Date visited: June 2011
As we publish this post in November 2020 we are still in lockdown 2; this reflects on a long weekend we spent in Dubrovnik in 2011 to celebrate Chris’s 50th birthday. We were there for 4 days (3 nights) which enabled us to explore the nooks and crannies of this gorgeous mediaeval town at a leisurely and relaxed pace.
Overlooking the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik hugs the coastline in southern Croatia. Being a 2.5 hour flight from London this is easily doable for a short break and resulted in a fabulous place to celebrate such a milestone birthday!
Similar to Madeira being known as the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’, Dubrovnik happens to be widely considered as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’!
Built in 1537, the imposing Pile Gate is the main entrance to the Old Town. Having been dropped here by the airport bus, this was our first glimpse of the walled city. You walk across a huge stone bridge over a dry moat before you reach the Pile Gate and are able to enter the Old Town.
Walking the wall
One of the most popular activities in Dubrovnik is to walk around the famous 16th century city wall. We recommend this is the first port of call on any Dubrovnik itinerary as you get to see the whole city from an excellent vantage point especially if you arrive at Pile Gate which is next to the main entrance to the wall.
At the time for our walking the wall tickets we paid 70 kunas each (about £8.40 then) although having just checked the cost now seems to be 200 HRK (kunas) per adult!
A photographers paradise… wonderful views of the city and the sparkling sea open up on every turn as you amble along the 2 km length of the wall. As they soak up the sights, most people spend a couple of hours walking all of the way round and taking a drink and probably a hat with you is highly recommended in the summer.
Erected in 1444 Onofrio’s Fountain provided an elaborate water system for the people of Dubrovnik with water being sourced from a location 12 miles away. Onofrio’s Fountain is located close to the Pile Gate.
Once you’ve finished walking the wall you will have noticed a huge array of cafes, bars and restaurants for lunch, dinner or a drink… or you may wish to indulge at one of the many ice-cream parlours. You can also spend time exploring the inside of some of the historic buildings.
We had a look in the Old Pharmacy Museum which is located in the Franciscan Monastery. The pharmacy was originally established in 1317 for Franciscan friars and was later extended to the public. There was a strong pungent smell in the pharmacy gift shop and tourists were asking for cures for their various ailments…
Several boat trips are available from the marina; they leave on a regular basis so you just need to turn up rather than booking. As we arrived at the marina, the next boat to the island of Lokrum was just about to leave…
The small boat took about 10 – 15 minutes to reach Lokrum with its beautiful crystal clear sea. Accompanied by the constant smell of fresh pine on this little island we set off on foot to explore… all was quiet and peaceful with the odd humming of a bee and the gentle lapping of the calm waves in the background as we wandered around in what was also a perfect temperature… a slight breeze, warm and lovely.
We were looking out for a monastery and the botanical gardens however we got a bit lost and came across a nudist beach… making a hasty retreat we continued and with a lack of signage, we managed to find the monastery. I’m not sure what we were expecting but we found this to be a little disappointing as it was an old run down ruin. The botanical gardens turned out to be an overgrown and un-kept garden of cacti so also disappointing. We did however see a cute little family of baby peacocks!
The cable car offers more amazing photographic opportunities as you get an aerial view of the city. The cable car entrance is located outside of the walled part of the city, not far from Pile Gate and the ride to the top of the hill overlooking Dubrovnik takes just a few minutes.
If you are fortunate you will have some incredible sunset views if you take the cable car in the early evening although it is worth noting that the last one back down again is at 8 pm.
One day we embarked on a coastal walk which took us from our hotel and around a nearby peninsula. We found the Zoe restaurant (part of the Neptun Hotel) where we stopped for a refreshing drink as we sat outside overlooking the sea.
We walked for several miles, around Gruz Harbour (the main entry point for cruise ships) and ended up back in Dubrovnik Old Town.
Food and drink
Within the city walls there are many choices for lunch, dinner or a snack. As to be expected, prices within the Old Town tend to be more expensive. We were able to buy a meal in the less touristy areas (near to our hotel) for around £25 for both of us.
Chris’s birthday lunch: we happened to be wandering through the old town and stumbled across a blackboard sign advertising “wine tasting 50K”… being curious we made our way along a narrow street and found the D’Vino wine bar. We enjoyed a wonderful wine tasting session with local white wines and local cheeses together with some delicious fresh and thickly cut bread bread which had been cooked with olive oil inside.
A delightful spot for another glass of local wine! The Buza II bar is located on the cliffs outside of the wall and you have to walk through the wall to get to it! Sipping wine while overlooking the deep blue Adriatic was a really pleasant experience. This was a different day I might add…
We stayed in the Hotel Vis which was located outside of the old city of Dubrovnik and meant a short bus ride each day. We had a fantastic sea view from our top floor balcony, in fact probably one of the best sea views we’ve ever had from a hotel room! This was pleasant in the evening too when at the end of the day we could sit on the balcony and see the lights twinkling across the bay.
A simple breakfast of warm soft croissants, honey, cheese and hot chocolate was served in an open air terrace each morning which also overlooked the sea. A few hotels were located nearby which meant we could call into them for a drink or for dinner.
For this trip we had an early flight from Stansted with EasyJet, arriving at Dubrovnik airport at 10:30. Return flights were £75 each.
At the time in June 2011, the Atlas airport bus served the route between Dubrovnik airport and the Dubrovnik Old Town, a journey of 20 minutes. We used this each way and the cost then was 35 kunas each (about £4). We had to buy the tickets on the bus and the bus for the return journey to the airport left from the cable car station.
Bus number 4 took us between the Hotel Vis and the Old Town each time; the journey time was 15 minutes and the bus stop was right outside the hotel. We were able to buy bus tickets from the hotel reception for 10 kunas each (about £1.20).
Travel tip: if you have time for an extended trip there are buses to Montenegro and Mostar neither of which are too far from Dubrovnik… you can book tickets in the tourist information office located just inside the Pile Gate.