DUBROVNIK

Dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, Dubrovnik is a walled city in the southern part of Croatia, on the Adriatic.

Dubrovnik can throw many pleasant and eye popping surprises at you, with its spectacular coast and its fortification, the towers of which make a beautiful curve around a tiny harbour, encompassing the ridges with orange-tiled roofs, elegant bell towers and copper domes. One can imagine its magnificence seven centuries ago, when the walls were built, with no highways or suburbs, but just a magnificent walled city arising majestically from the sea.

Dubrovnik superbly sustains the sense of awe it creates in you the first time, with its marble streets, baroque buildings alongside the shimmering Adriatic. The engaging walk along the ancient city walls that has for centuries protected a sophisticated republic, contributes to the charm the city inspires and it continuous to enthral you as you peel off slowly the layers of history hidden amidst these walled ramparts.

The 16th century was Dubrovnik’s golden age when it commandeered one of the largest merchant naval fleets in the world. The city had its consulates in more than 50 foreign ports. The people of Dubrovnik were blessed with shrewd diplomats, enterprising merchants, brave sailors, immense wealth from bustling trade and conquests, and had an eclectic sense to appreciate art, have a refined taste and live sophisticated lives.

The city today is visited for leisure rather than for trade. The pedestrianised old town, with its aristocratic palaces and Baroque churches inside the medieval fortification, adds a wonderful charm to the city.

Added to this medieval charm are Dubrovnik’s sandy beaches, pristine turquoise waters of the Adriatic, local eateries serving top-notch seafood, luxurious five-star hotels, and plenty of adventure sports facilities, that make it an ideal holiday destination.

The Baroque planners reshaped the medieval town after a disastrous earthquake of 1667, but thankfully, Dubrovnik’s historic core remains intact. The ancient churches, public buildings and the stone houses, together present an ensemble, untouched by the 21st century modernity. The Dubrovnik outside the city walls exudes elegance, with a truly Mediterranean touch, with its colourful gardens filled with vibrant bougainvillea and oleanders, fig, lemon, orange and peach trees.

The salty sea breeze with a hint of fried fish and olive oil only adds to the wonderful oceanic ambience of this sea side town.

Dubrovnik is a metaphor for freedom for the Croats, for, it has been a self-governing city, independent of foreign powers, for much of its long history.

In fact, the city was again on the forefront during the unrest and bombings which culminated in the breakup of the erstwhile Yugoslavia, resisting a nine-month Serbian-Montenegrin siege.

After the war was over, the city underwent renovation and reconstruction with an admirable speed leaving no trace of the destruction it had endured except for the freshly laid orange-red coloured roof tiles that stand out in contrast the older worn out roof tops, which giveaway the reconstruction effort that was undertaken after the war.

The bewitching beauty of Dubrovnik and its uniqueness can be well appreciated by just walking along its marble streets. The medieval old town defended by mighty old walls and exuding Mediterranean charm is truly a highlight of any Croatian trip.

The view from above Mt.Srd will justify every epithet showered on it by poets like Byron who famously named it the Pearl of the Adriatic.

The beauty of the city and its medieval charm has also made it a prominent shooting location for the popular tele series, Game of Thrones.

Dubrovnik is an ideal launching pad for expeditions to further regions of Southern Dalmatia, a region that is mecca for wine tipplers, beach bums, and history buffs, right from the northwest island of Korcula to the southeast plains of Konavle.

WHEN TO GO

The ideal time to visit Dubrovnik would be May to June or September to October with its sunny days, the sea warm enough to swim, and a lot lesser crowds.

July to August are peak months, chock a bloc with tourists, ridiculously priced accommodation, eminently forgettable food. The only consolation of this season is the Dubrovnik Summer festival and nightlife.

Having said that, most facilities are closed during the low season from November to April. The weather is less reliable too. But for a few hotels and restaurants that remain open for Christmas and New Year, everything else remain closed. The February Carnival sees some places reopen, but, the new season begins only for Easter.

The Dubrovnik Summer festival in July and August draws to the city the Croatian cultural dignitaries. The main event in winter is the Feast of St. Blaise, celebrated on February 3. The patron saint of the city is honoured by a parade and special mass culminating with merriment, drinking and feasting.

