Hvar is one of Croatia’s most popular destinations and with good reason. The gorgeous Adriatic island has a 6,000-year-old history, a relaxed southern European vibe, stunning turquoise waters, impressive Renaissance art, and architecture, as well as plenty of things to see and do for all types of visitors. It was named one of the top islands in Europe by CN Traveller.
From how to get to the island from the mainland, to the top 10 things to do in Hvar, to the best islands to visit on day trips, this comprehensive guide to all things to do in Hvar will help you plan your Croatia itinerary.
Where is Hvar?
Hvar is an island in Croatia. Located in the Adriatic Sea, south of the mainland, the closest cities to Hvar are Split, Dubrovnik and Brač.
How to Get From Split to Hvar
Most visitors arrive in Split, which has an international airport, then take a ferry to Hvar (or, if you have money to burn – a private motorboat!). The ferry takes an hour or two, depending on the route, and prices are around 100Kn one way, though this varies by company and by season.
The ferries are run by three companies: Kapetan Luka, Jadrolinija and Krilo Shipping Company. Combined, they offer 16-18 journeys a day in high season (warm, summer months) and 2-3 journeys a day in low season (winter).
Top 10 Things to Do in Hvar
Whether you’re looking to live the high life like the celebs that frequent Hvar on their private yacht, or if you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy heritage and nature, Hvar has got you covered. Here are ten recommendations for the must-visit things to do in Hvar.
1. Explore Hvar Town
Hvar Town may be small, but it makes up for size with charm and it’s the perfect place to get lost, wander the narrow streets and soak up the historic atmosphere.
There are plenty of local restaurants, bars and cafes to choose from, so you can try the local dishes and wines. A popular local pastime is simply to find a good café in St. Stephen’s Square, order a coffee and people-watch. The square is the largest in Dalmatia, measuring 4,500 square meters, and is home to a 16th-century fountain.
Visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Dating back to the Renaissance period, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a significant Hvar landmark and a must-visit attraction on the island.
The signature square bell tower and Renaissance architecture give way to stunning paintings inside, including works by Palma Junior and Stefano Celesti. The most treasured of the pieces on display is the Madonna and Child, a Venetian painting that dates back to the 1220s, though the artist is sadly unknown.
If you visit in the evening, warm dusky sunlight pours through the archways, bouncing off the white stone walls and the effect is truly spectacular.
2. Enjoy the View From Fortica
The highest point in Hvar Town is the fortress, which offers incredible views of the town, as well as out to the ocean and the neighboring Pakleni Islands.
Fortica dates back to the 16th century and was originally constructed by the Venetians. To learn more about the history of the building, there are exhibits inside. Or, you can simply buy a drink at the café and enjoy the scenery.
Note that the fortress is a bit of a walk from the main town and up a steep staircase, so it’s best to visit early or late in the day, when temperatures are cooler, or with transport.
3. Drink Wine on a Vineyard Tour in Jelsa
The island’s best-known area for wine, Jelsa has a long legacy of winemaking and the vineyards here offer tasting sessions and wine tours. Only a half-hour drive from Hvar Town, the town of Jelsa itself is also fun to explore, with picturesque architecture and tranquil places to eat on the waterfront.
4. Visit the Franciscan Monastery
The bell tower of the Franciscan Monastery can be seen from almost anywhere in Hvar Town.
Located near the harbor, the monastery is known for its Renaissance architecture, as well as for the artwork inside – especially the huge painting of The Last Supper. Measuring an incredible two by eight meters, it’s still a mystery whether Palma Junior or Matteo Ingoli is the master behind the masterpiece.
The grounds of the monastery are also very beautiful to walk around. Don’t miss the famous old cypress tree, which is said to have been growing in this spot since the 18th century.
5. Run Through the Lavender Fields
If you’re visiting Hvar during June or July, you’ll understand why the isle is nicknamed The Lavender Island, as the fields overflow with the iconic purple flowers with the relaxing scent – making for vivid photo opportunities and a treat for all the senses.
Organic lavender and lavender products are sold all around the island, picked by hand, and make for great souvenirs. Buy a small hessian sack of the flowers or a vial of lavender essential oil and the fragrance will always bring you back to the lavender fields of Hvar and your Croatia trip.
If you head to the traditional village of Velo Grablje (around 10 kilometers from Hvar Town), there is a local agricultural co-operative which hosts a Lavender Festival every year in June.
If you’re visiting Hvar during this month, be sure to attend to learn more about this plant, as well as other locally-grown products, such as rosemary, olive oil, and honey.
6. Try the Local Cuisine
When in Hvar, make sure you sample the local dishes.
The signature plate of Hvar is gregada. This stew includes fish, potatoes, onion, garlic, and olive oil – best served with freshly baked bread.
Drink Local Wine
Aside from the rolling vineyards elsewhere on the island, one of the best places to sample wine is at Tri Pršuta (Three Hams), a well-known wine bar in Hvar Town.
