Every island has its unique charm, but some rise above the rest. From excellent wineries, beautiful nature, and stunning architecture, Hvar island and its 5 charming towns have so much to offer. Here you’ll find a perfect mix of sailing, history, architecture, gastronomy, and hedonism.
1. Hvar Town: One of the most attractive medieval towns in the Mediterranean
The South coast of Hvar island is perfect if you’re looking for a busier atmosphere with world-class restaurants and fun nightlife. There is the charming town of Hvar with its gorgeous archipelago Paklinski island. Hvar town is the island’s capital and one of the most attractive medieval towns in the Mediterranean.
It is overlooked by its castle – Fortica, dating from the 7th century. The locals also call it Spanjola or Spanish fort. Even though the Venetians built it. The reason behind this is the Spanish military engineers working on the fort. You can hike there, or we can organize a car to take you to the top. If you’re not interested in going to Fortica, Top Bar is also a great choice to enjoy dazzling panoramic views of the harbor and the city.
Beautiful architecture and cultural heritage dominate this genuinely charming town. Wander the old town’s narrow streets before taking a stroll along the harbor promenade. Visit the Renaissance Katedrala Sv. Stjepana (Cathedral of St Stephen) or the Franjevački Samostan (Franciscan monastery). Afterward, enjoy a refreshing drink on the largest town square on the Croatian coast.
There’s an excellent, family-owned coffee shop for coffee lovers, kava 37. The kava 37 owners, Ivana and Marko, say their primary focus is on quality and hospitality while respecting everyone in the long coffee chain. Hence, I recommend skipping the coffee on the boat and taking a short walk up the stairs from the harbor. It’s well worth the effort!
Many excellent restaurants in this charming town offer mouthwatering specialties. Their menus include fresh fish, locally grown vegetables and fruit, organic meat, and local desserts. In fact, there’s something for everyone here, from modern restaurants to traditional and charming taverns. If you give me details about your favorite setting and what kind of food you enjoy the most, we will recommend where to go.
The best after-dinner time in Hvar is in the magical wine bar Tri Pršuta. The name means three prosciuttos, and the charcuterie plates they serve are for the gods. You will want to take some on your yacht as well, believe me. The wine tasting here is spectacular. You can try some of the best wines from Croatia, and with fantastic music in the background, you will have a night to remember.
2. Stari Grad: The oldest town in Croatia
Stari Grad was the Greek Pharos, the most important settlement for many centuries, and one of the oldest towns in Europe. It now plays a secondary role to Hvar Town (capital status was transferred under Venetian rule).
In the 4th century B.C., the Ancient Greeks brought the grapevine here and planted it on the fertile fields of the Stari Grad Plain. This cultural landscape has been under UNESCO protection since 2008. You can get there quickly from the town by bike or car. Additionally, you can hike to the chapel in the city itself and see this original greek land division system for growing wine and olives.
Today, the town is most famed for the Renaissance palace of the 16th-century writer Petar Hektorović. The palace is also known as Kaštel Tvrdalj, which he used as a summer house. You can visit the palace, sit by the pond, read a book or take poetic pictures. Despite the high temperatures outside, the inside is always pretty cool.
There are several outstanding restaurants in the town itself. Still, for people looking for a true traveler’s restaurant adventure, I recommend going to the Konoba Stori Komin in the abandoned village Malo Grablje. The townsfolk abandoned the village in the 1950s because of the phylloxera disease that ruined vineyards and other agriculture. The 15-minute cab ride leaves you on the edge of a dark, bumpy pebble pathway with no identifying signs but a sole light that lights your way. You head up the hill past deserted houses until you begin to see signs of life. The atmosphere you will experience here deserves an award for special effects.
Once inside, you get a genuine Croatian meal that you have to pre-order. Choose between fresh and delicious fish, local meat, vegetables, and desserts. A family member will serve you local wines, and you will feel like you’re at a long-lost friend’s house. However, don’t say no to the handmade local grappa. That’s, in fact, a strict rule here in Croatia!
3. Vrboska: The smallest town on Hvar island
If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway, then you can’t beat Vrboska. Vrboska is an enchanting old fishing village. It’s also the smallest of 5 charming towns on Hvar island and the safest port. Due to its many stone bridges, it is often called “the Venice of Hvar.” This picturesque port retains the unique spirit of the Dalmatian coast. You can enjoy its narrow cobblestone lanes, tiny harbors, and cozy atmosphere at any time of the year. It’s always a pleasure to dock here.
Set at the head of a narrow coastal inlet, Vrboska was exposed to Ottoman attacks. In response, the townsfolk built St Mary’s Church during the 15th century. This church is a rare example of a Renaissance fortified place of worship. It wasn’t altered since that time.
The later (16th-century) St Lawrence’s Church contains paintings by renowned Venetian artists. It was burnt down twice in the 16th century. During the Hvar Uprising in 1512 and then during the Turkish invasion of Hvar in 1571. It was renovated in Baroque style in the 17th century.
