A whirlwind mix of culture, the allure of turquoise sea, pebbly beaches, mountains and the medieval-walled Old Town, the compact city of Dubrovnik certainly exceeded expectations.
When you hear so much about a place there is a danger that you are going to be disappointed, but Dubrovnik really is as special as people say.
|Old Town and Banje Beach|
Damaged severely by an earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik managed to preserve its walls as well as some stunning Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches and palaces.
The disastrous “Homeland War” of the early 1990s also left its mark but the Pearl of the Adriatic, as the city is often called, has managed to put the past behind it. Nowadays, it is Croatia’s top tourist destination.
Tourists flock to see Dubrovnik’s real draw, the Old Town. You do not really come here for the museums, you come to soak up the atmosphere. Jostling with other sightseers, I entered via the Pile Gate to find myself with a view of the fabled Stradun, the main drag that runs through the Old Town’s beating heart.
|The Old Town|
Once a swamp, the now traffic-free promenade, played host to merchants in the Middle Ages. Today, surrounded by the city walls, churches, public buildings and stone houses meld harmoniously with lost-in-time shops, bars and restaurants.
It seems a regular pastime of not just tourists but also the locals to sit at a café and drink coffee while watching the world go by. Remember to find some time to mooch round the narrow stone streets and visit the Rector’s Palace and the Franciscan monastery.
Climb the steep steps of the monumental city wall which goes around the perimeter and your huffing and puffing will be rewarded with views of the Adriatic on one side and on the other side, mountains carpeted in red rooftops. There is always the cable car for the less intrepid.
Outside the city walls, Dubrovnik oozes a distinctive Mediterranean flavour. Saunter past gardens exploding with vibrant colours as you linger along the beautiful coastal paths.
|Rixos Libertas Dubrovnik|
Hugging the coastline are plenty of villas and hotels, some of which only some twenty-odd years ago provided shelter for locals whose homes had been bombed and have themselves now been rebuilt as they, too, were victims of the war.
Beaches here are pebbly or light shingle. One of the best is Banje Beach. As it is beside the Old Town, you can head here to take time out to relax or go for a dip in the sparkling sea. If you have more time, take a short boat trip to explore the forested island of Lokrum where you can also swim and sunbathe.
Late summer or spring is a lovely time to visit. There are not too many cruise ships (when they are in town, you can hardly move) but you may find yourself bumping into fans of the TV program Game of Thrones, which was filmed here. Since Hollywood discovered Dubrovnik, so have even more tourists.
By Daralyn Danns
British Airways flies from London Gatwick to Dubrovnik from £62 each way. For connections from regional airports and to book, visit www.britishairways.com
Rixos Libertas Dubrovnik is a member of Great Hotels of the World Premium Collection. Double room rates start from EUR 84.80. Just a few minutes walk from the Old Town this is a superb place. For more information or to book, visit www.ghotw.com/hotel/home/rixos-libertas.htm or call 020 7380 3658