Hvar, the Croatian Island Which Has It All: 6 – Vrboska

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Photos copyright Romulic and Stojcic

Continuing our look at Croatia’s nominee for 2018 European Best Destination on January 22, 2018, meet one of the island of Hvar’s most charming locations, known affectionately as ‘Little Venice’.

When I first moved to Jelsa on Hvar fulltime in 2003, I used to get up at about 6am. Life on the island starts early, and I got into the habit of starting the day a couple of hours earlier than I had previously. As I had time on my hands (back then, I was a tortured – and still unsuccessful – aspiring writer), and I used to walk a lot and plan my future books in my head. 

Each morning started with a walk to Vrboska, the pretty little settlement along the coast from Jelsa. It remains one of my favourite walks on the planet, especially at that time of day. Leaving Jelsa’s pretty harbour, the coastal road snakes around several idyllic coves which are ideal for swimming, before Vrboska slowly comes into view – its ACI marina, spectacular fortress church, traditional stone waterfront, palm island and, of course, its famous canal. A morning coffee in a Vrboska cafe and then the gentle stroll back to Jelsa and I was on my laptop by 07:30 – the perfect start to the day. Take the journey in the video below, starting from the other side of Jelsa.

Vrbsoka remains one of the most charming places in all Dalmatia for me, even after all these years. It has the benefit of being superbly located between Jelsa and Stari Grad, just 10 minutes from the car ferry, and also a wonderful sailing destination with its deep bay and well-equipped marina, and yet it is a lot more off the radar that it bigger neighbours. The result is that you have a prime location destination which is not overrun by the crowds and which retains its sleepy Dalmatian charm, even in the peak of the season. 

And if you take a closer look, Vrboska becomes rather a fascinating little place to discover…


It even has its own UNESCO World Heritage site which few visitors know about and even less visit. The official name, the Stari Grad Plain, may have been appropriated by its western neighbour, but you can stroll out onto this 80 hectare agricultural colony, which was founded by the Ancient Greeks 2400 years ago and is still farmed the same way today, from the heart of Vrboska. 


There is no doubting which is the most famous building in Vrboska – the magnificent and very unique Fortress Church in the centre of the old town, which was constructed after the 1571 visit of the Ottomans, who burned the village. An impressive structure in its own right, do climb the steps to its roof and enjoy the fabulous views out to the bay, the perfect vantage point from which to observe incoming pirates back then, and holidaying sailors today. 

As famous as the fortress church is the picturesque canal and its stunning stone bridges, which has helped give Vrboska its most popular nickname, Little Venice. The canal is not actually very long, but it is a beautifully tranquil part of the town, and I will confess to being a little jealous when I sold a canalside property to some Brits many years ago – truly the perfect spot. Look a little closer by the last bridge and you will see the stone steps where local women used to watch their clothes. Vrboska is like that – plenty of history and tradition to observe for those with a keen eye. And do keep an eye on the event calendar in Vrboska in the summer – there are some delightful events, including wine tastings and live klapa music – which take place on the bridges. Check out one such event above. 


Vrboska combines its traditions with modern tourism very well. Take wine, for example, an important part of the Hvar way of life for more than 2,000 years. Head into the heart of the old town, just behind the fortress church and you will find a delightful traditional authentic konoba called Pinjata, whose wines are all made from local Hvar grapes. Apart from the actual wine tasting, a visit to Pinjata is a step back in time and a fascinating look at this important aspect of Dalmatian life. For an equally authentic experience, and higher quality wines, visit Caric on the canal itself. One of the rising stars of the Croatian wine scene, Ivo Caric’s wines are exported as far away as California, and one is even served in a Michelin three-star restaurant in Holland. 

Vrboska is home to some of Hvar’s most popular beaches. While some visit those delightful coves on the road to Jelsa, mentioned above, the majority head to Soline, a short walk through the pine trees, which can also be arrived at by traditional sailboat water taxi. It is a wonderful family beach, with restaurant and other facilities. Close by is the newly revamped Senses Resort, whose four-star quality has helped revive Vrboska’s tourism fortunes in recent years. If you are a naturist lover, Vrboska is also an ideal destination, as it is home to the main FKK campsite on Hvar, complete with excellent beach. 


As one would expect for an island coastal town, Vrboska has a fine maritime tradition, and a visit to the Fishermen’s Museum is a must to learn more about the town’s relationship with the sea over the centuries. And while the ACI marina and the yachts it attracts each year is the Lantina Association, whose collection of traditional wooden sailboats add an extra layer of romance to this delightful harbour. There are several events when the boats are out during the season, and it is worth the effort to get on board for a little sailing if you have the opportunity. 

Vrboska, a true gem of Dalmatia, and a worthy addition to an island which has been nominated for the best destination in Europe for 2018. Not voted yet? You can do so here

To learn more about Vrboska, here are 25 things to know


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