"The peculiarity of its position, together with homogeneity and wholeness of its space gives impression that Mediterranean is not only a world for itself, but also a centre of the whole world – sea surrounded by land, the land around the sea, the centrality of both. The sun that rises above it seems to be there for the sole purpose of shining bountifully upon them; seems simply theirs and theirs alone. (...) The impact of vertical sunrays causes, apparently, a certain psychological phenomena either permanent or transitory. Unusual openness and airiness of the sky stimulates mystical states or fear of transcendence."
(Matvejević, Predrag: "Mediterranean - A Cultural Landscape")
Located on the gorgeous south side of the island, facing the sun and the sea stands so beautiful and proud the magical town of Hvar. And it is neither secret nor surprise that Hvar is an object of love and longing for so many. The town of Hvar is simply not a provincial and modest little town and that is a fact.
We will tell you a short story about the historic events that helped shaped Hvar into what it is today. We will talk about the events that formed the spirit and character of today’s Hvar – a place that takes your breath away with such ease.
At the end of the 13th century Hvar came under Venetian authority and that was probably the most crucial event in its history since at that particular time the centre of the diocese and municipal administration moved from the town of Stari Grad to Hvar Town. That caused Hvar to rapidly gain importance because it automatically became the Adriatic naval station and an important transit center. That also caused their inhabitants to expand the range of their businesses to not only farming and fishing but more importantly to sailing and trade.
Great economic boom was in accordance with the cultural development that culminated in the renaissance era. As a result of that, Hvar and Croatia are now proud of many great poets, playwrights, historians and theologians. The physical manifestation of this glorious period is best reflected in the form of the first public theatre founded in Hvar, the oldest public theatre in Europe.
The Venetian era ended in the late 18th century when Hvar fell under the Austrian authority. That lasted until the early 20th century with the exception of seven years during 19th century when the French occupied the area.
The development of modern tourism in Hvar started around the second half of the 19th century and the first hotel was built in the early 20th century. An interesting fact is that the first hotel in Hvar named "Carica Elizabeta" (Empress Elisabeth), was built upon the foundations of the Venetian Duke’s Palace, symbolically marking the transition to a new era of Hvar history.
Today’s Hvar is the perfect combination of natural beauty, rich cultural heritage and a very long tourism tradition. Everyone was visiting Hvar throughout centuries - from ancient Greeks through medieval Austrian and German scholars until today when the place bursts with people of all sorts and the town proudly holds the title of one of the most luxurious destination in the Adriatic. Running into Beyonce, Tom Cruise, Prince William or some other celebrity is not so unusual in Hvar, on the contrary.
The rich cultural heritage is obvious on every step; Hvar Arsenal dates back to the 14th century while the above-mentioned oldest European public theatre was founded in 1612. In addition, there is a beautiful St. Stephen’s Cathedral from the 14th century that overlooks the also breathtaking Pjaca (Piazza ) of 4500 m2, the largest and perhaps the most beautiful one in Dalmatia.
Another evidences of the great cultural heritage are the Fortica Fortress on the hill overlooking the town that was completed in the mid 16th century, Loggia from the same era and Franciscan monastery from the 15th century with its valuable museum collection. Also, definitely worth mentioning is Benedictine monastery built on the foundations of the 17thcentury house of poet Hanibal Lucić who was a Renaissance poet from the island and the author of "Robinja", the first secular drama in Croatian language.
Another interesting fact about Benedictine monastery is that Hvar lace or "aloe lace" is made there. Benedictine nuns who live in the monastery make the lace from the threads picked from aloe leaves of agave plants. The lace making in Hvar has been going on for centuries and it has been recognized and listed by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
There are many other examples of beautiful Gothic and Renaissance architecture in the town center and we will let you discover some of them on your own.
For those culture enthusiasts Hvar offers art exhibits, music concerts, theatre shows and we highly recommend classical music concerts that are a part of Hvar Summer Festival held in the cloister of the Franciscan monastery just on the waterfront.
The obvious highlight of the local cuisine in numerous restaurants and taverns is fresh seafood combined with local olive oil and herbs specific to this region.
Try some of these culinary delights in Hvar restaurants that we love dearly; restaurants Giaxa and Macondo that are located in the centre of old town, restaurant diVino in a fantastic location by the sea yet tucked away from the curious eyes of people passing by and for those who practice ‘see and bee seen’ lifestyle there is always a famous Gariful restaurant on the waterfront.
The town is filled with cute little fashion shops where you can find an interesting selection of items made by Croatian fashion designers.
The place is very famous for its nightlife; from its coffee houses to lounge bars and discotheques Hvar is known as one of the world’s top summer destinations entertainment wise.
Equally satisfied in Hvar will be the guests that prefer sporting activities as well as those who prefer light and relaxing recreation. The possibilities are infinite – from walking by the seashore to cycling, scuba diving, bay or deep sea fishing, windsurfing, fitness activities, European football, basketball, volleyball, tennis, kayaking, sailing and many more.
Hvar is also very proud of its beautiful beaches in the town as well as on the islands nearby, especially on the surreally beautiful Pakleni Islands just a few minutes away. You just have to choose if you want a romantic ride on a traditional little boat or you want a speedboat adventure to get there.
The entire Hvar Island is famous for its wine and olive oil production. If you wish to become more familiar with the autochthonous and traditional lifestyle of the islanders, as well as the processing of grapes and olives find some time to visit other island towns of Stari Grad, Jelsa and Vrboska and picturesque inland villages of Svirče, Pitve, Vrbanj, Dol, Brusje or Velo Grablje. In some of those places olives and grapes are still processed in a traditional ways while in others the latest modern technology is implemented.
For the authentic souvenir look for lavender oil that Hvar was famous for throughout history. Lavender flower and oil from Hvar Island has been largely used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
Modern day Hvar is often found as one of the hottest tourist destinations and that is not without reason. The Gods were really generous there; the largest number of sunny days in the Mediterranean, perfectly sheltered port, crystal clear sea… The list is long!
The ancestors left to today’s generations one of the nicest and most harmonious urban areas and today’s residents are aware of the treasures they inherited, therefore they do their best to convey that important legacy to future generations and maintain their town as it is and as it was. People of Hvar also generously share their inherited treasures with their guests and their hospitality is well known worldwide.
The town of Hvar really has everything - from decadent cosmopolitan fashion and activities in its clubs, cafes and restaurants through spiritual seriousness of its museums, churches and monasteries to peaceful simplicity of Mediterranean lifestyle and perfect nature scenery.