As you walk the cobblestone streets of this quaint town on the Adriatic Sea, you can’t decide if it feels more like the Italian Riviera, a medieval keep straight out of Game of Thrones, or something else entirely.
In truth, this spectacular spot is a little bit of all of those things. As with a lot of Croatia, it’s undeniably been shaped by the Venetian influence but has maintained that classic Croatian flare.
Every sight is magical, and every small side street is irresistibly Instagrammable. Although the pace here is charmingly and characteristically slow (as in most of these small bits of paradise strewn across the Mediterranean seaside), there’s plenty of delightful things to do in Hvar, whether you wish to lean into the life the locals lead, or go a more adventurous route.
Quick Note: During high season (typically the second half of July to middle August), the prices for both accommodation and food are higher, and the crowds are much bigger, so if you can manage it, I’d recommend going in the shoulder season… or booking your accommodation with plenty of time!
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Where to Stay in Hvar
Budget: If you’re looking for an affordable place to stay in Hvar’s Old Town, look to the beautiful City Center Room Olivia. With affordable en-suite doubles going for under $75 a night in high season, this is the place to go if you don’t want to sacrifice privacy but you do want a charming, budget-friendly stay in a central location. Rooms feature flat-screen TVs (with Netflix!), A/C, and a patio area.
Boutique: For a guesthouse with a sleek sense of design at a mid-range price — under $200 a night in high season — History Hvar Design Heritage Suites is a fantastic choice. It’s under a minute to much of Hvar’s best attractions and offers gorgeous views of the fortress. The aesthetic is modern, yet it pays homage to its roots: built in 1529, this stone-mason house has been lovingly restored. There are only three apartments, each designed by Ana Vuckovic, one of Croatia’s top designers.
Luxury: The chic 5-star hotel, Palace Elisabeth, is Hvar’s oldest and is quite literally a restored 19th-century palace, set in a prime location between St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Hvar Theater on the Pjaca, Hvar’s main square. Rooms offer striking sunset views over Hvar Bay and the islands surrounding Hvar. The hotel complex includes two delicious restaurants as well as a cocktail bar featuring jazz music, and complete spa facilities including a steam room, pool, massage center, fitness center, and sauna.
The Best Things to Do in Hvar
Sun yourself on one of Hvar’s stunning beaches
If you’re visiting Hvar in summer, you’re probably here to enjoy a swim in the marvelously clear waters or kick back on the sand of one of Hvar’s many picturesque beaches.
One of the many things I love about Hvar is the fact that many beaches are surrounded by thick pine trees, providing not only the best shade but also that quintessential Mediterranean vibe (and not to mention, they smell amazing!).
Additionally, most of the beaches are pebble rather than sand, ensuring crystal clear turquoise seas.
If you’re looking for the best beaches on Hvar, here are my picks.
• Dubovica Beach – This is one of the most popular spots in Hvar, and for a good reason! It’s a real slice of Mediterranean heaven, with all of the qualities listed above. Because of all of this, however, it does get pretty busy, so I recommend you head here a bit earlier to secure your spot.
• Pokonji Dol Beach – This spot is pretty accessible from Hvar town, and as an added bonus, it doesn’t get too busy. There are also two restaurants serving seafood, and you can hire a sunbed if you prefer (this might be a good idea since the beach is quite pebbly).
• Milna Beach – With a retro vibe, this cozy little cove located in the town of Milna truly is a place to enjoy the slow pace of life on Hvar. In town, you can find several restaurants and bakeries, and there’s even a little market.
These are, of course, just a few of the fantastic beaches you’ll find on Hvar Island, and if you’re feeling adventurous, there are plenty of tiny, unnamed coves just for you to discover, this day tour is a good option to visit both the caves and the island with a speed boat!
Set sail to the lovely Pakleni Islands
Ironically enough, the name of this archipelago right off the Hvar coast translates to “Hell Islands,” which could not be farther from reality! With incredibly clear waters, hidden coves, and incredible views, Pakleni Islands feel more like heaven than anything else.
