When people talk about Croatia, their first thought usually involves the city of Dubrovnik. And who can blame them? Apart from its association with HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the city is known for its impressive stone walls and remarkable Old Town.
However, many overlook the equally mesmerizing Hvar, Croatia. Hillsides shrouded with forests, vineyards, and lavender fields dot this Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea. Yet, breathtaking flora is not the only thing the island has to offer.
Here are 10 exceptional things to do in Hvar, Croatia:
Get Lost In Hvar Town Square
You can’t say you’ve been to Hvar, Croatia, without having stepped foot on the Town Square. Also known as Hvarska pjaca (Hvar’s square), this plaza overflows with character and history. It measures 4,500 square meters, making it Dalmatia’s largest central square.
Walk around and explore the alleyways of this unusually shaped plaza. Get lost in the wonder and charm of the old buildings that surround you. Feeling tired or peckish? Not to worry. Many restaurants and cafés line the stone streets of Hvar Town Square, the focal point of the city’s social life.
Due to its popularity among tourists, Hvarska pjaca can get crowded during the peak seasons (June to August). For this reason, try to schedule your trip during the off-season to experience the place in its most undisturbed form.
Visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral
On the eastern side of the town square, you’ll find St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The foundation dates back to the 6th century. However, it was during the 16th and 17th centuries that the church got its current appearance. Dedicated to the pope and martyr St. Stephen, the cathedral stands as an architectural vision at the far end of the plaza.
Attached to St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a renaissance bell tower that soars above the square. And while the exterior of the church may draw the admiration of any onlooker, the inside is even more impressive. The cathedral houses an assorted mix of valuable items and paintings. Works by Palma Junior, Stefano Celesti, and Juan Boschettus await the awe and acclaim of visitors. Perhaps the most famous and intriguing painting, however, is a Venetian artwork dating back to 1220 titled Madonna.
The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and again from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Climb Up The Spanjola Fortress
Hvar’s fort Fortica, known to locals as Spanjola, is another must-visit attraction on the island. A mere 5-minute walk from the town square, this historic fort was built near the start of the 16th century. However, in 1579, it went through some reconstructions.
Much like St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Spanjola Fortress is an architectural feat. There are towers and tunnels to check out, as well as canons that were once used in battle. Make your way to the top for an incredible panoramic view of Hvar, Croatia, as well as the islands that surround it. The fortress also boasts a collection of amphora and antiques dating back to the Middle Ages. Art and history lovers are sure to enjoy their time here.
To get to the Spanjola Fortress, walk north from the town square and through Portia di datallo (Gate of Dates). Climb the stairs that run through the old part of the city. The distinct scent of Mediterranean plants means you’re on the right track. The fortress itself is hard to miss, though you can ask the friendly locals for directions if you get lost.
Admire The Streets Of Stari Grad
If you’d like to escape the throngs of tourists that crowd Hvar Town, then head to Stari Grad. Located on the island’s north coast, Stari Grad is the island’s main ferry port. It also offers a more serene and relaxed experience compared to the vibrant town of Hvar.
There are a plethora of things you can do in this quiet town. The Stari Grad Plain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, easily comes to mind. Here, stone walls cut through a scenic landscape so beautiful that words can’t describe it. Take a bike ride through the plain, all the way to Vrboska, also known as Little Venice. Follow the coastline and arrive at Jelsa before making your way to the humble village of Dol.
If you’re in the mood for a hike, set your sights on Glavica Hill. When you reach the top, you’ll be treated to a view unlike any other. Moreover, the hill is home to a large monument of a white cross.
Stroll through the winding alleyways of Stari Grad’s old town. Let the view of rustic buildings take you back to simpler times. Take a break and satisfy your hunger at one of the quaint restaurants in the area. Time seems to slow down on the Venetian streets of this cultured town. With its rich history and undeniable allure, Stari Grad is a must-visit destination in Hvar, Croatia.
Visit The Venetian Loggia And Clock Tower
An astounding piece of Renaissance architecture, the Venetian Loggia, and Clock Tower stands proudly in Hvar Town. The exterior screams opulence — and rightly so, as it was once part of the Venetian governor’s palace. The palace that previously stood here dates back to at least the 1300s. However, the Turks severely damaged it in 1571. The palace went through some repairs before becoming a café from the late 19th century to the early 1970s.
Today, the Venetian Loggia and Clock Tower are part of the facade of the Hotel Palace. It acts as the hotel’s luxurious vintage salon where guests are welcomed with a grand piano. The clock tower itself only goes back to the 1800s. It now occupies the place of the ducal palace, which the Turks also destroyed. Make sure to stop by this historic architectural site in Hvar, Croatia.
Appreciate The Franciscan Monastery
Just a 10-minute walk away from the Hvar Town Square, the Franciscan Monastery is sure to impress art and history enthusiasts alike. Located near the harbor, this Renaissance monastery stands out thanks to its iconic bell tower. Inside, you’ll find artworks by Venetian painters Palma Junior and Francesco Santacroce. Arguably the most renowned piece of art, though, is the magnificent depiction of the Last Supper. The artist of this painting, however, is highly debated. Some believe Palma Junior created the work, while others think it was made by the hands of Ravenna Matteo Ingoli.
Apart from the valuable paintings inside, the monastery is also home to a stunning garden. However, it’s not just any old garden. A centuries-old cypress tree dating back to the early 1700s is what sets this garden apart from the others in Hvar, Croatia.
Like St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Franciscan Monastery only opens on certain window hours. During the peak season, tourists can visit the monastery from 10 a.m. to noon and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. However, during the low season, the monastery only opens from 10 a.m. to noon. So, make sure to time your visit accordingly.
