A City Guide to Dubrovnik
Famously known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, the city of Dubrovnik has been the most prominent port on the Dalmatian Coast for almost a thousand years. However, more recently, Dubrovnik is most famous for its association with the hit TV show Game of Thrones. The stunning Old Town is the filming location for the vast majority of the scenes which depict Kings Landing – the capital city of the fictional land of Westeros.
Whilst Dubrovnik’s popularity as a tourist destination has undoubtedly risen as a result of being featured in Game of Thrones, this city has infinitely more to offer than just a place for movie fans to take selfies...
Historical sites may not be the sexiest of focuses for the first part of this city guide to Dubrovnik but, as it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, they are impossible to ignore. Having being founded in 1189 and occupied by the Byzantines, Venetians, Romans, Ottomans and Austrians, Dubrovnik is full of historical influences and monuments. The most striking of these monuments surrounds the city: the ancient walls.
These fortifications encircle and frame the Old Town and are an excellent starting point for strolling around to get your bearings. Entrance is 150 HRK (about £17) but with it you will receive a Dubrovnik Card, which includes a visit to other sites in the city, such as the Cultural Historical Museum and Maritime Museum.
Once you’ve got acquainted with your surroundings, and successfully seen first-hand that you are quite safe from any marauding pirates, it’s time to explore some more of the historical delights Dubrovnik has on offer. The city is awash with beautiful examples of European and Christian architecture, but here are a few not to be missed:
This may be the first building you come across if you enter from the east. It was the seat of the Rector of the Republic of Ragusa.
You can’t miss it! This Cathedral was built using money donated by the ‘Richard the Lionheart’ after the English king safely moored up on the island of Lokrum following a storm.
Located in the eastern part of the city, this Gothic building was founded in 1225 and its most photogenic attribute is its stunning cloister.
Old Pharmacy at Franciscan Monastery
Not just any old pharmacy, the old pharmacy. This is the site of the oldest pharmacy in Europe and, remarkably, is still a working chemist today.
After all this sightseeing you’ll probably feel pretty parched; refresh yourself from a fountain which has delivered clean water to the city since the 13th century.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the city you can’t escape that giant blue expanse on the horizon, otherwise known as the Adriatic. This particular sea separates the Italian and Balkan peninsulas and is a blue larder full of marine delicacies. Specialities include giant prawns which are lovingly prepared with olive oil, garlic and Mediterranean herbs, squid with seasonal vegetables and a plethora of the freshest fish on the Dalmatian Coast, such as John dory or sea bass.
If you visit one restaurant make it the Panorama Restaurant atop Mount Srd. I have yet to come across a more privileged – or delicious – viewpoint of a European city.
At the restaurant I would recommend the sea bass (168 HKR, roughly £19), although I’m sure that everything is delicious. To make sure that you have a seat with the best view it is wise to book ahead.
The walk to the restaurant up the 412-metre high peak of Mount Srd offers the opportunity to pre-burn the calories from the meal, as well as providing beautiful vistas of the ancient city below. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, a cable car service is available (£140 HKR, roughly £16) from just outside the Old Town.
If it’s sea-level dining that you desire then you would be hard pressed to beat Dubravka 1836, just outside Pile Gate. Here they make noodles with squid ink and, although it doesn’t alter the taste too much, it certainly makes the dish look exquisite. Arrive in the early evening and you can watch the sun sink below the horizon while agile swifts fly in and out of their nesting spots around the city walls.
Abundant things to do
If the thrill of being in a UNESCO World Heritage site is insufficient for you then you can always try cliff diving, just outside the city walls. As part of a tour or with the help of a guide, you can try this adrenaline-inducing activity safely. If cliff diving isn’t for you, there is a bar from which you can observe instead, sipping a refreshing beverage as those energetic enough to launch themselves into the Adriatic do just that.
What better way to get up close and personal with the city walls than to paddle alongside them? Kayaking excursions are available throughout Dubrovnik and the tranquil waters of the Adriatic make for a leisurely afternoon tour.
The island of Lokrum sits 600 metres off the coast of Dubrovnik and, although it is said to be cursed after a French general ordered the closure of the island’s monastery, it is quite safe for a visit. If you’re superstitious, just make sure that you are away before nightfall.
The island is home to peacocks and lovely botanical gardens, perfect for strolling; enjoy the blissful tranquillity offered by the surrounding Mediterranean foliage. And if you’re loving the weather, be sure to top up your tan in full capacity at the island’s nudist beach – think even coverage.
A two-hour ferry ride away from Dubrovnik you’ll find Mljet. To the northwest of the island is an area of national parkland, complete with two saltwater lakes, stunningly blue and turquoise against the surrounding pine-covered hillsides. It is a mesmerising spot, made for a day of cycling, kayaking and excessive camera usage.
Whether it’s the great outdoors, rich history or outstanding gastronomy you crave, Dubrovnik will deliver. So what more are you waiting for? Get down to the Pearl of the Adriatic to see it for yourself – Game of Thrones sets and all.