There are several ways to get to the islands, including water taxi, renting your own boat (boats called Pesara boats are easy to operate and you get the benefit of planning your own day), getting a private tour of the Islands or joining a group tour (this is the least expensive option; check tour prices and availability here).
The main thing to do on Pakleni Islands (also referred to as Paklinski Islands) is to swim in the fantastic waters and sunbathe on the beautiful beaches. Some of my favorites are Ždrilica and Stipanska Beach, located on the island of Marinkovac, and Vlaka Beach on Sveti Klement Island.
>> Read Next: 9 Great Sandy Beaches in Croatia To Enjoy <<
As far as food is concerned, depending on how you chose to get to the islands, you might want to pack your own lunch, but if you’d like to check out some of the restaurants there, the most recommended are Mamato Bar on Marinkovac and Laganini Bar on Palmižana.
Another great spot is the Carpe Diem Beach Club, where you can enjoy the fantastic views of the sun setting over the Islands along with a drink, or party on into the night. A side note: this place is kind of exclusive and pretty expensive!
Take a day trip to Bol on Brač Island
The island of Brač is just a short ferry ride away from the coast of Hvar (ferries travel about every half hour during high season).
The main attraction easily accessible from Hvar is the town of Bol (meaning pain in Croatian, yet another misnomer!), and within it, Zlatni Rat (translating to Golden Cape).
The cape is truly something else, with its triangular shape that is constantly changing, literally before your eyes, due to winds.
Aside from the beach on the cape carrying the same name, the town of Bol is rich in historical buildings, forts, churches, as well as wonderful restaurants, bars, and clubs. I also recommend visiting Stina Winery and tasting Stina wine, made from a special varietal endemic to the island of Brač.
Scope out the Blue and Green Caves
The Blue Cave (also known as the Blue Grotto), is a truly mesmerizing cave located on the nearby island of Biševo.
The iridescent opal blue color occurs naturally when the sun hits the cave at a specific angle during the day, and the light reflects off the white sand lining the grotto and refracts off its walls (if there are any physicists reading this, I deeply apologize for butchering this explanation!).
Sadly, you cannot swim inside the Grotto, and the lines are quite long (over an hour in high season), but all who have visited say it is very much worth it.
Another naturally occurring phenomenon nearby, on the island of Vis, is the Green Cave, which (you guessed it), is bathed in beautiful, emerald green light thanks to the same magic (aka physics) at work in the Blue Cave. You can swim in this cave, but boats are also allowed inside, so be careful!
Note: Many day trips cover both the Blue and Green Caves and the Pakleni Islands – this affordable day tour from Hvar includes both!
Indulge in some wine tasting
Okay, I have a confession to make: I’m a total wine nerd.
That’s why I’m very excited about Hvar’s rich and long winemaking history, as well as its significance in the winemaking industry today.
Not only is Hvar the place with the greatest number of sunny days in all of Croatia (which lends itself to exquisite winemaking), it’s also the home of over 130 endemic wine grape varietals. In line with this, you will find numerous wineries on the island offering incredible experiences.
>> Read Next:16 Wine experiences in Croatia <<
Note: Plavac Mali is Croatia’s most famous varietal, so it’s getting its own section later on the list!
Waves and Wines – this is Hvar’s best-kept secret – a winery built into a cave right on the water! You can only access it by boat, and when you dock, you will get to experience the wines of Toni Bojanić, one of Croatia’s most influential vintners currently.
Tomić Winery – The owner of this winery, Andro Tomić, has recreated a typical Roman dining room in his wine cellar, so you can wine and dine like Roman emperors! You can taste their wines on this tour.
Zlatan Otok Winery – located in the town of Sveta Nedelja, this unique wine cellar belonging to Zlatan Plenković houses the first Croatian wine to be awarded the Grand Cru status (this translates to it’s real good) – the Zlatan Plavac. This excellent wine tour visits them, as well as several other wineries!
