Hvar is arguably one of the most famous of the Dalmatian islands and attracts thousands of travellers each and every year to its sunny shores. Whether you’re planning to relax and unwind by the sea, or you want to let loose and party at some of Europe's best outdoor nightclubs, there is something for everyone on this picturesque island.
This island of Hvar receives more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the Adriatic, 2,718 hours per year to be exact, making it the perfect location to soak up the pristine beaches and turquoise water.
If you’re planning a trip to Hvar, then look no further than our insider guide to this incredible island!Table of contents
- History of Hvar
- Best Way to Get to Hvar
- Things to do in Hvar Island
- Top Party Locations in Hvar
- Where to eat in Hvar
- Old Town Attractions
- Where to stay in Hvar
- Explore Hvar’s Towns
- Visit Hvar’s Best Beaches
History of Hvar
Hvar was colonised by the Greeks in ancient times, as far back as 384 BC. The island was originally referred to as ‘Pharos’ which translates to ‘lighthouse’ in Greek; a fitting tribute to the sunny island of Hvar! Throughout the island you can still find the remains of old settlements and forts scattered throughout the countryside, paying homage to the island's roots.
The island's popularity goes back to the 12th century, when the Venetian Republic settled the island and introduced wine cultivation, cementing Hvar’s position in tourism for centuries to come. It’s said that Hvar was one of the original instigators of tourism in Croatia, with the first foundations of organised tourism being registered on the island in 1868. Today Hvar Island is a tourist hot spot with a population of just over 11,000 people.
Best Way to Get to Hvar
Hvar is well connected to the mainland by a comprehensive network of passenger ferries, car ferries and high speed catamarans. If you’re travelling to the island from Split, the fastest way to travel is on the daily catamaran, which takes just under two hours, however you can also catch a car ferry from Split to Stari Grad if you are travelling with your vehicle.
Dubrovnik and Hvar are also well connected, however the journey of approximately 3.5 hours is a little longer than if you are coming from Split.
Ferry timetables can be found here.
If you’ve booked an island hopping cruise between Split and Dubrovnik, then it’s likely that the star-studded Hvar will be on your itinerary!
Things to do in Hvar Island
Hvar has a plethora of things to do, see, and try whilst visiting the island. Whether you’re heading to Hvar for a day trip, or planning on spending an extended period on the island, we’ve put together our favourite things to do in Hvar!
1. Visit the Spanjola Fortress
If you’re looking for the best view over Hvar Town, then a visit to the Spanjola Fortress needs to be on the top of your list! Originally built as a defensive fortress against Turkish invaders, the 16th Century Fortica is now a museum housing a collection of amphorae and antiques, a cafe bar and incredible viewpoint across the island and nearby Pakleni Archipelago. Navigate through the Old Town alleys and stairs before following the winding path up to the fortress. The climb is moderate but well worth the effort!
Our top tip: visit at sunset for incredible fairy floss skies!
2. Try Hvar’s Famous Lavender
Hvar has grown fragrant lavender fields all over the island for many years now. If there’s an item that could, even remotely, feature lavender, you will find it on Hvar Island! Lavender oil, lavender ice-cream and lavender honey are just some of the products on offer! If you’re exploring the island, you’ll notice the fields of lavender growing almost everywhere you look! To see the lavender fields in all their glory, late June is the best time to experience a purple blanket across the fields. Visit a family-run lavender field, buy some lavender oil to take home, or at the very least, indulge in some local lavender ice-cream!
3. Explore the Pakleni Islands
The name of this group of 19 wooded islets located off the southeast coast of Hvar Island literally translates to ‘Hell's Islands’ in English, but don't panic! This name actually refers to a pine resin used to coat ships back in the day and this stunning island archipelago is closer aligned to our idea of heaven, than hell! Each of these small islands brings something new and exciting to the table. Some of them are a haven for naturists whilst others have been transformed into open air art galleries, restaurants and seaside bars. With some of the best swimming spots in the region, these islands are sure to be on any sunseeker's bucket list!
