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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR HVAR TOWN

(written by a local)

According to the readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine, Hvar island is the best island in Europe (for 2019) and we will do our best to stay on top in 2020, too.

What makes Hvar so good? Is it just crystal-clear sea and sunny weather? No, of course not. Hvar can offer you so much that you’ll always have something new to explore. That is why I’ll concentrate on Hvar town in this article, but there are other towns very much worthy of your attention on the island, like Stari Grad and Jelsa. As a person who lives on Hvar, I’ll provide you with updated information you won’t find anywhere else.

I’ll explain some rules you need to follow to avoid paying high fees. You’ll discover the best beaches on Hvar, where to buy souvenirs, designer clothes, and handmade jewelry. You will learn what to visit and how to get there (I’ll tell you the prices so that nobody can rip you off). I’ll also tell you of a secret way to explore the whole island in one day for a very low price.

So, let me show you why Hvar really is the best island in Europe.

 

What’s the weather like on Hvar?

One of the things that makes Hvar the best island in Europe is our weather. Out of 365 days in a year, we have 340 sunny days on average. It’s unbelievable. It is January now and when I look outside it looks like summer. It’s not warm because of bura, a cold wind from north-east characteristic for this region, but it’s so nice that some people actually go swimming here during the winter.

Our winters are mild and usually sunny. When jugo (warm wind coming from the south-east) blows it brings clouds, humidity and rains. But when bura blows it clears the sky and then you can even see Italy from some places on the island.

I recommend visiting Hvar outside of the tourist season because you’ll have a chance to explore our culture in more detail. But, you will probably come here sometime between April and October, so I’ll tell you more about our summer weather.

March is famous for its 3 buras, so I would advise you to come in April or later. April and May are similar to October and November. Mild temperature (25-30°C) makes those months perfect for exploring Hvar, but prepare for some rainy days if you are coming in October or November.

At the peak of the season, Hvar’s weather is exactly what you’d expect from a world-famous summer destination. Sunny and hot. June, July, and August are very hot here with temperatures sometimes climbing to 40°C.

Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have to hide in your room while the sun is out. That just means you have to plan your day. It would be stupid to climb to the fortress at noon. Do it around 6 P.M. Before that, choose a beach and cool yourself down in our warm yet refreshing sea.

 

What to do in Hvar town?

Hvar has 151 years of tradition in tourism and a very rich history. That means you’ll never be bored in Hvar.

If you come to Hvar and skip swimming in our warm and clean sea, you’ll miss a lot. If you don’t let your skin tan in our sun, you simply won’t be able to enjoy Hvar to the fullest. Fun fact – Hvar is the sunniest island in Croatia and among the sunniest islands in Europe, with about 2800 hours of sun every year.

As you know, Hvar offers much more than nature. It offers a complete experience. You can learn about our culture, you can taste our food and even help us harvest lavender.

Most people think France has the best lavender, but Hvar island was known worldwide as the Island of Lavender. We even have our own superhero – Lavanderman.

But why would you care about that?

Because lavender is one of the most potent herbs in nature. It calms you down and helps with a lot of health issues. Don’t forget to buy some lavender oil or flowers. You’ll find stands full of lavender (and other natural products) in front of the post office and in front of Hotel Park. Just follow your nose and it will lead you to stands with Mediterranean herbs.

Since we are talking about nice scents, I have to mention our delicious food. During lunch and dinner, the whole Hvar smells like grandma’s kitchen. I’ll tell you more about our tasty Mediterranean dishes later.

That’s it, you are ready. You know everything about Hvar. With the tips I provided here you can have the best vacation on the best island in Europe and still get back home with some money in your pocket.

If you have any more questions we’ll gladly answer, just get in touch with us.

Coffee and a schrimp sandwich

Before lunch, you can explore picturesque streets. Stone houses full of decorations carved into the stone itself blend perfectly with the plants you’ll see on almost every step. While exploring our small streets, you’ll encounter a lot of shops. Hvar is famous for its artists, so you can buy unique designer clothing in a couple of shops. The best one for men is Toni Ricco in Burak street. Handmade jewelry made out of corals and other materials can be found in Jurja Matijevića street if you want to make your better half happy.

