Dubrovnik

Ancient walls, seared almost white by centuries of exposure to a pitiless Adriatic sun, sheer straight upwards from the sparkling blue sea. Vast, implacable ramparts that seem to go on forever, embracing an ageless, entrancing metropolis, with a marble floored main street dating back to the fourteenth century. Dubrovnik is all that, and yet so much more besides.

Walking the vast series of vaulting walls that embrace this enigmatic city are a must, simply for the views in all directions. In all, these walls are between four to six metres thick on the landward side, and almost two kilometres long in all.  But come down to the heart of the old city- the main street known as Stradun- to get up close and personal with the real thing.

Here, a fantastic vista of amazing, colonnaded buildings line both sides of what amounted to a medieval kind of ‘strip’. See the stunning, sixteenth century Sponza Palace, the cool, stately Franciscan Church, and the Rector’s Palace. At the top, Onofrio Fountain is a massive, hexagonal confection that can trace its origins back to the thirteenth century. The cathedral is a baroque colossus, looming above everything in sight. The entire city is a glut of architectural overkill.

The harbour is a pretty, yacht filled haven, awash with cafes, restaurants and ice cream parlours. For a change of pace, take a local boat over to the small island of Lokrum. Beautiful, cool, and sheathed in pine forests, this nature reserve island is just ten minutes’ from the mainland, and is ideal for a little quiet relaxation.

The winding lanes leading away towards the hills from Stradun contain a warren of shops, bars and restaurants that give you more of the true Croatian flavour, rather than some of the more commercial venue on the strip.  There are a couple of shingle beaches more or less within walking distance of the city walls, but they tend to get very crowded by mid day.

Few cruise ships these days anchor in the bay, and these are invariably the smaller ones. It’s about a five minute tender ride to the town quay if you do, and you land right at the entrance to the Stradun.

Most ships dock in the town of Gruz, about two and a half kilometres away. Most run shuttle buses to the Pile Gate, right at the entrance to the old walls. Taxis, which are plentiful, will take you on the same route at a cost of around ten euros per taxi.

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