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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrA medieval town, overlooking the blue waters of the Adriatic, is Croatia’s most popular tourist destination. ‘The pearl of the Adriatic’, Dubrovnik, was placed on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sights in 1979. Within its solid walls, pedestrian-only old town, packed with aristocratic palazzi and Baroque churches rub shoulders with chic boutiques, stylish bars and eateries, serving top-notch seafood.
The city also has an interesting cultural life, with museums, galleries and summer concerts. Of course, the down-side is that there are hardly any locals living in the old town anymore and prices are almost double what they would be anywhere else in Croatia.
The beaches ranging from pebbles to white sand are a major attraction. The main beach, Banja, just east of Old Town, is especially popular with visitors. Locals tend to seek out smaller beaches on the Lapad peninsula, or dive into the crystal clear water just beyond the old city walls. Most of the nightlife is confined within the city walls in Old Town, though there are plenty of seaside spots overlooking the shimmering Adriatic Sea.
Dubrovnik is also made famous for being the filming location of HBO's Game of Thrones' King's Landing.
Although the shelling of Dubrovnik in 1991 horrified the world, when the town was caught in the crossfire of the Yugoslav civil war, it has bounced back with characteristic vigor to enchant visitors again. But the war is still a thorny issue and it’s best to avoid discussing which side was 'right' and which was ‘wrong’.
The best months to visit are May to June or September to October, when the sea is warm enough to swim and tourist attractions open, but without the crowds.
You can also easily make a day trip to one of Europe's lesser-visited gems, Montenegro, which is less then one hour's scenic drive from Dubrovnik. Just over the border you will find a number of pretty small coastal towns and villages, from Herceg Novi, UNESCO World Heritage listed Kotor to popular beach resort of Budva. Id driving yourself is not an option, there are plenty of day tours available from Dubrovnik.
Rector's PalaceThe Rector's Palace, built in the late 15th century, is located in the Old Town between the Church of St Blaise and the Cathedral. The Ghotic-Renaissance palace, which was the seat of government and the residence of the rector when Dubrovnik was a republic, now houses the Cultural History Museum. Allow about an hour to stroll between the artfully restored rooms and see the various facets of the city's unique history. The stunning facade is an attractive shady colonnade with lovely stone benches. Another highlight is the Rector's Palace atrium, often used as a venue for classical music concerts during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.
Sponza PalaceThe Sponza Palace, built in the 16th century, served as a customs house. Located opposite to the church of St Blaise, the palace is a mixture of late Gothic and Renaissance styles. Today the Sponza Palace houses the city's archives, which contain a priceless collection of historical manuscripts. The oldest document kept in the archives dates from 1022. A memorial to the Croats who were killed in the 1990s siege of Dubrovnik is also housed in the palace. The lush courtyard often hosts art exhibitions and concerts.
City Walls & FortsThe 1,940-meter long walls encompass five forts and 16 towers and bastions. Built between the 13th and 16th centuries, they are still intact today. For the best panoramas, take a stroll atop the 2 km long formidable medieval walls interspersed with four imposing gates - Pile Gate, Ploče Gate, Peskarija Gate and Ponta Gate - the views over the town and sea are sublime. The walls can only be walked clockwise.
Dubrovnik CathedralLegend has it that the original cathedral was built by Richard the Lionheart of England as a thank you for his life being spared in a violent storm off Dubrovnik. The cathedral is notable for its fine altars, especially the altar of St John of Nepomuk , made of violet marble. The cathedral treasury contains relics of St Blaise as well as 138 gold and silver reliquaries, largely made in the workshops of Dubrovnik’s goldsmiths between the 11th and 17th centuries.
War Photo LimitedThis modern gallery is dedicated to photo-journalism from war zones around the world, and attempts to offer unbiased reporting with a human element. There’s a permanent exhibition on the upper floor devoted to the war in Yugoslavia, with images from Ron Haviv and audiovisual displays.
Maritime MuseumThe Maritime Museum is housed on the two floors of St John's Fortress; the fortification that once guarded the entrance to the Old Harbor. Though rather small, the museum gives a good picture of the Dubrovnik's strategic importance and naval power. The museum has a good collection of maritime items, from model ships, sailors' uniforms, navigational equipment to flags and impressive maps. Even if you are not a big fan of maritime artefacts it is worth having a look in this museum.
