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Whether you are backpacking through Europe or dropping by on a cruise ship, seeing a city in a hurry can be a challenge. The beauty of Dubrovnik lies in its union of city and beach, the combination of urban rush and seaside rest, and it’s important to experience both in this vibrant city. Make the most of your time with these tips.
Arrive at the city’s Pile Gate at 10am. The city is beginning to wake up and the temperature is still mild. The best way to see the city is to walk around the city walls. Entry costs 100kn. The views around the wall, at varying heights and levels, let you see every aspect of this UNESCO Heritage Site, from the blue-sea-blue-sky horizon to the terra cotta roof tops and iconic yellowing church towers. Like most places in this medieval city, this is not an activity for those with limited mobility: the city is located in a dip and this means there are lots of stairs. It’s also worth participating in a guided tour as there are no information points on the walls.
After the walls, food, drink and a rest is top priority. Croatian cuisine is a blend of Italian and Mediterranean, with some lingering Bosnian influences. Many restaurants in Dubrovnik’s Old City look and sound the same, from the names to the menu. For fantastic fresh seafood, head to Barba where the Dubrovnik specialty of calamari is perfection. Their exclusively seafood menu changes depending on the fresh fish of the day but frequently features items like tempura oysters and prawn, octopus burger, shrimp salad and tuna sandwiches. There is limited seating in this tiny, popular place but a good alternative is to order take-away and enjoy your octopus burger by the harbor.
Dubrovnik also has an amazing selection of pizzerias. Pizzeria Oliva serves fantastic pizzas and salads. At both of these lunch time stops, you can relax with a local beer or wine.
Calling all TV-buffs: popular HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’ has filmed on location for scenes in King’s Landing. If you are a fan of the show, definitely check out the Game of Thrones Tour which runs daily in high season. This walking tour takes two hours, and the tour guide – usually an extra from the show – takes you around the city, showing locations from Blackwater Bay to Little Finger’s Brothel. At 180kn each it is one of the most expensive tourist activities but for fans of the show, this price is well worth paying. Prices are the same between different tour companies, and information can be found outside the Pile Gate.
If fantasy television isn’t your thing, then head up to Fort Lovrijenac instead: the panoramic views from the lush and green Lapad resorts to the red-roofed old city are not to be missed.
Searching for somewhere to relax for dinner in the old city can be unnecessarily stressful as many restaurants jammed together vie for attention. Tucked down a side street, Konoba Dalmatino is highly recommended. The food is a creative Croatian take on Italian classics. The mussels are a must-try, and the meal is topped off with a local brandy liqueur on the house. An old city experience without the price tag, this restaurant provides quality food and service. Another excellent old city recommendation is Bosnia restaurant Taj Mahal. Meat and veggie lovers alike will find satisfaction in this excellent home-cooked food. Enjoy kebabs, sausages (cevapcici is a local specialty), Bosnian cheeses to grilled Mediterranean vegetables, and their meat and cheese pastries all of which are delicious.
The Buzz Bar is an excellent (and reasonably priced) venue, serving a variety of wines, beers and local liqueurs, plus coffees. Dubrovnik’s nightclub scene thrives during summer, from the Ice Bar by the Onofrio Fountain to East-West, a beach-front nightclub where you can watch the sunset and the sunrise.
Head to the Ploče Gate at the south-east side of the city to get the cable car to the top of Mount Srd: tickets are 100kn for an adult return, and student discounts are available. A moderately priced restaurant at the top is a great place to stop for coffee or a cold drink and take in the views. For anyone interested in Dubrovnik’s recent past, the Homeland War Museum in the old fort is one of the best exhibitions in the city. An informative and moving documentary in the third room gives an excellent overview, whilst the other exhibit rooms give in-depth information on history and aftermath.
Back down in the city for lunch, head to the D’Vino Wine Bar – the friendly staff are always happy to help you pick out the perfect sharing platter and local wine, giving you an authentic Croatian experience. If you are looking for something a little bit simpler, try the Pizzeria Tabasco on your way back from the cable car – delicious no-fuss food to suit all tastes.
Dubrovnik is not just the old city, and for the full experience it is best to get out in the afternoon and explore the suburbs. The beaches of Lapad and Port Gruž are about 20-30 minutes walk, or 10 minutes on the bus from the Pile Gate (15kn one way, or free with the Dubrovnik Card). After a day of walking round the city, you are going to want some down time to appreciate just how gorgeous Dubrovnik is: relax on one of the pebble beaches at Uvala Lapad or Copacabana. If you’d rather avoid sun-towels, sun-burn and the icy Adriatic, a walk around Babin Kuk’s coastal pathwill lead you to the idyllic Cave Bar More, a hotel-spa complex, with a restaurant, cafe and bar cut into the rock. Their outdoor water-level terrace lets you enjoy the landscape of Lapad Bay whilst you sit comfortably on their sun-sofas and sip cocktails into the afternoon.
You could head back into the city for your final meal, but some of Dubrovnik’s best restaurants can be found in Lapad and Gruž. The popular Taverna Otto sits in the harbor, popular with both tourists and locals. Their pork dishes are sensational, as is the tuna steak – and don’t forget to try their chocolate fondant pudding. Between the harbor and Lapad is Pantarul, where a creative, modern menu doesn’t mean high prices or pretentious surroundings. A selection of delicious pastas and risottos offer something a bit different, and their veal is a must for meat lovers. Watch the sunset and enjoy a leisurely dinner at either of these establishments: a fantastic end to an unforgettable time in Dubrovnik.