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Hvar Town



(1) Venetian Arsenal


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The most prominent building in the harbour area and located on the corner of the main square Trg Sv Stjapana. The massive two story edifice, constructed in the early 16th Century is fronted by a huge arch that was designed to allow Venetian galleys to be hauled out and overhauled (repaired) under cover. The building also served as an arsenal for the local Venetian forces and presumably survived the sacking of the town by Uluz Ali in 1571. The space under the arch was being used for tourist shops (though the front of the building was undergoing repair works during our last visit in 2008). The Hvar Town tourist board offices are also in this building on its north frontage where it faces the main square.


A stair on the north-west corner of the building takes you up to a terrace where a small bar operates (2008) and you get an excellent view of the square and the harbour. It is from here that you also access the theatre.



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(1) Municipal Theatre


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During 1612 the upper story of the Arsenal was given over to become what is said to be the first municipal theatre in Europe. The theatre was established by the Venetian Governor - Pietro Semitecolo to reduce mistrust that had simmered between the Island’s nobles and commoners for the 100 years since the ‘Ivanic’ Rebellion of 1510. The concept of a municipal theatre was unusual not least because it provided a location where the commoners and nobility of Hvar could mix on an equal footing. The current interior dates to the 1800s and consists of two tiers of private boxes around the main auditorium.


Today you can visit this wonderful and unusual establishment between 0900-1300 and 1700-2300 (during the summer) and 1100-1200 (winter).



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(2) Cathedral of St Stephen and the Bishop’s Treasury


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Walking from the Arsenal (1) into the main square you will be faced with the trefoil edifice of the the Cathedral of Sv. Stjepan with its typical, tiered, Venetian tower (with each floor having one more arch than the one below it) on the north side. Dating to the 16th Century, the interior is reported as being un-remarkable with the exception of several art works (including a Venetian ‘Virgin and Child’ on the forth alter to the right of the entrance). There appears to be no fixed time for opening for the Cathedral but try in the morning.


Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Bishop’s Treasury which houses a small collection of fine chalices, reliquaries and  embroidered cloth. This collection can be visited daily between 0900-1200 and 1700-1900 (during the summer) and 1000-1200 (during the winter).


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(3) Streets of the old town


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Following any of the streets away from the north side of Trg Sv Stjapan you will find yourself in the winding, stepped and terraced streets of the old town of Hvar. It is worth taking a while just to wander, look at the architecture which includes fragments from early Venetian and Roman carving, presumably included in the buildings when they were rebuilt following the sacking of the town in 1571.


Follow your nose, there is plenty to see but not enough area that you can be lost for long. There are also plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes hidden away in yards and cellars that you will find as you walk. The trouble might be finding them again if you want to return in the evening to try them out.




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(4) Fortress Spanjola


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Following the streets uphill from the main square eventually you will cross the main road out of town, then pick up a winding path that zig-zags its way up to the fortress or citadel, known locally as the Spanjola after the Spanish engineers who constructed it for the Venetians in 1550s. The climb is definitely worthwhile, even if you are not a fan of castles and fortresses, as the views from its walls are brilliant and there is a cafe and restaurant to help quench any thirst you develop during the climb. Within the fortress itself lookout for the intact original prison (a dungeon like area down a tight winding stair at the east end of the fort) and a small display of nautical archaeological finds that has been laid out in one of the rooms of the main keep at the west end of the fort. The best views are from the roof of the keep.


The fort, which sits over the old town and is connected to it by defensive walls, is open from 0800-0000 (between June and September) and 0900-dusk (between October and May). There is an entry charge.



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(5) Dominican Monastery and Archaeology Museum


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Back in the streets of the old town follow them west towards a tall thin church tower topped with a hexagonal campanile. This is the site of a Dominican Monastery that, until it was dissolved under the rule of Napoleon in 1811 occupied a central position in the intellectual life not just of Hvar but of the wider Dalmatian area and Croatia. It was from here in 1525 that Friar Vinko Pribojevic made the reasonable suggestion that all Slavic races were related, and the slightly more far-fetched pronouncement that they all had their origins in the Dalmatian area.


Today the Monastery is a ruin and many of its buildings are roofless, it does however house the archaeological museum of Hvar which includes a fine collection of carvings of Greek, Roman and Venetian origins as well as a collection of prehistoric flint tools that have been collected from various caves around the Island. The museum is open between 0830-2230 (June to September) and 1000-1200 (October to May). You can find more information on their website.



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(6) Franciscan Monastery





Walking away along the Riva towards the ferry quay you eventually leave the core of the old town behind and head towards the new town. As you wind along the shore to the more recent parts of Hvar you will pass the Franciscan Monastery founded in 1461 by a Venetian sea captain in gratitude for his surviving a ship wreck. Within the former refectory there is a small collection of interesting paintings including a large ‘Last Supper’ by Ingoli of Ravenna. Next door is the small monastic church that is reported to have exquisite carvings and some interesting 17th Century paintings.


The Monastery is open between 1000-1200 and 1700-1900 (May to October, Monday to Friday)


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  1. (7)Beach


Continue east from the Franciscan Monastery (6) through the newer part of town and then along the shore past about 2 km of villas and holiday homes and you will eventually come to a small bay where the road ends. Follow the foot path away to the west on the far side of the bay and you will find quieter bathing areas, though as with many of the beaches around Hvar Town there is no demarkation of nudist areas but the water is clean and entry into the sea is easy.



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Hvar, archaeology musuem


(8) Beach/swimming area


Follow the path around the harbour to the west and as you leave the bay there is an area of swimming platforms with some shade provided by the trees of the promenade that fronts the Hotel Pharos and heads towards the Hotel Amfora. Areas here have been cleaned of urchins and it is far enough from the harbour to be clean enough to swim in. A line of floats de-marks the safe swimming area and stops boats and jet-skis from posing a threat.


This is the closest swimming area to the town without taking a water taxi across to the Pakleni Islands.



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(9) Coastal Path


Follow the path beyond the swimming area outside the Pharos Hotel (8) and eventually you will leave Hvar Town behind. Though there is no formalised walking routes on Hvar (as of 2008) as you might find on Vis it is possible to work your way along the shore to the Hotel Sirena and beyond, though at several places you will find private gardens block your route and you have to take to the streets. Beyond the Sirena there is a path that follows the coast west around the bay and then onwards for several more kms until you reach the fence that de-marks the hunting reserve at the west end of the island. It is not possible to go any further than this.



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If you have had a good or bad experience with another Hvar Town place of interest please let us know, write a review and where possible we will post it here.


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