Hvar is an island on Croatia’s Adriatic coast, situated between the islands of Vis, Korcula and Brac. It is known for its fertile land, clear blue water, acres of lavender fields, exceptional wines and endless nights. Hvar has slowly crept into the hearts of millions of people across the globe to become one of the top summer destinations in Europe. This week guest blogger Ashley Colburn shares her inside knowledge on how to spend a day in Hvar.
The city of Hvar is the busiest town and port on the island of Hvar. During high season the town can have a circulation of up to 20,000 people a day. It’s a popular spot on Croatia sailing holidays so if you find yourself with 24 hours to spend on the island, here’s how to plan your day.
In the morning
Start your day of sightseeing at the Arsenal. This old and historic building was considered the most beautiful in Dalmatia during Venetian times. It was destroyed during the Ottoman empire and rebuilt in 1611. Once you’ve climbed the stairs, you can see an atmospheric theatre. It is said that this theatre was the first one in Europe to accept both plebeians and aristocrats. By doing so, both classes were made equal. The theatre was active until 2008 and then closed for restoration. Although it hasn’t opened its doors to the public since, the city of Hvar has plans to reopen it in the future.
Exiting the Arsenal, turn right and head towards the Cathedral of St. Stephen. The cathedral was rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries after the original building was ruined during a Turk attack. Stop to admire the bell tower before continuing.
Behind the Cathedral you will find the attractive summer house of the poet Hannibal Lucić. Since 1664 this building has been home to a community of Benedictine nuns. It is now more commonly known as the Hvar convent. Here you can see fine examples of lacework, an art form that the nuns have perfected over the centuries. It is now protected by UNESCO. Lacework is exhibited in a small museum in the convent.
If you have time
Hvar town is not very big so you’ll still have time to take a short stroll to the Franciscan Monastery. Enter the monastery and enjoy a variety of exhibits from different eras. These include Greek, Venetian and Roman coins, amphoras and paintings from famous Venetian artists. The monastery is also home to one the most beautiful paintings of the Last Supper in Croatia. As you leave the monastery, look for a cypress tree. You will be surprised to know that it has been there for no less than 300 years. Please note that the monastery is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 12 am and then reopens at 5 pm until 7 pm.
If you’re feeling peckish, head back to St. Stephen’s square. At 4,500 square metres, St. Stephen’s square is one of the biggest old squares in Dalmatia. Here you can enjoy a tasty bite to eat or cup of coffee at one of the many bars and restaurants. Pjaca cafe bar offers the perfect view of the seaside and the busy promenade to accompany a light lunch.
In the afternoon
Now that you’re fed and a little rested, climb up to Fortica. This is the hilltop fortress that overlooks Hvar town and the Pakleni Islands. It is open from 8 am until 9 pm and a must-see while you’re in Hvar. Fortica castle was built on the site of an Illyrian settlement that dates from before 500 BC. It owes its current look to the Austrians who renovated the building in the 19th century. However, the castle was first built in the 6th century as a Byzantine citadel.
Allow yourself 20 minutes to climb up to Fortica from Hvar town. The winding path up there means it’s not too steep and a comfortable walk for most people. Even if you don’t make it to the top, you can still enjoy the sight of Fortica from Hvar town. It’s especially pretty at night when lights illuminate the stone walls.
During the summer, the evenings in Croatia are long and light. If your feet are still willing, follow the coastal path west of the main town for views of the ocean. Behind you will be attractive parks and along the way you can stop at rocky beaches. Walk as far as you like before retracing your steps back to town for your evening meal.
For a nice, peaceful place to eat try the Passarola restaurant, known for both its meat and fish dishes. Try to get the table upstairs and enjoy the atmosphere. If you’re looking for a place that offers good food and more affordable prices, go to Konoba Dalmatino (booking recommended). For some of the freshest fish in the world, Gariful is the best option. And with its location right on the Riva – the waterfront promenade – it’s in the heart of Hvar’s action.
Interested in knowing why some people call Hvar the ‘party island’? Once darkness has descended, check out some of the local clubs and bars, including the popular Hula Hula Beach Bar.
While in Hvar (if your schedule allows), we also recommend:
- Taking a taxi boat from Hvar city to Vlaka bay where you can enjoy untouched nature and crystal blue sea.
- If you’re one to avoid crowds, take a taxi to Stari Grad or Jelsa for some sightseeing.
- Wine lovers should not miss Plenkovic winery with its wine cellar under the sea.
Ashley Colburn is a California native who spends half the year living in Croatia. Ashley began her career as a host, producer, and writer for Wealth TV in 2009 and has since won awards, including an Emmy, for her travel shows. She now runs her own production company, www.ashleycolburnproductions.com, and is teaching a Travel Journalism course. You can follow Ashley on Instagram @ashley_colburn.