2019, Year of Hvar Heritage: Welcome Back Arsenal, Theatre, Hotel Palace Elisabeth!

Total Croatia News

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Sven Veronek

February 6, 2019 – Fresh from celebrating 150 years of the oldest organised tourism in Europe, Hvar heritage welcomes back three renovated cultural giants this year.

I heard about the island of Hvar for the first time about 24 hours before I bought a house there. I ended up buying a house after pointing to number 6 on a list of 10 interesting places to live in Croatia. 

By the time I signed the pre-contract hours after first trying to pronounce its name, all I knew about my new home was that it was very beautiful and had lots of tourists in August. 


Everything since then has been a true voyage of discovery. I learned that I had landed on the sunniest island in Europe, no mean feat for a boy born in the rain in Manchester. I learned that this was the island where organised tourism in Europe began in 1868. I learned that my new home had more UNESCO heritage than any island in the world. Hvar heritage was so impressive, in fact, that among the heritage NOT included in that impressive UNESCO list was the oldest public theatre in Europe. This island was incredible! And we hadn’t even go to the story of its food and wine, including the most expensive olive oil in the world, and one of the oldest olive trees at 2,500 years old. 

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Last year was a major celebration from Hvar Town. It celebrated 150 years of organised tourism in Europe, the very first place after the founding of the Hvar Health Society on May 15, 1868. As successful as the anniversary year was, it took place without three functioning giants of the Hvar heritage world – that oldest public theatre, the Arsenal below the theatre, and the historic Hotel Palace across the large square in Dalmatia. 

And, quite by chance, after varying lengths of renovation, all three are set to reopen in 2019, making the 151st year of organised tourism in Europe one of the most exciting yet for the town. 

Probably the most eagerly anticipated reopening is of the much-loved Hvar theatre. Built in 1612, it is a symbol of the high levels of culture that Hvar has always enjoyed. I can’t recall it ever being open since my arrival on the island in 2003, and it has been in a permanent phase of reconstruction for over a decade, even missing its 400th anniversary in 2012. But now things are finally finished, and the first play is tentatively planned for May this year. Take a tour of the newly renovated theatre here

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The theatre is on the first floor of one of the most impressive buildings in all Dalmatia, the Arsenal. This majestic stone structure guards the entrance to Hvar’s massive square and has been doing so since its construction was ordered by Venice back in 1292. It started life as a shipyard, was burned by the Turks in 1571 and rebuilt in 1611. Today it is a very impressive multi-functional event location, hosting conferences, concerts, exhibitions and banquets. Renovation of the Arsenal was slowed considerably when yet more Hvar heritage was discovered below its floor a couple of years ago in the shape of Roman artifacts

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The renovation process will be complete by April 1, toilets will finally be added to the facility (one of its major drawbacks previously), and a new stone floor and large wooden door to return it to its original feel will be added. 

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But perhaps the best news for tourists looking for something a little extra is the scheduled opening of the first 5-star hotel on the 5-star island. Hotel Palace Elisabeth is the first boutique Hvar heritage hotel, and it will be adding three stars to the previous Hotel Palace. The new-look hotel will be open for business this summer, with a June opening targeted. Fittingly, it is located on the very spot where the first organised Hvar tourism took place way back in 1868. 

The main square in Hvar Town is the biggest in all Dalmatia, and what treasures it beholds. Newly reopened for this season – the oldest public theatre in Europe, the 13th-century Arsenal, and a superb boutique luxury hotel, which oozes charm and hints of the island’s rich cultural past. To learn more about Hotel Palace Elisabeth, visit the Suncani Hvar website.  





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