Looking for a little historical sightseeing and fun in the water on your travels to Croatia? Experiencing all the best things to do in Hvar is a must!
There’s an endless number of tourist attractions on Hvar Island to keep even the pickiest of travellers happy. The natural beauty of the resort island is a rare treasure. Among the most compelling places to go are secluded beaches, hiking trails, and fields of lavender. Hvar Island is also home to a hilltop fortress, historic cathedral, and 13th-century walls.
Not sure what to do on Hvar Island? Plan your trip with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Hvar!
Best places to visit in Hvar, Croatia
Eat fresh seafood at the Hvar Harbour
The harbour is one of the top Hvar points of interest and one of the first things you’ll see when you arrive in Hvar Town, the island’s main tourist hub. Hvar Harbour is a busy, bustling port and a favourite destination on nearly any Croatia travel itinerary, with ships arriving and leaving throughout the day and night.
Most of the significant historical landmarks on Hvar Island, including Old Town Hvar, are within walking distance from the harbour. You can easily reach St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Hvar Fortress, and many of the best things to do in Hvar just minutes after getting off the boat.
The harbour area is also a great spot to find fresh food. Restaurants, bars, and cafes line the streets surrounding the port.
Step inside St. Stephen’s Cathedral for a taste of history
If you don’t know where to go, start at the main square of Hvar Town. St. Stephen’s Square reaches from the bay to the eastern edge of the port where the cathedral stands.
The bell tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral is visible from most parts of the harbour. The building was erected in the 14th century, following the Gothic architecture that was popular at the time. Be sure to browse the cathedral’s many important works of art, including paintings from notable Dalmatian artists.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral was built on the site of a sixth-century church, giving you an indication of the rich history of the Hvar Town and region.
Check out the Venetian stylings of the Loggia & Clock Tower
If there was ever any question of Hvar’s Venetian past, it’ll all wash away once you feast your eyes on the Loggia.
Located on the main square of Hvar Town, the Loggia and its Clock Tower represent Renaissance architecture at its finest in Dalmatia. This top Hvar attraction was once home to the Venetian governor who ruled over the area.
While only a fraction of the palace still remains thanks to a late-16th-century Ottoman, both the palace and its 19th-century clock are an impressive sight.
View historic Dalmatian art at the Franciscan Monastery
Your Hvar sightseeing trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Franciscan Monastery. It’s one of the first things that you see as you arrive in Hvar Island. The monastery is built near the sea and is a must-see whether you have 24 hours in Hvar or a couple of days.
The 15th-century Franciscan Monastery holds several important paintings, including a painting of the Last Supper that measures eight meters wide. It’s undoubtedly one of the most impressive things to see in Hvar.
The monastery is still operational, with a single Franciscan monk dedicated to the care of the building and grounds. While you don’t need to pay to visit, donations are suggested and help support the monk left caring for the site.
Chill out at the Pakleni Islands
If you want to escape from the crowds when you visit Hvar Town, beeline to the beautiful Pakleni Islands for a little rest and relaxation.
Also called the Paklinski Islands, this 16-island archipelago on the Adriatic Sea is a fantastic place to unwind from the buzz of Hvar. The Pakleni Islands are home to plenty of beautiful & quiet beaches leading to crystalline waters that hide the area’s finest scuba and snorkelling hotspots.
Although there’s an island for nearly taste (including clothing-optional Jerolim and party-seeking Marinkovac), the best place to start exploring the Pakleni Islands for most travellers is Palmizana.
Set on the largest island of Sveti Klement, Palmizana is the gateway to the Pakleni Islands and the perfect place to orient yourself. The village is fringed by lush pine forests and features some top-notch swimming spots not too far away.
There are regular ferries scooting between Hvar Town and Palmizana. Far more fun and active, however, is to hop onto a Pakleni Islands Kayaking Tour that’ll put you front and centre with the island’s spectacular marine scenery!
Explore the beautiful town of Stari Grad
Hvar Town isn’t the only gig on the island. Skirt up to the beautiful northern shores of the island, and you’ll discover the town of Stari Grad. Translated into English as Old Town, Stari Grad makes the 13th-century Hvar Town look like a young pup. The town’s roots dig back all the way to 383 BC when, under the umbrella of ancient Greece, it was known as Pharos.
Today, the town supplies a relaxing cultural counterweight to the more raucous scene of Hvar Town. There’s a handful of things to see & do here, including the impressive Tvrdalj Castle. The castle (probably more accurately described as a palace) was the summer home of Croatian poet Petar Hektorović. The residence’s stunning seawater fish pond and Renaissance garden is worth a gander.
Even more unique in the area, however, is Stari Grad Plain. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most important historical sites on the entire continent. The plain dates back to the ancient Greeks, who laid out the land into unique agricultural plots to grow crops like grapes and olives.
If you happen to time your trip to Croatia just right, be sure to also check out the beautifully scented lavender fields near the village Brusje on the road to Stari Grad from Hvar Town.
