Situated by the deep blue waters of the Adriatic Sea, in Southern Croatia, is the magnificent walled city of Dubrovnik. A UNESCO world heritage site since the late 70s, the city is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination and, offering sunshine and beaches alongside its city culture, architecture and history, it’s easy to see why.
In another string to the city’s bow, Dubrovnik has also become renowned as a filming location too. Put firmly on the Game of Thrones map, the city has doubled as King’s Landing, the fictional capital of the realm’s seven kingdoms. For true GoT aficionados (or anyone interested) there are Game of Thrones walking tours, hosted by “in the know” guides who are likely to regale you with all the filming and location information you need, as well as some backstage gossip.
The sun and the sea means peak season (July to August) are busy, busy, busy while the low, winter season, from November to around Easter, can be a tad lonely with a lot of businesses shutting up shop for the season. The optimal time is the mid seasons, May to June, September to October, where the weather is still good and there is plenty happening. Be advised though – the city’s popularity means it is more expensive than other Croatian cities, but beautiful Dunbrovnik is well worth it.
Top Five To Do List
Walking the walls – No visit to the city is complete without a good hike around the famous (and magnificent) city walls. The views across the old town and the sparkling Adriatic are truly sublime. The are entrances from near the Pile Gate (the busiest entrance), the Ploče Gate (gets the steepest climbs out of the way first) and the Maritime Museum. Bring water and sunscreen, there is little shelter when you’re on the walls.
Rector’s Palace – This gorgeous Gothic-Renaissance palace was built in the 1400s as the seat of the elected rector of the Republic of Ragusa, housing his private chambers, public halls, administrative offices and (woohoo) a dungeon. Today the palace has been turned into the Cultural History Museum where you can view the richly appointed offices and quarters of the Rector, plus the arsenal, courtroom and prison cells.
Cable car – What better way to see the city on a sunny day than by cable car? Buy a one way ticket up, enjoy a drink in one of the two viewing terraces then savour the glorious views by walking the trail back down the mountain (or not, they do return tickets too so never fret if yiu’re nothing the walking type).
Visit the old town (pictured, photograph by Juriaan Teulings) -This historic area is, of course, Dubrovnik’s must see spot and it is lovely to melt into the crowd and just enjoy strolling along, soaking in the sights – the ancient stone walls, the medieval ramparts, the white sheets drying in the sun, the chatter and hubbub. The main entrance from the city centre is through the Pile City Gate, overlooked by two forts: Minčeta with views across the city and Bokar, looking out for enemies approaching by sea. from the south.
Lokrum island – Dubrovnik’s beaches are gorgeous but they can get crowded so why not take a taxi boat from Dubrovnik’s old port to the forested island of Lokrum. The beaches are rocky but clean and safe, and there is even a nude beach should you fancy it. Bored with sunbathing? Visit the 19th-century Napoleonic Fort Royale, which has stunning views of the Old Town.
The Budget or Broke Recommendation (i.e. free)
Take a stroll along Placa (or Stradun) street, which divides the city into its northern and southern halves. This beautiful pedestrian-only area boasts a number of beautiful attractions (the Onofrio Fountain, the Romanesque Church of the Savior, now a concert venue, an ancient tower clock, the town square dominated by the Church of St Blaine and a Franciscan Monastery) as well as lots of lovely cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops.
Given the Adriatic is on the city’s doorstep, it’s no surprise that fresh fish and seafood feature heavily on local menus, from octopus salad, black risotto to whole fresh fish (sea bass, grouper, scorpion fish, pilchards, mackerel, sea bream). Fish is usually grilled, drizzled with garlic and olive oil and a served with a lemon wedge.
Tourism is a big industry here so there is lots of the usual souvenir tat on offer, and what’s wrong with a Dubrovnik key ring anyway? The local olive oil is a lovely gift for those at home (though tough to cart around in a backpack if you’re heading back on the Interrailing trail), or if you want to splash the cash then grab a handmade silk tie, one of the best known Croatian souvenirs.