Destination – Hvar
The sunniest town in the Adriatic, Hvar exudes an ancient old world charm. Viewed from the sea, the seven centuries old town wall extends down to the piazza and Venetian loggia, and is overtopped by fortresses built to protect the town. Bathed in sunshine and filled with the sensual aroma of lavender wafting from the hills above, Hvar is an undisputedly romantic and a very special place to visit.
On arrival you will immediately be drawn to the piazza which is dominated by St Stephen?s Cathedral and lined with buzzing café bars which make a great place to watch the world go by whilst sipping a coffee or an aperitif.
Requiring a certain effort to reach Hvar has kept it refreshingly free from certain types of tourists, and it resembles an Ibiza Town before the crowds or San Tropez without the associated pretension. One of the rare destinations of this kind, it is a real pleasure to visit and long may it remain so. Hvar is best reached by yacht, or even helicopter from Split airport directly to Hvar town, but you can also catch a fast catamaran from Split to Hvar Town, and this takes an hour, but you will need to book ahead in the peak months. Alternatively, there is a slow ferry from Stari Grad (about 2 hours) followed by a 30 minute bus ride to Hvar Town.
Perched precariously on the rocky beaches, the sun loungers here are interspersed with jetties and ladders into the crystal clear waters.
I like to spend my days soaking up the sun at, Hula Hula, a great beach bar 15 minutes? walk out of town. Perched precariously on the rocky beaches, the sun loungers here are interspersed with jetties and ladders into the crystal clear waters and the days pass at a leisurely pace, catching up from the night before. From early evening the atmosphere intensifies as the music hots up and the dancing begins on the decks and the rocks as the sun sets and the boats arrive for the party or to head back into Hvar Town.
A more luxurious alternative is the Bonj ?Les Bains? beach club with four poster sun loungers, massage, yoga and a great food. If you feel like exploring, hire a small boat and explore the untouched bays and secluded beaches around Hvar and the nearby Pakleni islands, but make sure you take sea-shoes as there are a lot of sea-urchins and the pain and swelling if you stand on one will ruin the rest of your holiday! The Pakleni islands (particularly Sveti Klemnent and Palmizana Cove) and many of the bays have wonderful simple fish restaurants, where you can eat the lunch menu of the day. If you?re feeling more adventurous you can navigate the coastline under sail or by motor yacht with Sail Dalmatia
If the buzz of the piazza is not for you, and you fancy an alternative spot for an aperitif, then I recommend the Riva Hotel – a four star, 54 room, boutique hotel by Suncani Hotel Group. Luxurious cream sofas are shaded by cream canopies and overlook the harbour, where you can watch the yachties come ashore for a night on dry land. Most hotel options in Hvar are Suncani owned, and with 10 properties they have a relative monopoly. Their Adriana Hotel is located across the harbour and has a great roof bar and spa, but my particular favourite is another Suncani, The Palace. Although only 3*, it boasts some unusual and elegant architecture dating back to the old Hvar, and has rooms overlooking the harbour, or with views of the hillside and 16th century fortress. There is also a first floor terrace which could be the most exclusive restaurant in town, if Suncani decided to refurbish ? I am assuming they won?t sell!
The menus present a delicious combination of location dishes and more international cuisine, all prepared using locally sourced ingredients and the freshest fish caught that day.
Another great hotel is the Podstine Hotel, in a quiet and romantic location about 15 minutes from town. It?s a sophisticated alternative for those who would prefer to dip in and out of the action in Hvar Town and is only minutes from Hula Hula.
If you are looking for a massage or manicure, walk back towards the piazza and take a right down a narrow alley and take the first staircase up to what looks like a residential entrance. This will lead you to a massage studio first and then a nail salon, but I advise you to try to book ahead, particularly for Dada at the nail salon as she was booked up for a week.
The restaurant scene in Hvar is good, with many excellent restaurants. My favourites tend to be located in the winding alleys of the old town, where the city walls were completed sometime around 1450 during the Venetian Rule, rather than along the harbour promenade. Gaixa (Venetian for Jak?a) is found in the gothic style Jak?a family palace, which was completed by the end of the 15th century, and with food created by Jurica Patrlj. The menus present a superb combination of local dishes and international cuisine, all prepared using locally sourced ingredients and the freshest fish caught that day. My favourites are the simple fish dishes but some of the meat is very good too. Make sure you book ahead and ask for a table in the courtyard for a romantic meal, or outside in the alley for a more lively gathering and great people watching.
A fantastic alternative is Macondo, a Seafood restaurant also just behind the square in the old town. This restaurant is famed for its simple Croatian fish served with potatoes, green beans, capers and local herbs. It also gets exceptionally busy so you need to book ahead.
After dinner at Gaixa or Macondo, walk less than a minute to Prsuta 3 Wine Bar, just along from Gaixa with seating along the alley. This is a great place to kick start your Croatian wine education, with a vast selection of wines by the glass served enthusiastically by a knowledgeable team. If you?re feeling more like cocktails, just round the corner is Ka’Lavanda cocktail bar, set in one of the wider alleys just off the square with lounge furniture and great music until late.
If you feel like carrying on the evening, Carpe Diem is probably the most infamous nightclub, in Hvar. Located on the harbour promenade, it has a prime position and is popular with the hedonistic party crowd and throughout July and August, you can take a water taxi from mid-afternoon to Carpe Diem Beach in Stipanska bay, the party goes on until dawn with cocktails, beach volleyball and breath taking views over the Adriatic. This party is not for the faint hearted and it is not a hidden gem, but the beach party can be good fun.
An alternative is Veneranda, uniquely set within the walls of a onetime monastery high up above the town and complete with a pool, dance floor and a terrace overlooking the harbour, this really is an amazing place to take in the sunrise.
Croatia is surprisingly just over 2 hours from the UK, and a Mustang chartered from TAG Farnborough Airport will require no refuelling and can have you arriving in Hvar in time for lunch in the piazza. Costing Just £10,000, private charter will ensure you arrive refreshed and ready to embrace the unique dichotomy of the historic old town and the vibrant night life.
Plan to fly out early and stay the nightbefore at Aviator. Quiet, spacious and relaxing, our luxurious Sky Suites provide the ideal ambience to indulge in a few extra hours, and dinner in the Brasserie provides a relaxing start to your trip. Dinner, bed and breakfast in a Sky Suite costs from just £505
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