The city’s photogenic and ancient center, Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a site to behold, full of alleys to explore with good food and specialty shops to discover around every corner. Entering the Old Town is an experience in itself. Surrounded by massive walls and towers, you will have to pass through them on either side before you can walk the famous walls, see the Game of Thrones locations, or try any of the decadent seafood eateries inside.
Lining the main avenue, there is an endless amount of shops selling trinkets and goods, featuring traditional Croatian figurines, jewelry, and local olive oils! Lavender is another signature souvenir of the region. For the adults, you can find a selection of spiced alcohols like rakija, brandy with oregano or other herbs. Careful though, it packs a punch!
Dubrovnik has an annual dining guide (this year I believe is its 8th issue) as the city loves to promote its best eateries whether they feature traditional Dalmatian, modern Croatian, and even the occasional Japanese cuisine. All restaurants claim to have the best food in the Old Town, so use a little intuition and do not go to the ones just packed with tourists along the main boulevards. That is not to say that you will find a bad meal at them … Regardless, some local upscale favorites include oyster and sushi bar, Bota, and the classic Mediterranean bistro, Sesame, if you are not on a backpacker’s budget.
As you can probably infer, costs in the Old Town are more expensive than in Lapad or Gruž, the area across the harbor. Luckily, you can bargain a bit if you speak Croatian (or have a friend that does) in the open-air markets, deeper in the Old Town squares.
Old Town is increasingly touristy. Pickpockets are not an issue, but the crowds are. Cruise ships come daily heading through the Adriatic to Greece or simply throughout the Mediterranean, so everyday ships dock and the Old Town is swarmed, which can make it a little claustrophobia inducing, especially coupled with the heat.
Do not be afraid to undress a bit on a hot day. There are a few secluded beaches between and outside the walls, so bring some trunks as well. If you cannot find them or any other good place to cliff jump, you can always head to Banje, the main tourist beach through the Old Town.
Dubrovnik’s major appeal for visitors and locals alike is its massive walls that encompass the ancient city. There are multiple entrances to ascend up the mass of stairs to see the views that Croatians have seen for centuries, but the main entrance is located right by the fountain near the west gate.
There are other tourist sites in the city and unless you have a Dubrovnik tourist card, they will most likely cost about 20 to 40 Kuna per person. There are some free destinations like the Dubrovnik defenders’ memorial and the surrounding ground of the GOT setting, King’s landing.
Be sure to pay and keep your tickets since there are ticket check-points sometimes! Also, they count free souvenirs (well, not free). For people 18 years and younger, it is only 30 Kuna, for everyone else, it is 100 Kn.
On top of the walls, there are kiosks and places to buy food and drinks and even an art gallery. Items, especially water, are more expensive though atop the walls obviously. Regardless, it is nice to know that there are bathrooms if you need them.
Scenic views include another angle of King’s landing, the inner city, the vast Adriatic, and Banje. Another sight is Lokrum, an island with peacocks and apparently a curse. After the island’s new owner forcibly removed a monastery of monks a few hundred years ago, the wronged men cursed the land so that whoever would own Lokrum would die a gruesome execution. If you look at the history of who and which kingdoms controlled the island over the years, the curse may sound a little more believable …
To finish off the day, try the gondola up to the hill. It costs 108 Kuna for a two-way adult (anyone over 12) ticket. You can buy them at the physical gondola station or down at main bus stop, Pile, at a tourist shop by the walls.
The sunset is glorious, but you have to walk a bit around from the main area through some rocky terrain to see it set behind the neighboring islands. There is additionally a very fancy restaurant from which you can enjoy the lights of the city from above at night; I would suggest calling ahead for reservations.
A day out in the Old Town in July is draining, especially if your immune system is failing on all fronts. Go out after at least 3 o’clock PM because walking the walls at 12 PM is crowded from cruise ships and apparently, is just hell. Just take the day slow, drink a lot of water, and get some ice cream from Dolce Vita (it’s where the locals go) …
I am leaving Europe; it feels a little weird to say. My adventure, this adventure at least, is over. My health is bringing me home a few days earlier than I would have hoped. A friend said that it is my body missing home. I am disappointed I am leaving, but am excited to see home later. I am missing going to another island, possibly Bosnia … It is sad. But, that is life sometimes. Stay tuned. I will not be Croatia, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the year will not be spectacular in scenic Vancouver! Also, expect a post-Dubrovnik cuisine post! I am a bit behind, but it is coming …