Dubrovnik has rapidly become one of Europe’s hottest summer vacation destinations. This beautiful city, which is surrounded by some of the most beautiful blue waters of the Adriatic is a beach lovers dream. While I walked the medieval walls of the pedestrian friendly Old Town and looked out over the islands dotting the Dalmatian coast, I understand why Dubrovnik has been dubbed “The Pearl of the Adriatic.”
This was my first visit to Croatia. Tiffany, who visits nearly every summer, assures me summertime is the absolute best time to take in Dubrovnik. With all the amazing beaches and islands, I imagine it is amazing!… But, if your are looking for a different experience, I found it is worthwhile to visit while no one else is visiting. This is what we did when we traveled to Dubrovnik this past February as part of our European winter trip. Winters in Dubrovnik are rather mild compared to the rest of Europe, who can be covered under snow this time of year. Temperatures in the area range around the mid 50s Fahrenheit in winter. This may not be swimsuit weather, but it is perfect for touring the city and taking the time to learn its rich history which dates back to the 6th century BC.
Visiting in winter can feel as though you have much of the city to yourself. One downfall is that only a fraction of restaurants and shops are open. That said, there are plenty of places open along Stradun, Old Town’s main drag, to grab a pastry, eat a delicious meal, or sip a cup of coffee. Trust me… we didn’t go hungry! All of the museums and historical sights were open. The best part about visiting these this time of year? No lines!
Touring the Walls
On our first day, Tiffany took me to walk the city’s walls. The walls were built during the 12th–17th centuries. They surround the city and provided protection against invaders. In 1979 the walls and the Old Town city of Dubrovnik became an Unesco World Heritage site. The city of Dubrovnik is considered to be one of the best preserved walled cities in Europe. Walking the walls is something not to be missed. The 2 kilometer walk takes about 2 hours and gives you some of the most beautiful views of the city and the Dalmatian coastline. Today we pretty much had the walls to ourselves compared to summertime when they can be incredibly packed with tourists.
One afternoon I had a couple hours on my own, so I opted to spend that time exploring and getting lost within the in the narrow corridors and alleyways of old town. I aimlessly walked and climbed stairways rarely passing a soul. At times if felt as though I was walking through an empty museum. Every so often I would exchange a smile with a local resident or stop to pet one of the city’s many cats, reminding me that old town is still a living city. According to the 2016 census about 1500 people still reside within the walls of old town. I enjoyed my time exploring trying to imagine living here today versus life within these same corridors a thousand years ago.
Hire a Local Tour Guide
Something I found invaluable is hiring a local tour guide. Marijana, my guide, is a wealth of knowledge about the area and it’s history. She guided me through the narrow streets pointing about interesting things I would otherwise never discover. For example, pictured below is Europe’s oldest pharmacy. The pharmacy sits inside a 13th century Franciscan Monastery, and even today is still a working pharmacy. I would have never stumbled upon this little gem on my own.
Where to Stay
Since Tiffany’s family is from the region, she had the connections to help us find a wonderful flat in the area of Lapad. It’s a wonderful area of town and is centrally located. The entire city, both old town and outside the walls is quite small. It’s very walkable; however, it is easy to hop on a city bus to get around. Many visitors find that staying in a private rental is a wonderful alternative to a hotel and can save you money as well.
Now, let’s talk about food… the local cuisine is to die for! Being right on the Adriatic, the seafood is fresh and full of flavor. Many of our meals consisted of platters of fish, selected meats, and vegetables all cooked with the freshest herbs and spices. Being with Tiffany, who knows the area really well, helped when it came to finding the best restaurants. I found the majority of the restaurants we really enjoyed are outside of old town. At the end of the article you can find a list of some of our favorites.
I truly enjoyed my time in this enchanting city. After just a couple of days I see how easy it is to fall in love with Dubrovnik and it’s culture. I am already looking forward to returning, although next time I will visit when the weather is a bit warmer. The coastline and beaches are much too alluring to not come back to enjoy!
Some must dos when visiting Dubrovnik:
- Walk the City Walls – Not to be missed for incredible views of the city and coast.
- Get lost in Old Town – Seriously, just wander. You won’t regret it.
- Hire a local guide – I can’t stress this enough!
- Visit the nearby islands – Unfortunately the weather and winds were not cooperating so we were not able to visit them this time.
- Partake in the cafe culture – sit back, sip on a coffee and take it all in.
A few of our favorite restaraunts:
- Pantarul- Great atmosphere with modern cuisine.
- Orsan- Relaxed seaside restaurant in the area of Lapad.
- Komin- Traditional feeling restaurant with the grill in the middle of the dining area serving up traditional dishes.
- Marianno- Beautifully presented cuisine using locally sourced ingredients.
I’m a Bay Area mom with midwestern roots. Born and raised in Indiana, I have always had an affinity for travel, adventure and the arts. Before my days of playdates and homework, I worked as a television host, reporter, producer, and actress in Los Angeles.