Wine & Chocolate Tour – if you’d like to get better acquainted with the history of wine on Hvar, as well as taste some of it alongside some delicious chocolates, this tour is a fantastic way to do that! Check prices and availability here.
Sample the local Plavac wine
One of the most famous varietals coming from this region specifically is the Plavac wine.
Okay, let me geek out about this wine for a minute: the grape variety it comes from is called Plavac Mali (plav means blue and mali means small).
It was originally thought to be the same varietal as Zinfandel (that should give you a clue as to what Plavac tastes like), however genetic testing later proved that it was in fact not the same varietal, but rather the lovechild of Zinfandel and a regional varietal called Dobričić (no, you don’t need to be able to pronounce that).
This varietal is endemic to the Dalmatian coast, and the wines it produces are tannin and alcohol heavy (12-17%), best described as “dense and robust reds with black cherry flavors and notes of pepper, smoke, and spice,” as well as blackberries and dry figs.
It pairs well with several local specialties, including stuffed bell peppers and ćevapi, or, if you’re like me and believe wine-food pairings are naught but a conspiracy, pair it with whatever you like!
Shop your heart out at the Hvar Market
One of my favorite things about travel is the opportunity to experience different lives people lead in different places.
If you combine that with Hvar’s incredible agricultural capacities (including but not limited to wine and fish), you get the Hvar Town Market!
There’s nothing particularly special about this market, except for all of the things that make Hvar and its people special, but if you’d like to experience a morning shopping like a local (and eat some amazing fresh produce), you’ll enjoy this very much.
If you want a souvenir to bring home, we suggest local Hvar lavender!
Marvel at the Tvrđava Fortica
The fort that we see today sits on the foundations of an Illyrian settlement dating back to the 1st century BC, and in the 6th century AD, a citadel was built here by the Byzantines.
Construction of the current fortification by the Venetians originally began in the 13th century AD and was finished by the 16th century. Shortly thereafter, it served as a hideout for the people of Hvar when the city was rampaged by the Ottoman Empire, effectively saving their lives.
A couple of years later lightning struck a building in the fort where gunpowder was stored, causing a massive explosion and consequent damage to both the fort and part of the town surrounding it.
Throughout the following centuries, the fort was repaired, but at the start of the 19th century, as Hvar lost militant significance, the fort became abandoned. In 1971, reconstruction began, ultimately turning the fort into the tourist attraction it is today.
Pro Tip: The position of the fort allows for the most amazing views of Hvar and its surroundings, don’t forget your camera!
Note: The name Fortica is derived from Italian, but the fort is also commonly referred to as the Spanish fort, probably due to the Spanish builders involved with its construction.
Visit the charming Franciscan Monastery
Situated on the waterfront, overlooking a small cove, this renaissance piece of architecture dating back to the 15th century is not only a beautiful sight but home to many artifacts, such as amphorae, lace, coins, and a 1542 edition of Ptolemy’s Atlas.
It also features gorgeous art by Venetian painters like Francesco Santacroce and Palma Junior. A special feature of the monastery is The Last Supper, a painting measuring 2×8 m in size, believed to be done by Matteo Ingoli, although some claim it was painted by Palma Junior.
Another noteworthy piece of history is the 300-year-old Cypress tree in the monastery’s courtyard.
Get lost in time in Stari Grad
I’m going to start off by saying that this passage isn’t going to cover Stari Grad nearly in the way it deserves. That being said, I’ll try to introduce you properly.
Stari Grad is where most ferries dock upon arrival on Hvar Island. It’s located about 2 km from Hvar town, and it’s well worth a visit.
Originally, it was a Greek colony called Faros, dating back to 385 BC. The marvelous cobblestone streets and old houses lining them make you feel as though you’ve stepped out of the modern world and into a slow-paced slice of renaissance Mediterranean heaven.