You’ll be happy to hear that Hvar town has a fortress from which you can see a scenery so beautiful you’ll have to rub your eyes to believe it. Climb to fort Španjola, or Fortica as we locals call it. You’ll have to pay 50 kn (6-7€ or 7-8$). Inside you can buy souvenirs, drink coffee or even have lunch. I don’t know if you’ll do all of that, but I assure you that you’ll take a photo from the highest tower (the one with the flag).

If you want to learn about the culture of Hvar and our way of living, Hanibal Lucić’s Summer Residence is a must-see. Its amazing garden full of statues and old objects is just the tip of the iceberg. Inside you’ll be able to see old books, animals, herbs and even a dragon. It has an interesting story, but I won’t spoil it for you. The staff working there really enjoy their job, love Hvar and will tell you so much about the island.

On Hvar, you can bond with nature on so many levels. Diving, rock climbing, hiking, bike riding and so many other activities await you here and nature lovers will fall in love with the island at first sight. However, adrenaline junkies love Hvar, too. Skydiving can be organized from Stari Grad (20 km from Hvar town). You can rent a jet ski in front of Amfora Hotel and go wild on the sea (don’t be too wild, though, it can be dangerous).

Now you know how to spend your time in Hvar, but if you think that’s all the best island in Europe offers, think again! Keep reading and you’ll become a tour guide to your friends when you get to Hvar.

 

What to see in Hvar town?

Hvar has so many things to see that you’ll need more than a week to visit every museum or beach. I’ll tell you more about the beaches and culture later – here I’ll just mention the 2 best places to visit in Hvar.

Fortress Španjola (Fortica)

If you have been reading carefully, you know that fort Španjola overlooks Hvar town from a hill. You also know it’s very cheap to enter it and that you won’t believe your eyes once you climb there.

What you don’t know is that Španjola has its own botanical garden. The best way to reach the fort is on foot. Just go to the main square, look for the first street to the left (the one with a beautiful stone arch) and follow it. At first, you’ll hate your life because of the steps there (around 50 steps, nothing too hard), but as soon as you reach the botanical garden you’ll love everybody again.

It will take you 5 min to get from the square to the botanical garden and 10-15 more minutes to get to the fort (probably more because you’ll stop to take pictures). The botanical garden is full of Mediterranean plants and nice sitting spots. You’ll love it.

If you can’t (or don’t want to) walk to the fortress, take a taxi. It will leave you in front of Španjola and it shouldn’t cost more than 50-70 kn (it’s a 5 min drive).

When you enter Španjola, make sure you explore every part of it. Personally, I love the fact that you can go down to the prison cells. When you see how tiny, cold and moist the cells are you’ll feel sorry for the people who had to spend time there.

But when you exit the prison you can be happy again and take a picture on a big cannon in the middle of the fortress. Part of the fortress is a museum, which I won’t spoil. It’s free to enter and it’s small, so I recommend you give it a try.

The highlight of the whole fortress is the view. From the highest tower, you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views in the world. You’ll see stone houses with red roofs on the left, blue sea in the middle and green Pakleni Islands on the right.

I don’t know how much you have traveled in your life, but that view will be high on your “best views list” if you have it. If you don’t, you will after visiting Hvar.

Pakleni Islands

Hvar town has Pakleni Islands in front of it. If you visit Hvar, go there – you simply must do that.

Beaches and restaurants on Pakleni Islands are top-notch.

Pakleni

The most famous beach on Pakleni Islands is Palmižana (more about the beaches later). There you can walk barefoot on tiny pebbles and eat extraordinary food.

Another thing that makes Palmižana stand out is the fact that the owners of Toto’s restaurant there have been collecting exotic plants for almost 100 years. Just go and visit, don’t ask anything, just go.

You can reach Pakleni Islands with taxi boats (the cheapest and best option). Taxi boats can be found in front of the Mlinar bakery, next to the Arsenal building. For 50 to 70 kn (return ticket), you can hop on a boat and after 20 minutes you’ll be in heaven. You can hop between islands with different boats, too. That’s a very nice way to explore them all.

