Hvar vs Split: An Honest Comparison To Help You Choose!

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Last updated on September 4, 2023 by Wandering our World

Whether you’re a history buff, a yachtie, an adventurer, or a party animal, you’ll find something to enjoy in Croatia. This fantastic country sits in the middle of central and south-eastern Europe, and it’s a very interesting place. With ancient Roman history, as well as the interesting role that Croatia played in the World Wars, there’s so much to see and do here. If you’re looking for some time on the coast enjoying crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches, then don’t look any further than Croatia.

Hvar and Split are two of Croatia’s most popular coastal destinations. They’re very different though, and while both have a lot to offer you’ll get a very different vacation depending on which place you choose to base yourself.

So, no matter what kind of holiday you’re planning, Hvar or Split is sure to meet your needs. So that you can work out which one is right for you to visit, we’ve put together an honest comparison of Hvar vs. Split. 

CONTENTS:

  1. A Quick Overview
  2. Which Is Easier To Get Around?
  3. Which Is Better For Nightlife? 
  4. Which Is Cheaper? 
  5. Which Is Better For Food? 
  6. Which Is Better For Kids? 
  7. Which Is Better For Couples? 
  8. Which Is Better For Beaches? 
  9. Which Is Better For History? 
  10. Hvar vs Split: Which is the better choice?

A Quick Overview of Hvar vs. Split

Hvar: A Quick Overview

As a holiday destination, Hvar really has it all. The city is located on Hvar Island, approximately 50km off-shore from Split. Around 11,000 people call Hvar home, but well over 700,000 people visit each year, so it’s very popular. Hvar has many UNESCO World Heritage sites, all located within walking distance of each other. It’s also a very popular port for yachts to dock in, and the bars and clubs start to pump at night. 

Turquoise water of Adriatic sea bay on Hvar island with franciscian monastery and boats in Dalmatia region

The town center is beautiful and historic, with stone walls, churches, and hidden alleys everywhere you look. Combine that with crystal clear waters, lavender fields, and expansive views, and it is a paradise. The only thing left is the nightlife, and Hvar’s got that too! Whether you like a quiet dockside cocktail or a big party, Hvar has the place for you. 

Split: A Quick Overview

Split is located on mainland Croatia, and it’s the country’s biggest coastal city. It’s home to around 178,000 people, although it’s likely to seem a lot busier as more than 2.7 million tourists visit here every year.  

Split is a cultural haven, with historic buildings everywhere you look, more museums than you’ll have time to explore and outstanding Roman ruins. Split is also known for its food, particularly fresh seafood. And if you want a change of scenery, from Split you can easily take day trips out to secret beaches, or other island ports. 

Which Is Easier To Get Around?

Firstly, Hvar is a little harder to get to. There’s no airport on the island, so no matter where you’re coming from, you’ll have to take the ferry to get here. However, the good news is that it’s very easy to find a ferry. Multiple ferries leave every day from Split, and you can get a ferry right to Hvar town, or to Stari Grad, the neighboring town.  

The Jadrolinija car ferry arriving on the dock of the island of Hvar, Croatia

Once you’re on Hvar, it’s very easy to get around. The town is small, so you can see a lot of the attractions by simply walking. The waterfront is a fantastic area to walk around, and so is the old town. In fact, there’s no better way to explore these areas than on foot. If you’re planning to head a little further out of the main town, then renting a scooter is a great option. Several different companies rent scooters, so you can check them out and compare prices when you get to Hvar. Finally, you can also take the bus between Stari Grad and Hvar town. This doesn’t give you as much freedom as a scooter would, but it’s cheap and easy. 

Split is located on the Croatian mainland, which means that you don’t need to take a ferry to get there. There’s an international airport just 19km (12 miles) outside of the city, so you can fly straight to Split from all around the world. Split also has a railway network, which is mainly used for travel in and out of the city, so you can get on a train to Split from other parts of Europe. 

Once you get into Split itself, you’ll find that it’s also very easy to walk around. Again, the old town is full of picturesque alleys and wonderful stone buildings, so exploring by foot is the best way to see these. To get a taste of life outside the city center, however, you can easily take public transport. Split has public buses running regularly around the city and these are very affordable. 