Our recommendation is to hire a small boat and skipper for the day to explore the Pakleni Islands and find your own little slice of paradise! There are plenty of water taxis along the waterfront in Hvar Town where you can organise a cost effective return trip.
4. Taste local wine
Hvar has been home to viticulture and indigenous grapes for over 2,400 years and is the perfect place to dabble in some wine tasting! The first vines were planted on the, now UNESCO protected, Stari Grad Plain in 384BC, meaning some of the vines on this island are centuries old. A warm climate, rich, versatile soil and age-old traditions produce award winning local varieties such as Posip and Plavac Mali.
Our top tip is to visit Hora Farm, a winefield set within the stunning Stari Grad Plain that produces organic wine, food, lavender and olive oils.
Top Party Locations in Hvar
Popular with celebrities and party goers alike, Hvar is the perfect island for those late night revellers looking to experience the best nightlife Croatia has to offer! From waterfront sunset bars, to exclusive open air nightclubs, bars famous for flaming jager trains and everything in between, Hvar is your one stop shop to party!
Carpe Diem is the most popular after hours beach bar on the entire coast. By day a relaxing beach bar is complete with delicious local food, cocktails, sun loungers and a chilled out vibe. Come evening, Carpe Diem turns into an open-air club complete with private booths, performers, electronic beats and often local DJ’s spinning house and electronic tunes. This exclusive island club is a short water taxi ride away from Hvar Island and tickets usually include a return fare.
Hula Hula Bar
Think a tiki style bar perched right on the waterfront, cocktails by the litre and local DJ’s setting the vibe as the sun goes down, and you’ve got a glimpse into Hula Hula Bar! Located a 15 - 20 minute walk from Hvar’s main square, Hula Hula Bar attracts people from all over the world with it’s good vibes, delicious cocktails and incredible sunsets right over the water.
Our top tip: get there well ahead of sunset, as once the moon rises, Hula Hula party goers are making their way back to Hvar Town to carry on into the night!
Located in the heart of Hvar Town, Nautica Bar is a feel-good bar serving up all the usual suspects and playing an impressive variety of tunes to keep you dancing well into the night! Nautica Bar is famous for its relaxed atmosphere and flaming jager trains that you need to see to believe!
Where to eat in Hvar
Grab your fellow travellers and immerse yourself in the local cuisine as you dine with the water lapping by your feet! Fresh seafood is a popular specialty on the menu at waterside restaurants in Hvar, and you’ll often find freshly caught seafood displayed on ice for your meal selection! If a seafood feast doesn’t tickle your fancy, you are spoilt for choice on the number of traditional restaurants, or Konobas as they’re called in Croatia, serving up Dalmatian recipes with local flair. Whether you’re looking for exceptional quality or budget friendly favourites like pizza or pasta, Hvar has you covered! Our favourite restaurants in Hvar are below!
Mizarola is a delicious pizzeria serving good quality italian classics. If you’re after delicious food paired with great service and value for money, look no further!
Divino is a romantic restaurant with incredible views out over the Pakleni Islands. If you’re after exceptional quality and service, Divino is your perfect location.
Appeti is a fresh seafood feasts and traditional food served in a romantic setting.
Old Town Attractions
The Old Town of Hvar is like something straight out of a fairytale! Stone marbled floors and hidden alleyways come to life with pops of colour seemingly growing out of the cracks thanks to evergreen vines and colourful flowers. Like all good tourist destinations, the Old Town is impressive upon first glance, however it’s only when you get lost in the cobbled streets, tinker in the quaint local stores and find that hidden Konoba serving the best swiss chard of your life, that you know you’ve really explored the place!
