Dubrovnik

Always beguiling, Croatia's historic fortified city on the Adriatic is even better during its summer festival. Harriet O'Brien braves the crowds for our insider's guide

Click here for 48 Hours In... Copenhagen map

Why go now?

Byron's "Pearl of the Adriatic", Dubrovnik has been beautifully restored after the war damage inflicted in the early 1990s. In summer light, its streets of travertine stone gleam majestically, and look at their best in the early morning and evening. The Dubrovnik Festival is now under way (to 25 August; www.dubrovnik-festival.hr), making Croatia's finest city even more vibrant than usual. To make the most of a short break, contact the Croatian National Tourist Office (020-8563 7979; www.croatia.hr) before you set off.



Touch down

Zracna Luka airport is around 20km north of Dubrovnik. It is served by Croatia Airlines (020-8563 0022; www.croatiaairlines.hr) and British Airways (0844 493 0787; www.ba.com) from Gatwick; FlyBe (0871 700 0123; www.flybe.com) from Exeter and Birmingham; and Thomsonfly (0870 0190 0737; www.thomsonfly.com) from Gatwick and Manchester.

Buses into Dubrovnik connect with Croatia Airlines flights, stopping at Pile (1), the western gate of the walled old town (about 25 minutes away), before reaching the main bus terminal (2) around 5km further west (about 35 minutes). Return buses to the airport start out from this terminal two hours before Croatia Airlines departures. The one-way fare is 35 kuna (£3.80). A taxi to the old town costs around 230 kuna (£25).



Get your bearings

Squeezed between hills and sea, Dubrovnik stretches along a dramatically rocky and indented shoreline. To the east is the spectacular old town. To the west, the Lapad Peninsula is where the majority of hotels are located, and there are a number of cove-like pebble beaches. The modern harbour of Gruz lies just above the peninsula.

The old town is the main tourist focus. This small pedestrian-only zone is encircled by about 2km of ancient walls, a substantial part of these fortifications running along the seafront. Pile gate (1), to the west, is the busiest entrance. It gives on to the old town's central thoroughfare – known as both Placa and Stradun – which leads to the ancient little harbour. Above this is Ploce (3), the east gate.

The main tourist office (4) is just outside the walls, beside the Pile gate, at Branitelja Dubrovnika 7 (00 385 20 427 591; www.tzdubrovnik.hr). Two small tourist offices lie within the walls: one is close to Pile at Siroka 1 (5) (00 385 20 323 587); the other is near Ploce at Sv Dominika 7 (6) (00 385 20 323 887). The tourist offices are open daily, 8am-8pm.



Check in

For luxury and a superb position just outside the Pile gate (1), head for the Hilton Imperial (7) at Marijana Blazica 2 (00 385 20 320 320; www.hilton.com). This striking Art Nouveau building has recently been restored and refurbished, its 147 rooms furnished in subtly Croatian style. Doubles from €286 (£238), including breakfast.

On the edge of the Lapad Peninsula, contemporary chic style comes with great sea views at Dubrovnik Palace (8) at Masarykov put 20 (00 385 20 430 000; www.dubrovnikpalace.hr). With 308 rooms, three restaurants, four swimming pools and a spa said to be the best in Croatia, this is a lavish world unto itself. Doubles from €382 (£318), including breakfast.

Nearby, good value is offered at the Hotel Komodor (9) at Masarykov put 5 (00 385 20 433 500; www.hotelimaestral.com), with 63 simply decorated rooms set beside a central swimming pool. Doubles from €108 (£90), including breakfast.



Take a hike

A walk along the top of old Dubrovnik's walls is the highlight of a visit. These splendid fortifications date back to the 10th Century in parts, the 13th Century in others. They reach 25m in height and are liberally punctuated with battlements and bastions.

The main entrance is just inside Pile (1), and opens daily 8am-5.30pm; admission 50 kuna (£5.50). As you amble around, you soak up the atmosphere, perhaps stopping for a coffee at one of several cafés along the sea-facing wall before finding yourself at eye-level with church bells. There are frequent panoramas out to Dubrovnik's islands, or over the old town's terracotta rooftops. Perhaps the best is at the top of Fort Minceta (10), on the north-western extremity, sweeping across the old town and out to sea.

A tour of the entire length of the encircling walls takes a good 90 minutes, longer if the narrow passageways are crowded, but there are several marked exit points.



