The popularity of Dubrovnik has exploded in recent years, “thanks” to Game of Thrones. But before and beyond that craze, Dubrovnik must be one of the most magical cities in the world. It is a very manageable place, easily visited on foot in a day, though we thought the four nights we spent there were perfect to enjoy it at leisurely pace, plus take some daytrips to neighboring Montenegro and Bosnia.
On our first morning there, we entered the old town through the 14th century Ploce gate, checking out the remains of the drawbridge, and the statue of St. Blaise, patron saint of the city. I was already loving it! We paid the entrance fee to the city walls (~$40) and started the counterclockwise circuit. There is a reason why these walls are UNESCO World Heritage and world famous, there is nothing quite like them. Initially built in the early middle ages, and rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries to protect the Republic of Ragusa against the Ottoman empire, the white limestone walls, towers and forts look frozen in time.
The views are another unforgettable aspect of this walk. The old town is packed with red-tiled roofs, churches and other historical structures, all compacted inside the walls and against the deep blue Adriatic sea. The Minceta tower and the Lovrijenac fortress might be the two most scenic spots, the first one taken straight out of a children’s book, the second one with its spectacular cliffside setting (and very recognizable for GoT fans).
After a very sweaty 90-minute walk on the walls, we descended into the old town. The main street, Stradun or Placa, basically stretches the whole town, and contains many of the top sites: the Venetian Sponza palace, the clock tower, the church of St. Blaise, Orlando’s column, and on the other end, right before the Pile gate, the super cool 15th century St. Onofrio fountain (still supplying fresh water!). And just a few steps away are other sites worth checking out: the Franciscan monastery, the Rector’s palace, the cathedral, and the Jesuit staircase (another must see for GoT fans: where Cercei’s “walk of shame” starts).
As if all these sites weren’t enough, Dubrovnik is a very charming city to simply wander around, sliding on the polished limestone pavement, getting lost in narrow alleyways, popping into neat little shops, or taking a break at one of the dozens of cute terraces of restaurants and cafes. I have particularly good memories of the pizzas at Oliva, and the gelatos at Peppino’s.
After days of moving around and booking hotels on the flight, we were glad to have splurged and booked the Grand Villa Argentina for these four nights. Its convenient location, a 10-minunte walk south of the old town, and its limestone structure, terraced garden and waterfront layout made it the perfect place to stay… and to swim. In between visits, we would go down to the seaside pool, and jump from the cliff into the aquamarine water, cooling off while still enjoying at the old town. One day we popped to the nearby Banje beach, which looks absolutely gorgeous, but the pebbles made it too uncomfortable and unable to compete with our pool.
On our last morning, before a final plunge in the Adriatic and before heading to the airport, we took the cable car (~$25). The panoramic view of Dubrovnik was breathtaking, and a great way to wrap up our time in Croatia. We had absolutely loved this country, and I was sure we would come back.