Croatia… what’s not to love? My admiration for the stunning country grew once I set foot in this ancient city. So, what exactly can you expect to experience here? Well, with its gorgeous view of the Adriatic Sea thanks to it’s location on the Dalmation Coast, paired with its medieval architecture, tight limestone streets and terracotta rooftops all surrounded by its famous city walls in the Old Town district, you can be sure it will be a trip like no other!
I mean it is one of the world’s finest and perfectly preserved medieval cities with its stone walls built between the 11th and 17th centuries still standing. No wonder its named the Pearl of the Adriatic.
What do you picture when you think of Croatia? A lot of people say war and fighting but I always think of the sea, greenery and my friend from primary school that always used to go there. Because of how laid back life is there and the amount of tourism, I just could not imagine it being one of those old war zones despite its reputation and all of the evidence to support this.
After the Walls first being built, they were then fortified in the 14th , and were once again strengthened in the 15th century due to the threat of attack from the Turks to result in the entire Old Town being contained within a 2km long and 25m high stone barrier. One of the many highlights of any trip to Dubrovnik and one of the must do things is to get a ticket to climb to the top of the walls and walk your way around the town. They really are the tallest and the finest protective walls in the world and you can see why it’s the city’s main claim to fame.
The views of the glistening water and the sight of the shelling damage from the 1990’s Siege of Dubrovnik (Croatian War of Independence) while gazing over the terracotta damaged rooftops makes for some incredible pictures and lasting memories. You could spend hours along the top of the walls, there are toilets and cafes where you can take a rest and there is a mad amount of viewpoints giving you unlimited opportunities to grab a scenic snap. With it being a cheap admission price it’s also a great way to spend some time getting to know the ins and outs and the nitty gritty of the city.
Truthfully, all of the fascination is found in the Old Town and you will more than likely spend the majority of your time here. There is more than enough to keep you on the go; a huge variety of shops, restaurants and of course the most important thing… Ice cream parlours. You can get some crazy flavours around here including peanut butter and jelly which I discovered for the first time and devoured in record time! There is also a market in the square where you can grab some fresh local produce and souvenirs.
The Old Town is full of palaces, churches and monasteries which in a way sums up its personality and is able to give visitors an insight into its history. Once you are inside the city walls it is a traffic free zone (including no cycling) so be prepared for some walking and stair climbing as there are no lifts to get full access without a little effort.
On a warm day, its nice to also take a stroll around the Old Harbour/Old Port with some refreshments and admire the view of sailing vessels all lined up. There is also a range of boat tours that depart from here so you are able to head out onto the deep blue sea and get some snaps from a different angle while being guided around the gorgeous city sea front.
Moving on to probably the highlight of my visit and something I got to tick off my bucket list… Sea Kayaking. I never really imagined myself doing this but as soon as I was given the chance I jumped at it! We started off at a little pebble beach just outside the city walls where we got partnered up, suited up in lifejackets and loaded up the waterproof containers with our things just before we hopped in and headed out into the unknown…
It took a great deal of getting used to as our balance was totally off and our paddling was so out of sync so it took us forever to get moving (and not just splashing around in circles). We headed out into the open water and towards some mammoth rocks where our guide gave us the option of two routes. Left or right. We were taken around the coast and explored some hidden caves and bays whilst also getting the chance to have a swim (as long as we didn’t let the kayaks out of our sight because that would have been disastrous)! I was amazed by how clear the water was, you could see everything beneath you and it felt like something out of a fairytale or Disney film. We paddled and paddled for what felt like hours until we reached a secluded beach where we took a break to have lunch, dive off the cliffs and also get a little sun burnt (although that was probably just me). We were here for quite some time but it was nice to just escape reality and be away from the world for a while in our own little bubble. I will admit I was not one of the ones that was brave enough to dive off the cliffs especially as I am not the strongest swimmer but I had no problem watching and filming all the other lunatics do it.
Heading back to the hustle and bustle of the Old Town resulted in some competitions as you could imagine, but we’ll conclude that there were no losers and just for team spirit, we all won *cough cough* and also some serious soakings from us splashing water at each other with the oars. All in all, a great experience and one I would highly recommend.
The nightlife in Dubrovnik is like no other, wandering around the Old Town at dusk gives it a whole new image and you feel like you’ve been transported back centuries. The music playing out from all the bars and restaurants seemed to be drowned out by all the attention going towards the street performers and buskers. It sets a great atmosphere and keeps everyone alive while darting from one place to the next. All of the bars seemed to be crammed with people living their best lives but the only place you would find me is in the next ice cream parlour of course!
For those of you who wish to admit to being a fan of the hit tv series” A Game of Thrones,” you will recognise a lot of the setting as it was the main filming location. If you did have a big interest in it, it will be hard for you to see the city as anything other than the show’s home and luckily, there are guided tours available so you can visit all of the key spots as well as dive into your wallet and splash the cash on all of the souvenirs in pretty much any gift shop you come across. Now that’s dedication.
For the folk out there who are all about the views and getting the best Instagram shots, you should head up Mount Srd on one of the cablecars. It may be a little on the pricey side but it is worth it and can be the cherry on top of your trip! The Old Town vanishes into a panorama of Adriatic blue on the horizon and has featured in key moments in the city’s history including as a frontier against the Turks, as a Napoleonic fort and during the Yugoslav War in 1991. Basically just a mountain of history and lessons.
Despite all the history and the appearance of the city it is also a great destination to just relax on a beautiful sandy beach whether it be on the coast or in a hidden away cave so grab some grub, a towel and a cocktail and take some time to just relax, enjoy the view and appreciate the here and now.