Sail To Brac Island
When in Hvar, Croatia, a quick trip to the neighboring island of Brac is a definite must. Brac Island boasts many historical quarries, which has provided white limestone to several landmarks.
Spend your time wandering around the main town, Supetar, located on the island’s northern side. Travel to the western side of Brac where the village of Milna sits. Meanwhile, on the southern side, you’ll find the touristy town of Bol, as well as two schools of stonemasonry. Here, you’ll find Zlatni Rat (Golden Beach), known for its pebbly shore and crystal blue water.
Hvar Island and Brac Island are separated by a channel. Therefore, traveling by water taxi or ferry is the only way to get from one island to the other. Don’t worry, though. The trip is well worth it.
Travel To Sveta Nedelja
Situated on Hvar’s southern coast, the small village of Sveta Nedelja is truly unique. The village sits below the highest point of St. Nicholas mountain, making for a calm and charming view.
Above Sveta Nedelja lies a cave used as a shelter during the Neolithic times. Moreover, the village holds a well-preserved Augustan monastery dating back to the 16th century. Wine connoisseurs are also sure to love Sveta Nedelja, where red Plavac Mali grapes grow. Comb through the vineyards before sampling fine red wine at one of the local restaurants in the area.
There are so many things you can do in Sveta Nedelja. You can ride a bike to explore more of the village. St. Nicholas also has many hiking trails you can follow. If you’re in the mood to unwind, you can relax on the shores of a lovely pebble beach nearby. On the other hand, adventurers can try their skills at windsurfing or rock climbing by the cliffs that overlook the sea.
Swim In Hvar, Croatia Beaches
While many tourists flock to Hvar for the cultural experience, others see it as a perfect summer getaway. The beaches in Hvar, Croatia, are some of the best in the world. From Sveti Klement to Dubovica, Hvar has a little something for every type of beachgoer.
Just off Hvar’s southwest coast, the Pakleni Islands are a sight to behold. Water taxis can take you to these islets, though renting a motorboat allows for more freedom. The islands are home to several beaches and deserted lagoons. However, you can just as easily stop midway to dive into the deep blue.
The closest island to Hvar Town is Jerolim, where clothing is optional. Marinkovic Island, on the other hand, boasts a beach club on Stipanska Bay fit for party lovers. However, the largest island, Sveti Klement, is perhaps the most popular. There are three villages here, including the iconic Palmizana. This village offers tourists a fabulous time both in the water and out.
Malo Zarace Beach
Around 30 minutes from Hvar Town lies Malo Zarace Beach, an untouched and undisturbed slice of paradise. This beach isn’t known to many tourists, so it’s perfect for a quiet time alone. The sand isn’t as white or fine as others, but the sparkling turquoise water makes up for it. There are no restaurants in the area, though, so make sure to pack food and drinks before you head for this secret beach.
One of the most popular beaches in Hvar, Croatia, is Dubovica Beach. Situated about 8 km east of Hvar Town, Dubovica is the epitome of postcard-perfect magnificence. The beach itself boasts tall pine trees and a sizable pebble shore. The clear azure water is so inviting that even the most hesitant of swimmers will find it hard to resist temptation.
Experience The Hvar, Croatia Nightlife
While Hvar is magical during the day, nighttime here is indescribable. The island possesses a vibrant nightlife, coupled with bright lights that bounce off the water’s surface. If you’re in the mood for partying, Hvar Town is the place to be. Compared to its quieter neighbors, Stari Grad and Vrboska, Hvar Town has bars and clubs galore.
Dance the night away at Pink Champagne Hvar or Carpe Diem. For a more casual vibe, have drinks at Hula Hula Beach Bar or Central Park Club. The Hvar nightlife attracts many rich and famous people, so don’t be surprised if you run into any.
Despite its reputation for being party central, Hvar imposes strict closing times for bars and clubs. Bars are only allowed to operate until 2 a.m., while clubs must close by 5 a.m.
Traveling To Hvar, Croatia
Because Hvar is an island in the Adriatic Sea, getting there can be a struggle. However, the beauty that greets you once you land on the island will make all the trouble worth it. Here’s how you can get to Hvar, Croatia.
Hvar, Croatia Airport
There are no airports on Hvar, though there are a few near the island. The closest international airports are located in Split and Dubrovnik. So, if you’re arriving by plane, book your flight to either one of these airports. Neighboring Brac Island also has an airport, though it only serves charter planes.
Hvar To Dubrovnik/Split
There are no direct ferries that run year-round from Dubrovnik to Hvar Island and vice versa. However, there are two that operate during the peak season from April to October. These passenger ferries can be expensive when traveling with many people. As a cheaper alternative, you can rent a car from Dubrovnik to Split. From there, you can ride a ferry to Hvar, Croatia.
Split has a ferry station that travels to Stari Grad on Hvar Island. The station is located about 30 km from Split Airport, so you will need to ride a taxi or bus to get to your destination.
Hvar, Croatia Weather
Hvar is beautiful any time of the year. Summers on the island, from June to August, are warm but not scorching. During this time, lavender fields begin to bloom. It’s the best time to take part in water activities. The summer is also usually when party lovers flock to the island. Winters tend to be wet, with rain being commonplace. Given that it’s harder to travel during wintertime, it’s not the most ideal season.
Visit Hvar Island, Croatia
As you can see, there are a variety of things to do in Hvar Island Croatia. It’s a summer getaway fit for friends and family. It’s also a perfect destination for lone wanderers. From historical and cultural experiences to beach hopping and parties, Hvar Island has something for every traveler.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your flight today!