 

Where to eat in Hvar town?

After island hopping, you’ll probably be hungry and, trust me, you WILL want to taste our delicious food.

Restaurant Gariful – Riva 21, Hvar

Gariful is arguably the most famous restaurant in Hvar.

Every celebrity that comes to Hvar eats there. They don’t choose Gariful just because it is famous. They eat here because the food is as good as it gets, the restaurant’s service is impeccable and they know how to keep a secret.

In 2019, Sylvester Stallone took his daughter to Gariful for dinner. Nobody ever saw them. Nobody even knew they were there until they left. Neil Patrick Harris was there last summer, too. Visit his Instagram and you’ll find his recommendation of Gariful.

If you want to taste fresh fish which swam in the sea that morning (literally, I can guarantee that and everybody in Hvar will tell you the same thing), Gariful is the place to visit.

Go there for dinner or lunch, but skip it for breakfast.
Gariful isn’t cheap, so there is no point in wasting 120 kn (16€) on a bowl of cereal. Personally, I think that is too much, but for lunch or dinner, Gariful is worth every penny.

Restaurant Dalmatino – Sveti Marak 1, Hvar

Another famous restaurant in Hvar is Dalmatino.

Specializing in Mediterranean food, Dalmatino offers a variety of dishes. Pasta, fish, and meat specialties.

The staff is extremely professional. The chefs are masters of their craft, while the waiters are so warm, polite and caring.

I love to take my girlfriend to Dalmatino. The atmosphere there is relaxed, but you still have to dress politely if you want to avoid weird looks.

Dalmatino is so good that they are usually full one day in advance. That means you have to make a reservation. Even the locals can’t get a table without reservation in the middle of the season.

If you choose them for your birthday dinner, anniversary or some similar occasion, they will make that night special for you with sparkles and free drinks. The drinks aren’t just any drinks, though – they plan them carefully to go with your dish.

Dalmatino is located in the street of St. Mark, between the Palace Elizabeth hotel and the stands with herbs and souvenirs. You will see a small park with tall palm trees 10 meters west from Palace Elizabeth. Go there and you can’t miss Dalmatino.

Restaurant Grande Luna – Petra Hektorovića 1, Hvar

Restaurant Grande Luna is one of my favorite restaurants in Hvar. I eat there a lot because the prices are very affordable and the food is tasty.

If you stay longer in Hvar, I recommend you eat in Grande Luna often because you will get our traditional food for a nice price (speaking from a Croatian point of view, to tourists those prices are even lower).

For 20-30 € you can eat an amazing meal on their terrace, which is a nice place to hide from the scorching sun. That makes Grande Luna a perfect everyday lunch restaurant.

Grande Luna is located in a small street and it would be hard to explain where it is, but you’ve learned how to walk to Španjola fortress. When you enter the street with the stone arch you will see their sign.

 

Hvar nightlife

After a nice dinner in one of the above-mentioned restaurants, you’ll want to drink a couple of drinks with your friends. Who knows, you might even want to stay out for the whole night. If you decide to do that, Hvar is a perfect place for you.

Nightlife in Hvar is famous worldwide. One of the things that helps Hvar to be a perfect nightlife destination is the fact that you can walk through the whole town in 15 min.

That means you can start your night with cocktails in Hula Hula. Be there for the sunset, it’s dazzling, especially if you are on your second cocktail.

When you decide you need a change of scenery, just get up and start walking to the right. Hvar is very simple. After 7-10 minutes, you will be back in the city center and there you can stop for a couple of drinks in Aloha, Kiwa, Seven and Nautica.

One next to each other, those bars are very popular. The music varies, but the atmosphere is always friendly. If you want to meet some interesting young people you can do it there.

Nightlife

You can’t miss Aloha, Kiwa, Seven and Nautica, they are next to a small park with tall palm trees (one street below the aforementioned Dalmatino, next to souvenir stands). But you can just follow the music, it will lure you there.

Pink Champagne is the place you imagine when somebody tells you to imagine a night bar. For a crazy end of the night, go there and do some shots.

