Bargain gastronomic experiences pepper the walled city of Dubrovnik. Chef and food guide Richard Gruica gives the lowdown on the best cheap eats to savour in the Pearl of the Adriatic.
Dubrovnik draws crowds every year as a Game of Thrones mecca, while history buffs are enthralled by its historic walls and cobblestone streets. Yet its overlooked gastronomic scene lives up to the hype as well — and it’s not only budget-busting fine dining either. The curious and adventurous willing to leave the Old Town are particularly rewarded in terms of price and quality.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Croatian-American chef Richard Gruica plied his trade in various kitchens and now leads intrepid diners on Sights & Bites, a daily food and wine walking tour of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, as well as running Captivating Croatia, which offers food tours around the country.
Although Gruica admits that “‘cheap’ and Dubrovnik really don’t go together,” he offers a number of affordable options: from an unassuming eatery serving fresh seafood to a hidden pastry shop selling unique sweet treats.
This little nook of a restaurant shares its name with the local word for a ship’s captain, and aims to serve seafood worthy of such a high-ranking officer. Tucked away within the walls of the Old Town, just off Dubrovnik’s main thoroughfare – the Stradun – Barba brings together traditional Dalmatian cuisine, local know-how and modern techniques. The stylish pine-clad space serves up squid, octopus, shrimp and oysters, and counts Gruica among its fans. “This takeaway spot has some great seafood sandwiches,” Gruica says. “Octopus is their claim to fame.”
Stepping outside the Old Town’s historic walls expands the city’s culinary offerings exponentially. Not least among these offerings is the rustic, peaceful dining experience of Bistro Izvor, which offers Adriatic-Asian fusion fare, from burgers and swordfish to tempura prawns. What’s more, it also boasts a sought-after view of the Ombla River. “This is a lovely spot on the banks of Dubrovnik’s fresh water source,” Gruica says. “Here you can enjoy a meal in a wonderful setting, which is especially nice as an escape from the summer heat.” As a bonus, Bistro Izvor’s location outside the bustling Old Town means fewer crowds.
If you enjoy Dubrovnik’s rich offering of wine and spirits with enough fervour, you might find yourself with a hankering for greasy street food at strange hours. Cezar’s little shack – painted screaming red with a flabbergasted cartoon woman on the side – has long been a late-night haven for local residents, particularly among students at the nearby school of economics. Gruica claims the joint’s dishes will satisfy your after-hours cravings, particularly suggesting Cezar’s kebabs and burgers.
Frequent visitors to Dalmatia’s coast discover a culinary scene awash with konobas (taverns), which offer a fairly uniform menu of grilled fish, mixed meats and vegetables. According to Gruica, spots like Green Garden offer a salve for those who crave originality. You can grab a bite at this eatery if you come at the right time — during the summer tourism bump — and can find it in the north of the city, away from the crowds of the Old Town. The outdoor space, shaded by trees, offers an oasis during the summer to lounge and enjoy Croatian craft beers and a vegetarian gyro. “It’s a welcome alternative to the same stuff that can be found all over,” Gruica enthuses.
Sladoledarna Dubrovnik, right on the main strip, has taken pains to accommodate the local community. Gruica reflects that, while Dubrovnik has quite a few ice cream shops, Sladoledarna has the homespun charm of a neighbourhood institution. “I would be remiss to not mention the lovely ice cream options around the city, with Sladoledarna Dubrovnik being my sentimental favourite.” The family-run operation made a splash by offering regulars and local kids discounts, while Hollywood glitterati — like Owen Wilson and Monica Bellucci — wait in line alongside everyone else and pay full price.
Dubrovnik residents have an affinity for marenda, the light meal sandwiched between breakfast and lunch that’s a signature of the Mediterranean lifestyle. The trick lies in eating just enough to feel somewhat sated, but still have enough room for a full, multi-course lunch. “[Culto] offers a great marenda,” Gruica says. “Or reasonably priced specials catering to the local crowd,” noting its particular popularity among people working in the area and seeking respite during the workday. The clean, modern decor suits a business-like atmosphere without being too stuffy – the kind of place you’ll see a business meeting unfolding over cold cuts and wine or coffee.
The peskarija (fish market) historically served as the heart of Dalmatian coastal life — as much as any church or town square: deals made, romances kindled, rumours spread, amends made and new arguments born – and fish were sold along the way. Lokanda Peskarija keeps that spirit alive — it sits atop Dubrovnik’s old fish market, just outside the city walls. The open-air restaurant looks over the harbour, where local fishermen set sail in small wooden boats to catch lunch. Of course, Gruica recommends eating fish here. “This harbourside restaurant has a couple of stand-out dishes: local baby squid and fried whole baby fish,” he says.
Situated just off a parking lot well away from the Old Town, Mala Truba (Little Trumpet) is a must-visit for anyone looking for unique pastries or a mouthwatering sandwich. Buried well into the guts of a building, it’s easy to miss – but Gruica suggests it’s well worth stumbling upon. “It’s a local bakery and pastry shop making some of the tastiest items in all of Dubrovnik,” he says. “Check out the focaccia of the day and the tasty pastries.”
Gruica laments that Croatia’s coastline offers a rash of pizza places, all serving variations on a theme. In Dubrovnik, he says, “there are a slew of pizzerias offering a welcome break for the wallet.” Gruica chooses Tabasco as his favourite stop for a quick, tasty pizza a short walk from the old city walls of Dubrovnik.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.