ZigZagging Our Way Across Europe
We decided to take a day trip by ferry to the island of Hvar some 30 miles off the coast of Split, Croatia. Hvar is the fourth largest of Croatia’s 1,100 coastal islands and a favorite of locals, celebrities and backpackers.
Easily reachable in under an hour by ferry or catamaran, it makes for a perfect day tour. Two companies service Hvar from Split – Jadrolinija and Krilo – that combined operate up to 18 trips per day during the peak season.
Stari Grad Promenade
We chose the Jadrolinija line since tickets could be booked directly with them. Our ferry docked directly at the Stari Grad Promenade, a picturesque palm tree lined promenade overlooking the Hvar harbor and pristine waters of the Adriatic Sea.
Not only does the Stari Grad offer wonderful views and numerous sidewalk restaurants, but a wonderful shopping experience as well. The alley ways leading off the Promenade are lined with shops staffed by local vendors. The perfect place to find that special gift for someone back home.
St. Stephen’s Square
A short walk along the Stari Grad brought us to the historic St. Stephen’s Square.
With its white-washed architecture, cobbled streets and clear blue Adriatic waters, it is no wonder Hvar is called “The Queen of the Dalmatian Islands”. Anchored by the Cathedral of St. Stephen’s, the Bell Tower, and the Episcopal Palace, Hvar Square (Hvarska Pjaca) is the center of the island and the largest piazza in Dalmatia.
At the end of the Square is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Stephen’s, pope and martyr. The Cathedral was constructed in 1605 on the foundation of an earlier 9th century church destroyed by the Turks. Stepping inside the Cathedral, we found a beautiful triptych depicting St. Mary, St. John the Baptist and St. Jerome painted by Venetian artists.
Stepping off our ferry from Split, one of the first things we noticed was the imposing fortress looming high above the town.
The medieval castle of Tvrdava Fortica dates from 1278 and holds a special place in the history of Hvar. In 1571, the Turks invaded the island and people living in Hvar took refuge in the fortress as the town was destroyed below.
Although you can access the Fortress by taxi (approximately 100kn), we decided to take the stone steps leading from St. Stephen’s Square that connect to a shaded, winding path offering breathtaking views.
The climb takes under an hour and there are numerous places to sit and take a break. It is quite a workout, so take plenty of water if you plan to make the trek!
The amazing view of Hvar and the Adriatic Sea is the highlight of the steep trek up. However, the Fortress is empty and there is not much else to do other than enjoy the view.
The Franciscan Monastery and The Church of Lady of Mercy
After make the return trek from the Fortress back down the pathway and stone steps to St. Stephen’s Square, we enjoyed a cold, refreshing, well earned cocktail at one of the many sidewalk establishments lining the piazza. We then walked along the Stari Grad Promenade to the Franciscan Monastery and the Church of Lady of Mercy which are located on the opposite end of the Promenade from the piazza.
Situated on a small cove overlooking the Adriatic Sea, the Franciscan Monastery with the Church of Our Lady of Mercy is just a short walk from the center of Hvar.
Built in the 15th Century, the Monastery is open to the public where numerous relics and paintings can be viewed.
The Monastery is also home to one of the oldest specimens of cypress in Croatia. The age of the tree is estimated to be 500 years with branches that are elliptic in cross section.
The small beach at the base of the Monastery is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the beautiful water of the Adriatic Sea.
Returning to the Stari Grad to board our Jadrolinija ferry back to Split, our day in Hvar ended with the golden glow of the medieval Tvrdava Fortica looming above us and an amazing sunset over the Adriatic Sea behind us.
Have you been to Hvar? Tell us about it!
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