Window shopping

Ignore the host of souvenir stores lining Placa and head for the morning market (daily except Sunday) at Gundliceva square (11), where Croatian specialities of olive oil, candied-orange peel and lavender oil are sold alongside fruit and vegetables. Local embroidery is offered at Dubrovnik's craft shops such as Casa Croatia (12) at Vetraniceva 6, and Dubrovacka Kuca (13) at Svetog Dominika 2 (00 385 20 322 092; www.dubrovacka-kuca.com).



Lunch on the run

The tiny alleyways leading north off Placa have numerous cafés and pizza restaurants. For a takeway option, head to Pizzeria don Corleone (14) at Ulica Boskoviceva, where you can pick up a slice of Dalmatian smoked-ham pizza for 10 kuna (£1.10).



Cultural afternoon

Of the dozen or so museums and galleries to explore in Dubrovnik, four should be high on your list. Just by Pile is the 14th-century Franciscan Monastery (15), whose cloisters are now a museum area (daily 9am-6pm; admission 25 kuna/£2.75). Here you stroll around the monks' ancient courtyard gazing at the intriguing capitals of fantastical animals and human faces, and taking in a display of ancient manuscripts as well as a charming working pharmacy dating from 1317.

There are more cloisters at the Dominican Monastery (16), just off the old harbour and near the eastern gate. Dating from the 15th Century, this tranquil, palm-filled courtyard is also now a museum area (daily 9am-6pm; 20 kuna/£2.20) displaying a collection of illuminated manuscripts and impressive Renaissance paintings, most notably by the Croatian artist Nikola Bozidarevic.

For an insight into the golden age of 15th- and 16th-century Dubrovnik, stop by the Rector's Palace (17) on Pred Dvorom (daily 9am-6pm; admission 35 kuna/£3.85). This was the seat of government and functioned as a residence, state office, prison and more. Today, you walk through its elegant loggia and up its sweeping staircase to visit the city museum in the former state rooms.

Perhaps the most striking of Dubrovnik's museums is the little War Photo Limited gallery (18) at Antuninska 5 (daily 9am-9pm, admission 30 kuna/£3.30), with its changing exhibitions of images by the world's top war photographers. By implication, it's also a sobering reminder of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

An aperitif

Next door to the gallery you can mingle with the arty set at the Talir café/bar at Antuninska 6 – where a tall glass of Ozujsko beer will set you back 15 kuna (£1.65).



Dine with the locals

Proto (19), at Siroka 1 (00 385 20 323 234), serves some of the classiest seafood in town. Make for the elegant upstairs terrace, where you can enjoy sea bass on Mediterranean vegetables (168 kuna/£18.50), for example, or lamb osso buco with dumplings (172 kuna/£19) in a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere.



Sunday morning: go to church

St Blaise's church (20), celebrating the patron saint of Dubrovnik, is a domed baroque building adjacent to the Rector's Palace. The façade is currently obscured by scaffolding, but the graceful early 18th-century interior remains open, its elaborate altarpiece glinting with statuary. Sunday Mass is at 8am and noon.



Out to brunch

Among the many eateries lining Prijeko, Konoba Moskar (21) (00 385 20 321 581) is a cheerful outfit for omelettes (39 kuna/£4.30), pancakes (22 kuna/£2.40) and more from 9.30am until noon daily.



A walk on the beach

Dubrovnik's beaches are not long, but offer good swimming from calm shoreswith a great outlook. The small shingle beaches and clear waters of Lapad Bay can be reached on Bus 4 from Pile (1).



Take a ride

Leave the crowds and head along the coast to the pretty seaside town of Cavtat. Boats leave every half-hour from Dubrovnik's old harbour (22), and tickets cost 80kuna (£8.80) return for a 40-minute journey. Cavtat is wonderfully laid-back, with a colourful café-lined promenade along the town's old harbour, and little cobbled streets radiating back from there.

Sport
File photo of Lewis Hamilton celebrating becoming World Champion after victory in the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he was made favourite to become the first motor racing winner of Sports Personality of the Year since Damon Hill
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleJack Monroe accuses David Cameron of 'misty-eyed rhetoric'
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Group Financial Controller

    £50000 - £55000 per annum: Investigo: A growing group of top end restaurants l...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Excellent opportunities are available for par...

    Investigo: IT Auditor

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: A global leading travel busi...

    Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie x 2

    £16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This charming and contemporary ...

    Day In a Page

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible