Croatia: A First Time Visit To Dubrovnik

A trip to the coast of Croatia, the Dalmation Coast, had been on the travel to do list for us for some years but for one reason or another we hadn't ever gotten around to visiting these beautiful shores. Other destinations somehow constantly pipped it to the post! So a few months ago when we finally booked our flight out to Dubrovnik I was more than a little excited to finally get going and see what this country was all about.

Dubrovnik Old Town

Originally we planned this trip as a little bit of a luxury getaway where we intended to totally switch off and unwind and not really do all that much. To be honest I hadn't even researched the country in much detail like I might usually when going somewhere new. However as the trip neared I started to get enticed by some fellow bloggers' posts which started to sparkle my interest for all there was to see and do. Suddenly I knew there was going to be plenty we would want to explore and the days lying by the pool looked less and less as take off drew ever closer. 

Suffice to say that we ended up having quite an active trip and both my husband and I fell totally in love with the place. So over the next few days I thought I'd share a little of our adventures, some of the things we enjoyed the most, for anyone planning to hit up this destination in the near future - and I wholly recommend that you do!

Dubrovnik Old Town Harbour View

We began in Dubrovnik, just a short two and a half hour flight from London Gatwick and we were there and ready to explore.

Dubrovnik is a city on the edge of the coast facing the Adriatic Sea. Its awe inspiring landscape, beautiful old town and abundance of history means you can't fail to be enticed by its many charms - even if you do find it a bit of a scramble at times to make your way through the countless other visitors. 

With a population of just under 50,000 it's actually a much smaller town than you might think. Despite being such a popular tourist draw, I urge you not to miss out on a visit to this historical spot especially if you've never been before. It is visually truly beautiful, the old town being like something straight off of a movie set. Immaculately cobbled streets and magnificent stone buildings ooze life in the hustle and bustle of the local restaurants, cafes and bars that spill gloriously out all around you.

Grab a glass of something cold and refreshing in one of the many welcoming street side bars and sit and people watch as the sun sets and the city stays full of life around you. Lap it up, it's glorious!

Dubrovnik Old Town

During the war fought between Croatia and the Yugoslav Army between 1991-1995, Dubrovnik played a symbolic role in fighting for Croatian independence. With a siege of the old town lasting just over 7 months, Croatian forces were successful in pushing back the opposing forces and defending the city and surrounding areas. Today there is virtually no trace of the resulting damage caused by this turbulent moment in history inside these city walls. The old city was quickly and beautifully restored and is now a vibrant jewel in the Croatian crown.

Bearing in mind all of the beauty that this city has to offer, here are a few things that I really don't think you should miss if you're taking your first ever trip to Dubrovnik. A top five of some of the most popular, but I think still totally worth it, attractions that will give you a good slice of the style and scenery of the city.

Dubrovnik Old Town Cable Car

1. ABSORB THE SPECTACULAR VIEWS ON THE SUMMIT OF MOUNT SRDJ

Dubrovnik itself nestles neatly beneath Mount Srdj, the summit of which can be reached by cable car or if you're feeling particularly fit and in need of a challenge you can climb to the top in a steep climb that I'm told takes around 45 minutes to complete.

We opted for the cable car! It was well worth it for the beauty of the landscape that stretches out below and a great way to start your trip and get a handle of the geography of the city.

The cable car had been a fixture of Dubrovnik since the 1960's but was destroyed in the war and restored and reopened to the public in 2011. Each car holds around 30 passengers and makes its way 778 metres up in about 3 minutes (much quicker than the hike!). 

The cross at the top, overlooking the town, is made from stone quarried on the island of Brac, the very same stone that was used to build the White House in DC! Originally constructed in 1935 to celebrate 2000 years since the birth of Jesus, it was also destroyed by mortars in 1991 but has since been restored and sits proudly atop the mountain - quite an impressive monument.

Dubrovnik Mount Srdj Cross

2. WALK THE OLD CITY WALLS THEN TAKE A TRIP UP AND DOWN THE STRADUN

The series of defensive stone walls that surround the old town are considered one of the best fortification systems in Europe. Proving impossible to breach, this impressive defensive structure successfully protected the citizens of Dubrovnik for thousands of years and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site - and rightly so.

Although it will be busy at pretty much anytime of the day that you choose to visit, a trip around the circumference of the walls, gazing down at the red roofed old city below, really is well worth the time and effort. You will get an amazing understanding of the layout, some beautiful views and just a really great overview and insight into the beauty of the old town and all its hidden nooks and nuances.

We took our walk around at around 4:30pm one weekday and it wasn't all that packed. I believe the last entry time is around 6pm. It took us about an hour to navigate all the way around. Stopping to take in views, have a break from some of the slopes and climb up some of the towers.

Once you've finished why not head to the Stradun, the main thoroughfare of the old city, and take the weight off your legs with a nice cold glass of your favourite tipple and a little people watching in one of the street side bars. Enjoy the watching the hustle and bustle go past as the sun sets and the beauty of Dubrovnik at night starts to sparkle.

Dubrovnik Old Town Stradun
Dubrovnik Old Town Stradun
Dubrovnik Old Town Lokrum View
Dubrovnik Old Town
Dubrovnik Old Town

3. CHILL OUT IN CAVTAT

Cavtat is the southern-most town in Croatia and a very pretty little place at that. With a population of around 1500 this quiet but beautiful spot is well worth a visit in its own right.

It can be reached by boat trip from the city harbour in Dubrovnik. This can easily be booked on arrival at said harbour - you won't fail to notice the locals all vying for your business on their boat instead of that of their fellow tour guides standing shoulder to shoulder with them.

The boat trip takes around 45 minutes and leaves at fairly regular intervals on a daily timetable. Give yourself at least half a day, ideally more, to enjoy a relaxing stroll and visit to this sleepy town.

Pack your swimsuit, there are some great little crevices from which to drop into the sea for a dip. Take the time to enjoy a local lazy lunch, some of the freshest sea food around and a crisp bottle of white wine (or whatever takes your fancy) then soak up the sun before heading back on the last boat and enjoying watching the sunset as you sail across the sea.

Cavtat Fish Stew
Cavtat Monastery

We visited on a Friday so as the day began to come to an end we found a cute little bar on the waters edge from which to soak up the last of the day. Beach Bar Little Star is a little treat and worth stopping by if you fancy chilling out with a great view just as we did!

Just don't miss the last boat back to Dubrovnik - and that stunning sunset on board. A real treat!

Beach Bar Little Star Cavtat
Cavtat Harbour
Boat Back From Cavtat

4. ENJOY THE ELAPHITI ISLANDS

There are a lot of islands in Croatia, over a thousand in fact, and this becomes pretty clear as soon as you arrive. One group, not too far from Dubrovnik, are the Elaphiti Islands. Three of which are permanently inhabited - Sipan, Lopud and Kolocep and it's possible to take a days tour from Dubrovnik to experience all three.

Again this is a popular trip. The time at sea on the boat kind of outweighs the actual time on the first two islands but there isn't an awful lot to do except for soak up the scenery anyway.

However it is a nice way to spend the day, soaking up the sun, swimming, exploring and even making some new found friends on board in the process. You depart at around 10am and dock back in at around 6pm leaving plenty of time to head out for the evening and enjoy a night out on the town!

As there are many cruise ships that dock in Dubrovnik it's a good idea to take this trip on either a Thursday or a Saturday, the busiest days for additional passengers coming to land to visit from the ships. Whilst they enjoy their time exploring the city head off somewhere a little more secluded to enjoy the day.

Elaphiti Islands
Elaphiti Islands
Elaphiti Islands

5. WATCH THE SUNSET OVER THE HARBOUR AND SOAK UP THE CITY AT NIGHT

Dubrovnik is a lively city and the old town really hums into life when the sun goes down. 

Make sure to get out an explore some of the great restaurants, jazz bars and nightclubs (if that's your thing) that are on offer. One of our favourite picks would be Cafe Buza, a romantic little cliff-top bar reached by a tiny 'hole in the wall' style doorway! Sea, sky and lots of rocks, this is a cute spot to while away the end of a busy day in Dubrovnik.

Cafe Buza Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik Sunset

I hope this post gives you a little taste of this beautiful city and some of its surrounding areas.

There is so very much more to do and explore. This really is a place with something for everyone to enjoy. So make your trip your own, seek out what makes you happy and enjoy!

Have you been to Dubrovnik? What were your favourite sights and sounds from this city?

Louise