THE BEST OF DUBROVNIK
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Dubrovnik truly is a fantasy land. The minute you walk through the grand medieval walls of Old Town a sense of awe encompasses you. It is like stepping back in time onto the pages of a historical book or onto the set of a movie, it almost doesn’t seem real that a city like this still exists today. Since the end of Croatia’s war for independence Dubrovnik became a hidden gem for tourists who had discovered its beautiful white limestone streets, baroque architecture and seaside culture. Now, Dubrovnik is one of the most popular tourist destinations with a mix of ‘Game of Thrones’ fans flocking to see their favourite TV show in real life and a cycle of young party goers sailing in and out every day.
The City Walls
First stop, take a walk around the city walls and soak in some history. The iconic city walls are what makes Dubrovnik so special and are what the city is most known for. The impressive structure encompasses the entire town and is 2 kilometres long and up to 25 metres high. The walls have never been breached and on the land side are up to 6 metres thick. The views from up on the walls are breath-taking, whether you are overlooking the terracotta rooftops or gazing over the glittering Adriatic ocean. Make sure you do the entire loop as each side has a different perspective and something new to appreciate. You can even stop for a coffee or a milkshake while you are up there, with a little café perched up on the wall.
Dubrovnik is not the type of city that you need to go and visit a museum, all of the history and landmarks are on the street ready for you to discover. Game of Thrones fans will love finding scenes from the show while for the rest of us just wandering around this beautiful city is awe inspiring enough. Ditch the map and get lost in the labyrinth of Old Town, but keep an eye out for a few key sites.
I loved wandering through the magical courtyard of The Old Pharmacy. Located within the Franciscan Monastery, it is a hidden gem not many know about. The Old Pharmacy is the oldest in Europe and was originally used by the Franciscan monks to treat the brothers as well as the citizens of Dubrovnik.
Along the way enjoy the architecture of Rector’s Palace, which is on the east side of Old Town, it is a 15th century Gothic Renaissance palace has been converted into a museum. The Dubrovnik Cathedral, St Blaise’s Church and Onofrio’s Fountains are also work checking out.
Once you have exhausted yourself climbing up and down the hundreds of narrow steps and through the never-ending passageways make your way done to Banje Beach. Jump in for a swim in the azure ocean or for a more luxe beach visit head to Banje Beach Restaurant and Night Club for day beds and bottle service.
If you have a spare day take a quick 10 minute ferry ride across to the Island of Lokrum. A perfect little escape from the pace of Dubrovnik, Lokrum is an uninhabited island with idyllic swimming spots off the rocks, secluded beaches and vast forested areas. You will also find the medieval Benedictine Monastery which houses a replica of the Game of Thrones Iron Throne and pretty botanical gardens. Make sure you check the returning ferry’s as there is no accommodation on the island if you get stuck!
Eat & Drink
Dubrovnik has great food and bar culture, whether you are after something cheap and cheerful or a stunning fine dining experience. Some highlights for me were taking the cable car up the Srđ mountain, which is just behind the walled Old Town. At the top you will find Fort Imperijal which was built from 1806 to 1816, during the Napoleonic Wars and also the Panorama Restaurant and Bar which offers a breath taking almost birds eye view of the Old Town and beyond. While you are up there be sure to (carefully) slip out onto the open cliff face for a beautiful sunset before dinner.
Strolling beyond the Old Town and around the water’s edge to the Grand Villa Argentina. Here we found the Victoria Restaurant which is set on a beautiful terrace laced with grapevines and overlooking the ocean. The menu is Peruvian Adriatic fusion and made for a truly special dining experience.
For something much more relaxed and a bit of fun find the hole in the wall Buza Bar. It is built into the cliff face and is the perfect spot for a drink (or two) at sunset and if you are brave enough, cliff jumping. This is a popular spot with the Contiki and Sail Croatia crews, so if you want to jump make sure you get in on the action. For a quick bite to eat, one of my favourite spots was a little seafood spot called Barba. Tucked just off the main stretch it is easy to miss but has delicious fresh local seafood at a reasonable price, in a relaxed atmosphere. Perfect for a casual lunch – try the Octopus burger or some fresh oysters.