Hvar or Dubrovnik is a decision between two of the most popular holiday destinations in Croatia. Both these have a lot to offer, from wonderful medieval architecture to oodles of picturesque beaches, and fantastic day trip opportunities. You won’t be disappointed, no matter the one you go for.
On one hand, there is Hvar, a long island with crystal-clear waters, vineyards, hiking trails, and great nightlife around the charming Hvar Town. Then there is Dubrovnik, a stunning old city surrounded by stone walls over the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea. It’s known as the Pearl of the Adriatic for a reason!
This guide to Hvar or Dubrovnik will talk about different aspects of these two Croatian holiday meccas. From the ease of travel to nightlife, from beaches to day trip destinations, we’ll help you decide where to go on your next Croatian adventure.
Hvar or Dubrovnik for the ease of travel?
Hvar island, especially beautiful Hvar Town, which is encircled by 13th-century stone walls, is among the most popular holiday destinations in the Dalmatia region. During the summer months, hundreds of thousands of people make their way to this picturesque spot, which means that getting there isn’t usually too much of a problem.
You will have to get a ferry to reach Hvar. There is no way around that unless you’re the lucky owner of a private jet or yacht. The closest international airport is Split Airport (SPU), which is well connected to many European destinations, especially during the peak season. There is also a weekly ferry from the Italian port of Ancona that stops in Stari Grad on the island. If you drive, you’ll need to get a ferry from Split or Drvenik.
Dubrovnik, on the other hand, is a city located in the very south of Croatia. This handsome stone municipality is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous destinations in the Mediterranean.
Unlike Hvar, Dubrovnik isn’t an island, so you can easily get there overland by driving one of the most scenic routes in Europe, the Adriatic Highway. If you’re coming from further afield, flying to Dubrovnik Airport (DBV) is the easiest option. It’s well connected with the rest of Europe and even has one flight to the US during the peak season.
Hvar or Dubrovnik for sights and attractions?
There are oodles of things to see in stunning Dubrovnik, renowned as the Pearl of Adriatic. For starters, take a walk around the limestone streets winding through the old town. It’s hard not to be stunned by the charm of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you take a closer look, you’ll notice the damage and bullet marks in the stone houses, suffered during the Croatian War of Independence in the 90s.
At dawn or dusk, when the heat isn’t so intense, head to the ancient walls that surround the city. From there, you can enjoy panoramic views of Dubrovnik’s old town and the shimmering Adriatic Sea. To soak up some history, visit one of the many baroque churches or museums – The Rector’s Palace is especially worth a visit. Ah, and if you’re a fan of the hit TV show, Game of Thrones, you’ll enjoy the tour around the filming locations.
Although Hvar old town is not as spectacular as Dubrovnik, it’s not far off it. This small marina, nestled between 13th-century stone walls, is one of the main attractions on the island. It’s home to one of the largest and oldest squares in Croatia, St Stephen Square, surrounded by medieval architecture and building work.
Take a walk around the car-free, cobbled streets of the center and head uphill to the fortress which offers panoramic vistas of the harbor and the terracotta roofs below. If that’s not enough, travel inland to one of the hiking or biking trails to enjoy even more breathtaking views. But the main draw of this picturesque island has to be the vibrant nightlife, which is some of the best in the country. Plus, there is no shortage of alluring beaches, perfect to recover from the night before!
Hvar or Dubrovnik for nightlife?
Affordable alcohol, plenty of sunshine, and the warm Croatian seas make a perfect mix for summer parties, and you’ll struggle to find a livelier island than Hvar. It’s the center of the action when it comes to nightlife, especially the beach bars around Hvar Town, which are known to stay open all night long.
Young crowds head there in masses during the summer months to enjoy some of the wildest parties in the Adriatic. You can go from place to place and hop between bars and clubs aplenty. There are loads to choose from, especially around the harbor. Dance to live music in Carpe Diem, Kiva, or Hula Hula, or go for cocktails in BackLane craft bar. Hvar has it all.
Although Dubrovnik hasn’t got the same reputation as Hvar, it does have its fair share of good nightlife. There is no shortage of bars around the old town serving all sorts of drinks, from local wines to fancy cocktails and craft beers.
While there are stacks of options, there are only a few clubs within the city walls, including iconic Revelin Culture Club, hidden in a 16th-century fortress on the eastern edge of the old town. However, the best option might just be the seaside venues on nearby Banje Beach in the new part of the city.
Hvar or Dubrovnik for beaches?
Although many people think Dubrovnik is all about the medieval stone architecture and narrow, cobbled streets, there are also plenty of picturesque beaches around the ancient walls. Some of them are only a short walk away from the historical center. Banje Beach is a lovely pebble beach just a stone’s throw away from Ploče Gate, while Uvala Lapad is another great beach you can walk to from the old town.
