Start your day in typical Dalmatian fashion: with a coffee and a pastry. Croatians prefer a light, continental breakfast, and unless you’re staying in a hotel, it’s unlikely you’ll find an authentic café serving up cooked breakfast – aside from the subpar tourist traps. Dubrovnik is dotted with terrific bakeries, so pick up a pastry and plonk yourself down on a café terrace along Stradun, Dubrovnik’s medieval promenade. It’s made for people watching.
Every visitor’s first port of call should be the City Walls, Dubrovnik’s strikingly well-maintained medieval defences. During peak-season, hoards of day trippers disembark from cruise ships and advance towards the Old Town, so get here early to beat the crowds and the blistering midday sun. The walls open up to visitors at 8am, and it should take a couple of hours to stroll its perimeters. Afterwards, amble around Rector’s Palace and browse its dazzling array of antiquities from the days when Dubrovnik was the prosperous, fiercely independent Republic of Ragusa.
Now you’ve gathered your bearings, savour the city from a different perspective by zooming up Mount Srd in a cable car. The ascension to the top of the mountain affords breathtaking views of the Old Town and the brilliant blue Adriatic. At the top, Restaurant Panorama boasts more lovely views over Dubrovnik and the Elaphite Islands. While the food here is decent enough, its prime location means premium prices. Adventurous travellers may want to bring a packed lunch and hike down the arid foothills of the mountain.
Dubrovnik’s in-town eateries are unashamedly pricey, but if you want to grab a bite to eat before hitting the beach there are a few good-value options. Buffet Skola is the place for fresh, quality sandwiches. If you’re searching for seafood, Bota Sare does a good line in reasonably priced sushi. Gundulićeva Poljana, the open-air market in the centre of the Old Town, is perfect for padding out your picnic basket.
Spend the afternoon sunbathing on Sveti Jakov, a gorgeous rock and shingle beach just a 20 minute ramble from the centre. More secluded than the city beaches, you’re guaranteed a more laid-back experience, with striking views of Dubrovnik’s iconic fortress.
Settle with a sundowner at Buza Bar. Perched on the rocks beneath the walls, the two cliff bars Buža I and Buža II offer a spectacular setting to enjoy a beer, a swim and a blazing sunset.
Crijevićeva ul. 9, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia, +385 98 361 934
There’s a great variety of dining spots in Dubrovnik depending on your budget. 360 is the top table in town, frequented by holidaying celebs – but as you’d expect, the mains aren’t cheap. Nautika is an excellent restaurant with more modest prices, but is still dear by much of Croatia’s standards. For cheap, caught-that-day fish, try the great value Lokanda Peskarija; bang on the main port, it’s popular with locals and in-the-know visitors.