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City Guide: Dubrovnik
City guide: Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik – is dubbed the ‘jewel of the Adriatic’ for its old town (or Stari Grad) set within city walls, which was built from the 13th century onwards.
A Unesco World Heritage listed site, it is made up of cobblestone streets, forts and museums. Despite being bombed heavily by Yugoslav forces in 1991, the city has been well preserved and is Croatia’s prime tourist destination.
What to do
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said: “Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik.” We find it hard to disagree – from the ancient City Walls, to delighting in views from the Dubrovnik Cable Car, or enjoying live jazz music.
A good starting point is the Pile Gate (The Placa Thoroughfare, Stradun), built in 1537, which takes you into Dubrovnik’s enchanting Old Town.
Just beyond the gate are the steps that lead up to the ancient City Walls (inside the Pile Gate and to the left), where you can soak up some unforgettable views of the Old Town and surrounding Adriatic coastline. At the coastal end of the wall, you’ll find the Fort Lovrijenac, or ‘Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar’, built in the 11th century.
As you pass through the Pile Gate into the Placa Thoroughfare, with its limestone-paved narrow streets, each steeped in centuries-old European architecture, you will feel like you stepped back in time. Keep an eye out for the stunning Italian-built 15th-century Onofrio fountains – the bigger of the two is one of Dubrovnik’s most famous landmarks, built in 1438. Spot it right next to the Pile Gate.
Stroll through the spotless streets to the Franciscan Monastery (Placa 2, Stradun). Building work began in 1317. It contains world-renowned ancient manuscripts and is home to the oldest pharmacy in Europe.
Visiting the 15th-century Rector’s Palace (Pred Dvorom 1, admission £4), the central government building of the old Republic of Dubrovnik is worthwhile too. It looks pretty now, but has suffered damage from fires, gunpowder explosions and earthquakes over the years.
Back towards the Pile Gate and you can make your way towards the Dubrovnik Cable Car. The car takes you up Mount Srd, home to the famous Napoleon-built Fort Imperial, a national treasure used by Croats to defend the city during the Balkans War. Get a harrowing insight into the horror of the 1991-1995 conflict by visiting the Museum of the Croatian War of Independence inside the fort.
If you’re in Dubrovnik in the warm weather (and summer usually lasts well into autumn here) spend some time at Banje Beach, the famous Croatian beach that appears in all the postcards. There are other beaches to explore too, with Cavtat and Plat naturist beaches a taxi ride or car/motorbike rental away. Mljet Island is also close enough for a visit. Dubrovnik houses 17 cathedrals and a synagogue within its walls and a walk through the town reveals stunning architecture. There are also craft shops to visit and you can pick up the clothing item the country is known for, a cravat.
Eating and drinking
Dubrovnik’s cuisine has a noticeable Italian influence: risotto and pizza are local favourites, while olive oil and garlic feature heavily. Mea Culpa is a pizzeria in the Old Town where patrons are seated in the cobbled alleys and the size of the pizzas is legendary. The seafood is also unbeatable and one of the best places in town is Proto, which once hosted Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII.
Head down to the tiny Sugar and Spice Cafe (Sv. Josipa 5). It’s cheap, but as with everything else purchased in Dubrovnik, pay in kunas to avoid being overcharged. Grab a meat pasty and one of the cafes famed carrot cake muffins. Wash it down with a cup of local coffee, while sitting in the historic alleyway beside the building.
The Old Town boasts the Dalmatino Konoba Restaurant (Miha Pracata 6) where you can try the delicious cuttlefish black risotto, mussels and fried calamari.
The famousCafé Bar Buza, where everyone’s welcomed as a local come dusk, is found through a hole in the southern city walls. It’s a place where you can toast the sea view with a shot of fig rakia, a traditional Croatian spirit.
Check out the atmospheric Restaurant Poklisar (Ribarnica 1), accompanied by music courtesy of a friendly Croatian pianist and a cheapish bottle of house wine.
Croats love their ice cream too and Dubrovnik isn’t short of ice-creameries, so make sure you leave from for dessert.
If you like beer, get used to saying “pivo”. Try Croatian beers Zlatorog or Ožujsko, which aren’t too bitter and are usually served on tap.
Where to party
Put on your dancing shoes and pay a visit to the beachfront EastWest Club where the beautiful people party and/or seek out live music at Trubadur Hard Jazz Café (2 Bunieva Poljana).
Where to stay
Try the Old Town Hostel for some well-earned kip.
Buy a bus ticket for not very much to Gruz Harbour, north-west of the Old Town, and for not very much more jump on to a ferry heading to Lopud Island. Pick up a timetable, too, to avoid missing one of the three boats that returns to the city.
Stroll from Lopud’s port into town, and pass by one of the 30 ancient churches dotted around this small island. Enjoy the zero car traffic and wander down to the pristine sands of Sunj Beach. Sample some local beers, soak up some afternoon sun, and swim in the lagoon-like crystal-clear waters.
Saunter back into town, clamber up a hill and find Peggy’s Restaurant (Od Sigurate 7). Grab a table overlooking the sea and enjoy a two-course meal of grilled fish and garlic mussels with house wine. Head back to the boat and enjoy the sunset on your return to Dubrovnik.