Hvar, the Croatian Island Which Has It All: 18 - Hvar Town
February 6, 2018 – Continuing our look at 2018 European Best Destinations nominee, the island of Hvar, a visit to the town which has it all – Hvar Town.
There are few places in the world which are blessed with so many different treasures as Hvar Town. Stunningly beautiful, the first impression is just how gorgeous it is, but look a little deeper, and here you have a destination which truly has it all, and which has become one of the must-sees of the Adriatic tourism experience.
Here, for example, on the main square (the biggest square in all Dalmatia, by the way, at 4,500m2, one can find the oldest public theatre in Europe. Built in 1612, the theatre is just one symbol of the town’s rich culture and heritage. The theatre, which is due to reopen this year to visitors, sits on the first floor of the imperious Arsenal building, which guards the entrance to the main square, is only part of this fascinating building which has played an important role in the town’s history. Two years ago, during renovations of the floor, more treasures of the past where discovered in the form of Roman artefacts. You can read more about that find here.
Across the square lies the City Loggia and Hotel Palace, which is currently being renovated into the island’s first five-star hotel. It is a location which has a very special place in history which will be celebrated on May 15, for here is the birthplace of organised tourism in Europe, which started with the founding of the Hvar Health Society in 1868. If you are planning to visit Hvar Town this year, mid-May will see the biggest celebrations.
Just off the main square going towards the fortress is another piece of Hvar heritage which is a world away from the vibrant nightlife for which the town is famous. The Benedictine Nuns have been in Hvar Town for more than 350 years, and they have become internationally renowned for their lace, which is made from the agave plant (Mexicans use it to make tequila) and, along with the lace of Lepoglava and Pag, Hvar’s lace has been inscribed as UNESCO intangible heritage.
Walk along the famous riva, and one can find the birthplace of a man who has done much to keep the world a safer place. Known as the father of dactyloscopy, and his discoveries of fingerprinting when solving a murder in Argentina, the country to which he emigrated, changed the way crimes were solved. This year marks 160 years since his birth.
Hvar has so many old and historic buildings, that it is a true joy to walk through its streets and alleys to explore, but a hike to the impressive fortress gives one perhaps the best overview of the magic of Hvar Town. One of the most iconic views in all Croatia, the Spanish Fortress looks down over the town and the magnificent Pakleni Islands beyond. And what a wealth of choice and diversity is contained therein. CNN’s top naturist beach in the world on tiny Jerolim; the upscale Carpe Diem Beach – chill zone by day, party zone by night – at Stipanska, and the oasis of culture at Meneghello on Palmizana, complete with arboretum, art gallery and full cultural programme, to name but three.
Hvar Town’s exclusive riva has seen megayachts from the rich and famous over the years, but one of the great appeals of the town is its egalitarian feel, a place where celebrities and backpackers share the same town, and where are all welcome. Hvar is bonded to the water and, apart from the supply of outstanding seafood to the town’s restaurants, the sea also brings plenty of sailing tourism. With an ACI marina in Palmizana and the divine Pakleni Islands to explore, Hvar has rightly become one of the top sailing destinations on the Adriatic.
It was a city of culture centuries ago, and its rich cultural traditions continue today, most notably in the annual Hvar Summer Festival which takes place from May to October and which include a diverse international programme of artists from all over the world, who perform in some of the town’s most intimate settings, such as the cloister of the 550-year-old Franciscan Monastery.
It is also a beach heaven, particularly with those enticing Pakleni Islands just a water taxi away. Other beach clubs and bars are just a short walk from the town, including Hula Hula and Bonj les Bains, a 1930s colonnade turned luxury beach club which was named in the top 20 beaches in Europe by The Times in 2010.
It is a town proud of its traditions, and if you visit on certain feast days, you will see a different side to the local community who are normally engaged in tourism. Come for Easter, St. Prosper (May 10) or St Stephen (October 2) and witness fascinating religious processions through the main square, as locals remember their religious heritage.
Hvar Town is a gourmet delight. None other than Giorgio Armani named Gariful in his top 7 restaurants in the world. The culinary offer has improved considerably in recent years, and there is much more choice available. The cuisine is mostly traditional Dalmatian, with the freshest ingredients from the Adriatic and local fields, and more than one restaurant serves from a menu whose ingredients are 100% sourced from there. And if you were doubting the quality of Hvar cuisine, UNESCO inscribed Hvar’s Mediterranean Diet as intangible heritage back in 2013.
Above all, Hvar Town is a place to relax, to people watch and to dream. Its numerous cafes, both on the main square and along its stunning waterfront, all offer idyllic settings to soak up the Dalmatian sun, watch the rhythmic way of life of the harbour, from the early morning fishing boats, tourist boats heading to the islands, catamarans bringing in new arrivals, and those megayachts. It is enchanting.
Hvar Town, a destination which truly has it all, and a worthy addition to the 2018 European Best Destinations nominee, the island of Hvar. Voting finishes tomorrow. Have you voted yet?