To refer to a city as the Jewel of the Adriatic implies grandeur second to none and such is definitely the case when describing Croatia’s 1300-year-old city of Dubrovnik. A Mediterranean climate, affordable prices, history, which dates back centuries and endless sightseeing venues, certainly make this a city worth visiting.
Immediately upon my arrival I was impressed with the quaintness and cleanliness of this former Yugoslavian city. My hotel was a ten minute walk from the old city, where most of my time was spent. Entrance is through the Pile gate, which once protected this strategic, maritime stronghold. Zigzag streets of cobblestone are safe for pedestrians and are lined with shops, which feature souvenirs, restaurants and crafts made by local artisans.
To orientate yourself with the city, I highly recommend a walk along the wall. The cost is only eight euros and at and at a leisurely stroll the two kilometre trek will take you a good hour. I will caution you that there are steps, which can be steep at times and there is no shade from the sun, however, the views into the old city are spectacular. Walking the wall gives you a sense of size and perspective, not to mention the hundreds of red roofs which turn this vista into a photographer’s dream.
The main square of this UNESCO heritage site features the larger-than-life Onofrio's fountain, which inevitably becomes a meeting place for tourist rendezvous. The large baroque Cathedral stands proudly on the foundations of a church demolished by the earthquake of 1667. Make the time to step inside, for it splendour will whisk you back in history.
Allow yourself at least three hours to visit the old city plus an hour to wander the wall. Explore the narrow streets with their unique shops and sample Croatia's signature dish, Burek, a flaky pastry, rolled and filled with meat, cheese, or spinach.
Another ‘must do’ in Dubrovnik is the cable car, providing the weather is clear. The ride is comfortable and scenic and lasts about seven or eight minutes. Once at the top, you have your choice of several viewing areas as well as a restaurant- café. There's something to be said for enjoying a macchiato while appreciating spectacular scenery.
If swimming is in your itinerary, you have certainly come to right place. The beaches are endless and the water is azure blue. I was fortunate that the temperature hovered around the 30 degree mark during my stay and the water was just as warm.
Of course, one must make time for dinner in one of several restaurants, which overlook the Adriatic. I was fortunate to find a table at the water’s edge in Dubravka, one of the city’s finest dining establishments. The cuisine was mouth-watering and the golden sunset is something I will always remember. The only downside of any restaurant in Croatia is that guests tend to smoke everywhere. Smoking sections do not exist and fans seem to be unheard of, however, this becomes a small price to pay for enjoying one of Europe's finest regions.
There are dozens of hotels to choose from, and I found the Bellevue to be centrally located, reasonably priced, yet five-star. Like most of European hotels, breakfast and Wi-Fi are included, making your stay more enjoyable. The people of Croatia are friendly and have discovered that tourism is an important element to their existence. One Canadian dollar is equal to about six Croatian Kuna, however, I'm certain prices will increase next July when Croatia joins the European Union, and this somewhat secluded haven will be discovered by millions of tourists.
Getting there is easy. I flew with Austrian Airlines to Vienna, had a quick two hour layover and an hour and a half flight to Dubrovnik. Many cruise ships also stop here, however most of the passengers are gone by dinner time, allowing for leisurely strolls through the winding streets of this jewel of the Adriatic.