Planning a trip or a holiday is always pretty near the top of my priority list. Blistering sunshine, the unmistakable smell of sun cream, good food, nice wine and a new place to soak up and explore…my idea of heaven. Although the reality of getting away abroad any time soon seems a pipe dream, I would urge you to take a trip to my favourite European city the first chance you get…
In September 2019, Paul and I took a long-awaited trip to Croatia and spent 10-days road tripping across this very special country. The trip took a lot of planning as we wanted to make sure we took every opportunity to see as much as we could and make special memories along the way. We kicked things off in Dubrovnik, and it’s safe to say I fell hard and fast for this unique city. It quickly stole my heart and took the top spot as my favourite European city of all time. From the magnificent scenery to the architecture and food – it really is a special place.
Dubrovnik as a city, is absolutely perfect for a weekend fling. With a flight time of just over two hours from the UK, the main airport is within about a 30 minute scenic transfer time of the old town, so you can hop on a plane and be in the city centre in no time at all.
During my research into where to stay whilst we were in Dubrovnik, the number one thing I wanted to experience was ‘the view’. As a Game of Thrones fan I was excited to see some of the aerial shots the show was renowned for – but in real life. The trouble was, that ‘the view’ was very expensive, and we were on a budget. Hotels that offered it averaged about £300 per night and they were a very long walk or a short taxi ride from the heart of the city. So I started looking at Airbnb options and found the perfect place at a fraction of the price, plus it was only a 10-minute stroll to the city walls. It was totally worth the extra time spent researching accommodation as the two nights we spent there were fabulous… and oh my goodness, WHAT A VIEW!
Cobbled side streets, burnt-orange rooftops, towering city walls and a glistening coast line make this city truly individual. Despite its walls originally being built to protect city dwellers from Barbarians, the gates welcomed us in and encouraged us to explore every nook. Two thirds of the city’s historic buildings were hit with artillery during the break up of Yugoslavia in the early 90’s but the city has risen out of the debris and is restored back to its former glory. I’d recommend the War Photo Limited Gallery to learn more about the heartbreaking history etched into the city.
Walking the city walls is an absolute must and to get the most from it you need to be prepared to get out and about early – mainly to avoid the crowds (and the heat). If you do go during the summer months remember to take plenty of water to keep you hydrated, as it gets pretty hot. We didn’t do an organised tour, instead we preferred to walk at our own pace. We entered at the Ploce Gate entrance at 8.30am and the whole walk took us about 3 hours. If you go later in the day you are likely to be competing with crowds for space and picture opportunities and your walking tour could take twice as long. If you’re an avid Game of Thrones fan then we saved this GoT Filming blog and referred to it as we went around the city, which was so much fun. We loved coming across the real locations of some of the famous scenes. The views both down into the city and across to Italy are spectacular and make you feel like you’re on the very edge of the earth.
After finishing exploring the city walls we went on the hunt to find somewhere for lunch. I had researched a few places to eat and we were headed to check one out when we saw a young woman appear from underneath a covered arch. I couldn’t resist finding out where she had come from, so we went exploring. What we found was a tiny little cove that had its own patch of beach where people were sunbathing and swimming. There was a bar serving beer on tap and another little alfresco cafe serving delicious home-made food. Although I love to plan, I also LOVE stumbling across a hidden gem. It’s the most amazing feeling when you find somewhere that only the locals know about – you feel like you’re getting a truly authentic experience. We spent the rest of the afternoon here and time stood still while we swam in crystal clear waters, drank frosty beers and ate a delicious Mediterranean meze.
We went self-catering during our time in the city, which gave us a great opportunity to explore the culinary delights that the city had to offer. We ate at some incredible places and if you’re a foodie, I’ve written about my top five food spots for you to check out. From Korean to Japanese and everything in between, the choices are diverse and plentiful.
One of the most special things we did in Dubrovnik was to watch the sunset from Buza Bar. This tiny bar, literally hanging on the side of the cliff has been added to our ‘special moments’ memory bank that we go back to and talk about over and over again. As luck would have it we arrived about an hour before sunset and snagged a table right at the brim with views of the waves crashing onto the rocks below and looking out to Lokrum. Whilst the drinks were not cheap, the atmosphere was priceless and we spent two hours watching jet skiers zip by and cliff jumpers dive into the blue waters. The only tellable difference between where the sea started and the sky ended was the orange hue of the sun setting. We could revisit this a hundred times and it would never feel the same as it did that evening – I really urge you to go and experience that moment for yourself.
Dubrovnik is not for the faint hearted. There are steps – and lots of them – but with that comes physical and metaphorical levels to the place. You could explore this history-rich city for days and always come across something new. It also has something that the likes of Paris and London don’t have, and that is some of the friendliest city-folk I’ve ever met. You can tell the place has been through a tough time, but the locals happily embrace you with open arms, welcoming you into their beautiful city.
So, what are you waiting for – add Dubrovnik to your travel bucket list… immediately!