Featuring historical spots like Tvrdalj Castle, the Stari Grad Plain (a World Heritage Site), and the Dominican Monastery, as well as local shops and restaurants, this is an unmissable part of your Hvar experience which you can enjoy walking the city on your own, or trusting your experience to a local tour company, this activity is super well-rated and offers visits to the best spots in town.
Pro tip: enamel plated jewelry is a Venetian specialty that is quite rare today, but local jewelry stores carry some truly beautiful pieces that make a fantastic Croatian souvenir!
Brownie points: some of the best places to eat in Hvar are the number one rated Dalmatino, Konoba Menego, Nonica patisserie if you’re feeling like sweets, and Icy Bar Hvar for ice cream right by the water.
Some good bars are Central Park Club, Hula Hula Beach Bar, and Kiva Bar.
As you can see, there’s plenty of great things to do in Hvar, this fantastic town on the Mediterranean, but the beauty is – I’ve barely scratched the surface!
So whether you’re looking to kick back and enjoy the sun, get your history fix, or experience an adventure – Hvar is the place for you!
>> Read Next: 23 Best Places to Visit in Croatia: What to See & Do! <<
What to Pack for Hvar
Mosquito repellent: Mosquitos in the summer can be nasty! You can bring ones with DEET or without DEET, or I love having some of these mosquito repellent wipes that I can keep in my bag in case I suddenly start to get swarmed and don’t have my regular repellent with me.
Sunscreen: You can buy sunscreen in Croatia, but it’s likely cheaper at home or bought online in advance. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen. Who doesn’t love a good solid for liquid swap? Great to keep in your bag without worrying about sunscreen explosions.
Water shoes: Pebble beaches in Croatia are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the pebble seafloor is what creates that gorgeous deep turquoise-colored water that is hard to beat, as the lack of sand means you have incredibly clear water. However, on the other hand, pebble beaches and rocky shores can be downright painful!
Our friend recently cut his foot on a rocky beach in Croatia; had he been wearing water shoes, he’d have avoided such unpleasantness! We suggest these unisex water shoes. They’re not sexy, but they will make your trips to the beach far more pleasant!
A secure backpack: We both carry the CitySafe backpack by PacSafe not only on our travels but in our day-to-day lives. It’s cute, it’s functional, it’s comfortable, and it’s secure. We’re talking about interlocking zippers (which you can then put through a second clasp for two layers of security), slash-proof wire mesh construction, and RFID blockers to keep your personal data safe.
It’s neutral enough to be unisex, it’s roomy enough to fit a small laptop, large camera, and tons of odds & ends, and it fits under the plane seat in front of you. We’re obsessed. Check it out for yourself!
Grayl Water Filter: Tap water is generally safe to drink in Croatia, but if you’re not used to drinking tap water from other countries, the typically harmless bacteria found in all water can cause some gut irritation. To both be safe and not buy dozens of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste. If you’ll be traveling outside of the major tourist centers, check if the water is potable locally.
Seabands: If you get seasick easily, pack some Seabands or seasickness pills so you don’t miss out on the best parts of Croatia – being on the water! A trip to Croatia isn’t complete without a quick boat trip, so make sure you’re prepared to enjoy it to the fullest!
More Croatia Travel Resources
Headed to Croatia? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip.
For Split, check out our guide to the best day trips from Split.
We also have a Balkan currency guide that explains how the kuna, the local currency, works in Croatia and local tipping customs.
Finally, you’ll want to read our guide to shopping in Croatia so you know which souvenirs are truly local gems.
If this will be one of your first trips in the Balkans, check out our massive list of things to know before traveling the Balkans as well as our Balkan bus, road trip, and itinerary guides.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Croatia (or really, any part of the world)! We have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While the Balkans are perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe.
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Marija was born and raised in Belgrade, where she is currently living and attending medical school. She listens to way too many podcasts, adores all furry creatures, cozy afternoons snuggled up with a book, and spending time with friends over really good wine.