Early morning inside the Diocletian’s Palace in the old town of Split, Croatia. UNESCO World Heritage site.
Streets of Old Town Split, Croatia

Overall, Split is easier to get to, but it’s a bigger city which means attractions are more spread out. You can walk between most of them, or rely on buses. Hvar on the other hand, is a little more complicated to get to, but once you’re there it’s much easier to get around. You can see most sites just by walking, or rent a scooter for some more fun!

Which Is Better For Nightlife?

Hvar has fantastic nightlife, and it’s gained a reputation in recent years as a party town. The waterfront area is full of bars and clubs, and these are pumping all summer long. Lately, Hvar seems to be attracting a lot of younger travelers, and it’s very common to see tourists in their early twenties filing into the bars and beach clubs, ready to dance. 

That said, there are still a lot of high-class establishments in Hvar. Hvar Island is home to several wineries, and naturally, Hvar town has some great wine bars where you can sit and enjoy them! If wine isn’t your thing, then with just a short walk you’ll be able to find yourself at one of the island’s excellent cocktail bars.

Enjoying the restaurants and nightlife of Split in Croatia

Split also has fantastic nightlife, although it’s different from Hvar. Because Split is a bigger city, there’s a wider range of bars and clubs to check out. These are slightly more spread across town, but you can easily find a place to suit your mood, no matter whether you feel like a big party or a quiet wine. 

If you feel like enjoying some jazz, or perhaps a live band, then you’ll definitely find them in Split. Split also has some big venues that host international acts, so if you time it right you can go to a concert in Split and then join the rest of the revelers as they head to town. 

Overall, Split gets our vote for the best nightlife, although it’s a close one. Split simply has a bigger range of venues, so you’re guaranteed to find a place you like and have a good night out.

Which Is Cheaper?

Tourists from Central Europe have been flocking to Croatia for years because it’s known as a cheap holiday destination. Since Croatia joined the European Union and traded out the Kuna for the Euro, a lot of travelers have noticed an increase in prices. That said, both Hvar and Split are still cheaper destinations than many other European holiday spots. 

Hvar is a smaller destination, which means there are fewer options for accommodation, food, and drinks. Don’t let us scare you though, because there’s still a lot to choose from. In the Summer months, Hvar will be incredibly busy, so you should book your accommodation in advance if you’re looking to get a deal, there are several hostels, as well as hotels and Airbnb to choose from. When it comes to food and alcohol, prices will go up in Summer, as this is the main tourist season, so be aware of that. 

Split, as a bigger city, has more options. This means that you might be able to pick up accommodation or a meal, for a more competitive price. Just like Hvar, in the Summer months, Split will be more expensive than at other times of the year. This is going to be the case throughout Croatia, as the country relies heavily on the income brought in by tourists. 

Overall, Split is slightly cheaper than Hvar. Firstly, because you don’t have to pay for transport to get on and off the island. Transport around Split is also cheaper than Hvar, especially when you compare taking the bus to hire a scooter. More importantly though, Split is slightly cheaper because, as the bigger city, you have more choice. This means that if you’re travelling on a budget food, entertainment, and accommodation can all be picked up at a bargain. 

Which Is Better For Food?

If you’re a foodie, then you’re going to have a wonderful time in Hvar. Croatian food is delicious, and many different traditional meals are worth trying. A lot of the local dishes involve seafood, and as Hvar is an island it’s easy to get fresh fish and shellfish. 

Octopus, calamari, and mussels are all worth trying when you’re on Hvar. A lot of lavender is grown on the island too, so you might be able to try some lavender-infused desserts or lavender-flavored ice cream! Other local treats include Burek, a phyllo pastry pie, full of spinach, feta, or potato.

Lavender infused Ice Cream common dessert of choice in Hvar, Croatia

Split is also known for its seafood, as it’s also set on the coast. Here you can find fresh fish, octopus, and seafood as well. Lamb is another traditional Croatian dish, and there are a lot of restaurants serving roasted lamb here in Split. 

If you’re looking for fine dining, Split has many restaurants with Michelin recommendations (although no stars), and a wide range of international restaurants too. For some of the local treats, you can also find Burek in the bakeries in Split, along with cookies and pastries. 

Overall, Split, again, has slightly more options when it comes to food. You’ll get fantastic food on Hvar, but everything that you can find in Hvar you’ll also find in Split, plus a bit more

Which Is Better For Kids?

