The ritziest town on the Croatian glamour island of Hvar is a town by the same name. Set on a harbour that attracts mega yachts, party boats and ferries carrying day trippers to the nearby Paklenki Islands, Hvar town entices 20,000 visitors a day in the summer season.
Arriving by boat is mandatory on Hvar Island and the Krilo Passenger Ferry departs Vis Island at 7 a.m. every Tuesday, arriving in Hvar Town less than an hour later. This recent addition to the stable of ferries that connect mainland Split with the islands was an excellent choice for us. Coming direct from Vis the ferry cuts hours off the usual Vis/Split/Hvar trip. However if you’re bringing a vehicle you will need to return to Split and arrive by car ferry.
Krilo Ferry arrives and departs from the Riva at Hvar town (left of harbour below) while car ferries arrive in the port town of Starigrad.
Arriving on the Riva, which is after all the main cafe strip, it’s inevitable to find yourself a comfortable lounge at BB’s. This is the place to watch all the action from and their service was the best we found in Croatia. With it’s communist background, Croatia does not have a culture of excellent customer service, but we noticed a change at BB’s. You must always ask for your bill in a Croatian Cafe because customer’s like to sit and chat for hours – the bill being left open in case a further drink is required.
It became our morning ritual to watch the port come to life over a coffee/tea/juice and croissant.
By night it is fun to watch the boats come home to roost on the Riva. The most we counted moored to the same bollard was twelve. The boats that span out across the harbour mouth are also tied back to one another for extra stability.
Most of our budget saving Lunches and Dinners took place on the terrace of our Airbnb apartment. The beauty of choosing accommodation early, is finding a place with such nice amenities and views that you look forward to eating at home!
The whole of this floor level was ours.
As the apartment was 3/4 of the way up the hill that backed the Riva, our host kindly arranged to collect us from the bus station, located behind St. Stephens square. The old town is car free beyond that point. At other times we climbed the route via lanes from the port taking 10 to 15 minutes each way. The shops made for an interesting walk on the way up and we varied the lanes we took on the way down. When it was time to leave, our host dropped us back the bus station from where we migrated to BB’s to await the ferry.
A rough gravel track led from our hilltop, down through naturally treed slopes to Pokonji dol beach, a popular swimming spot. The water there was incredibly clear and quite cold, so after warming our post swim bodies on a rocky ledge we adjourned to Mustačo bar and surveyed the beach scene with toes rattling the pebbles.
Croatian beaches are just so civilised!
Mustačo has a reputation for cocktails and good food and the out of the way position is inviting. We noticed that both the beach and water were clear of rubbish.
From the bay it is a pleasant half an hour walk via beach road Ivana Vučetića, to Hvar Town. Pokonji Dol Island looks so close and the road passes beneath windswept trees, with wildflowers and cacti providing patches of colour.
The small boat harbour on Put Križa, south of the Riva, is stunning at sunset.
The Fransiscan Monastery of St. Mary of Grace on Put Križa, was a 15th century retreat for sailors and today their collection of artefacts is the oldest on the Island.
We enjoyed this town/beach/town walk so much we did it three times. Yep, the first two occasions we mis-timed the sunset, but on the third and final time we nailed it. I had a lovely time capturing the sunset through different features on the shore-line.
St. Stephen’s Church and Square
The Church sits at the eastern end of the large 4,500 sq.m. town square. The garlands were to celebrate the ordination of a local boy into the priesthood. Although the square is quiet in the morning, it soon starts to bustle.
Surrounded by restaurants in the square today, this Water Well, built in 1520 is topped with a gorgeous wrought iron cover (1780).
As with Piran’s Tartini Sauare, St. Stephen’s square was once part of the harbour, being filled in and paved in 1780.
Stairs lead from the back of the old town to a fortress atop the 100m high hill.
The restored fortress has led many lives and wows with views of the town, ocean and islands. Building started in 1282 funded from the salt sales of the city.
A gentle zig-zag path takes over where the stairs leave off.
In the 14th Century Spanish engineers became involved in the construction, creating the nickname of Spanjola. In 1571 the walls of Spanjola provided refuge (from Turkish invaders) for the whole town.
An un-named church along the fortress path.
Along with other Croatian fortresses we’ve met, Spanjola suffered the injustice of becoming a disco venue. But that is in the past with the rejuvenated cannons, bastions and battlements now being a major tourist attraction.
A visit to the fort is a pleasant way to while away a few hours in Hvar Town.
The fortress and Loggia by night from Riva. The 16th Century loggia is the building with the arched colonnades.
Motto of the order of Benedictine Monks – Ora et Labora – Pray and Work
The Benedictine Nuns of Hvar Town were the Island’s first educators, 1826 to 1866, and then in the mid-nineteenth century turned their hand to making lace from Agave Plants (a recognised Unesco heritage).
Across the harbour from the Riva, Fabrika follows the coastline faithfully, passing many restaurants, bars and clubs whose only commonalities are ocean views and good times.
Budget Travel Talk
Hvar is expensive by Croatian standards, but by eating two meals a day at home we kept expenses to a minimum. When travelling around the island we used public buses. Our Airbnb apartment cost $305 AUD for four nights.
It is true that Hvar Town is a glamorous party town where you can throw money around like confetti, but it is also a place to enjoy an inexpensive relaxing holiday. The key is to be a little off-season and book self-catering accommodation well in advance.
Fortress Entrance Fees: 30 kuna adults and 15 kuna children
BB Breakfast: Coffee, Orange Juice, Croissant 49 kuna
Hello 2 Cafe at Town Market: 10 cevapci with pita 50 kuna
Vegetables at the daily market are affordable as are chicken and pork from the nearby butcher. A large supermarket is located close to the market.
Hvar Island is connected by ferry from Split and Dubrovnik. Krilo ferry connects direct from Vis Island.
When to Visit
We timed our visit for mid to late June. This is just before peak season of July/August. Although used to swimming in warm water, I found Hvar’s water temperature to be chilly but bearable. Maybe in early September the water would retain some of July/August’s heat, but the crowds would be gone.
If you want to party the night away and have temperatures over 30 degrees C then July/August is the time for your visit.