Pink is located behind the main square. Just walk by the St. Stephen’s church (the huge white one) and then left from Alviž restaurant (you can grab a great pizza there). Pink is right next to the Muller shop.

Carpe Diem bar is the most famous bar/club in Hvar. If you arrive with catamaran, you will be dropped in front of it (it’s next to Gariful). Most likely a gorgeous girl will be in front of a catamaran and invite you to Carpe Diem. Take that leaflet from her and get ready for the party of your life. Carpe Diem has a party beach on Pakleni Islands and that is where the wildest parties happen. You can get there on their boat or with a taxi boat.

 

Is there any public transportation on Hvar?

Since we’ve mentioned taxi boats, I feel obligated to tell you a few things about our public transportation here. The best island in Europe should have much better public transportation, but it is what it is.

We have Čazmatrans buses which are fairly regular during the tourist season. At least to Stari Grad and Jelsa. To the eastern (more beautiful part of the island with untouched nature) the bus goes twice a week.

Buses aren’t expensive. A trip from Hvar to Stari Grad costs 27 kn (less than 4 €), and you really should visit Stari Grad. That is the oldest town in Croatia.

If you catch a bus that drives on the new road, it will take around 25 minutes to reach Stari Grad and 35 to reach Jelsa. If you are lucky and the bus goes on the old road, you will have a chance to see lavender fields and many more natural beauties.

TIPS BEFORE TAKING A BUS IN HVAR – have Croatian cash ready (they don’t take credit cards or foreign currencies). Keep a bottle of water with you because buses aren’t new and it gets very hot inside when it’s full. If you are going from Hvar to Stari Grad, be careful to exit in Stari Grad town, not Stari Grad ferry port. (it’s hard to miss it, but I’ve witnessed it happening a couple of times).

Taxis on Hvar are a bit pricey, so I would always choose a bus over a taxi in Hvar. If you want comfort and time flexibility, rent a car. A round trip from Hvar to Stari Grad is around 400 kn with the tip (depends on the taxi, but still pricey). The cheapest car is around 500 kn for a day in the middle of the season. The math is simple there.

 

Where are the best beaches in Hvar?

You can swim almost anywhere in Hvar (except in the port). Hvar town has a couple of beaches which you can reach on foot in 2-15 minutes from the main square. They are nice, but the beaches I’ll list below are a on a whole new level. Visit the beaches I’ll show you now and you will be able to say in front of anybody that you have visited the best beaches in Croatia.

Pakleni Islands beaches

I’ve mentioned Pakleni Islands before. Nice restaurants (Toto’s and Laganini are the best ones there), beautiful nature and magnificent beaches. The best way to reach Pakleni Islands are taxi boats. They go a couple of times a day and there are 10-15 of them.

They all have pictures of the beaches they operate to and from, but I can tell you that Palmižana, Mlini and Ždrilca are the best beaches on Pakleni Islands.

Don’t expect to be alone on the beach (especially on Palmižana), they are very popular, but even if you don’t like crowds visit them. If you miss that, you’ll miss out on quite a magical experience.

Zaraće beach

Less than 10 minutes by bus from Hvar is one nicest beaches on Hvar.

Zaraće isn’t that famous and you have to walk for 10 minutes after you exit the bus, so a lot of people avoid it. That is perfect for you because you will have a chance to hide from the crowd on a beach with unbelievably green and blue sea.

If you rent a car you can get just above the beach.

Beach

Dubovica beach

For me, the most beautiful beach on this part of Hvar is Dubovica. There’s nothing quite like it.

You can reach it by bus from Hvar. When you exit the bus or park your car next to the bus station, you will have to walk for 5-7 minutes more.

Soon you will get to a pebble beach so beautiful it will haunt your dreams. It’s popular, but never too crowded. It’s commercialized, but it still has its pure Dalmatian energy.

You can eat lunch there in a nice restaurant or have a drink in a beach bar. The restaurant and the bar aren’t ruining the beach (that often happens elsewhere), they are making it even more unique, even more local. It looks like they have been there since forever.

