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Flashback Friday: Hvar, Croatia

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Today's Flashback is a look back at a day trip to the island of Hvar, a Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea and summer playground. It is well-known for its beach clubs, inland lavender fields, and yachting culture but for cultural travellers the Old Town of Hvar also includes 13th-century walls, a hilltop fortress and a Renaissance cathedral.

view through trees down onto a harbour with yachts

Getting to Hvar, Croatia

Depending upon your budget and time, you have many choices to travel from Split. There are four different companies offering a ferry or catamaran ride to Hvar. The quickest journey takes just less than an hour (about $21 CAD). The cheapest way to get to Hvar is a 2-hour ferry ride on the Jadrolinja Ferry ($7 CAD). Private transfers, depending on comfort level, start at about $200 CAD.

A town with red brick roofs on the edge of the water with islands in the background

Hvar, Croatia Old Town

Exploring the Old Town is a treat with unique architecture, quaint cobbled streets, traditional bars and restaurants with expansive terraces. Walking along the Riva (the town's main promenade) gives budget travellers a chance to dream of sailing on one of the glamorous sailboats and luxury yachts that fill the harbour.

Hvar street with stone building and people walking

Waterfront promenade with stone buildings behind a row of palm trees

Cathedral of St. Stephen

Located in St Stephen's Square (the main town square) is St. Stephen's Cathedral. The Cathedral was built on the site of a 6th-century Christian church and a later Benedictine convent. The current Cathedral was built between the 16th and 17th centuries and includes remnants of the former buildings.

front facade of a white church and bell tower

Square bell tower with smaller octagonal bell tower on top

Hvar Fortress

As we wandered around, the Fortica Spanjola (Spanish Fortress) at the top of the hill beckoned. The route we found is stairs next to Cafe Loco. The path is well-marked. Admission to access the inside of the Fortress is 30 Kn ($5 CAD). It was a hot day so we took it slow and easy on the stairs. It took about 30 minutes at that slow pace. Once past the stairs, the path is gentle and pleasant with absolutely majestic views but very little shade.

looking up to the fortres at the top of a hill. The walls are intimidating sun-faded stone.

Looking down a narrow street staircase with stone buildings on either side.

The rounded stone fortress tower with a Croatian flag on top. The author stands in front.

Construction of the current fortress started in the late 13th century by the Venetians, who were asked to defend the town against pirates. The project continued into the 14th century by the Spanish. When Turks invaded the town in 1571, the people took shelter in the fort while the invaders plundered and set fire to the town. In 1579, lightning struck the fort and ignited the gunpowder store causing significant damage. Repairs were made but by the end of the 16th century, as Hvar lost it's strategic importance the fortress began to deteriorate until its most recent refurbishment and transformation into a historic monument.

an overhead view of the town of Hvar with yachts in the water

The underside of a stone aqueduct showing 2 arches.

Hvar is more expensive than Split and the rest of Croatia. Travellers on a tight budget should consider a day trip while those with more generous means are encouraged to spend longer and explore the other towns on the island. For those who enjoy exciting nightlife, the beach clubs and bars are always hopping and are open well into the morning hours. For those looking for a quieter experience, the quaint towns and beautiful trails will invite you to explore.

small ston echurch with empty bell steeple on top of a hill.

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