Hvar is a great place to travel to if you’ve got children with you, as there’s a lot that kids and adults alike will enjoy here. Because the center of town is quite small, it’s easy to get around with little ones in tow. Exploring the old town is a great way to spend the day as a family, and the Hvar Fortress is just a short uphill walk from the waterfront.

The Fortica fortress on the Hvar island in Croatia

If you’re visiting Hvar with children, spending time at the beach is a great way to relax. The island has crystal-clear waters and calm beaches, so it’s perfect for safe swimming and snorkeling. If you’re feeling adventurous, then you can take the family on a boat trip to one of the neighboring islands and have a look at some of Hvar’s world-famous caves. 

Sun soaking on the bow of a small hire boat, Croatia.

Split is bursting with activities for children, so it’s the perfect Croatian destination if you’re traveling with children. In Split, you can visit museums, statues, and palaces. These ancient attractions are inspiring for adults and a lot of fun for children to explore too. 

Split also has some good boardwalks and public parks, which give children space to run around and play – there’s even one playground here that’s full of dinosaur-themed play equipment! As well as the parks, you can take your children to the nearby beaches, for swimming and playing with the pebbles. 

If you’re traveling with young children, Split is the better choice. There are a lot of attractions that are easy to get to, and free public spaces to enjoy. For older children, however, we recommend Hvar. With the small old town, older children can have a bit more freedom to explore on their own, and the nearby islands and beaches make for great family fun. 

Which is Better For Couples? 

For a couples holiday, Hvar has a lot to offer. Because you need to finish off your journey to this little island on a boat, it puts you into holiday mode. Once you step off into Hvar, there’s so much to see and do, that you won’t want to leave. 

Hvar offers a lot of very romantic activities, perfectly suited to couples. Renting a scooter so that you can travel around the island is a good idea, and that will allow you to visit some secluded beaches, wineries, and great sunset viewpoints.  You can hire a boat for the day (with or without a skipper) and travel to nearby islands as well. Swimming in these bright blue waters, snorkeling with fish, or exploring caves will help you have a holiday you’ll never forget. And of course, the quaint old town provides a fantastic backdrop for some photos of your loved one!

Split is also an excellent choice of holiday destination for couples. Because it’s easy to get to, you can maximize your vacation time and hit the ground running as soon as you land. Split has great restaurants and bars, so you can enjoy dinner with a sunset view together. You’ll find parks to walk together in, as well as boardwalks, and the old town here won’t disappoint either. 

Split is also home to several excellent museums and galleries, which are worth exploring with your partner. We recommend visiting the statue of Gregory Nin, and rubbing his toe for good luck, as it’s supposed to give you a happy marriage, and lots of money and children!

Gregory of Nin statue and bell tower, Split Croatia

When you’re choosing a romantic getaway, Hvar should be your first choice. Because you’re traveling to a small island, it feels more relaxed and exotic, while still providing a whole lot of fun. In our opinion, Hvar offers the opportunity for more time alone, and more time relaxing at the beach than Split. 

Which is Better for Beaches?

For such a small island, Hvar has a lot of beaches. And, here you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia. A lot of the beaches are pebbled, including Bonj beach right near the township. This beach has lifeguards stationed at it, so it’s a good spot for very safe swimming.  Also within walking distance of Hvar town, you’ll find Mekicevica beach, as well as Milna beach. These are usually quieter, which makes them peaceful and calm, perfect for sunbathing!

Bonj beach in front of hotel Amfora Hvar, Croatia.

For something even quieter, if you venture further away from Hvar township, (best done with a scooter) you can find some of the most incredible secret coves and beaches we’ve ever seen. A lot of these little spots require parking at the top of a hill and walking down a path to the beach, but it’s worth it. The water is clear and blue, and if you’re lucky you’ll have them all to yourselves.

Split also has fantastic beaches, starting with Bacvice Beach. This small sandy beach is right on the edge of the city, and it’s shallow and easy to swim at. You’ll also find sun loungers and beach bars here, to help you enjoy your day. There are other beaches dotted around the city too, just a stone’s throw away. Ovcice Beach is one of these, and it’s a quieter more natural beach. Ovcice has a pebbled shore, and you’ll need to bring your own umbrella, food, and drink.