If you come to Hvar to go to Dubovica, it will heal your soul. Especially if you have a stressful job. I go there once a week to regenerate because the energy is special. Pure Mediterranean, pure Dalmatia, pure Hvar.

 

Are people nice in Hvar? Do they have a rich culture?

I’ve told you almost everything you need to know about Hvar, but you still don’t know much about our culture.

To learn more about it, you must visit Hanibal Lucić’s Summer Residence (I’ve mentioned it at the beginning). Make sure you see UNESCO-protected agave fibers lace made by nuns. Their monastery is in the street with a stone arch (the one you need to follow while climbing to the fortress and Grande Luna).

Last year, the first public theatre in Europe (from 1612) was renovated and now it looks beautiful. On the ground floor of the same building you can enter the Arsenal. The magnificent building was first built between 1292 and 1331. Since then it has been destroyed a couple of times, but it has been repaired every time. It was a shipyard and a warehouse in the past, but today it hosts art exhibitions.

Cathedral of St. Stephen (on the main square) attracts visitors and is always open. If you think it looks nice from outside, it will blow your mind when you get inside.

You have a lot more museums to visit in Hvar, but I won’t smother you with them for now. When you get here ask anybody for museums and we’ll gladly help you. People in Hvar are very friendly and you can feel safe in Hvar. It is a small town with a very low crime rate.

 

What are the best activities in Hvar?

By now you have learned a lot about Hvar. You know where to eat, what to visit, where to swim, where to shop. But that isn’t all you can do in Hvar.

Popular activities here are wine tasting (500-600 kn per person), skydiving (around 2100 kn per person), scuba diving and other activities on the sea.

Also, you can take a walking tour and learn more about the culture and the way of life here from a licensed local guide. It will cost you between 300 and 400 kn per hour (depends on the guide, most of them are freelancers). One hour is enough to learn everything about Hvar.

Now you know almost everything, but you still don’t know my special tips for you. In the last part of the article, I’ll teach you how to save money on Hvar and have the best time of your life.

 

Tips and tricks you need to know (how to save a lot of money on Hvar?)

Have cash, kunas to be precise. A lot of small shops, agencies, and some restaurants don’t take credit cards or foreign currencies. Have some cash with you at all times. If you need to take it from the ATM, always use PBZ or HPB ATM. Those are local banks and their exchange rate is good.

Also, if you have to change foreign cash to kunas use the Tisak shop on the main square or next to the Jadrolinija office (next to Carpe Diem and Gariful).

Avoid buying things you can find in regular shops (Studenac on the main square or Konzum at the bus station) or in small stores. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that 1,5 l of water costs 32 kn in a liquor shop. In Studenac you can get it for 8 to 10 kn.

Make sure you don’t walk in a swimming suit in the city center because the fines for that are very high (300-400€). The same goes for being too drunk, having a picnic in the city center or sleeping on the street. Don’t waste your money on fines. Enjoy, relax, but don’t go totally crazy, it will cost you a lot.

Since we are talking about expensive things in Hvar, let’s get back to the taxis. I’ve told you to use buses instead of taxis. They are much cheaper.
But that still isn’t the best transportation on Hvar. Renting a car is.

You can rent out a nice new car for about 500 kn per day. If you’re here with your friends and you split the cost, it turns out to be quite a good deal.

That opens numerous possibilities. You can treat yourself to a wine tour (one of you has to stay sober, obviously), lavender tour and island tour all at once.

Stone house

If you decide to book a wine tasting tour, the price will be around 600 kn per person, whereas lavender tours and island tours are about 100 kn less. Therefore, the math is pretty clear on this one: by renting a car you will save a couple of thousand kunas.

You can drive over the old road to see the lavender fields, you can go to Jelsa to taste world-class wines and you can go all the way to Sućuraj (a town on the opposite side of the island, 80 km away from Hvar).

One last tip for you, before I leave you to call all your friends and tell them that you are going to visit Hvar next summer. In June and July, Hvar town treats its guests to free walking tours with licensed local guides. Last year they were held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 P.M. The meeting point is in front of the Arsenal building. The perfect way to learn a lot and save money if you are traveling on a budget.