Hvar: The Venetian Fortress and city walls

Hvar: The Venetian Fortress and city walls

The capital of the sunniest island in the Adriatic, Hvar is rather schizophrenic. In high season it’s an aspiring St Tropez where the jet set can party the night away before recovering at one of the upmarket beach clubs. At quieter times its a historic cultural centre and a must see destination for your yacht charter.

Hvar was founded on fishing and agriculture. Rosemary and lavender supplemented the usual vineyards and olive groves, and can still be found in the shops.

In the 13th century the Venetians built the impressive defensive walls you can still see today. The Ottomans were held off for any years and the Arsenal provided vital facilities for repairing the galleons.

In 1571 the town was sacked by the Turkish fleet. Worse was to come: In 1579 a lightning strike hit the gunpowder store, destroying much of the  town, including the two original fortresses.

Hvar: The centre of the old town

Hvar: The centre of the old town

Hvar was rebuilt and many of the buildings can be seen today. Life revolves around the huge piazza, one of the largest squares in Croatia. Around the square you’ll find St Stephens Cathedral, the rebuilt Arsenal, the Bishops Palace, the Governor’s Palace and other public buildings.

The town then became a key centre of Croatian literature, painting, sculpture and architecture. A number of famous Croatians come from Hvar. The Arsenal now houses the historic Theatre of Hvar and the Gallery of Modern Art.

The spirit continues with the Hvar Summer Festival which sees events on many days between late June and late September, ranging from classical concerts by international performers to plays from local amateur dramatics groups.

The centre of town is pedestrianised so you can walk the marbled streets without fear. Shopaholics will find boutiques a plenty though prices can be expensive by Croatian standards (though cheaper than St Tropez)!

Hvar: Another busy day in this very popular harbour

Hvar: Another busy day in this very popular harbour.

It’s well worth taking a walk to the now solitary fortress which provides excellent views and a cafe to refresh you before you head back down the hill.

Hvar is renowned for its vibrant nightlife in high season. The clubs include the famous Carpe Diem and it’s associated Beach Club on the off lying island of Stipanska, which has drawn guests such as Prince Harry and Paris Hilton. The evenings often feature sets by internationally known DJ’s (so well known even I’ve heard of some of them)!

The one drawback is the sheer popularity of the place. Except at the start and end of the season, your chances of getting a berth or mooring buoy are slim, even if you arrive in the morning.

Anchoring in Hvar bay is now forbidden in the harbour.

Further out, the depth and swell from passing ferries make anchoring untenable in anything but the calmest weather.

As Hvar is a mecca for the rich and famous  prices at the height of the season can seem rather steep. If you want to get a seat at the “big table” with walk ashore access you will have to fork over in excess of 50€ plus another 20-50€ for power, water and rubbish collection (based on a 12m yacht 2015) There are 15 walk-ashore berths available on the east side of the harbour and approximately 15 mooring buoys on the west, some of which allow you to tie to the shore. Mooring buoys are a fairly competitively priced 25€/night for a 12m yacht (2015). Rubbish collection attracts an extra fee.

Hvar is a very popular place and is usually packed by lunchtime so it pays to time your visit to arrive mid-morning if you really want a front row seat. The harbour is a choppy place at the best of times due to the comings and goings of trip boats and water taxis but pay close attention to the weather here as even light breezes from the west through to southeast can set up an uncomfortable slop.

If you just want to stop briefly, the harbourmaster allows up to one hour free. Take note; if you go over this time limit and you will be charged a full day. Sometimes the buoys on the west side are available in the morning and again you can use them to re-provision or make a quick stop to see the town and will not usually be charged for the privilege.

If you can’t find space in Hvar you do have the option of the ACI Marina at Palmizana or take a buoy or anchor between the islands to the south of Hvar. Water taxis operate between these places and Hvar but there are also restaurants available here.

There are other marinas or harbours on Hvar Island from where you can travel overland.

I’d recommend trying to visit Hvar somehow during your yacht charter but even the most determined bareboat crews will probably have to do so without their yacht.

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