HOW TO REACH

By Air

The Dubrovnik airport (DBV) is located at Cilipi, 18 km southeast of the city. The Croatian Airlines is the national carrier, operating internal flights between Dubrovnik, Osijek, Split, Zagreb and Rijeka. It also flies regularly between Dubrovnik and Amsterdam, Barcelona, Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Lisbon, London, Lyon, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Venice, Vienna, and Zurich, through the summer.

International airlines operating scheduled flights to Dubrovnik are Austrian Airways, British Airways and Lufthansa. Many European carriers like EasyJet, Condor, German Wings, Vueling and Aer Lingus, offer seasonal or charter flights to Dubrovnik during summer.

Airport bus transfers

Buses are operated by Croatian airlines between the airport and the main bus station in Kantafig (HRK 35, 45 min). It is 2.5 km northwest of the Old Town. Taxis cost HRK 320 from airport to the centre. The buses leave the station to the airport two hours before each international flight and costs HRK 40. There is an airport shuttle every 30 minutes, and has a different schedule. Tourists agencies near Buza Gate or the tourist information office at Pile Gate, display departure times. The bus passes the Old Town en route airport. Boarding is possible at the bus stop on Petra Kresimira 4.

By train

There are no trains to Dubrovnik. A narrow gauge line was used between Dubrovnik and Sarajevo but was closed in 1976. Split is the closest railway station, which is a 4 hr bus ride from Dubrovnik. From there you can take either of the two tilting trains (ICN) up to Zagreb. Two night trains (one to Zagreb-Osijek and one to Zagreb-Siófok-Budapest), operate from Split during summer.

The railway-station Ploče, that takes less than 2h by bus from Dubrovnik, has remained closed since December 2014.

By bus

In Kantafig, near Port Gruz and the Tudjman bridge, is the main bus station, 2.5 km northwest of the Old Town. Bus 7 operates between this station and Babin kuk and bus 1 serves old town.

Direct buses run to / from

  • Zagreb (HRK205-234, 11h, 7 daily)
  • Korcula (HRK100, 3h, 1 daily)
  • Mostar (HRK100 or €16, 3h, 2 daily. 10:30 & 15:00 )
  • Orebic (HRK100, 2.5h, 1 daily)
  • Rijeka (HRK400, 12h, 3 daily)
  • Sarajevo (HRK160, 5h, 1 daily)
  • Split (HRK100-150, 4.5h, 14 daily)
  • Zadar (HRK200, 8h, 7 daily)

There is a daily bus that leaves at 11:00 to Montenegro cities of Herceg Novi, Bar, Kotor and Budva, at 15:00 to Prijedor and Banja Luka in Bosnia, during high season. A one way trip to Budva costs HRK 128 or Euro 15. The return tickets are cheaper.

Boat and Ferry Travel

A regular ferry service is run by the ferry service, Jadrolinija, between Dubrovnik and Bari (Italy). They depart from Bari in late evening to arrive at Dubrovnik early the next morning. The journey back is similar, with some afternoon travel. The journey time in each direction is approximately eight hours.

The same ferry company plies the coastal route too, from Rijeka to Dubrovnik, twice a week, the journey lasting from evening to the following morning. The return journey is from mid-morning to early the following morning. Korcula, Stari Grad (Hvar Island), Sobra (on Mljet) and Split are where the port of calls for the ferry.

Jadrolinija also runs daily ferries to the Elafiti islands (Kolocep Lopud and Sipan), Sobra and Split, from Dubrovnik. A three hour slow ferry or the high-speed and costlier catamaran Nona Ana, operated by G&V Line, are the two options to get Mljet. It runs daily from Gruz Harbor in Dubrovnik to Sobra and Polace and takes 90 minutes.

WHAT TO DO

Dubrovnik is not a large town even with though it has a population of around 49,000, and sprawls over miles of coastline. The heart of the city is still the Old Town and is very compact to cover easily by walk.

The city walls and the walk along them is the one major attraction of Dubrovnik you shouldn’t miss. A day and a half would be enough to cover the rest of the old town.

One can catch stunning views of the town and the coast from above the bare ridge of Mount Srd that runs above the town to the east.

The islet of Lokrum is the best place for swimming and sunbathing.

Public transports can take you to the main tourist resorts south of Dubrovnik, Zupa Dubrovacka and Cavtat. The city’s port is a natural gateway to the southernmost islands of the Croatian Adriatic. The lesser populated islands of Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan provide a leisurely bathing opportunities. The green island of Mljetis is one of the highlights of the Southern Dalmatian coast. You will need at least a couple of days to take in its beauty in whole.

