A short drive from Cilipi Airport and you’ll find yourself in a picturesque medieval town on the shores of the crystal blue Adriatic Sea.
Welcome to Dubrovnik, Croatia- a living piece of history and popular tourist destination. Its ancient urban nucleus, the Old Town, sits on small rocky peninsula enclosed within the city walls. Built well before cars existed, stone-paved streets within are for pedestrians only, and all the houses are made of stone. The environment makes it feel like you’ve traveled back in time circa 1600. Surrounding the Old Town are modern urban areas with plenty of hotels, motels and private rooms for rent available.
As you stroll, you’ll notice that the most common music is slow, south Croatian pop, strongly influenced by Italian canzona. The mix of slow music, unreal looking ancient environment, warm weather and light Mediterranean food creates a relaxing experience for all senses. The locals are known for their laid-back pace of life. You’ll quickly learn to savor the moment.
The city’s many cafes are bustling with locals. Modern discotheques and nightclubs are a great choice for anyone looking for a little fun. Make sure to visit St Sergius Hill from where you can see the whole nearby region, or catch the boat to the Lokrum Island to see its rich botanic garden.
Dubrovnik was an independent city-state republic from 1358 to 1808. Although a republic, the elected head of state had the title of Prince. Prince’s Palace is a museum today and is among the most popular historic sights, together with St Blaise’s Church on the Stradun Square, Onofrio’s Fountain, Sponza Palace, The Bell Tower, and many other monuments and museums are the perfect stop for history buffs.
At the height of its success in the sixteenth century, Dubrovnik’s merchant fleet was among the largest in the world. The city walls are themselves a sight, with a built-in footpath encircling the old fortresses. An hour long walk is well worth it if you enjoy the view of antiquity. Some of the amazingly well-preserved towers on the city wall’s perimeter were built as early as the tenth century.
The cuisine is a rich Balkans-Italian mix with seafood as the main specialty. Rock oysters grown on the nearby islands are a treat and fish in salt is a specialty. A fish is covered by a thick layer of salt while being baked in the oven to prevent the natural juices from escaping. The excess salt is then thrown away so it doesn’t affect the fish’s taste. For the adventurous, try Black risotto– risotto prepared with squid ink.
Croatia won’t break the bank. Accommodations are cheaper than the European average. There are also many events and local concerts, especially in summer with Dubrovnik Summer Festival being the most popular. Choirs known as “klapa” sing music from the city’s past, often for free on the Old Town’s squares.
Dubrovnik’s ancient heritage, laid-back environment, breathtaking views, and fine Mediterranean food, all on a budget relatively low for a European country, makes it a destination worth revisiting.