The cozy bar is very atmospheric, with the namesake three ham hocks suspended from wooden beams, plus antique furniture, and sometimes even live music (there’s a guitar in the corner if you’d like to strum a tune yourself).
Here, strangers mingle and it’s not uncommon to taste each other’s wines. Ask owner Vidan for wine recommendations based on your tastes, and order a platter of local cheeses and meats to compliment your Hforski koloč
End with something sweet by popping into a local bakery for cookies and cakes, as well as a nice cup of coffee. Try the Hforski koloč, local to Hvar, which is a kind of cookie that seems to melt in the mouth and has a mild citrus flavor. Head to Nonica (Granny’s) for cakes just like Nana makes.
7. Visit the Blue and Green Caves
Although not strictly located on Hvar, most visitors depart on a guided motorboat tour from the island to visit these iconic landmarks.
The Green Cave
The Green Cave is located on Ravnik Island and gets its name from the vibrant green glow made when sunlight illuminated the water. Visitors usually stop for around 30 minutes here to swim in the sea and enjoy the gorgeous colors.
The Blue Cave
Next, you’ll head on to Bisevo Island to the Blue Cave, a dreamy neon-like hue created by a narrow shaft of sunlight that reflects on the sandy bottom of the cave.
8. Enjoy the Watersports
Surrounded by crystal clear ocean, there are plenty of water sports to indulge in during your trip to Hvar.
This is one of the best ways to explore the island and its surrounds, as you have the freedom to paddle wherever you choose and the currents in the Adriatic are mostly very tame in these parts. Just make sure you wear a hat and pack some sunscreen before you head off around the coast!
There are two PADI-accredited diving companies on Hvar, both of which operate out of Hvar Town.
If you already have your certification, join an excursion to Vis where you can see shipwrecks, including a B-17 Flying Fortress that sank during World War II, or head out to see the English merchant boat, Paulina, which descended into a lagoon in the 1800s.
9. Party Like a Rock Star
Hvar attracts people from all walks of life, from celebrities on luxury yachts and resorts, to laidback beach-goers looking for the perfect sunset spot. Here are a few of the best places to pick up the vibe:
Hula Hula Hvar
Once just a local hangout, Hula Hula Hvar is now beloved by both locals and tourists for its perfect sunset cocktail spot. Recline with an umbrella-topped glass and watch the sun descend below the horizon. If you get peckish, you can order food from Bubba Gump’s next door.
This high-end establishment operates until late and has a reputation for attracting celebrity guests. The VIP treatment reaches new heights every August, when the bar becomes reservation-only and the terrace, with its own separate bar, is reserved only for the rich and famous.
This nightclub is famous for one particular guest who danced the night away before jumping fully-clothed into the pool – none other than Prince Harry! Located in a Venetian fortress that looks out over Hvar Town, the terrace is a gorgeous sunset spot, though many guests arrive much later…
10. Laze on the Beach
Of course, Hvar is an island and therefore home to some of Croatia’s best beaches. Here are a few of the best beaches on Hvar, perfect for laidback beach days between sightseeing:
Considered to be the best on the island, Dubovica is a beautiful pebble beach, around eight kilometers from Hvar town, on the south coast. The little cove has gorgeous clear waters, as it’s sheltered from the wind. There’s also a great restaurant serving up local dishes on the beachfront.
This secluded little beach can be a little tricky to get to, but it’s worth the trip by scooter or boat (parking can be an issue), then the steep descent to the beach, for the brilliant colors at the bottom.
Around four kilometers from Hvar town, on the south of the island, you’ll find the village of Milna and its four beautiful beaches – well away from the crowds.
The Best Islands in Croatia
Croatia has over 1,000 islands to choose from, many of which are uninhabited. Some of these can be found scattered around Hvar, making them perfect for a day trip.
The Pakleni Islands
Hvar’s little brother and sister islets lie just offshore and boast isolated beaches, unspoiled forest, lagoons fit for mermaids and incredibly clear water, perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Take a boat trip to the Pakleni Islands from Hvar Town (water taxi or even rent a motorboat for the day), or try a kayaking tour to really make the most of the idyllic ocean paradise isles.
Directly opposite Hvar Town is the island of Jerolim. This uninhabited spot of land is just a 15-minute water taxi away from Hvar. With trees and bush, rock and pebble beaches (Jerolim’s Kordovan Beach was once a nudist beach!), there’s much to explore.
Separated from Hvar by the Hvar Channel, Brac is the third-largest island in the Central Dalmatian archipelago. Brac is known for stone and it was here that white limestone was sourced and quarried to make many well-known Croatian structures, such as Sibenik Cathedral.
There are also two stonemasonry schools in the south of the island.
Other Things to Do in Hvar
Did this guide to things to do in Hvar help you decide what to include on your Croatia itinerary? Did any of the suggestions surprise you, or – if you’ve already been to Hvar and you’re reminiscing about your trip – are there any places to see that you think were missed out?
Pass on your tips and recommendations in the comments below.
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