Old town and City Walls

To really appreciate the Old town is to do a tour of the city walls which encompass the Old city and are at least two km in length and could take an hour to complete the course in its entirety, though may be longer in summer due to the crowds.

Since some places of the walls are narrow, carrying backpacks is prohibited.

The city walls are well visible from the sky as you approach Dubrovnik. This fortification was built and rebuilt in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries as Turkish invasions were an imminent threat. At some points, the walls are about 20 feet thick and at least 82 feet high. The Old Town is fully encompassed by the walls and secured with forts and towers that are strategically placed throughout.

Today, the walls have become a favourite tourist destination. It offers beautiful views of the city’s buildings and the sea. During the summer festival, Shakespearean plays are performed in some forts along the wall. As the Dalmatian sun can be hard on your skin, it is advisable to be prepared. There are also some stairs that need to be climbed.

From the wall, the view below presents a sea of terracotta tiles, domes and towers. The Ragusan authorities charted strict regulations for the city’s growth as early as the 1270s, which were further rationalized during the post 1667 earthquake reconstruction.

Visitors are allowed atop the walls from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and in summer until 7 p.m., for HRK 50.

Dubrovnik Cable Car

After the city sustained heavy bombing, the original Dubrovnik cable cars were shut down in 1991. Almost two decades later, in 2010, the cable cars retuned again during the summer festival, which is the largest event of the city.

The cable cares offer spectacular views of the city and its surroundings from atop Mt. Srd. You can enjoy a drink or snacks from the snack bar on top. For a well-rounded experience, go up to the mountain by the cable car and return taking a leisurely walk down the mountain, to reach the old town city walls at the foot of the mountain in about 30 minutes.

The cable cars offer rides from 9 am. To 9 p.m. during peak season. They rise up to 450 metres above sea level in just 3 minutes. Bad weather and low season may force the operations to shut down.
Check the hours and schedule at the base station. A round trip costs HRK 73.

Dubrovnik Cathedral

The Dubrovnik Cathedral is the third church to be built on this site. Also called the Church of the Assumption, its predecessors were first a Byzantine building constructed in the 6th and 7th centuries. The second was a Romanesque church built in the 12th century, but was completely destroyed in the 1667 earthquake. The final reconstruction was done in the Baroque style as we see it today. The artwork that includes Titian’s The Assumption at the main altar is noteworthy as is the architecture. The treasury has an excellent collection of previous reliquaries and several body parts of St. Blaise.

The entry fees is HRK 10. The church is located next to the Rector’s Palace in old town, and is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except on Sunday to allow the morning mass.

Lokrum Island

The Dubrovnik beaches have limited space and are very few in number and hence could get quite crowded especially during the peak seasons. Lokrum Island is less than half a mile offshore and offers a clean and safe place to relax. The island also has a historic attraction – the 19th century Napoleonic Fort Royale. A Benedictine monastery was built on the island in 1023, but was razed to the ground by Napoleon and his forces. The fort offers excellent views of old town. A high-end restaurant and a few shopping stalls are available for island guests.

There are several boats departing every half hour from Dubrovnik’s old port and is presently charged HRK 25 per person. Day trippers should keep in mind that the last return boat leaves Lokrum to the mainland by 8 p.m.

Rector’s Palace

Rector’s Palace, also known as Dubrovnik Museum, is not like a regular monarch’s residence. Every Rector who occupied this palace lived there only for a month, as per the system of the Dubrovnik republic and this practice was followed until 1806, when its sovereignty ended after Napoleon’s conquest.

The museum has an impressive internal courtyard. The city museum is on the second floor, where antique furniture and works of local artists are on display. The unique collection of clocks is noteworthy. Rector’s palace lies in the best location in old town, bang on the water and at the end of Stradun, between the Dubrovnik Cathedral and St. Blaise Church.

The cost of admission is HRK 40 and the palace is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the year, the hours extended till 6 p.m. in the summer.

Frescoes by artists of the 19th century, a huge chandelier and a wide staircase are found inside. There are 45-minutes tours held daily in English. Tickets are available in the Opera Shop, by the sphinx at the Hajós utca entrance.

