The "Pearl of the Adriatic," Dubrovnik saw its popularity plunge in the aftermath of the Balkan war. Serbian rockets fell on the ancient port city for three months in 1991 and it took some years for travelers to rediscover the appeal of the place that George Bernard Shaw once called "heaven on earth." But Dubrovnik has bounced back and then some. It's once again a go-to destination for people who appreciate its historic architecture (almost completely restored) and its crystal sapphire waters. Its neighborhoods are crowded with visitors and its port filled with luxury yachts from around the region.
The Old Town is where most explorations of Dubrovnik begin, among the charming marble streets of this United Nations World Heritage Site. Visit the Bell Tower, where the famous Zelenci bronze statues strike the hour. In front of the tower stands Orlando's Column, another Dubrovnik landmark, erected to celebrate the city's freedom from the Venetians in 972. To the west is the Sponza Palace, a majestic structure where the historic archives are kept. Have a rest and a cool drink by Onofrio's Fountain, located at west entrance of the Old Town. This is a popular meeting spot in the city and most evenings you'll find it packed with the young and the fashionable checking each other out.
There are also many churches and monasteries around Dubrovnik, a lot of them built during the Baroque period. The Church of St. Ignatius and the Jesuit College literally stand out, located in an elevated square that's full of handsome old buildings. Among the many Dubrovnik museums, try to make some time for the Visia Dubrovnik 5D Theatrum, which takes you on a quick trip through the city's history. Kids might enjoy the Aquarium, in St. Ivan's Fortress, and the recently opened Natural History Museum.
For a day of relaxation, park yourself at one of the city's beaches. They're not lavish stretches of white sand but the water is beautiful. Nearest to the Old Town is Banje Beach but for something different take a quick trip to Lapad. This lovely, leafy suburb has several nice beaches fronting the large hotels but the strands are open to everyone. Or head farther out of town to the Dubrovnik Riviera, which is largely undeveloped and visually spectacular.
Dining and Shopping
Lapad also has a handful of relaxing and excellent restaurants. Around the Old Town, choices have multiplied along with the influx of visitors -- and so have prices. You'll find everything from pizza to hamburgers but try to sample the local specialty, which is seafood, of course. Preparations are similar to what you'd find in Italy, with a lot of garlic and olive oil. But don't expect the fish to be fresh. Much of it is flown in.
Shopping for gifts and souvenirs here is usually a quick task, because there are plenty of unique pieces to buy in the boutiques and galleries. Artisans in Dubrovnik thrive with the support of tourists, many of whom take home the exquisitely embroidered linens. Other popular items are the organic toiletries and creams sold at the pharmacy managed by the Franciscan Monastery at Placa 2. For a wide variety, try the market at Gunduliceva Square in the Old Town. The one shopping center is the Lapad Shopping Center.
Donje Celo 68
Old Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik, Hrvatska
Za Rokom 3, 20000, Dubrovnik, Hrvatska
Masarykov Put 20
Hotel Dubrovnik Palace