Hvar vs Split is no easy decision. Both of these towns have their feet in the bath-warm Adriatic Sea, in the midst of the gorgeous Dalmatia region of south-central Croatia. They’re both hailed as two of the biggest draws in the country, with stacks up their sleeve to entertain holidaymakers of all stripes. But which should you visit this year?
Cue this guide. It will weigh up the two destinations to help you pick the one that’s best for you. In one corner, there’s Split, an ancient Roman city that’s famed for its UNESCO core raised by the emperor Diocletian and a dramatic setting underneath the peaks of the Dinaric Alps. Then there’s Hvar, Croatia’s summer party hub, where you can drink the night away in stylo beach lounges or escape to country villas between the lavender fields.
Hvar and Split have lots of similarities, but they also have clear differences. That said, we’d still say that the best play would be to try and visit both in the same trip, which is doable because there are now regular ferries running between the two each day in the main season (May-September), taking as little as 55 minutes each way!
Hvar vs Split: The general vibe
Home to Roman monuments, medieval palaces, and prestigious galleries and museums, Split is considered one of the cultural treasures of Croatia. You can go for a stroll along the sea promenade (Riva), explore the cobblestone streets in the Old Town, and sample delicious Dalmatian cuisine in family-run restaurants.
But it’s not just about history and heritage here. Split is also lived-in. The old parts of town are layered with relics but also buzzing with cafes and bars. Expect it to get PACKED in the peak of the summer, with sightseers but also yachters, since this is the hub to visit some of the most popular islands on the Dalmatian coastline, including Brac, Korcula, Vis, Solta, and Hvar itself.
Compared to Split, Hvar offers a different kind of vibe. Most travelers come to Hvar for the happening nightlife of Hvar Town. Others will come for the postcard-perfect beaches, secluded coves, lush vineyards, and idyllic little coastal towns. What you won’t get is the buzz of urban life, since most of Hvar remains undeveloped.
In fact, the bulk of the island will be quiet and chilled even in the peak summer. Hvar Town and Stari Grad are the exceptions, since they swell with thousands of boaters and revelers from May to September. If you wish to experience a more unhurried way of Dalmatian life, the island is also home to a few coastal villages like Vrboska, Velo Grablje, and Jelsa.
Winner: Draw. This is down to personal preference. Both will be busy. Split is more for culture buffs and city lovers. Hvar for partiers and nature folk.
Hvar vs Split: Getting around
Getting around both Hvar and Split is super easy!
In Split, public transport is generally efficient and reliable. The good news is that most attractions in the Old Town and along the Riva promenade in Split are easily reachable on foot. However, if you wish to reach every corner of the city, we recommend hopping on a bus. Tickets can be as cheap as €2 each ride, and you can buy them in most newsstands and ticket booths. Travelers who wish to venture beyond the city gates can also take the bus or rent a car, which don’t tend to break the bank in Croatia.
Hvar Town and its harbor don’t require a set of wheels at all, since all attractions are quite close to one another. To explore places like Stari Grad, Jelsa, Sucuraj, the island’s bus operator, Cazmatrans has got you covered. Unfortunately, the bus schedules make it difficult to visit more than one destination in a day. Therefore, the most convenient way to travel around the island is by car. The world-famous Pakleni Islands are easily reachable via many taxi boats that you will find down in the harbor.
Is it easy to travel from Split to Hvar? Yep! You can hop on a catamaran or ferry in Split and arrive in Hvar in just over an hour. The main operator is the local Jadrolinija, which runs a daily service between Split and Hvar throughout the year. Fares vary, but you should expect to pay around 12 euros one way. During the summer season, the catamarans service the Hvar to Split route more than 10 times a day!
Winner: Split. Being a city, it’s much smaller than the whole island of Hvar, so easier to get around and with better public transport.
Hvar vs Split: Nightlife
Split has one of the best nightlife scenes on the Dalmatian mainland! Whether you wish to enjoy artisan cocktails and sunset views down at the Riva, dance the night away at posh nightclubs, or see live music performances in stylish venues, the city offers something for everyone.
On the waterfront promenade, you will find popular bars like Antique Bar, Congo, and Cakula. For more of an upscale vibe, head out to Fabrique. This trendy venue also offers a delicious food menu. Some of the other popular venues for going out in the evening include Gaga Bar and Vanilla Club.
The nightlife on Hvar revolves around Hvar Town and the beaches that spread a touch to the west of that. It’s wild, wild stuff. Days usually begin with drinking sessions on the sunbeds of cool beach lounges like Hula Hula or the Hvar Beach Club. From there, the action will shift to Hvar Town proper…
There, you will find a lively nightlife scene during the summer season. Head out to Carpe Diem, the most popular venue on the island that attracts an upscale clientele and has a reservation-only policy in August. The cocktail list at Carpe Diem is spectacular and the club’s beach adds to the entertainment. You can also check out the Pink Champagne Bar or join the backpacker bar crawls at Kiva.
Winner: Hvar, though Split certainly isn’t tame!
Hvar vs Split: Things to do
In Split, it’s the world-famous Diocletian’s Palace that takes the biscuit. Go there to admire the beauty of the ancient architecture. It’s a living, breathing district that showcases more than 2,000 years of human history. Must sees within include the octagonal Cathedral of Saint Domnius, the Temple of Jupiter, and the iconic peristyle square in the neighborhood’s heart.
To enjoy magnificent views of the city, we recommend climbing to the top of Marjan Hill. The hill is home to numerous jogging and bicycle trails, so great for those looking to stretch the legs. Make sure to stop by the Vidilica Bar to enjoy refreshments and the best panoramic views of Split. Game of Thrones fans will definitely want to check out the Klis Fortress, located about 10 km from the city – it was used as the filming location for the City of Meereen from that hit TV show!
