Monday 22 November 2021

Croatia: in love with Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, jewel of the Adriatic, once a prosperous trading hub, now a tourist's dream. Our half-term visit in October to this beautiful old city still glows in my memory. After 18 months of being confined to the UK, it was our first trip abroad post-Covid. Blinking sleepily, we stumbled through the sliding doors at the airport into a sunlit world with china-blue skies and breathtaking views of the glittering sea. 

Stradun - paved in white marble
We felt like we'd been magically teleported back into a European summer. Wall-to-wall sunshine, with highs of 21 degrees. Woo-hoo! Back home, it was raining. With a rush of euphoria, I realised the endless form-filling and antigen tests were finally worth it. How lucky were we.

During our four-day trip, we stayed in an apartment, part of Hotel More, in the old city. Just off the main thoroughfare of Stradun, this was originally a merchant's mansion that had been split into apartments with lofty ceilings and stone architraves around the doors. We booked our break (flights and accommodation) through the uber-efficient Suzanne Asbury of Designer Travel, who also walked us through the Covid regs.

What I particularly loved about Dubrovnik was the stunning  Renaissance architecture, set against a dazzling seascape. Following an earthquake and fire in 1667, the then Republic of Ragusa passed a law to specify how the city was re-built. The result is a pleasing uniformity of design, which lends Dubrovnik a fairytale quality.

No cars are allowed within the old city walls. The taxi from the airport dropped us at the Ploce (east) gate and we then wheeled our suitcases along the marble-paved Stradun to our apartment building. 

A nook with a view

We got the lie of the land on the first day with a stroll on top of the city walls - again we were blown away by how beautiful it was. Still dazed from our early-hours flight, we found the panoramas of the sea - framed by the occasional stone look-out - quite mesmerising. Even the lines of washing hanging in back gardens seemed rather romantic! 

My greatest joy was swimming in the sea. The coast is rocky, but with the help of a friendly local, I clambered over a little rocky ledge near the old port and dived into deepish blue water... bliss! Meanwhile my daughter sat reading her book in the sunshine, looking out to sea. At sunset hour, you can pop through little doorways carved into the city walls, taking you out onto the rocks for more swimming, or a drink at the Buza Bar. Orange-lozenge sunsets sealed the end of each perfect day.

Gazing out to sea at Lovrijenac
Our time in Dubrovnik was a satisfying mix of sight-seeing, culture and swimming. Being slightly out of season meant we could actively explore without getting over-heated, plus we missed the hordes of visitors from the cruise ships that dock further down the coast. If I could find that magic portal again, I'd go back in a flash 😊.

More highlights

  • Climbing up to the fort of Lovrijenac (also a set for the Game of Thrones TV series). The view across a green-water bay with a picturesque stone jetty, to the old city beyond, was awe-inspiring, even by Dubrovnik standards. The story goes that the locals built the fort in just three months to outwit the Venetians.

Fit for Game of Thrones

  • Hopping on a cable car to the Napoleaonic Fort Imperial and Homeland War Museum, high up on a ridge overlooking the old city. Although this museum is more targeted at domestic tourists, there was some moving ITN news footage about the 1991-2 siege of Dubrovnik during the Balkans war. It was sobering to see film of people running down Stradun, ducking as the Serbian forces launched another missile attack. We then walked back down to the old city on a rocky zig-zag path.

  • Catching a ferry to the island of Lokrum, where we walked up to another fort, consorted with peacocks and sat on the iron throne (another Game of Thrones feature). The best bit was plunging into an inland 'dead sea' bordered by cliffs.

Looking out at Lokrum from the city walls


  • A highlight was eating Bosnian cuisine at the Taj Mahal restaurant, tucked away in a back street in the old city. We ate outside with an added blanket provided for warmth. Our favourite dish was 'Leon' - chicken filled with feta cheese and rice. 

  • Another hit was the Konoba Jezuite near the Jesuit steps, where the black cuttlefish risotto was delicious and the staff were charming. 

  • For a dramatically scenic dinner on a terrace overlooking the sea, try Dubravka, although the food wasn't particularly memorable. 

  • There's also a bakery on Stradun, called Mlinar, which we visited for tasty pastries in the morning, particularly apple or spinach bureks.


  • We invested in a three-day Dubrovnik card, which gives free entry to various attractions, including the city walls and the fort of Lovrijenac. It also includes discounts at some of the restaurants and the Lokrum reserve, plus free bus travel outside the city.

  • Remember that Croatia has its own currency (kuna) but many of the restaurants accept euros. We used a Revolut bank card to pay most of our bills (saves on foreign currency transaction fees).

  • The old city is pedestrianised with steep steps up to different levels - bring comfy shoes and a good level of fitness. Probably not ideal for prams or anyone with walking difficulties. 

  • The Croatians are straight-talkers, but also hospitable and well accustomed to visitors. They speak good English, which was useful as my Croatian is pretty non-existent.

The old city of Dubrovnik

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