Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Dubrovnik has emerged as the absolute jewel in the crown of Croatia’s flourishing tourist industry. Yes, there are crowds and yes, it can be cripplingly expensive, but go at the right time and you’ll quickly see why. Every stone inch of the city’s crumbling walls exudes a history so compelling you’ll never want to leave.
A stroll through the old town’s gridiron of narrow streets and alleyways will present some alarming truths about what actually went on in the Soviet war. Some houses that were badly damaged during the first siege on the city have since been reconstructed, with shocking images of that hellish morning nailed to the outer walls, allowing tourists to stare open-mouthed at the staggering differences between then and now.
Plaza Stradun, a 300m long marble-paved walkway, is located at the heart of the medieval city. Here, scores of restaurants and cafés serve customers all day long under the backdrop of some quite magnificent architecture. At its onset, tourists queue unwearyingly for the opportunity to secure those essential take-home snapshots of the oceanfront from the zenith of the famously fortified wall, while at the other end the city’s grandiose cathedral looms over more camera-wielding tourists.
The price of a coffee or a quick bite to eat along the Stradun is frankly outrageous, though if you enjoy a spot of people watching then this is definitely the place to do it. Blinged up millionaires; German, sandal and sock wearing families; penniless whippersnappers and burly-looking Balkan men all saunter through side by side as the day wears on. The harbor beyond Plaza Stradun teems with deep sea fishing vessels, stately yachts – some as large as small ferries – and titanic-sized cruise ships.
If you’re one for postcard perfect vistas then a hike up to Mount Srdj is well worth doing. In front, the summit overlooks the Old Town and miles of Dalmatian coastline, whereas to the right you’ll see the darkened peaks of the Herzegovinian mountains clambering over one another in the distance. If your not much of a hiker then the city’s 9am-til-late cable car might be more appealing. The ride takes just 4 minutes and costs around £9 for a round-ticket.
You don’t have to be a Russian oil tycoon or the son of an obscure, wealthy Arabian prince to be able to spend a little in Dubrovnik. Thankfully, there are plenty of budget-friendly bars around town, which often stay open until late. The clubs are expensive though, and lean heavily on the cheesy side, as I discovered first-hand. Galerie and Sky Bar, both located in the old town, are great places to enjoy a better soundtrack with a refreshing cocktail at a reasonable price.
However, wander a little further along the coast just east of the main dock and you’ll find Lazareti, which offers punters a real insight into local art, music and theatre. There is no given theme, and the genres of live music and art exhibitions vary greatly. A night out here is recommended if you are keen on avoiding the tourist-trafficked bars and nightclubs.
*Image of old town of Dubrovnik via Shutterstock