St Stjepans Cathedral
Found at the end of the Pjaca, on the eastern side of the Town Square, is St. Stjepans Cathedral. This impressive structure sets the backdrop to the town with its Gothic architecture and striking 17th Century Bell Tower. Initially built on foundations from the 6th Century, its current appearance was developed over the 16th and 17th century. Today, it forms an integral part of Hvar’s architecture and a prominent presence over the Town Square.
Hvar Town Square
All streets lead to Hvar’s Town Square, or Pjaca, as it is referred to in Croatian. The traditional centre of social and economic life, today the square’s marbled floors are still used as the official centre of town. The square is the largest in all of Dalmatia, sitting at 4,500m2, and is home to many restaurants, stores, bakeries and cafes. The open space and stunning architecture makes for the perfect spot to grab a kava (coffee) and people watch until your heart’s content!
Where to stay in Hvar
Hvar has a range of accommodation options ranging from hostels with shared dorms to luxury high-end hotels. Whether you’re looking to stay in Hvar Town, Jelsa, Milna or Stari Grad, we recommend using an accommodation search engine, such as Airbnb.
Explore Hvar’s Towns
There are many ways to explore the island of Hvar; via local bus, yacht, speedboat, scooter, or even car. However you decide to make like Christopher Colombus, make sure you get off the beaten path and discover the quaint towns hidden within the island.
Jelsa dates back to the 1300's and was a significant trading port for the island's wine and olive oil back in the day. It nestles at the foot of thickly wooded hillsides and boasts plenty of restaurants and bars to explore, with some overlooking the harbour itself and others tucked away in the side streets. Jelsa is located approximately 25 minutes away (by car) from Hvar Town and is a picturesque town not to be missed!
The tiny village of Milna is nestled into a small cove and is well known for its breathtaking beaches. Featuring 4 picturesque beaches, pine forests and a few restaurants, Milna is a quiet and beautiful waterfront village to visit. Located only 4 kilometres from Hvar Town, Milna is a must if you’re looking to escape for some peace and quiet.
Stari Grad literally means 'Old Town' and it is the oldest town in Croatia, dating back to Greek settlement in 384BC. The town is located approximately 19 kilometres from Hvar Town and boasts an attractive network of old narrow streets and small squares around the harbour. Vineyards and olive groves surround the town and the nearby Stari Grad Plain is well worth a visit on your way to this quaint town. A full guide on Stari Grad can be found here.
Visit Hvar’s Best Beaches
Hvar is well known for having some of the best beaches in Croatia located right on it’s shores. With so many to choose from, we’ve narrowed it down to our favourites!
You’ll find this picturesque bay after a short 25 minute stroll, or 5 minute drive from Hvar Town. It is the largest cobblestone beach in Hvar and features beautiful crystal clear water. If you’re looking to get active, beachgoers can hire canoes and pedal boats, or simply spend your day perched on a deck chair with a good book!
This little gem can be found between the beaches of Milna and Pokonji Dol, and is accessible by boat (from Hvar Town) or foot (from Pokonji Dol). The pretty pebbled beach is located nearby multiple secluded bays, so if you’re up for exploring, you might even be able to find your own little piece of paradise! Complete with a well known restaurant serving up delicious seafood and ice cold drinks, we can’t think of a reason to ever leave this stunning beach!
One of the most popular beaches in Hvar, is Dubovcia. This stretch of white pebbled beach and inviting turquoise water doesn’t come without a challenge and reward, however! The beach is located approximately 8 kilometers from Hvar Town and is accessible by foot down an unmarked path. This stunning beach is surrounded by pine forest and olive trees, setting the scene for the ultimate mediterranean vibe. Take a dip, relax in the sunshine or indulge in fresh Dalmatian cuisine at the Konoba just a stone’s throw away.
Heading to other Croatian islands? Read our guide to Croatia’s Best Beaches.
Hvar is a magical island that caters to everyone's tastes! Filled with historic buildings, jaw-dropping beaches, impressive nightlife, friendly locals and an incredibly rich history of agriculture, you’re spoilt for choice whilst visiting the sunniest island in Croatia!