Dubrovnik doesn’t seem entirely real. It has this ethereal, Disneyfied feel to it – so old and full of history, yet just so perfect. Every cobblestone has been worn smooth from the footsteps of centuries and every terracotta rooftop gleams like a beacon against the azure sea.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, Dubrovnik nevertheless suffered enormous damage from shelling in the siege of 1991. Since then, the Old Town has undergone painstaking reconstruction and repairs.
Today, it is a wonder. Wandering the narrow, winding back streets and wide open avenues, you can perfectly picture the city in centuries gone by. The stories of generations are carved into the fabric of the city.
Jutting out into a deep natural harbour, Dubrovnik Old Town is surrounded by water on three sides. Approaching from the south by taxi boat, the walls loom high above you.
There are no bad views in the Old Town. Every corner you turn reveals a new sight, each better than the last. Perhaps the best views, however, are revealed from atop the city walls. Tickets cost around 100 kuna, and the views are worth every penny.
A word to the wise: there are steps (lots and lots of them) and the walls are very exposed. If you go in the heat of summer, I’d advise heading early in the morning or later in the afternoon – the better lighting is just another bonus!
The Old Town itself is very compact. If you’re in the mood for an adventure, you can try striking along the coastal road stretching south from the city. You’ll pass endless hidden coves and secret swimming spots. After around 3km, the road narrows to a dusty track and you’ll see an intricate wrought iron archway – long rusted and peeling – that reads ‘Hotel Belvedere’.
Hotel Belvedere is a casualty of war. Once a grand, opulent hotel, it was abandoned in the war and fell into disrepair. Today it is littered with junk and covered in scrawls of graffiti. It has also become somewhat a tourist spot… For the Game of Thrones fans out there (guilty!), the huge amphitheatre was the site of that fight between The Mountain and Oberyn Martell – yeah, you know the one.
For the non-GOT addicts, a) you need to get on it, and b) the views more than make up for the walk.
As the sun dips below the horizon, there is only one place to be: Panorama. A short cable car ride takes you up a sheer cliff face to an open air restaurant perching high above the city.
With views like that, they could serve gruel and still have a queue every night, but the food is actually great and no more expensive than elsewhere in the Old Town. A few notes – the cable car ticket is separate to your meal. You can drive up a winding path, but if you’re heading up on two legs you will have to get the cable car. It’s also absolutely worth calling ahead to book a table right by the cliff edge for the best sunset views.
If you don’t make it up to Panorama, then head to Buza Bar- otherwise known as the hole in the wall bar. This is a tiny bar built into the city walls, clinging onto the cliff face. Swimmers splash in the waters below you, whilst the braver ones dive from high above. It’s the best spot for people watching in the city. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it until after dark so my photos are terrible! I have it on good authority, however, that the vibe in late afternoon is unrivalled.
Pic credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis
Dubrovnik is unlike any other city I’ve visited. It is ancient, steeped in history, yet feels almost shiny and new. It’s colourful and bright – all cobalt skies above umber rooftops. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. It is absolutely one to add to the bucket list…