The glittering port of Dubrovnik is Croatia’s hottest tourist spot, and it’s easy to see why clients can’t get enough of it.
The city’s beauty is extraordinary, particularly its walled Old Town that juts into the Adriatic. Dubrovnik is irresistible to holidaymakers in search of awe-inspiring architecture, beautiful beaches, superb cuisine and a rich cultural heritage.
THE OLD TOWN
Dubrovnik’s Unesco-listed Old Town is a marvel of Renaissance and baroque architecture, all encircled by two kilometres of medieval walls. The city walls are one of Dubrovnik’s biggest attractions and can get very busy. To see them at their best, suggest that clients visit either as soon as the ticket office opens (8am or 9am, depending on the season) or after 4pm when the number of visitors drops. They’re not to be missed, and the views of terracotta rooftops and the shimmering Adriatic are worth the eff ort.
The gleaming marble Stradun thoroughfare is the focus of the Old Town, its green-shuttered creamy stone buildings housing numerous shops and cafés. A stroll along Stradun from the Pile Gate to the Ploče Gate takes clients through centuries of Dubrovnik’s history as they pass the Franciscan monastery, the 17th-century Sponza Palace and the impressive Rector’s Palace. Just beyond is the Old Port, where waterfront cafes make inviting places to stop and take in the views.
Much of the pleasure of wandering through the pedestrianised Old Town involves getting lost in the narrow streets of shops and restaurants. Steep steps lead off Stradun to the north to the many restaurants of Prijeko, of which Stara Loza, Rozario, Wanda and the vegetarian Nishta are worth visiting.
To the south is a maze of alleyways, some of which lead to the daily morning market at Gundulićeva Poljana. Look out for Ulica od Margarite, where a sign that says “Cold drinks with the most beautiful view” leads to the Buža Bar that’s been built into rocky cliffs. Not surprisingly, given its romantic location, it’s one of the most popular spots for a sundowner.
Just outside the Ploče Gate is the pebbly town beach, Banje Beach, which includes a public area if clients don’t wish to rent a sunlounger from the beach club. For a more secluded swimming spot, head further south past the five-star hotels along the path leading down to Sveti Jakob beach, which is a mixture of pebbles and sand.
One of the best views – not only of Dubrovnik but also of much of the coastline – can be seen by taking the cable car to the top of Mount Srđ. The cable car station is just outside the Old Town, and at the top there’s a panoramic restaurant as well as the Museum of the Homeland War which recalls the 1991-92 siege of Dubrovnik.
Gruž port is where the cruise liners dock and where clients who are staying longer can take ferries to nearby islands including Mljet and the Elaphite archipelago. Gruž’s harbour and the neighbouring bus station are connected to the Old Town and other parts of Dubrovnik by an efficient bus network. Buses to the Old Town’s Pile Gate take about 10 minutes and clients can buy tickets on board. Otherwise, it’s a 3km walk. Gruž is very residential, although it does have the best food market in Dubrovnik. It’s open every morning except Sunday and is in a handy spot near the port. Many visitors use the market to pick up picnic supplies before boarding ferries to neighbouring islands.
LAPAD AND BABIN KUK
Clients looking for a seaside escape have a choice of beaches in Lapad and Babin Kuk, two districts that share a peninsula just across the channel from Gruž. It’s walkable from Gruž harbour, but there are also buses. Most of Dubrovnik’s hotels are here, many hugging the rugged cliffs and offering direct beach access. The pebbly beach in sheltered Lapad Bay is a favourite among families, and surrounding it is a wooded footpath that eventually leads to Copacabana Beach in Babin Kuk, one of the largest in the area. Like many beaches in the region, it’s pebbly and rocky in parts, and much easier to enjoy if you’re wearing swimming shoes.
The island of Lokrum is an enchanting place for a picnic and a swim for clients who want to steal away from the city for a few hours. It’s only a 15-minute boat ride from the Old Port, and laced with forested footpaths, the ruins of an old monastery and even a shallow saltwater lagoon. The southern side has rocky beaches, including one for naturists marked by an FKK sign. There’s only one cafe on the island and no shops, so it’s best to bring your own food and drink.
About 17 kilometres south of Dubrovnik is the alluring village of Cavtat, which can be reached via boat from the Old Port (45 minutes) or along the coast road by bus. It’s one of the most attractive along the coast, with a palm-lined promenade filled with cafes and restaurants. Set on a peninsula between two bays, it’s a relaxing place for lunch and a walk around the wooded path that hugs the headland.
From April till late October, Dubrovnik has an extensive flight schedule from UK airports. Jet2 serves Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London Stansted, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham. Clients flying with easyJet can go from Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh, London Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. Monarch serves Birmingham, Gatwick and Manchester, while Thomson flies from Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Gatwick and Manchester. Norwegian serves Gatwick, as does British Airways – the only airline that flies all year round from the UK to Dubrovnik.
WHERE TO STAY:
Clients can opt for one of the five-star beachfront hotels just south of the Old Town. Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik, set in a grand 1913 villa, has just had a revamp and features a private beach and a spa with a freshwater pool. More economical hotels are in Lapad and Babin Kuk.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Dubrovnik is busy most months of the year, and things go into overdrive during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival in July and August. Carnival in February is also popular, as is the Festival of St Blaise from February 2-3.
May to June and September to October are the most temperate months to visit, as the mercury can soar well past 30C in high summer. It can be very pleasant even in late autumn, although many restaurants close for the winter from mid-November.
Croatia uses the kuna, which you can easily buy from banks and exchange counters in the UK as Croatia is in the European Union. Some shops and restaurants will take euros, but they will give back kuna in change.
There are plenty of nearby places ripe for exploration for clients wishing to hire a car. Just north of the city is the Pelješac peninsula, which includes the enormous Trsteno Arboretum and the twin villages of Ston and Mali Ston – home to some of Croatia’s best oysters. South of Dubrovnik is the Konavle region, with its endless vineyards and pretty villages. The border with Montenegro is only about a 45-minute drive from Dubrovnik, and clients driving a bit further on can visit the Montenegrin resorts of Herceg Novi, Budva and Unesco-listed Kotor.