Words by Claire McKeever
Dubrovnik is no ordinary city. In fact, the city is so unique and sought after that the Turkish, Greek and Roman Empires all attempted to overthrow it in the early centuries.
Dubrovnik’s popularity continues today, with many choosing it as a city break or part of a wider trip across Croatia. Situated along the shores of the Adriatic, enjoying Mediterranean temperatures and boasting some of the world’s most stunning architecture, it is really not hard to see why.
The Old Town
I would go as far as describing Dubrovnik as otherworldly. It seems that the location scouts for Game of Thrones would tend to agree, having chosen Dubrovnik’s Old Town as the set of King’s Landing – a fictional city within the popular series. Dubrovnik also happens to be the location of the new Star Wars movie, which will no doubt bring even more attention to the city in the years to come. As my taxi curled around the clifftops, and I caught sight of the walled Old Town and its surrounding waters, I couldn’t help but be transfixed straight away by what lay before me.
Moments later I was greeted by Damir, my host for the next few days. Damir is the manager of Guest House Forty Four, a chic guesthouse that is located right at the heart of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. As he took my suitcase, and we meandered across the cobblestone streets, I gazed up at the ancient buildings that lined up on either side. It was astounding to see how much of Dubrovnik had been salvaged and restored since the Yugoslavian war in 1991-2001.
Damir told me how the building had recently been restored by its owner, Bojan Bogdanović, a Croatian basketball star. And, as I looked around my room at the tasteful modern decor set against ancient stone walls, and out to an impressive terrace overlooked by an old church, I could see what a wonderful job had been done to rejuvenate the 17th-century building. Guesthouse Forty Four was a great base for exploring the city and a perfect place to relax after a day of sightseeing.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Town’s limestone streets, churches and walls lie waiting to be discovered. I started with a walk around the city’s impressive walls, a series of walls that were originally constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries to protect inhabitants who lived within them at the time. It typically takes an hour to complete a walk around the walls and, as I scaled the steps and strolled along its walkway, I made sure to stop and take a moment to enjoy the incredible views of the church steeples below and the sparkling Adriatic waters beyond.
Other treasures within Dubrovnik include its many different churches and monasteries that are dotted along the streets. This includes Church of Saint Blaise, one of the most popular and easily sighted churches within the city’s main square, and still a working Catholic church (as are most of the churches within the city). A worthwhile visit is to the site of the Franciscan Monastery that lies next to the church of the Holy Savior and is connected to the oldest working pharmacy in Croatia. I could have easily spent hours within this monastery, soaking up its cloister gardens and a display of ancient artefacts within its ruins.
City by the Water
A trip to Dubrovnik is not complete without seeing it from the beautiful Adriatic that surrounds the city. I signed up for a three-hour kayak ride which took a group of us on a tour across the water and beyond the city walls. The tour includes a stop at a cave, a snorkel and swim, then a paddle around Lokrum Island – an island once occupied by monks and accessible via a boat trip from the city’s main port.
Another way of experiencing Dubrovnik’s waters is from one of several clifftop bars that are accessed through holes in the city’s walls. One of the ones I visited (on more than one occasion) was Buza bar, a perfect spot for sunbathing and swimming before a few drinks in the bar, where seating areas afford breathtaking views over the ocean.
Speaking of views, the city’s cable car ride is a must and a wonderful way to see the city in all its glory. At 778 meters high, panoramic views of the city can be enjoyed, as well as stunning sunrises and sunsets should you be up there at the right time. Be careful to book cable car tickets in advance to avoid long queues and once atop, make sure to claim a good spot come sundown.
Top Picks – Dubrovnik
Forty Four Guest House
See & Do
Game of Thrones Tour