The Wonders Of Dubrovnik, Croatia
” Those who seek paradise on Earth should come and see Dubrovnik.”
– George Bernard Shaw
Dubrovnik is one of Croatia’s most spectacular cities, picturesquely set on the Adriatic Sea coast, and has rightfully been included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Mr Shaw went so far as to deem it “the pearl of the Adriatic.” The city’s hey-day occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries when Dubrovnik rivalled Venice in terms of trade and splendour.
These days it’s an incredibly well-preserved medieval walled city which looks like it has popped out of a fairytale, and is bound to steal your heart.
The Old City district, with its central Stradun pedestrian stretch surrounded by a plethora of tight medieval alleyways, is positively steeped in character which instantly transports you into a different era. The first thing you’re likely to notice are all the amazing fortifications: the 4-6 meter thick walls run 2km around the city, abundantly interspersed with fortresses, towers and turrets. Local tour guides, leaving from the Pile Gate every hour during peak season, will share many colorful anecdotes from Dubrovnik’s rich history, bringing it all to life for you. If you are here a little longer, grab the Dubrovnik card, an all-in-one ticket for all the main museums which will save you money and time.
If you happen to be a bookworm like me, make sure to drop by the Franciscan monastery: the incredible library is home to 30,000 volumes, 216 incunabula, and 1,500 priceless handwritten documents, including beautiful illuminated psalters. The Dominican Monastery has a smaller collection, but is housed within an impressive fortress-like building. The city has a significant array of Renaissance and baroque architecture as well, of course, but it is famous for its medieval treasures such as the Little Brothers monastery pharmacy dating back to 1317, still in operation and the third oldest in Europe!
If you can, try to arrange your visit between 10 July and 25 August, when the annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival is on. Yes it’s crowded (Dubrovnik is usually crowded: funnily enough, places branded as “paradise” usually suffer from this particular affliction) and hot, but the seemingly never-ending stream of street theatre, concerts, opera, dance performances and games happening across no less than 70 open-air venues makes it all worth-while.
Cable Car Ride
Taking the gondola up to the mountain is an absolute must when you’re visiting Dubrovnik – the city truly displays the splendour of its history, architecture and harbour setting in these stunning mountaintop views, especially impressive at sunset, when you can relax with a drink at the terrace.
Visit the war museum in the old fortress, featuring an exhibit on the conflict between Serbia and Croatia and documenting the attack on Dubrovnik. There is a nice restaurant here as well, if you wish to make an evening of it.
To top it all off Dubrovnik is surrounded by beautiful little islands to escape to for a dip, within easy reach by ferry. Lokrum Island can be found only a short ride away, and the local legends say Richard the Lionheart was shipwrecked here in 1192! The “cursed island” has a hilltop fortress and monastery to explore, as well as botanic gardens with peacocks roaming freely, a salt lake with a cave, and even a nudist beach for the brave souls. If you are looking at Mediterranean cruises and they include a stopover in Dubrovnik, you’re in for a treat.
If you’re more into sporting activities such as bike-riding and hiking the natural parks, you could opt to explore Mljet Island instead. Korcula Island offers the charm of a small town alongside natural wonders, and has been consistently described as “mini Dubrovnik”! Truly, Croatia’s coast has islands plentiful and gorgeous enough to offer the fussiest of Robinson Crusoe’s out there something to dream about!