The Island of Hvar is not your average summer holiday destination. In addition to picturesque beaches and secluded coves with crystal clear waters, the island offers a variety of fun things to do and see.
Kick off your Hvar travel itinerary with a visit to the Hvar Old Town and its St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where you can enjoy some of the finest examples of the Renaissance and Baroque style of architecture. Not to be missed is the newly restored clock tower and the 13th-century tower fortress. There’s also wonderful Stari Grad town, which is still laid out on the same agricultural map that it was some two millennia ago.
The beautiful Pakleni Islands are nestled just a short taxi boat drive from Hvar. Here, you can enjoy a range of water activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The island’s coastline is peppered with numerous sleepy fishing villages including Pokonji Dol, Vrboska, Milna, and Jelsa.
Winner: Split has to win on the sightseeing front.
Hvar vs Split: Beaches
When it comes to the beaches, Hvar has the obvious advantage because it’s an island. However, Split is also home to a few stretches of coastline worth mentioning. The most popular beach is the legendary Bacvice, where you will find locals cooling down in the summer season.
Located just a short walk from the Old Town in Split, the beach is easily reachable. It is also a popular place to party at night! Travelers can also spend a day at the pebbled beach of Kastelet or visit Trstenik beach, maintained by the famous Radisson Blu Resort.
Beachgoers staying in Hvar will be spoiled for choice. The island is home to some of the best beaches in Croatia…
Drop your towel at the pebble beach at Milna or visit Uvala Dubovica, which can be accessed via a rocky hill. The coastal villages of Vrboska and Jelsa are also packed with many stunning beaches that offer ideal conditions for snorkeling and swimming. Some of the other beaches that you simply must visit while vacationing in Hvar include Lucisca Bay, Dubovica, Soline Beach, Maslenica, and Zarace.
Winner: Hvar is the one for beach lovers!
Hvar vs Split: Food and Drink
Whether you are craving freshly-caught fish and seafood or you want to sample local meat delicacies, you won’t stay hungry here. We have to say that both Split and Hvar have a similar cuisine that revolves around fish, seafood, and game. Wine lovers will be delighted to hear that Dalmatian labels are ranked among the best in this part of Europe.
In Split, the family-run Konoba Hvararin is one of the liveliest traditional dining establishments. The restaurant is located close to the old town and serves authentic Dalmatian cuisine. Sample local wine from the nearby Neretva region at Monica’s wine bar or indulge in seafood at the award-winning Zrno Soli restaurant.
Foodies visiting the island of Hvar are in for a real treat. This picturesque island is well-known for its fabulous restaurants and wine estates, but it also shines when it comes to cutting-edge international dining. Want to have lunch but don’t really want to leave the beach? Make your way to the Beach Club Hvar that offers everything from sushi to salads. Prefer something more traditional? Hit Konoba Ringo for platters of lemon-doused octopus and grilled potatoes.
When in Hvar, make sure to try a traditional dish called peka! Meat and veggies are roasted inside a pan which is set on a bed of red-hot coal and covered with a lid. Keep in mind that this is slow-cooking and a piece of lamb will need three hours before it’s ready, so you’ll have to order in advance!
Winner: Draw. The cuisine in both places is actually pretty much the same.
Hvar vs Split: Accommodation
Both Split and Hvar offer a range of accommodation options. Prices vary but expect to pay between 50-100 euros per night during the summer season for a midrange pad in Split, and perhaps just a little more than that in Hvar Town. Villas and stays in other areas of Hvar can be less, particularly because they’re often self-catering and are suited to whole groups.
In Split, we recommend spending a few nights at the prestigious Hotel Vestibul Palace. This stylish boutique property boasts seven contemporary-styled rooms and suites and has a cool wine cellar. Travelers searching for accommodation near Diocletian Palace can book a room at the Heritage Hotel Antique Split. Meanwhile, the fabulous Palace Judita Heritage Hotel offers 8 individually and tastefully decorated suites with natural wood furniture, posh bathrooms, and exposed stone walls.
Being a jet-set type of destination, it comes as no surprise that Hvar features many super stylish hotels. For instance, Hotel Adriana and its sister property Palace Elizabeth offer 5-star accommodation with Venetian monuments, chandeliers, and frescoes. If you are searching for a resort-like place to stay, book a room at Hotel Amfora. This family-friendly spot boasts all the necessary facilities needed for a memorable vacation including a freshwater pool, rooftop gym, and a beachfront cabana.
Winner: Hvar, probably, just because it’s got more seafront/beachfront hotels.
Hvar vs Split: Our verdict
The toss up of Hvar vs Split is no easy one. These two spots have firmly established themselves as leading destinations in Croatia. And, while they do share lots of similarities – fantastic weather, great beaches, access to the islands – they’re also not quite the same.
We think Hvar reigns supreme for travelers who are looking to party, party, and then party some more. The harbour of Hvar Town on the western coast of the isle is among Europe’s great hedonism hotspots, with cool lounge clubs like Hula Hula pumping all summer long. Beyond that, the island can offer a taste of rustic Croatian island life. There are lovely family villas tucked amid the pine woods and lavender farms, plus ample opportunities to sail and snooze on a cobblestone beach.
Split is much more the full-on city experience. Everything here is anchored on the great UNESCO site of Diocletian’s Palace, which is why Split wins hands down for history lovers and culture buffs. Being a bigger town, there’s also some great nightlife and gastronomy, so you certainly won’t go hungry for parties after dark. Beaches, meanwhile, are best on the outskirts of town, to the south along the riviera and to the west around Marjan Park.