Jutting out the bathtub-warm waters of the Dalmatian coast, the Croatian city of Dubrovnik is a treasure trove of history, good eating and cobbled alleys that whisper, “come explore me”. The city that once rivaled nearby Venice for medieval supremacy was rightfully called “the Pearl of Adriatic Sea”, and its ancient ring of thick, imposing defensive walls testify to its former importance.
Its Adriatic empire is long gone, Dubrovnik now plays the role of a world class city hosting myriad festivals, cultural events, and tourists. Taking advantage of the lower prices and warm weather, travelers increasingly choose the down-to-earth charm of the city over the pricier, more claustrophobia-inducing locales like Venice. Though the secret about Dubrovnik is out and the summertime season swells its normal population of about 62,000 with visiting history buffs, foodies and sun worshipers, it remains surprisingly affordable and pleasant.
Large chunks of the Old Town are now traffic-free zones, making this traveler’s ambling along the winding streets a stress-free experience. Do yourself a favor and duck into a family-owned restaurant and enjoy some of the local cuisine. Like any coastal area, a rich traditional has evolved as generations of fishermen and local chefs raised their main food resource to a tasty art.
Some local favorites include grilled red mullet, savory stews, fresh oyster with lemons, and the amazing shrimp buzara, a sauce of tomatoes, white wine, onions and breadcrumbs. Because of its proximity to other coastal countries, some Croatian fish dishes also carry Italian and Spanish influences.
Many restaurants hug the cliffs that jut out over the sea, affording diners a breathtaking view of the aqua-blue waters spreading out into the horizon. Local restaurants serving great traditional fare include the laid-back Sesame, the old fashioned Dubrovacki Kantun, and the popular Rozarij.
Once the shops of Old Town close for the night, revelers come out and the cobbled quarters become the scene of music, drinking and flirting till early morning. Clubs and bars abound along the winding lanes. Some clubs spin middle-of-the road electronica and some cater to a more artsy/underground crowd.
In terms of bars, there are plenty, particularly a clutch located behind the grand cathedral. Faux Irish pubs are the latest craze, packed with Aussies, Americans and UK partiers—but few locals. Katie O’Connor’s holds the title of Oldest Irish Pub in Town, and is situated in an old stone cellar.
Be warned: Revelers in Dubrovnik ten to up the classiness when they hit the town, so don’t dress in your worn jeans, Nike trainers and unwashed shirt. If you brought some nice clothes, now’s the time to wear them.
In terms of accommodations, cheap beds can be found at Vila Micika Hostel and Dubrovnik Backpacker’s Club and Youth Hostel, Dubrovnik. At the other end of the spectrum, plusher experiences can be had at the Hotel Kazbek, Hotel Bellevue, and Hotel Excelsior.
With its affordable mix of historic cobbles and great eats, this frugal traveler finds much to love about the “Pearl of the Adriatic”.