The city of Hvar has a long and distinguished history as a center for trade and culture in the Adriatic. A commune part of the Venetian Empire during the 13th to 18th centuries, it was an important naval base with a strong fortress above, encircling town walls and protected port.
Cultural life thrived as prosperity grew.
By the 19th century, the port of Hvar was no longer a military base, and The Hygienic Society of Hvar, that celebrated 150 years in 2018, took the economy of the city and the island in a new direction. As one of the earliest “tourist boards” in Europe, it was founded in 1868 to provide “good care for visitors”.
Hvar Town – a walk through history and elegance
A simply must see Hvar sites are:
The 16th-century St Stephen cathedral lies the head of the superb Renaissance square of the same name which is the largest square in Dalmatia. The cathedral was erected on the foundations of a gothic sanctuary and elegantly marries Renaissance and baroque styles.
Behind the tower lies Bishop’s Palace – the museum of church treasures with its highlight – a richly embroidered liturgical cloak, replete with flying angels, apostles, and saints.
Behind the Bishop’s Palace is the restored Hanibal Lucic Summer Residence, one of Croatia’s greatest poets, who wrote the first drama in Croatian language, La Schiava.
In the Benedictine Monastery, you can see the exhibition of the extremely detailed lace from agave leaves which the Benedictines of Hvar are experts in creating.
Easily recognizable by its high bell tower, the 15th-century Franciscan Monastery is about a 5-minute walk south of Riva. According to legend, its construction was financed by a Venetian naval officer who escaped from a shipwreck.
Looming over Hvar town, high on a 100m hill, is Fortica (Spanjola) – a fort built by the Venetians in the 16th century. There’s an exhibit of amphorae but perhaps the main interest of Fortica is the spectacular views it affords of Hvar town and the offshore islands.
Just over the Arsenal, the building which dates from the reconstruction of the 13th-century warehouse is Hvar Theatre. This Renaissance jewel was the first public theater in Europe. Open to all classes, the theater was nonetheless for men only until late in the 19th century when women were permitted to enter.
Hvar’s Loggia, with its elegant façade, the work of master Tripun Bokanic, served as a public courtroom during the Venetian rule.