A team of Wanderlust readers pick the essential experiences in Croatia’s maritime city. Words by Colin Baird, Vicki Matthews, Sara Revell, Ali Stevens and Karen Williams
Wanderlust editor, Dan Linstead, recently ran a Wanderlust Journeys writing trip to Dubrovnik with some Wanderlust readers. Here are their top things to do in this jewel of the Adriatic.
1. Tour the city walls
Where? Pile Gate main entrance
Why? For a relaxing introduction to Dubrovnik. Walking the city walls affords the best views of the Old Port, the sparkling Adriatic and the tide of terracotta roof tiles that sweeps across the Old Town. A knowledgeable local tour, with guide, costs 160kuna (£18; including city walls admission fee of £8), and lasts 1hr30mins.
2. Find inner peace
Where? Dominican Monastery
Why? This quiet monastery provides a welcome break from the bustle of the crowds in Luza Square. St Sebastian’s Church has colourful modern stained glass windows. The museum (entry 10kn) with three rooms houses many treasures including decorative vestments and carvings of the series of 15 mysteries of the Rosary.
3. Lap up luxury
Where? Hotel Excelsior
Why? For exuberant elegance on Dubrovnik’s southern edge, with fantastic views over the old city. The luxurious five-star hotel has hosted everyone from the Queen, to Che Guevara and Kevin Spacey. If you can’t afford to stay the night, enjoy a meal overlooking the Adriatic Sea, or just pop up for a look.
4. Relive history
Where? War Photo Museum
Why? An immaculately presented and poignant gallery of wartime photojournalism, including the permanent ‘Ex-Jugoslavia 1991-1999’ exhibition. The gallery spans two floors and the sharply shot images capture the damage that the Croatian War of Independence (‘Homeland War’) inflicted on the country, the soldiers and the civilians. Entry 30kn; +385 20 322 166
5. Sip sundowners
Where? Cliff bars
Why? Watch the sun set while enjoying a drink in Café Buža I (Ilije Sarake) or Buža II (Crijevićeva 9). Pop through gateways in the Old Town’s walls onto hidden terraces high on the cliff-face, which offer incredible panoramas over the cooling Adriatic. Opening times are weather dependant, generally from 10am to ‘late’.
6. Keep fit
Where? Open seas
Why? View the city from the perspective of the ancient traders and merchants – from the water. Adriatic Kayak Tours runs kayaking trips for all levels from the heart of the city, across the gleaming Adriatic, to the green isle of Lokrum – a short 30-minute paddle away.
7. Have a tipple
Where? Pelješac Peninsula
Why? The peninsula is home to dozens of wineries, where visitors can sample a variety of rich red wines, as well as white wines, made from Korčula Island grapes. Hire a car for the day and take a forty-minute drive to Ston, gateway to Croatia’s best Plavac Mali wines and a stretch of stunning bijoux harbour villages.
8. Reach lofty heights
Where? Imperial Fort, Mount Srd
Why? For a fort built by Napoleon in 1808 and used by the Yugoslav-Montenegro-Serb army in the siege of Dubrovnik in 1991. Climb Mount Srd by foot or take the cable car (80kn) to reach the fort at the top, where you’ll get a great view of Dubrovnik and the coastline with its surrounding islands. The fort houses the superb Museum of the Croatian War of Independence (20kn).
9. Sample local specialities
Where? Restaurant Levanat, Lapad Peninsula
Why? One of the best places for a sunset seafood dinner, with views across Lapad Bay. Enjoy a full platter of grilled shrimps drowned in honey and sage, served with freshly made French fries and a side salad of plump tomatoes, peeled cucumber and butter lettuce.
10. Leave the mainland
Where? Lokrum Island
Why? For a relaxing view of the Old Town from the sea. Take a ferry from the Old Port to Lokrum (hourly off peak, until 6pm; 50kn). Discover small paths down to the sea, exercise at the outdoor gym and bathe in the warm waters.
If you’re on a budget: 5 things to do for free
1. Brush up on masonry
Where? Old Town
Why? For a closer look at the magnificent stone decoration of the Old Town’s architecture. Many of the churches, monasteries and other notable buildings charge for entry, but the stone carving on the outside is often much more impressive than what you will see inside. On some buildings you may even see evidence of artillery hits from the Homeland War.
2. Escape the crowds
Where? Stradun’s backstreets
Why? The residential streets north and south of Stradun, the main street, are atmospheric and provide a glimpse of what life is like for the 1,000 people who call the Old Town home. Take a stroll around and escape the hordes of tourists.
3. Be a romantic
Where? Banje beach
Why? To catch the sunset over the Old Town. The pebbly Banje beach, about a 10-minute walk east of Ploče gate, is a great spot from which to view the setting sun – with the Old Town as a backdrop. Traditional spots for this activity, like Cafe Buza that has terraces on the cliffs, will set you back the price of drink.
4. People watch
Where? Old Port
Why? In the Old Port harbour, numerous colourful boats moor and let their passengers disembark, adding to the vibrant crowd. Dangle your feet over the quay and watch the medley of people.
5. Ponder life’s mysteries
Where? Gradac Park
Why? For a spot of contemplation in a busy city, pull up a pew in Gradac Park to enjoy the smell of pine, views down over the Old Town and out across to Lokrum Island. To find it, ascend on Dr. Ante Starčevića road, turn uphill at the Art Café and fork right with the university on your right-hand-side.
Source: Wanderlust Journeys