Saint Lawrence is the patron saint of Vrboska, and the townsfolk celebrate his day every August 10th, with music, dancing, wine, and dining. It’s a memorable experience at the peak of the summer.
There are many restaurants in the city and the surrounding area to visit, but I will mention only one today. Konoba Vrisnik is located at the entrance of the small village of Vrisnik, a 15-minute drive from Vrboska. It’s a family-owned restaurant where you really feel like you came to the owner’s home. The staff is genuinely professional and friendly.
They are fully booked most of the time, so you need to make a reservation at least 2-3 days before, but let us worry about that. I recommend ordering risotto and cold appetizers to start and octopus under the bell for the main course. Finish with a local dessert or a glass of dessert wine. Don’t worry if you don’t dock in Vrboska! You can come to this beautiful village from Jelsa and Starigrad as well.
4. Jelsa: The Town of Wine
The small harbor of Jelsa is a safe choice to dock in any kind of weather. It’s a beautiful port, where you can walk straight to the old city from the yacht. This charming town is famous for its laid-back charm, some of the best wineries in Croatia, and excellent restaurants.
The town’s central square is baroque, contrasting other main squares on the island. It boasts a beautiful church facade- that of St. Johns. The locals call this square Pjaca; it’s a place they meet, relax, gossip, and exchange news.
When talking about local wines, I recommend visiting Tomić, Duboković, and Carić wineries. All three wineries are family-owned, produce high-quality wine, and are unique in their own way. The entire experience in each winery is beautiful.
I have to mention Tonči Marijan as well. This winemaker produces 17 wine labels, olive oil, and vinegar. His wine, Vron Bod, named after vineyard, won the first-ever Decanter Gold for the most important red wine variety in Croatia- Plavac Mali. You can find him by the old lavender factory in the small village of Pitve, close to Jelsa. Besides wine tasting, he offers a unique slow food experience. He prepares lobster pasta and a fish specialty of Hvar island- Hvarska Gregada.
Every Thursday, during the summer, the traditional fishing boats sail from Vrboska to Jelsa, and there they put on a show. These boats actually perform in the rhythm of music, and it’s such a precious spectacle to witness. The light effects are beautiful, and the music is delightful. I enjoy this event every time I see it. So, I had to share it with you.
One of the best chocolates you can try in Croatia is made in Jelsa. The owner Fedra Gamulin says that the taste of every single one will remind you of the rich abundance of Hvar island. Gamulin chocolates are handmade with the finest chocolate and locally grown ingredients. Don’t ask me how often I ‘tasted’ the Almond brittle dark chocolate last summer.
Another exciting thing about Jelsa is that it was the first party town in former Yugoslavia. To explain my enthusiasm, I want to remind you that Yugoslavia was a federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, and Slovenia. Yet the first nightclub opened in the small town of Jelsa back in 1964. In the 1980s, there were 4 nightclubs in Jelsa, which made it a party destination like Hvar Town is today.
As far as food goes, there are different mouthwatering restaurants to recommend. One of them is Konoba Maslina (olive), pure hedonism. It’s located in the olive orchards like the name suggests. You will love the ambiance, breathtaking sunset, spectacular view of surrounding villages, and the island Brač. The owners are incredibly kind and lovely. They cook and serve you themselves with so many great stories to share. Their specialty dessert is ice cream with figs soaked in local dessert wine – prošek.
The food is always fresh, flawlessly cooked, and seasoned, treasuring tradition while still adding a bit of a personal touch. There are also great gluten or lactose-free options, and the flavors are not compromised at all! It’s a short drive away from Jelsa, and this experience will make you extremely happy.
5. Sućuraj: One of the warmest places on the Hvar island
On the easternmost tip of Hvar, Sućuraj seems a world away from the relatively bustling Hvar Town. It’s a small charming town with an intimate atmosphere. Here you can take it slow and disconnect from any anxiety, stress, and everyday noise.
Sućuraj has been destroyed and rebuilt several times during its history. The first known settlers were Illyrians, and during the 7th and 8th centuries, Croatians settled in. Many different invaders imprinted their authority on Sucuraj throughout history: Illyrians, Romans, Croatians, Hungarians, Venetians, French, Austrians, Italians… Can you believe that during the 20th century alone, Sućuraj was a part of 6 different countries?
It is one of the warmest places on the island, with over 2700 sunny hours a year. The delightful climate makes swimming possible from May to October and for the brave ones all year round. For those who love cycling, running, and hiking, there is more than 40 km of paths to enjoy.
The beautiful harbor provides all you need – several good restaurants and small shops. My favorite is Fortica, run by Stipe and his family; they prepare delicious food. You have to try the fish stew or the fish platter. I cannot recommend it enough.
I hope this article inspired you to visit Hvar island and its 5 charming towns on your next sailing holiday.
If you have questions about the restaurants on the Hvar island, wineries, or anything else, we are happy to respond to any of your inquiries. We take pride in prompt email and phone correspondence, regardless of your time zone.
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Author: Vedrana Radanović