Hvar was founded by the Greeks in the 4th century B.C. on the site of today’s Stari Grad. Over history, Hvar was ruled by Slavs, Venetians, Croatians, Venetians, Byzantines, Croatians, Hungarians until the Republic of Venice became its long-term owner in 1409.
It is impossible to miss the imposing Fortress/Citadel perched on a hill above old Hvar, and built to defend the town from the Turks who sacked the town in 1539 and 1571. The Citadel has been reconstructed many times but the winged lion symbol of Venice still dominates the walls. You can climb up to the fort on stairs between narrow walls in Hvar. Once up there, walk around to see barracks, observation posts (built later during Austrian rule), amphorae, ancient objects, two ruined palaces, and great panoramas.
The Hvar town loggia and clock tower from the 15th century is visible when entering the Pjaca (main square) with the former Governor’s Palace in front of you. The Palace was turned into the historic Palace Hvar at the turn of the 20th century.
A Walking Tour of Hvar:
- If arriving by catamaran as we did, continue along the harbor perimeter past a line-up of cafes, shops, and people offering boat tours. This leads directly into the Pjaca (main square). The Hotel Palace and Hvar loggia will be directly in front of you.
- Turn to the right and grab what little information there is from the “I” (Information Office) on the corner. The tourist office is located in the old Municipal Theater and Arsenal Gothic Building. The theater (1612) was the first municipal theater in Europe.
- Look down the length of the Pjaca strewn with cafes to the gorgeous Cathedral of St. Stephen and walk to it. Inside the Cathedral (no photos but the man did allow me to video), take one of the free paper guides in four languages telling about the various altars inside, tombs, paintings and icons dating from the 13th-19th centuries. St. Stephen Pope and Martyr is the patron saint of the town. This cathedral was built on the site of an early 6th century Christian church and a later Benedictine convent of St Mary.
- Stop for a meal, coffee, glass of wine at one of the many cafes, restaurants lining the Pjaca or grab an ice cream cone.
- Begin walking up any one of the steep stairs in narrow streets leading up to the Citadel. Past a small Benedictine Monastery and small church (closed) that I originally thought was the Franciscan Monastery. Unlike Split with informational signs on walls by each historic site, Hvar doesn’t have any, and the map handout was less then helpful. The Benedictine Monastery is directly behind the Hotel Palace.
There are a few more historic sights but tourists visit Hvar to walk, look, sit around, and eat more ice cream (one of our favorite occupations). Hvar is very small and didn’t take more than one hour to cover thoroughly. In and out of a few very expensive boutiques, we still had until 5:30p when the ferry left from Stari Grad.
The bus to Stari Grad stops behind the Cathedral of St. Stephen (schedules posted); you can’t miss it. It stops at the ferry port on the way to Stari Grad, 25 Kuna/$4.85 U.S. per person fare. Whatever you do, don’t get to the ferry port early! It has one bench to sit on and nothing to do or see.
The villages around Hvar are known for wines, olive oil, honey and lavender. Local women make and sell sachets along with other items made from lavender and the blooming lavender gave off wonderful smells.