We’ve been in Croatia about three weeks and I haven’t posted a single thing here on the blog. So this is a quick update of what we’ve been up to and ten things to do in Hvar in the off season.
In summer there are a zillion tourists, soaking up sun on the beaches, exploring colorful sea caves via boat tours, eating and drinking at one of the many restaurants, cafes, and bars, and generally partying it up. Not so much in November/December.
The weather is cool and the town is mostly closed up. Still we found many things to do in Hvar (in addition to sitting behind computers desperately trying to make a living).
Our Airbnb host has taken us on a couple great hikes. I’m working on a separate post about that, but I will tell you that they are long and we get to the top of hills with beautiful views in every direction. Hiking is a great way to get to know Island Hvar and its flora, geography, and fauna. Bonus points to Vlado for telling us about the plants and animals that live here.
The Fortress Španjola
The fortress, finished in the 16th century, sits about 100 meters above Grad Hvar, the older part of the town. Like most fortresses, it was there to protect the town and has an ideal perch to watch the town and port for pirates or marauders.
The foundations of the fort were started in the first half of the first millennium BC and protected the Illyrian settlement on the hillside. The thing is old! The present day fort construction began in 1282 when the area was under Venetian rule.
It is incredibly well preserved. The Fortress has four bastions, a church, a prison, several corridors, gunpowder rooms and numerous corridors – a massive structure with a strong civil engineering foundation. Wikipedia has a good overview of the history of Hvar town.
It’s closed this time of year, but Vlado knows the guy with the key. The Fortress Manager met us up there and let us explore. The history and the fort were interesting, but what really got me was the view. I guess I like being up high. I didn’t see any pirates or marauders, but I did see the big, blue sea and the chain of islands offshore of Hvar. It’s also a great place to get perspective on the town and see where everything is.
After our tour, we walked back to town along an herb garden-lined path.
It’s about a 25-minute walk to a cute playground. The kids like the jumping, climbing, and swinging; I like sitting on the rocks next to the sea and writing or reading. Win-win.
Coffee and Tea
There aren’t many places open this time of year, but there are several cafés. No food, just drinks. Croatian coffee culture is famous, so we’ve had to partake a couple times. You know, to experience the culture.
Exploring Grad Hvar
Grad Hvar is beautiful. (Grad = town, both the town and the island are called Hvar).
I’ve loved wandering the stone stairways between narrow stone “streets.” A lot of the buildings in the old town you can only reach on foot. I love that. The steps and windowsills are decorated with plants, softening and greening the hardscape.
There is a lot here: The theater, St. Stephens Square, the loggia and clock tour… too much for this little post (which keeps getting longer and longer). Check out some of the town sights on Wikipedia.
Meeting Croatian Cats
There are cats everywhere! And most of them are pretty friendly. I thought this island could use a spay/neuter clinic, but then found this animal rescue website which indicates that there are some people dealing with the overabundance of stray cats here. Still, there are a lot of cats. We like petting them and taking photos for the Instagram account I set up for my dead cat, Mr. Finklestein. It’s not weird. If you like cats, dogs, donkeys, or ponies, you should follow Mr. Finklestein.
We may be the only ones doing it, because it’s a bit COLD for swimming, but we just had to jump in the Adriatic Sea. You can see the results in this video. (If you are reading this in email, you will need to click through for the video.)
Sitting by the Beach
We can’t come to Croatia and not sit by the beach, even if we are doing it in long sleeves and not swimsuits. There is a great little beach about a ten minute walk down an Allepo pine lined path. It’s the opposite direction from Hvar Town and barely anyone goes there this time of year. It’s all ours.
In the summer, some of the best yoga retreats in Europe are held in Hvar. Wouldn’t this be a great place for Sun Salutations?
Day Trip to Split
This also deserves it’s own post – I need to get on it! We took the ferry to the mainland and the town of Split one Sunday.
Split is the second largest town in Croatia and built around the Roman Palace of the Emperor Diocletian. Our ferry arrived as a cruise ship was unloading 5,000 people, so it was a little crowded and overwhelming after being in such a quiet place for two weeks. Once we got into it, though, we enjoyed the market, wandering through the old palace, climbing the bell tower, and the Advent Market. There are zillion things to do and see here, but we took it easy, wandered, ate, and drank wine.
We saw all the sites mentioned in this itinerary for a day in Split, plus perused the Christmas Market stands, but you have to time it right for that.
If you are there in summer, don’t miss the Ultra Europe music festival.
Check out this site for more on the very long and interesting history of Split.
Hvar Island Town Tour
Our incredibly generous Airbnb host, Vlado, drove us around the island of Hvar one day to show us some of the other towns. Hvar Town is the largest, Stari Grad is the oldest (Stari = old, Grad = town), and Vbroska was Henry’s favorite. We also stopped in at Jelsa and Sveta Nedilja. Of course, almost everything was closed this time of year, but we enjoyed walking along the waterfronts in all of these places. The towns are beautiful and we could have spent a whole day in any of them.
Where to Stay on Hvar
We rented our apartment through Airbnb. It’s working out really well for us and the view from the balcony is amazing! The real treasure is Vlado who has shown us all over the island and given us a little insight into at least one Croat.
There are many apartments and hotels here, so you will find out exactly what you want.
Our favorite site for vacation rentals is VRBO and there are a bunch in Croatia, especially in the coastal areas.
First time Airbnb users can get $35 off with this link.
Do you have anything to add to this list of things to do in Hvar in the off-season?
Read About Our Time in Croatia
- Ten Things to Do in Hvar, Croatia
- Krka National Park
- Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Zagreb Christmas Market
- From Montenegro to Austria via Serbia and Croatia
- Five Favorite Hikes in Europe
- Books Set in Croatia
- Traditional Croatian Foods to Try During Travels