While Croatia is not as popular a European vacation spot as Italy, France, or Greece, travelers from around the world are beginning to recognize Croatia as an up-and-coming destination, particularly admiring the city for its pristine beaches and stunning natural beauty. Though it may be the underdog of the European travel scene, Croatia is ideally situated on the Adriatic Sea and is becoming a popular destination for summertime travel.
Dubrovnik, one of the most well-known tourist destinations in Croatia, is a city rooted in the past; this is evident in its medieval architecture and laid-back lifestyle. While the city can become incredibly crowded during its peak season in the summer months, it still seems to move at a slower pace, something that undeniably draws visitors back each year.
There’s plenty to see and do in Dubrovnik. The city’s many attractions include breathtaking architecture, delicious local food, and world-class shopping.
Here are some of the best things to see and do during a vacation in Dubrovnik.
The Walls Of Dubrovnik
Undeniably Dubrovnik’s main attraction (it’s really hard to miss), the Walls of Dubrovnik run uninterrupted for 6,365 feet, encircling the city and giving it the nickname “the Pearl of the Adriatic.”
While the Walls of Dubrovnik have undergone several renovations and modifications throughout history, what’s still standing today is considered to be one of the greatest extant fortification systems of the Middle Ages. The landmark was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
Walking around the Walls of Dubrovnik is a must when visiting this incredible city. City Walls Walking Tours invites guests to walk along the walls accompanied by guides who explain the history of the walls and tell interesting stories about them.
Stradun, also known as Placa, is the urban core of Dubrovnik. The street, lined with all manner of shops, restaurants, and street performers, is a popular gathering place and is always lively. An ideal locale for people-watching, Stradun extends approximately 1,000 feet, dividing the city into northern and southern halves and serving as the shortest route between the western and eastern city gates.
Originally constructed to facilitate trade and strengthen the socio-economic ties between the Roman-Greek and Croatian-Slav settlements, Stradun has shown mostly Croatian influence since the 14th century.
Dubrovnik Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dubrovnik. The current cathedral building, which was completed in 1713 in the baroque style, was constructed over the ruins of two other cathedrals — one built in the 12th century in the Romanesque style (legend has it, by Richard the Lionheart), and one built in the seventh century.
Some of the cathedral’s main draws are the gold and silver reliquaries in its treasury. They contain the relics, or bone fragments and pieces of clothing, of various saints and other religious figures. The cathedral also features baroque altars and paintings by Italian, Croatian, and Flemish artists.
Dubrovnik Cathedral is open daily all year long. Entrance to the cathedral costs 15 kuna, or 2 euros.
Dubrovnik Cable Car
If you’re a lookout fanatic and thoroughly enjoy searching for the best views of a city, you shouldn’t miss the Dubrovnik Cable Car. Being able to wander through a city on foot is one thing, but being able to gaze upon an entire region from up above is an entirely different experience.
The cable-car ride is a short and sweet four minutes, transporting visitors nearly 3,000 feet to a plateau that offers the best views of the Old City. Once at the top, travelers can dine at the Panorama Restaurant & Bar for magnificent views and some delicious Mediterranean cuisine.
Commonly referred to as Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar, Lovrijenac, or St. Lawrence Fortress, is a fortress and theater situated outside the western wall of the city. Built on a 120-foot rock overlooking the Adriatic, Lovrijenac once served as the primary defense for the western part of Dubrovnik. It was operated by a 25-man garrison and a commander of the fort. While chronologists date the fortress as far back as the year 1018, the earliest records of the fort date from 1301, when the first council voted on the commander of the fort.
Today, the fortress serves as a beautiful lookout point and hosts various theater productions during the warm summer months.
If you’re looking to get away from the chaos of Dubrovnik, especially if you’re visiting during peak season, be sure to visit Lokrum, a picturesque island situated just 2,000 feet from Dubrovnik.
Travelers can reach Lokrum by taking a 15-minute ferry from Old Town Port. From June through August, the ferry runs 20 times per day. Once you’re on Lokrum, you can choose to leisurely roam the island, have a refreshing beverage at one of the area’s cafés, sunbathe, or take a dip in the Adriatic.
Other than being a great place to relax, Lokrum also has an interesting historical background. The Austrian archduke (and, briefly, the emperor of Mexico) Maximilian once owned a holiday home on the island, and the monastery and botanical garden still survive.
Eating In Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is known for its fresh seafood, juicy meat dishes, stews, and pastas. If you’re visiting Croatia, there are a few essential local dishes you shouldn’t leave without trying.
Although it doesn’t appear to be the most appealing dish, black risotto is a staple of Croatian cuisine, especially in Dubrovnik. Made with rice, squid, butter, and sometimes Parmesan cheese, this risotto gets its black color from squid ink. For the best black risotto in Dubrovnik, head to Dalmatino.
Another Dubrovnik special is “lamb under the bell,” otherwise known as peka. Cooked in outdoor kitchens called konobas, peka consists of lamb and peeled potatoes that are placed in a coal oven and left to cook for three hours or more. The result of this Croatian cooking method is the juiciest and most tender meat, surrounded by perfectly crisp potatoes. This is an ideal dish for large groups and takes several hours to prepare, so make sure to order in advance. For the best peka in Dubrovnik, check out Konoba Dubrava and Restaurant Komin.
Shopping In Dubrovnik
Whether you’re looking for souvenir shops, high-end fashion boutiques, or deli outlets (to bring back some Mediterranean goodies such as olive oil, of course), Dubrovnik has it all.
Located near Stradun, Dubrovnik’s main street and liveliest area, Maria is one of the few shops in the entire country where you can find international household names like Givenchy, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, and Stella McCartney. The prices will match the quality of the items you find — that’s why Maria is considered one of the city’s high-end retail stores.
A unique local shop, Uje is a deli outlet selling jams, pickled capers, marinated seafood, and its famous Brachia olive oil, a quality oil that hails from the island of Brac and is known for its complex essence and rich flavor.
For your everyday souvenir needs, Dubrovacka Kuca is a unique store selling authentic Croatian arts, crafts, and delicacies. Located in the Old City, this shop, a tourist favorite, offers traditional items made by local craftsmen. You’re sure to find great gifts for friends and family back home.
Photo Credit: Ihor Pasternak / Shutterstock