The playground of the sailing set, the glittering island of Hvar is known on the international scene for its extravagant parties, the ultimate destination for Croatian decadence. But, beyond dancing with abandon and cocktails with a coastal view, what else does this Adriatic island have to offer? And how do you spend a weekend on the ‘Sunshine Island’? Let’s explore all the attractions that make it unique; a countdown of the best way to spend a weekend on Hvar.
Amble around Old Town
More than just a destination for day trippers, Hvar’s Old Town is a great place to get a feel of the island and immerse yourself in its history. Particularly walkable, just spend a few hours sauntering the streets and taking in some of the famous Croatian landmarks.
Most notable is probably St Stephen’s Square and Cathedral, which looms large as you walk along the main placa (square) from the harbor to its doors. Beautiful to behold from the outside, it’s the interior that will make you gasp – Renaissance art in all its grandeur including an acclaimed Madonna and Child.
Next up, take a turn at the Loggia and Clock Tower, built around the turn of the 16th century. Once part of the Venetian Governor’s palace, the façade itself is fit for a king. A stone’s throw away is Hvar’s Arsenal, originally built as a workshop for warships. It was then transformed to house the first ever theatre in Croatia, plus is home to the Gallery of Modern Art.
Last, but definitely not least, is the Franciscan Monastery. With its Bell Tower poking above Hvar’s picturesque buildings, you can’t miss this Renaissance-styled monastery from the 15th century, filled with inspiring art including a breath-taking version of the Last Supper.
See the Spanjola Fortress
Head up the hills for sweeping views of the city. It’s a gentle walk up some stairs to this Venetian fortress, which dates back to the 1500s. While it was only completed in 1551, its history stretches back as far as 1282, when the town sought protection from the swashbuckling pirates in the Adriatic Sea, paying for the construction with the money they made from selling salt!
While it was supported by the Venetians, the Fortress gets its name from the Spanish engineers who helped build it.
Take your time wandering around the slightly decaying structures, peer through the battlements to the sea below, or snap a few shots of Hvar Town at the foot of the hill.
Head to the beach
Depending on your island-hopping itinerary in Croatia, you might have had enough sea and sand. But, if you’re still in search of a white sandy shore, there are some brilliant beaches dotted around the island.
Feeling a bit lazy? A stone’s throw from Hvar’s Old Town is the beautiful bay of Pokonki dol which doesn’t just offer crystal clear waters but has loungers and umbrellas for rent – ideal for beach bums wanting to sunbathe the day away.
Looking for a more secret spot? While it does boast a sometimes-bustling beach bar, make your way to the quieter Dubovica Beach, a gem of a shore located about halfway between Old Town and Stari Grad.
And, for those really wanting that elusive strip of deserted sand, simply rent a car and ride over to Prapatna. Perched at the north of the island, you’ll find an unspoiled beach well worth the effort.
Get out to Stari Grad
The more charming cousin to Hvar’s Old Town, those in search of a more authentic Croatian experience will fall in love with Stari Grad. Think whitewashed streets, bright swathes of bougainvillea and a slower, more languid pace to life.
Walk along the palm-fringed Riva (seaside promenade), check out the many quaint cafes or just tuck into seafood delights at the restaurants dotted around the town.
One of the main attractions is definitely Tvrdalj Palace, where the famed Croatian poet, Petar Hektorovic, spent his summers. More than just gorgeous gardens and ethereal interiors, the Palace served a more interesting purpose – it provided shelter for local inhabitants during the rampage of the Ottoman Turks.
Party the night away
When the sun sets over the Adriatic Ocean and the temperature starts to cool, is when Hvar really comes to life. With an almost global reputation for being a hub for revellers, Hvar’s nightlife has become an important part of staying on the island. But you’ll need to choose your club of choice wisely.
The cruise ship collectives tend to congregate at Carpe Diem bar, the backpacker crowd at the chilled-out Hula Hula and the rock-crazed partygoers can be found at Kiva, downing their signature drink, ‘Tequila Dum Dum’.
Explore the island towns
Hvar is more than just the Old Town and Stari Grad so, if you have the time, carve out a few hours in one of the quaint villages sprinkled around. Like Jelsa, a postcard-pretty town that’s great for families.
Or Sveta Nedjelja, a postage stamp-sized village set on a soaring peak, St Nicholas. Here you cannot just marvel at its precarious position, but you can check out the local cave, tuck into a large plate of sesame-crusted fish or indulge in the native tipple, Dingac wine, made from Plavac Mali grapes harvested off the nearby cliffs.
If you’re wanting to go a bit further afield, you could even get a water taxi to the uninhabited archipelago of the Pakleni Islands, head over to nearby Jerolim island or even catch a ferry to Brac, the neighboring island that’s actually worth a weekend just to itself!
With so much to do on this small strip of land, you’ll be hard-pressed to cram it all into just one, exciting weekend. Even if the sights above don’t tickle your traveling fancy, you could visit one of the many vineyard, buy essential oils in the purple-tinted lavender fields of Velo Grablje, or even hop on a trip out to the Blue and Green Caves near Bisevo, where small gaps in the caves bathe you in neon blue light.
Regardless of your itinerary, a weekend in Hvar will have you itching for your next Croatian adventure – wandering around Dubrovnik, chilling out in Korcula or taking in the red-roofed splendor of Split.