Swim and relax at the secluded Dubovica Beach
As it’s a large island, there’s a ton of amazing beaches in Hvar. While some of these beaches quickly fill up with tourists on a hot day, Dubovica Beach is often less crowded. It’s a great place to get away from the crowds of Hvar Island and enjoy a little seclusion.
Dubovica is also one of the most beautiful sites along the coast of Dalmatia. The beach is near Hvar and accessible via a park at the top of a hill.
Most people rent scooters to reach the park and then travel down to the beach on foot. It’s about a ten-minute trip on sandy hills and pebble-covered shores. While the area is a little rocky and hilly, it almost feels as if it is a secret retreat.
Dubovica is quiet and doesn’t attract as many tourists but still offers amenities. You’ll have a few food options, including several bars and restaurants.
Other popular beaches worth checking out around Hvar Island include Malo Zaraće, Pokonji Dol, Milna, and Bonj, home to the popular Hula-Hula Beach Bar.
Admire the views from the terrace of the Hvar Theatre
Located in the Arsenal, the Hvar Theatre is the oldest public theatre in Europe and one of the most famous historical tourist attractions on Hvar Island.
After a long, drawn-out renovation & restoration, the Hvar Theatre has finally opened up again to the public. As impressive as the architecture is, however, one of the best things to do at the theatre is to climb up to its terrace for tremendous views over Hvar Town.
Scoot over to Brac Island
Located just 40 minutes from Hvar Island by ferry, Brac Island is one of the best day trips from Hvar and a worthy destination in its own right. There’s a handful of fun things to see & do in Brac, but the island is most famous for its wineries and limestone quarries.
If you’ve only got one day in Brac, try to check out the ancient village of Skrip, the oldest settlement on the island, engage in a wine-tasting at the Stina Winery in Bol, or enjoy the rare white sands of Zlatni Rat Beach, one of the most popular beaches in Croatia.
Take a day trip to the Blue Cave
If you’ve got extra time for one of the best day trips from Hvar, slip a boat visit to the Blue Cave into your plans. This stunning natural attraction, also known as the Blue Grotto, is an absolute must-see while visiting Hvar Island.
When you catch the cave at its finest (usually with the “high-noon” sun between 11 am and 2 pm), the shimmer of light hitting the surface of the seawater creates a mysterious and dazzling scene bathed in eerie, ethereal blue hues. (It might even remind you of an otherworldly scene from one of your favourite sci-fi movies!)
The Blue Cave is located on the island of Biševo, about five kilometres south of the island of Vis. Currently, the only way to enter the cave is via an official boat on a tour like the Blue & Green Cave Tour. It’s well worth it, however, as this is one of the must-do activities in Hvar. Be sure to bring the family along; the kids will love it!
View the harbour from Hvar Fortress (Tvrdava Fortica)
Any list of what to do in Hvar should include a trip to the main fortress. The Hvar Fortress (Tvrdava Fortica) is an ancient structure built to increase the defences of the port town.
The entrance to the fortress is a few minutes away from the harbour. From there, it’s another twenty minutes to the fortress itself.
When you get inside, you’ll find endless hallways leading to various rooms and other hallways. Most areas are roped off, making it easy to find your way around the labyrinth of passageways.
The fortress includes several rooms that showcase historical artifacts, similar to mini-museums. The main highlight is walking on top of the ancient walls for a wonderful view of the harbour.
Go wine tasting at the vineyards of Sveta Nedjelja
Sveta Nedjelja is one of the best places to visit in Hvar, thanks to the old winery and the interesting views. The town was built at the bottom of the highest peak on the island. Sveta Nedjelja is also right below a cave that once housed an ancient Augustinian monastery.
The cave was once inhabited by early humans during the Neolithic period, adding to the historical significance of the area. The village was built halfway to the cave against the sheer cliff of the peak. To reach Sveta Nedjelja, you need to travel a winding path through a wooded area.
Above the Sveta Nedjelja village, on the steep slopes, you’ll see the famous vineyards that are still in use. The wine has a full flavour and deep red colour and is available from a local winery.
If you’re craving a little relaxation while in the area, check out Lucisca Beach, located about half an hour by foot from the centre of town.
Wander cobblestone streets in Jelsa
While many of the best things to see in Hvar are near the main port of Hvar Town, there are still attractions scattered throughout Hvar Island, including the town of Jelsa. This small resort town is a popular destination on Hvar Island for families and offers its own taste of history.
It’s like a mini version of the Old Towns that you find in the centre of numerous European cities. The town has a public square, historic sites, and well-preserved ancient residential buildings.
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Jelsa was first mentioned in 1331, so the exact date that the town was established is unknown. To the south and east of the town are two ancient fortresses: Tor and Grad.
Beyond the historic sites near its centre, modern Jelsa offers many of the things that you’d expect from a resort town. You can find modern restaurants, shops, and hotels here.