It is the island which has it all. The most UNESCO heritage of any island in the world, the oldest public theatre, the sunniest island in Europe, some of the world’s finest beaches and cleanest seas, and a tourism magnet from the humble backpacker to the A-list celeb. So which celebs have visited Hvar over the years? Here are our top 10 celebrity Hvar moments.
1. Emperor Franz Josef I (1875)
Hvar has been attracted the rich and famous for more than a century, and probably the island’s first world famous visitor arrived on May 11, 1875, when the might of the Hapsburg Empire, in the form of Emperor Franz Josef I himself paid two stops to the island, disembarking at Stari Grad (see the plaque above which marks the spot) and Jelsa. There was until recently a step marking the spot where the Emperor came ashore in Jelsa, but this has been lost with the expansion of the new waterfront. Interestingly, the Emperor did not visit the main centre of action these days, Hvar Town, but things were already starting to happen there, with the founding of the Hvar Health Society just seven years earlier, which is known as the oldest organised tourism in Europe. 2018 will see 150 years of organised tourism on Hvar – will there be a big celebration?
2. Edward and Mrs. Simpson (1936)
(Photo credit Faros News)
There was another royal visit, once again to Stari Grad in August 1936, when the recently abdicated British king, Edward VIII and his new bride, American Wallis Simpson, arrived on the island. This was the same trip where they caused a little controversry on the island of Rab, asking for – and obtaining – permission to swim nude in a local bay, which many people point to as the birth of the very popular naturist tourism in Croatia, an important part of modern Croatian tourism.
The recently married coupled had lunch in the heart of the Stari Grad old town, the modern day Jurin Podrum, a restaurant which has been in the same family for 100 years now – this is how it looked back in 1917.
3. Jackie Onassis (1964)
There were probably few more high profile women on the planet in the early 1960’s that JFK’s wife Jackie Kennedy, and she too visited Stari Grad in 1964 a year after her husband’s assassination, now known as Jackie Onassis. President Tito organised a navy patrol boat to escort her yacht, as she sailed around the Yugoslav coast. While in Stari Grad, she indulged in a little water-skiing and rowing.
4. Orson Welles (1967)
Hvar has become very popular with well-known actors and actresses over the years, who love the anonymity which locals tend to afford them. Indeed, this list of ten includes only the celebrities who made public appearances – many more choose to moor up in lesser known bays or establishments which fiercely protect the privacy of their guests, and they leave without anyone knowing they have been at all.
One cinema star who was not incognito was Orson Welles, who spent several weeks in Hvar Town in 1967, filming a movie called The Deep. He based himself in the modern-day Kod Kapetana restaurant – for more pics of his filming on Hvar, click here.
5. Jodie Foster (1978)
She was just 15 when she made her first visit with her mother to Hvar, back in 1978, accompanying celebrity photographer Jadran Lazic, once of several visits she made to the island, describing it as ‘the most beautiful place in the world.’
6. Kevin Spacey (2008)
Hvar then has been a celebrity island for quite some time before the new hip image of Hvar Town in the last decade. But several celebrities helped to widen the notion that this was an island for A-listers, with not all of them behaving well…
Kevin Spacey, for example, made it into The Sun and a host of other international tabloid media when he appeared to be fondling a male pal’s bare buttocks during a night out at Carpe Diem. No photos here, but click on this link for more on the story and several photos. Spacey was back on the island in 2014, for a much more low-profile visit.
7. Prince Harry (2011)
And then the story which went truly global. A partying British Prince falling into the pool at then nightclub Veneranda. My favourite part of the story, and much less known, is the secret diplomatic mission that took place by a senior British diplomat the following day. Read about it here.
8. Beyonce (2011)
No sooner had the Prince Harry saga died down than there was another – arguably even bigger – story which hit the global headlines and emanating from Hvar. Pop icon Beyonce, clad in a two-piece white swimsuit, revealed her baby bump to the world which on a visit to Hvar. Not only that, but so taken was she by the place and in particulary a tree she found there, that she decided to name her child after the tree – Blue Ivy. The story did not finish there, as some time later, the Mayor of Hvar conferred honorary citizenship on Blue Ivy, as a thanks for all the increased tourism interest the visit had brought.
9. Tom Cruise (2013)
The famous actors continued to arrive. The majority kept to their boats or the more private restaurants (unless of course, they wanted to be seen), while some did the casual walkabout around town. Locals and tourists alike were delighted to see Tom Cruise enjoying a drink on the main square, and then going walkabout and posing for photographs with his fans.
10. Bono (2016)
All it takes is one social media post… Bono’s 10-course special at the hands of chef Hrvoje Zirojevic at Palmizana impressed the Irish rock star sufficiently for his to ask for the chef’s number and to post a note of appreciation on the official U2 Facebook page, a post which was liked more then 100,000 times within hours.
Almost 150 years of celebrity visitors, and there are many of course who do not make the list. Roman Abramovich’s yacht Eclipse, for example, the largest private yacht in the world when it moored out to see in front of the Hvar waterfront a few years ago. Its owner, as well as Bill Gates and Giorgio Armani have all visited. Sporting stars such as Novak Djokovic and Michael Schumacher, other celebrities such as Demi Moore and Ellen DeGeneres. And many many more whose visits nobody hears about.
It is one of the nicest things about the island of Hvar for me, it is a very egalitarian place, where backpackers walk past the superyachts, and all types of tourists mingle, including the incognito celebs. So next time you sit for a coffee, have a look around – you never know who may be sitting at the next table…