We’re not interested in celebrity gossip and news, so didn’t know Beyonce visited Hvar Town when pregnant or that Prince Harry had jumped fully dressed into a swimming pool there.
We had no idea it was a favourite haunt with the rich and famous and the likes of Bill Gates and George Clooney had strolled across Hvar Town’s old cobbles.
In fact, we had no preconceptions at all about the Croatian island and town of the same name that over the centuries had been under the control of the Greeks, Romans, Venetians and Austrians.
On a warm spring day in May it didn’t look or feel like a place that had gained a reputation as a summer party town for the yachting fraternity, it just seemed like an enchantingly beautiful Croatian harbour town with a fragrant seafront and teasing alleys that demanded exploration.
Spanjola, the Spanish Fortress
A good way to arrive in Hvar town is from above. A path from the 16th century Spanish Fortress on the hill above the town winds its dappled way through ancient fortress walls, cypress trees and wild flowers to emerge on the narrow and leafy back streets. Apart from having wonderful aerial views of Hvar and its harbour it also gives you the opportunity to clock some ‘hidden away’ konobas like Menego’s – good food with more charm for less kunas than the ones around the main square.
Hvar Cathedral and Pjaca
The pjaca (main square) is a breath-stealer, immaculately clean as though bleached by an ever-smiling sun. It is bordered by smart bars and restaurants whose modern chic tables and chairs compliment rather than clash with the old stone façades behind them. At one end of the square is Hvar Cathedral which took nearly 200 years to build between the 16th and 18th centuries. It’s the sort of place where you instinctively slow your pace to a slow stroll, absorbing the sights and atmosphere.
At the other end of the pjaca is the harbour, a veritable picture of postcard prettiness if ever there was one. Head one way and the harbour side is lined with sleek, decadent yachts and converted schooners acting as floating pleasure palaces. Saunter in the other and the scene is more traditional, with the obligatory little bobbing fishing boats that no self respecting quaint harbour should be without. Consistent all round is the sort of sparkling jade water than never fails to hypnotise no matter how many crystal clear, turquoise seas you’ve gazed upon.
Whilst the countryside outside of the town is at its lilac-coloured best in June and July as lavender fields fill the landscape with an explosion of loveliness, the lavender stalls lining the harbour add fragrance and colour to Hvar even outside of blooming season. Combined with the pure and salty sea air, walking along the harbour side is like strolling through one big open-air aromatherapy shop.
The Loggia looks appealingly inviting during the day and night. If you’re like me you’ll be thinking ‘what is a loggia’. It’s a gallery or room with one open side. This one consists of an arched porch that used to be part of the Governor’s house.
The Arsenal and Theatre
An historic building with a split personality beside the harbour. The arsenal was built between 1579 and 1611 whilst the theatre was added in 1612. It is the oldest public theatre in Europe and not the sort of place where you particularly want to see an explosive performance.
The Mysterious Monk
The mysterious monk, seen in a couple of spots around Hvar, is intriguing. He looks anguished, as though he’s praying for forgiveness for some terrible crime. Thing is, he’s not a monk at all, he’s Hannibal Lucic, a renowned Croatian poet and playwright. It’s still a mystery why he looks so distraught.
Hvar might have the reputation as a playground for ‘hooray Harrys’ but the Hvar we experienced was a beautifully preserved, historic town populated by some larger than life local characters.
Hvar totally charmed us and we didn’t spot one celebrity.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+