Franciscan MonasteryThe lovely Franciscan Monastery, originally built in a Romanesque-Gothic style in 14th century, is located just inside the Pile Gate. The highlight is the pharmacy, believed to be the oldest continually working one in Europe, dating back to 1317. It still sells excellent herbal lotions and tonic made according to ancient recipes. However, most impressive is the vast collection of valuable books. The monastery also has a tiny museum inside displaying iconic statues, paintings, religious church relics and artefacts. Make sure you do not miss the Dubrovnik painting revealing how medieval city looked before the earthquake of 1667.
Fort LovrijenacThe Fort Lovrijenac, located just outside the city walls, stands on top of a 37 meters high cliff. The fortress, also referred as the Fort of St Lawrence, is more impressive from the outside. The interior is empty, but it is still great to look at. The real attraction is on the rooftops, where you will get superb views of the city and the surrounding gorgeous blue Adriatic Sea. The 11th century fortress played an important role in protecting the city from the Venetians. Today it stages various musical and theater performances.
Although, there are quite a few steep steps leading up to the fortress and it is not so easy to find the entrance as it is not very well signposted, the mighty stone fortress is well worth a visit. Fort Lovrijenac is also a must-see for any Game of Thrones fans, as the fortress has been used for filming many of the battle scenes.
Lokrum IslandThe small island of Lokrum, only a short ride from the Old Town harbor, is a perfect escape from the bustling city. Covered in pine trees, the island is a pleasant place to spend a relaxing day. Soak up the idyllic scenery, then head further inland where you will find a nice medieval Benedictine monastery and a charming botanical garden. Make sure you do not miss the Fort Royal, an early 19th century French fort, in the middle of the island. The climb up to the fort is quite steep, but the gorgeous views are worth it. There are also numerous walking paths, rocky coves perfect for swimming and sunbathing, several cafes and more than a few peacocks. Boats run
every half hour in the summer. The journey takes about 15 minutes.
Dubrovnik Cable CarDeparting from a lower station just outside the Old Town, it has two light and airy carriages which make regular 3-minute runs to the top of Mount Srdj. There’s an amazing perspective of the city from a lofty 405 m, down to the terracotta-tiled rooftops of the Old Town and the island of Lokrum, with the Adriatic filling the horizon. If you enjoy hiking, you might ride the cable car up, then walk back down following the Mount Srdj Ropeway, the path is rocky and steep, so be sure to wear decent shoes.
Dubrovnik Summer FestivalDubrovnik's cultural highlight is the annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival, which runs from 10th July to late August, bringing an added dash of glamour to the streets. The festival begins with the traditional opening ceremony on the 10th of July in front of the Church of St Blaise, followed by a spectacular fireworks. The world-renowned festival includes a variety of open-air classical concerts, ballet, opera, jazz and theatrical performances at various venues within the city walls. The absolute highlight is the theater performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet on Fort Lovrjenac.
Food & DrinkThere are plenty of international eateries, especially Italian, but try the local restaurants, known as Konoba. Do some comparison shopping by reading menus, which usually are posted outside. Specialties to try include black risotto, made with squid ink, Šporki Makaruli 'dirty macaroni', tubular pasta served with a goulash sauce; and Rožata, a vanilla-flavored custard dessert.
When in Dubrovnik a vine tasting is a must. Dubrovnik region is full with vineyards and famous winegrowers who follow international trends and produce authentic and quality wines.
ShoppingDubrovnik is not a big shopping destination, though there are a few surprises. The Old Town, the market on Gundulić’s Square and main street, Stradun, are the best place for shopping. The biggest shopping mall in the Dubrovnik is DOC in Lapad. Here you will find brands such as Benetton, Nike, Tally Wejl, DM and others. Shops in Dubrovnik are generally open from 8 AM to 9 PM, sometimes limited during winter months. Most shops open seven days a week.
Getting AroundIf you are staying within comfortable walking distance of Old Town, everything important is accessible on foot. There are a number of bus routes connecting the Old Town with the suburbs. All buses stop at the Pile Gate and continue on to outlying hotels, the ferry port, and beyond.
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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Apr 15, 2015