Culture in Croatia: A Guide to the Museums on the Island of Hvar
With Neolithic caves, Ancient Greek settlers, the oldest municipal theatre in Europe, and a proud fishing tradition, Hvar's museums will surprise.
Away from the beaches and great nightlife, Hvar boasts a rich cultural heritage which has been well preserved, and there is a good selection of museums to interest tourists keen to learn more about the island's long and diverse history. Here is a brief overview of the main museums of interest.
The Archaeological Collection in Hvar
Started in 1966 and dedicated to the later Dr Grga Novak, a driving force in assembling the exhibition, the archaeological collection gives a comprehensive overview of Hvar's heritage. Starting with artifacts dating back to 6,000 BC and the Neolithic era, and including finds from shipwrecks, and art and architectural fragments from Hvar's long history, the 2,500 exhibits, assembled by donation and private collection, offer a fascinating insight into the island's past. Opening hours 1000 - 1300 and 2000-2300 in summer, by appointment in winter. The collection is housed in the former Dominican church of St. Mark's.
Hanibal Lucic's Summer Residence
A famous poet and influential noble, the name of Hanibal Lucic is intricately bound with Hvar Town. There is a restaurant on the main square which bears his name and he is buried under the alter of the Franciscan monastery.
His summer house, the headquarters of the Hvar Museum, is a well-preserved example of the country houses of the Renaissance period, but with clear Gothic influences. Included in the museum is a reception room dedicated to the memory of Hanibal. The museum is also home to the local branch of the Croatian state archives. Opening hours 0900 -1300 and 1700 - 2300 in summer, 1000 - 1200 in winter (by appointment).
The Natural History Cabinet in Hvar
Located in the Hanibal Lucic Summer Residence, the Natural History Cabinet is a collection of 350 items which have preserved the natural history of Hvar. These include meteorological instruments, preserved plants and old history books.
Historic Theatre of Hvar
Preparing to celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2012, the Hvar Theatre, on the first floor of the imposing Arsenal building on the main square, is the oldest municipal theatre in Europe. Long the cultural heartbeat of the town, the theatre used to house 30 performances in a season. Currently undergoing renovation, it is not clear at time of writing whether or not it will be open to tourists this season.
Stari Grad Museum in Stari Grad
The oldest settlement on the island and its former capital, Stari Grad's heritage dates back to the Greeks, and there is a good selection of exhibitions to commemorate the town's long history. These include:
The Ancient Shipwreck Collection, artifacts from a 4th Century Roman Galley
Faros - Ancient Stari Grad, an archaeological collection covering the pre-historic era (6000 BC), through the Greek era to late Roman times.
The Captain's Room, a well-preserved 19th Century example of living quarters for a sea-faring captain, including paintings, maps, marine weapons and furniture.
Juraj Plancic Gallery, opened in 1963 and featuring the art of local painters Juraj Plancic and Bartol Petric, the town's most famous painters.
Ethnographic Collection in Tvrdalj, the summer residence of Petar Hektorovic, an interesting insight into the tools and way of life in Dalmatia in years gone by.
Opening times according to the museum's website, are 1000 - 1300 Monday to Saturday in May, June and September, 1000 - 1200 and 1900 - 2100 in July and August.
The Stari Grad Plain
The largest and most well-known museum on Hvar never shuts, the UNESCO-protected Stari Grad Plain, a 80 hectare agricultural colony founded by the Greeks and still farmed in much the same way today, with olives and grapes the main crop still.
The Fisherman’s Museum in Vrboska
The island's rich fishing tradition is best displayed in the Fisherman's Museum in Vrboska, which gives a good insight into the harsh realities of the fisherman's lots in Dalmatia. There are traditional fishing tools, old equipment for the former fish processing factory, and a recreation of a fisherman's house. Open daily except Wednesday from 0930 - 1200 and 1800 - 2000.