Bacvice beach during summer in the city of Split, Croatia

Other popular because around Split include Kasjuni Beach, which is inside the Marjan Forest Park. This is also a pebbled beach, and it’s known for its great beach bars and clubs, as well as its great views out to the ocean. You aren’t limited to these options, however, so no matter where you’re staying in Split you can easily find a beach nearby.  

Hvar has better beaches than Split in our opinion, especially if you’re able to travel slightly further away from the township. In Hvar, you have the option to relax on sunloungers and at beach bars, or to escape to your private paradise. What more could you want?

Which Is Better For History?

Hvar is full of historical sites and buildings, and it’s an excellent place to visit if you’re interested in learning about these. As soon as you set foot in Hvar, you’ll see the city fortress towering above the town, and it’s only a short walk uphill to check it out yourself. Other important historical sites in Hvar include the City Lodge and St Stephen’s Cathedral, both constructed around the 15th century. 

If you travel further outside the main town, then you can visit the Stari Grad Plain, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s said to have been developed thousands of years ago by the Greeks, who set the land up for farming. Hvar also has some interesting cultural traditions, including the “Following the Cross” procession, which has been held every March since the 16th century. If you’re in Hvar around this time, don’t miss the interesting sight of white-robed religious groups walking a 20km (12-mile) journey on the island. 

Aerial view of Stari Grad town on Hvar island, Croatia

If you’re interested in learning about history and exploring some culturally significant sites, then Split is a good choice for you. Here, you’ll have no shortage of ruins, museums, galleries, and historical sites to explore.  The City Museum is one of our favorites, along with the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Archaeological Monuments. 

Steps of Peristyle of Ancient Roman Palace built by Emperor Diocletian in Split, Croatia.

Diocletian’s Palace is one of Split’s most famous sites, and it’s believed to have been constructed in the year 305, by Roman Emporer Diocletian. The palace is very striking, and there are some fascinating stories surrounding its creation. It may look familiar to some of you too, as it was a key site in the filming of Game of Thrones! For other historical sites, we recommend exploring the Temple of Jupiter, and taking a step back in time when you visit the Fish Market and the Split Market. 

Stari Pazar is Split’s largest local market.

For history, Split is the better destination. While both Hvar and Split have a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites and identified Intangible Heritage as well as places of historical significance, Split has some incredible treasures that you can’t miss. This city was developed around the 3rd century BC, and it’s played a major role in international history over the centuries. With interesting museums and well-preserved historical sites, it’s worth visiting. 

Where To Stay According To Your Budget

Split

Budget: There is a great selection of stays to fit a smaller budget without having to trade off to many comforts, here are a couple of our favourites.

Central Square Heritage Hotel, attractively located in the very heart of Split, the 4-star Central Square Heritage Hotel offers elegant accommodations just steps away from the city’s most popular sights. See more photos and rates.

Jupiter Luxury This hotel is inside the UNESCO-protected Diocletian Palace and whilst it has the ‘Luxury’ insertion in the title it is quite affordable. See more photos and rates

Luxury: Affordability for high end accomodation can be quite achievable in Split. Here are a few options to suit your finer choices.

Hotel Ambasador perched on the west banks over looking the water and township of Split. See more photos and rates!

If you want to be located outside the main hustle and bustle of the township and looking for more all inclusive pampering then then just a short 2.5km away is the Radisson Blu Resort and Spa.

Hvar

Budget: Considering the location, LUXOR Hvar – Main Square Apartment is a fantastic budget stay. But it tends to book up well in advance. See photos and rates!

Luxury: Sometimes you just want to be pampered, and that’s exactly what you’ll get when staying at these locations.

Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort is 2 minutes walk from the beach. Situated on a secluded bay, this luxury hotel is located near a beach and features a multi-level pool.

Adriana Hvar Spa Hotel. Set right by the water and complete with rooftop pool and bar, this place feels as classy as it looks. See photos and rates!

Hvar vs Split: Which Is The Better Choice?

At the end of the day, both Hvar and Split make for incredible holiday destinations full of sun, beaches and activities on offer.

Generally speaking because Split is connected to the mainland and more developed there are much more options on offer. But if you want to keep things simple like just laze in a lounge chair on a nice beach and plan a great night ahead then Hvar is a great choice. And being Croatia it’s much cheaper than other European cities so your budget can go much further.

So if you are like us and cant decide, they are easily accessible of each other so why not just do both!

Author

  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.