, the Danube, and the Vojvodina plain on the Serbian side of the river. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Novi Sad.
Ilok has been inhabited since the Neolithic era, but its golden age came in the 15th century under the Iločki family, particularly Nicholas of Ilok, the Ban of Croatia and King of Bosnia. He built a fortification on a plateau overlooking the river and a castle within, turning Ilok into a fortified royal residence, and began the first construction of wine cellars. The last member of the Iločki family died in 1524; two years later, Ilok was occupied by the Ottomans, under whose rule it remained until 1697. There are still the remains of a hammam and a Turkish grave in the Old Town from this period. After defeating the Turks, the Habsburgs gave Ilok to the aristocratic Odescalchi family from Italy as thanks for their assistance in the Ottoman wars, and they quickly set about rebuilding the town, particularly the castle, in baroque style. They developed the wine cellars below the castle, and began production of the celebrated Traminac wine. Besides Stari Podrum ("Old Cellar"), there are now a dozen other vineyards around town producing many varieties of wine, particularly Graševina and Traminac. All can be visited by appointment.
Ilok became part of Yugoslavia in 1918. At the beginning of the war in 1991, it was rapidly surrounded and occupied by Serb forces, sparing it the drawn-out devastation suffered by nearby Vukovar. Ilok was integrated into the Republic of Serb Krajina, and not re-integrated into Croatia until 1998.
Ilok is comprised of two parts: the upper half is where the feudal families lived and where today you’ll find the cities’ historical sights, while the lower half has traditionally been where the townsfolk lived and worked, and where you’ll find sandy beaches along the Danube.