So on to the fun stuff! We went with not too many plans, other than exploring Dubrovnik and getting on the water somehow. Thanks to our incredibly generous wedding guests, we were able to do much more than my frugal holiday budgets would usually allow, so we tried to make the most of all the time we had.
We visited Dubrovnik twice, once on our second evening there, getting the water taxi across in the evening to try and find somewhere a bit more lively to have a drink. The view of the Old Port as the boat pulled in (that feels like the wrong phrase..) were just incredible, with the sun shining off the polished stone walls and people and boats buzzing around everywhere. We hopped off our boat and straight into the Old Town, with no plans other than exploring and getting a feel for the place, as we had a full day planned for later in the week.
The Old Town is made up of hundreds of tiny streets which lead off the Straden, a pedestrianised road of polished stone (careful in your flip flops) full of fancy boutiques, bars and ice cream shops. We meandered around, tempted first into a very nice wine bar to try some authentic Croatian IPA (very tasty but 7%!), quickly followed by a cheap slice of cheesy pizza (also very tasty), before finding a rock bar Paul had tracked down on TripAdvisor. Smoking is still allowed inside so it was quite nostalgic to sit with a bottle of beer, trying to chat over blaring music and getting irritated by tipsy teenagers. We ended the night with a fruitless bus search before getting a taxi back to our hotel, 20 minutes or so away.
A couple of days later we went back to the city via our shuttle bus/private taxi for a full day of tourist-ing. This time we arrived at around midday, and headed straight for the cable car to tick it off the list. I didn’t expect much to be honest, and for the price (200 kuna/around £35 for both of us return) the actual ride is nothing to shout about, as the views aren’t particularly easy to appreciate through the crowds. But the ticket price is more than worth it for the spectacular view when you reach the top. There’s a visitor centre with tacky gift shop and overpriced restaurant, but if you come out of there and out towards the back, you come to the war museum, tucked away in an old fort. This was one of my highlights of the entire trip. We were shamefully ignorant of the Croatian War of Independence and this museum did a fantastic job of educating us to the impact and devastation that it caused, to Dubrovnik’s Old Town in particular. We came out feeling much more appreciative of the town, country and our hosts, after going through such horrors so recently. Definitely worth the 50 kuna entry fee. And for a bonus, head up the stone steps to the top of the fort for absolutely incredible views. Dreamy.
From there we headed back down in the cable car and grabbed some ‘authentic’ pastries from a bakery. Do not recommend; ham and tomato doughnut, anyone? It was early afternoon when we started the walk around the walls. Obviously we were completely prepared to spend 2 hours walking in the heat of the day, with no shade..I joke, I joke. I was in flip flops and denim shorts, with no hat, and we had a couple of small bottles of water between us. The first part of the walls you walk up and up steps to the highest point, and within minutes the sweat was literally pouring down my back. We weren’t the only ones suffering, as visitors crammed into any nooks and crannies where there was shade. There are kiosks and bars along the way, as well as medical points, but it’s definitely something perhaps better to do in the evening when the sun isn’t beating off every surface. But anyway! There’s no words really, to describe the views. On one side you’ve got the endless streets and rooftops of the Old Town, and on the other the turquoise Adriatic, full of yachts, cruise ships, ferries and kayakers. It truly is breathtaking, and something I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone visiting. (Though saying that, accessibility in Dubrovnik is next to non-existent, so if you’ve any mobility issues, you will be frustrated.)
The walls stretch around 3km and it took us about 90 minutes to get round. Along the way we’d spotted a bar, on the outside of the walls, where people were jumping off scarily high rocks into the sea below. After a short stop to cool down and drink a giant beer just off the Straden, we headed back towards the walls to find Cafe Buza. Make no mistake, this is definitely a tourist trap, but creeping through a literal hole in the wall and down stone steps to a tiny par perched on the edge of the rocks certainly feels like you’re finding a secret spot. Also, spendy; you’re definitely paying for the view, as beers that usually cost under £2 are closer to £5 here, ouch. But saying all that, it’s so worth it. SO worth it. We sat under the straw roof for ages, watching those much, much braver than us jump off the rocks, and daydreaming about living a life like this permanently…
As the sun started dipping down we headed back down to have one final wander before meeting our taxi back to the hotel. We didn’t have dinner in the city, but there are endless bistros, cafes, fine dining and fast food places to choose from if you do have the time.
There’s so much more that we could/should/would have done in Dubrovnik, but even in the ~12 hours total we spent there the buzz and atmosphere just made us fall in love. Yes it’s busy, yes it’s touristy, but there a so many secluded spots that fighting through the crowds is so, so worth it. Seeing the iconic walls for the first time on the approach by boat was something that will stay with me forever, and I’m so thankful to have seen it for myself. Definitely the highlight of our trip, but there’s more to come, feat. superyachts, kayaks and the worst salad of my life…