Old Town Hvar Travel Guide & Info
Published: June 23rd, 2019
Author: Mate I.
Hvar Town is the main city and port on the famous Croatian holiday destination Hvar Island.
It is the largest city on the island and is located on a stunning bay in the southern coast of Hvar Island.
Exploring the Hvar Town
The history of the town stretches back into antiquity, and it has been the center for not just trade but also culture in the Adriatic for centuries.
The city’s climate is pleasant and it is surrounded by nature on all sides. And thanks to the city’s gorgeous and centuries-old architecture, many people say it is like a town from a fairy-tale!
As part of the Venetian Empire from the 13th to the 18th centuries, Hvar town was an important naval base with a protected port and strong fortifications.
However, by the 19th century, the city was no longer an important base, and so, in 1868, The Hygienic Society of Hvar was established to turn Hvar’s economy in a new direction – tourism.
Thanks to the Society, Hvar Town now has numerous hotels, resorts, restaurants, museums, galleries and exhibitions.
And because the historical buildings have been so well taken care of, you can actually go back in time when you visit the Arsenal, the Loggia, the Hvar Heritage Museum, the fortresses, Hvar Cathedral and the Franciscan monastery.
History is not the only thing you get in this lovely town.
You can visit some of the most beautiful beaches of Croatia, eat the most divine (yet healthy!) local cuisine, taste some of the best wines in the world (all grown locally!), indulge in adventure sports, and even take tours of the surrounding countryside.
Attractions in Hvar Town
There is so much to do in Hvar Town alone that you may run out of time before you get a chance to visit the rest of the island!
Here are some of our best picks for what you can do in the city of Hvar.
Take a Walking Tour of the Old Town
The waterfront of this beautiful and ancient city is lined by a promenade strip that is bordered by palm trees and guarded by walls built in the 13th century.
Two massive fortresses sit atop the hills of the city, and they extend all the way down to the town and the Venetian loggia.
The town square is the magnificent Pjaca (that’s Piazza for you), the largest of its kind in all of Dalmatia.
The city’s well is also in located in the middle of the square, and it was constructed in 1520.
This beautiful town square is surrounded by buildings that date back to the 13th century, however, most of them are from the 15th to the 17th centuries.
Visit the Arsenal – the oldest surviving public theater in Europe
A must see is the Arsenal building, which houses the oldest surviving public theater in Europe, which is simply called the Theater.
This building, originally a warehouse constructed in the 13th century, was converted into a public theater in 1612.
Performances were held in this theater until the late 20th century, before it was closed down for major renovations and repairs.
The Theatre recently reopened for performance and to the public on May 2019, so if you love the performing arts, then this is one place that should be on your list!
The Gallery of Modern Art is located in the lobby of the Theater, giving this ancient building a magical mix of the modern with the traditional.
Archeological Sites in Hvar town
The city of Hvar and its surrounding areas are protected as Cultural Heritage areas.
And just outside the city are 4 famous archeological sites – villa rustica Soline, the prehistoric fort of Lompić in Gračišće Bay, Vira – another prehistoric site, and the hydro-archeological site of Palmižana.
Climb onto Hvar Town Forts
The two forts overlooking the town a testament to the martial history of the city.
The first one, called the Spanish Fort (Tvrđava Španjola), was built in 1579, over the remains of the old fortress from the 13th century, which had been destroyed in a gunpowder explosion.
In 1811, during the Napoleonic rule, the second – and larger – fort was built. This fort is on the highest hill of Hvar Town and is now home to an observatory.
The Cathedral of Sv. Stjepan (St. Stephan) & the Bishop’s Palace
Located at the eastern side of the piazza, this was earlier the site of a Benedictine monastery, which later became a cathedral after the Bishop’s office was moved from Stari Grad to Hvar city in the 13th century.
The Cathedral that stands there today was constructed in stages in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the interior was only completed in the 18th century.
Because of the fact that it took so long to complete, the Cathedral of St. Stephen is also architecturally interesting, combining various styles in one building.
The Old Town Governor’s Palace
The Loggia, located at the north end of the piazza, and the Leroj, the clock tower, are all that remain of the once magnificent Governor’s Palace, which dates back to the 13th century.
In the Loggia, all that remains of the Governor’s Palace are 2 reliefs of the insignia of the Venetian Empire, the Venetian Lions, a big well and the lintel of the Palace’s chapel, which has been dated back to 1612.
The new Loggia was constructed during the Renaissance period, and it incorporated what remained of the old one. It is considered one of the most beautiful examples of Renaissance architecture in all of Dalmatia.
The Franciscan Monastery
To the south of the city, on the cape stands the Franciscan Monastery, in which the Church of Our Lady of Mercy was built in the late 1600s.
The monastery is dominated by the cloister and the well located at the center of the structure.
There are a number of churches in Hvar city, dating back to various centuries, each with its own rich history.
As the center of tourism, the area around Hvar Town has a number of stunning beaches that are popular with both locals as well as visitors.
They are easy to reach by car, bicycle or scooter, or even on an easy walk through the lush Mediterranean landscapes.
Nightlife in Hvar City
Hvar is not just historical town meant for quiet solitude. It is one of the most active party spots in Croatia, and in fact, Europe. In fact, young people from across the globe come to the city of Hvar to enjoy the party scene!
Food and Wine
The local Mediterranean cuisine is so healthy that the UNESCO has marked it as an intangible heritage.
And it’s delicious too! And the wines of this area are considered among the best in the world. The olive groves also produce some of the best olive oil in the world!
How to Get to Old Town of Hvar
You can even come to Split or Dubrovnik by road or train; Brač is an island, so it doesn’t make sense to go there by road – unless you want to take the scenic route.
From there, you can take ferries to Hvar Town.
However, if you are planning to bring your vehicle along, then you will need to first travel to Stari Grad and then drive down to the city of Hvar.