The proximity, though, means those are rarely empty. If you head a little further out of town, beaches around Plat offer more privacy without the same crowds. Meanwhile, if you’re after cocktails at sunset, head to Copacabana. For the best Insta shots, go out of town to Pasjača.
Hvar is hailed as the island with the clearest waters in Croatia, so it’s no surprise that the beaches there are pretty spectacular. From long stretches of white pebbles to secluded coves backed by pines, this island has no shortage of pristine bays. Beaches here, like in most of Croatia, are quite rocky, so don’t forget to bring your reef shoes.
If you’re staying in Hvar town, do the 25-minute walk south to the stunning Pokonji Dol bay. Or, there’s a 10-minute walk north to Bonj Beach. You won’t be disappointed with either. But if you want to escape the crowds, head a little further down south to hidden Mekićevica Beach. Finally, some of the beaches on the island are further away from the town, at Milna, Malo Zarace, and Dubovica.
Winner: Hvar, where there’s a lot more to choose from.
Hvar or Dubrovnik for day trips?
Set in the extreme south of Croatia, Dubrovnik is perfectly positioned for wonderful one-day excursions, and not only within the country’s borders, either. If you’re short on time, take a ferry across to Lokrum Island. It only takes 10 minutes to reach this small rock with a monastery and a fort, and there are panoramic views of Dubrovnik from up top. Cavtat, a beautiful town 20km south, is another place you can easily get to in under one hour.
If you’ve got your passport ready, you’re only an hour’s drive from the edge of the stunning Bay of Kotor, and two hours away from the UNESCO site of Kotor Town, both of which are in Montenegro. Just follow the picturesque Adriatic Highway to arrive. You can also head to Bosnia and Herzegovina to visit the historical town of Mostar, which is home to the iconic bridge that was destroyed during the Bosnian war.
If you’re looking for places to visit outside of Hvar, you will always need to get a boat. If you don’t want to cross the sea, driving or cycling the inland of the island is a great idea for a day trip. From vineyards to secluded coves and hiking trails across the southern cliffs, there is plenty to discover.
From Hvar town, it’s easy to get a water taxi across to Pakleni Islands, an unspoiled group of small isles with crystal-clear waters and secluded coves. You can also rent a boat and explore the chain on your own. Vis Island is another place worth a visit. It’s the furthest island from mainland Croatia, famous for its limestone cliffs and turquoise bays.
Winner: Dubrovnik because you can visit two more countries in one day.
Hvar or Dubrovnik for hotels?
Hvar and Dubrovnik are some of the most popular destinations in Croatia, so there is no shortage of beautiful accommodation in either. Although both tend to be pricier than the rest of the country, you won’t have too much trouble finding stays that suit all budgets.
Dubrovnik is home to some of the most exclusive hotels around, so if your budget is high, you can get some serious luxury. Check out the Rixos Premium Dubrovnik ($$$) for starters. This place may be pricy, but it offers stylish seafront rooms, a spa, and indoor and outdoor pools. If you don’t want to pay over the odds, you won’t find a better place than Lores Apartment ($$), a midrange stay that’s nestled in the heart of the old town.
Looking for a luxurious option on the island of Hvar? Look no further than Maslina Resort ($$$) in Stari Grad. It’s a super stylish 5-star resort that will exceed all your expectations, and definitely worth the price. There is no shortage of budget-friendly options here, though. One of the best places in that category in the center of Hvar Town is Sweet Dreams Old Town Hvar ($).
Winner: Hvar, more budget-friendly options.
Hvar or Dubrovnik for prices?
Whether you choose to go to Hvar or Dubrovnik you should expect higher prices than in most destinations in Croatia. Neither of these places is considered cheap, but let’s take a look at where can you get more for your money…
It’s difficult to find cheap accommodation in Dubrovnik, which is why many people visit this beautiful stone city on a day trip. The average price for a mid-range stay is around $83 per couple, but luxury stays close to the old town will cost way above that. You should budget around $70 for a restaurant meal for two, but it’s possible to find places where you won’t spend more than $20 on food.
When it comes to Hvar, it’s a similar story, but it’s easier to find cheap accommodation if you’re willing to stay further away from the town. Couples pay around $64 a night for a room, but just as in Dubrovnik, exclusive hotels can cost 10 times more than that. You should budget around $35 for a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant here.
Winner: Hvar, but both are more expensive than most places in Croatia.
Hvar or Dubrovnik: the conclusion.
Both Hvar and Dubrovnik have a lot going for them. Both have no shortage of wonderful sights, beaches, and hotels. Hvar is hailed as the best party destination in the region and is known for having some of the clearest waters in Croatia, which is why we recommend it for the younger crowd and those looking to swim and snorkel. On the other hand, it’s hard not to be amazed by the beauty of Dubrovnik’s old town, which is why that city tops the bill if you’re into culture and history.