Hvar is one of Croatia’s most popular tourist islands, along with Brac. There are several hotels and accommodation choices on the Island, but the proximity from Split on the mainland, also makes it perfect for a day trip, which is what we did.
The main port of Hvar Town
There are a couple of different companies that run crossings from Split to Hvar - we went with Jadrolinija as it was slightly cheaper and only 10 minutes longer, at just over an hour each way. The ferries run regularly throughout the day, with the last one leaving Hvar at 9.30pm back to split, meaning you can spend the entire day here and enjoy an evening meal and a couple of drinks.
The main ferry port is in Hvar Town (although some ferries do take you to Stari Grad instead, so check first). There is plenty in Hvar Town to keep you occupied for the day, but if you prefer, you could hire a scooter for the day to explore the island a bit more. We chose to stay in Hvar Town and explore on foot.
When you get off the ferry, you are immediately greeted by a short promenade of restaurants and cafes, overlooking the small port. We stopped here for brunch and enjoyed the views overlooking the waterfront before heading off to explore.
Reaching the end of the promenade from the ferry landing, the first thing you will come to is the impressive Piazza (main town square), dominated by St Stephen's cathedral. There are more restaurants and shops lining the perimeter of the square, as well as the theatre.
St Stephen's Church and bell tower taking centre stage in the Piazza
After you've wandered the promenade and Piazza, make your way uphill to the Spanish Fortress. The walk up to the Fortress follows a narrow path from the Piazza. The path can be found on the opposite side of the Piazza to the theatre, next to a cafe. As you slowly climb up hill, you'll pass many shops and restaurants, nestled in beautiful old buildings. You'll also walk past the Benedictine Convent, which has housed a small number of nuns since 1664, famous for their Agave lace making.
The path from the Piazza to the Spanish Fortress
Once you reach the end of the narrow path, you'll come to a road. Cross over the road and follow the sign for the Spanish Fortress. The path weaves through trees, climbing higher until you reach the fortress at the top. You can pay to enter the small fortress or simply enjoy the spectacular views over the port and out to sea.
The view from the Spanish Fortress across the port
After visiting the Spanish Fortress, if you make your way back down to the water, take the waterfront path in the opposite direction - away from the port and Piazza and towards the Veneranda fortress. The fortress is now a popular nightclub and often hosts concerts or events. This is such a lovely walk, away from the busy main square - I would really recommend it. All along the coastline are steps attached to the large rocks so you can swim in the sea, as well as several bars and restaurants dotted along the path.
Standing above the Veneranda Fortress with views of St Stephen's bell tower and the Spanish Fortress
If you want a beach where you can wade into the sea from the shoreline, head back to the ferry port and continue walking around the waterfront to the Franciscan Monastery. Sitting next to the Monastery is the Križna Luka beach. As with most Croatian beaches, it’s a pebble beach, but the water is beautifully crystal clear. This beach can get busy as it’s the closest beach to the ferry port and Piazza, but if you continue walking along the waterfront, there are a couple more beaches further around which are quieter.
The Franciscan Monastery and Križna Luka beach
If, like us you decide to spend the full day and evening in Hvar, then you might want to freshen up. There are public toilets with showers behind the Piazza, near the bus station, you have to pay a small fee to use them, but it's worth it to wash off the suncream and have a quick change of clothes before enjoying the evening.
Hvar has a reputation of being a party island, with Hvar Town at the centre of that. It’s true, there are many nightclubs and bars here for partying into the early morning, but as the last ferry to Split leaves Hvar at 9.30pm, you'll leave on the last ferry before the main nightlife really begins, so if you’re not the clubbing type, you can still enjoy an evening in Hvar Town.
Hvar Town is so popular with day-trippers from Split and mainland Croatia, but Hvar Island as a whole has more to offer if you decide to stay for a few days. Stari Grad is the oldest town in Croatia and ferries operate services direct to its port. It is much quieter and more laid back than Hvar Town and many of the old stone buildings have been carefully restored to house shops, cafes and restaurants. Jesla, on the other hand, does not offer the level of impressive architecture that Hvar Town and Stari Grad does but it has several beaches, and it is much cheaper to stay in Jesla than Hvar Town, so it could be a good option to base yourself if you have your own car to explore the island.
If you're visiting Croatia, I would really recommend a day trip to Hvar Town. It's small enough that you can easily walk around on foot and take in the sights and offers everything you would want from a day out - amazing food in the many restaurants and cafes, crystal clear sea, historic buildings and beautiful views.
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