Dubrovnik has a lot to offer when it comes to cultural and historical interest, rivalling the Renaissance likes of Florence and Venice. It is one of the world’s best preserved medieval walled cities, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is featured on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Although the damage caused by shelling in the Old Town has since been repaired, you can still see the scars from Dubrovnik’s fight for independence from Yugoslavia in the early 90s. You can witness all of this history from countless perspectives, from a kayak and cable car to the walkways above and below the ancient walls.
But this city is by no means reliant on its historical sight-seeing. The high stone walls encompass a number of shops, bars, restaurants and art galleries, providing you with plenty of opportunities to lose yourself down the white marble-paved streets. I suggest spending at least three or four days here to fully immerse yourself in the city and its beautiful surroundings.
How to get there
If you have flown into Dubrovnik airport, there is a transfer bus which costs 35 Kuna (roughly £3.50) and takes about half an hour. It is a very scenic drive into the city, as the bus meanders down the winding mountain road towards the cluster of orange roofs set against the sparkling blue Adriatic Sea. We were dropped off at a small shaded square near Pile Gate, which had a couple of restaurants, a tourist office and a beautiful view of the Adriatic framed by leafy trees. If you are entering Dubrovnik by sea, you will arrive at its port in Gruz and will have to take a local bus to the city centre.
Where to stay
Dubrovnik was our first stop on our island-hopping journey, and we rented a room which had (in our opinion) the best views of the sea and the city. It was hidden at the top of three flights of stairs, which were relentless in the heat without any baggage, let alone with my (highly impractical) wheelie case. Although it did take us a while to finally find it, considering we had never been there before and had forgotten to buy a map, the streets are all clearly named. I would suggest caching the address of your accommodation on your phone before you leave the UK, just to make the first few hours of your trip a little easier and less stressful. Oh, and if you meet an old lady named Nitsa tending to her garden, don’t ask her for directions. She will only babble at you in Croatian.
How to get around
The best way to navigate around the stone walls, streets and stairs is by foot. The Old Town is definitely not too large to walk around in one day, although you will need to schedule in a substantial number of ice-cream stops. The luscious Island of Lokrum is just a cheap boat ride away, and I highly recommend making the short trip to make the most of its untouched beauty. You can also take a cable car up to Mount Srdj, where the unparalleled panoramic views of the city and the surrounding islands will not disappoint. I would suggest ascending around 8pm so you can watch the sky turn pink, the sun sink below the horizon and the city come alive as the twinkling lights appear one by one.
Pssst… I would recommend bringing comfy shoes and a backpack to Dubrovnik to tackle the endless hills and flights of stairs!
What to see and do
Having dumped our bags in our room in a hot fluster, we grabbed our towels and headed straight for the nearest beach on our first day. That so happened to be Banje Beach, Dubrovnik’s most famous beach located just outside the Old Town. By day, it is packed with sunbathers and Moet-sipping party people outside East West Beach Club, and by night… More or less the same thing, minus the sun!
Also on our first day, we were stopped by a man at Pile Gate selling tickets for kayak tours. We decided to get some for the next morning, and we did not regret the early wake-up call. The tour guide took a small group of us around Lokrum, reciting myths and legends of the cursed island. He led us to a hidden cave where we moored up and ate a picnic lunch, before diving into the cool water in search of colourful fish.
Kayaking around the island wasn’t enough for us, so we took the boat there later that afternoon. Legend has it that Richard the Lionheart was shipwrecked on this cursed island in 1192. The tour guide also told us that monks used to live in the monastery years ago, which is still there today. When wealthy elites decided to come to the island and make it their own, the monks walked circuits around the island one night with candles, dripping wax in their paths whilst chanting a curse. Now, there are only aristocratic peacocks and resident firefighters who inhabit the island. Its rugged coastline with crystal clear waters and shallow rock pools make for a joyous day of cliff-jumping and sunbathing. Make sure to explore the old monastery and its gardens too, hidden in a pine forest just a short walk from the rocky coast.
Although we chose to explore the city from below, a great way to see it is by climbing the ancient wall that encircles the fortress towers, bleached orange roofs and majestic domes. The Dubrovnik Summer Festival was also well underway, a 45-day-long event of live plays, music and games. Although we weren’t aware of the festival when we arrived, we still managed to listen to a live orchestra in the square one evening.
Where to eat and drink
Buza Bar for cheap wine and beer served in plastic cups, on plastic chairs perched on the rocks. Enter through a hole in the wall and prepare for awesome views of the sea. Although we stumbled across this place after dark, the view of the twinkling stars was still unbeatable. You might even get lucky like we did and listen to a group of Croatian men burst into beautiful a cappella song.
Street mojitos are sold at a stand in a wall along the main square of the Old Town. They cost a couple of euros, but man do they go a long way! A perfect accompaniment to strolling the streets at night.
Poklisar for delicious harbour-side pizza and fresh seafood. Amazing after a long afternoon of exploring Lokrum Island. As you walk towards the harbour, the restaurant has outdoor seating either side of the street, so you really can’t miss it.
If you have any other suggestions for Dubrovnik then please share them in the comments!
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