War Photo Limited

The War Photo Limited’s website proclaims “to educate the public in the field of war photography, to expose the myth of war and the intoxication of war, to let people see war as it is, raw, venal, frightening, by focusing on how war inflicts injustices on innocents and combatants alike.”
Pace yourself gently and allow enough time for yourself to emotionally recover as the photos are real-life war records and hence, disturbing. The display focuses on modern warfare, featuring the recent violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Located off the Stradun in the centre of old town, the War Photo Limited is open only from May to October. Summer has the museum open between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily. Other months have restricted hours. The ticket price could be around HRK 30.

Game of Thrones

Dubrovnik has become more famous in recent times after it was chosen as a prime location for filming the well-known tele serial ‘Game of Thrones’, where fictional places like ‘Kings Landing’, ‘Qarth’, etc. were filmed.

There are many ‘Thrones’ walking tours that would take you through many such shooting spots. The tourist info centres in the city (Pile Gate) can give you more information.

A majority of the shooting was done in the Old Town and also Fort Lovrijenac, including the little beach and pier in the cove. A memorable scene was shot at the base of the Minceta Tower also which was telecast in the episode “Qarth”.

Some portions of “Qarth” were also filmed at Rector’s Palace staircase and you can view it from the entrance of the Palace and no need to pay the entrance fee and go inside to view it.

You can reach Lokrum Island where many scenes were filmed, and is just a 10-minute boat ride away. Trsteno Arboretum can be reached in a day trip, again where many scenes were filmed too.

Diocletian’s Palace in Split and Klis Fortress and the waterfront in Sibenik are other places of interest in Croatia, which the Game of Thrones crew have used as their filming locations.

Sailing and boat trips

The Adriatic coast can be explored by boat starting from Dubrovnik, covering Elaphite islands, Korcula, Peljesac and Mljet. Charter sailings or motor yachts are offered by many charter agencies based in Dubrovnik. Most of them operate from ACI marina Dubrovnik, based in Komolac.

PLACES NEAR BY

Cavtat

Thousands visit Dubrovnik per day. But Cavtat’s trails have lesser crowds. It is 17km south of Dubrovnik, with secluded swimming spots, serene walking paths and park benches.

Developed during the 15th century under the Republic of Dubrovnik, today’s Cavtat is a fishing town and a small-scale seaside resort. There is a natural bay on either side of the small peninsula occupied by medieval stone buildings of the old town. Open-air cafes and restaurants fill the main bay, which are lined with palm trees. A beach, with many socialist-era hotels, overlooks the second bay.

Korčula

Korcula is Southern Dalmatia’s most visited island. It was named Kerkyra Melaina (Black Corfu) by the ancient Greeks. The island was under Venetian rule between the 10th and the 18th centuries. It is known for its traditional sword dances and white wines. Korcula’s claim to fame is it is probably the birthplace of Marco Polo.

A smaller version of Dubrovnik, Korcula is also the name of the capital near the island’s eastern tip. It has the same high walls, circular corner fortresses and church towers. But, the town plan differs from its mainland cousin. Korcula has narrow side streets running off the main thoroughfare at odd angles. It forms a herring-bone pattern. This decreases the speed of the winter winds.

The town is a treasure trove of Gothic and Renaissance churches, palaces and piazzas – A result of the Venetian rule. They were built from local stone which was the base of the island’s early wealth. The centre is small and can be explored in an hour.

Lopud

The laid back Elafiti islands provide a perfect retreat for you to relax. The 13 islets were under Dubrovnik’s control when the Franciscan monastery monks used to visit the islands for its herbs to be used in their pharmacy. The local aristocracy later built summer villas here. Today, only the three larger islets Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan, are inhabited, with a total population of 1000. Only Sipan has cars. A day trip from Dubrovnik by ferry or by kayak takes ensures a comfortable visit to any of the three islets, though Lopud is the only island among them well-equipped for an over-night stay.

Mljet

Mljet is a long, thin island with steep slopes and dense pine forests, which are the oldest in Europe, and have now been protected as a National Park now. It was ruled by the Bosnian kings during medieval times. They handed it over to Benedictine monks from Puglia in Italy in the 12th century. The monks passed it on to the Republic of Dubrovnik in 1410.

It is now home to half a dozen small villages, with a total population of 1100 people.

Orebić

The mountain, Sveti Ilija, at 3153 feet, makes a lovely backdrop to Orebic. It lies across a narrow sea channel to the island of Korcula. Known for its sandy beach and beautiful hillside monastery, Orebic is the gateway to the Peljesac Peninsula. It is also much acclaimed for its red wines.

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