It’s been almost a year since Spring Break 2013, and almost a year since I first caught sight of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I remember the moment vividly. We had travelled from airport to destination on a winding cliff-side road and, after turning the very last bend, the image I had googled countless times in the previous weeks appeared before me: sparkling azure waters, bright limestone city walls and charming terra-cotta rooftops.
I arrived with no preconceptions of what to expect from this tiny, unique part of the Adriatic coast but left with one of my most treasured travel memories.
One of my favourite initial things to do in a new place is to find a perspective of the whole city. Dubrovnik is nestled under Mount Srđ, and the cable car just outside the city walls will whisk you to the summit in no time. To the south, you can see the outline of the Old Town, as well as the beautiful coastline and island of Lokrum. To the north, a completely different landscape, the more bare and rugged mountain panorama. The top of Mount Srđ is also home to Dubrovnik’s most captivating museum. During the 1990s, in the Croatian War of Independence, the city underwent horrific aggression and this museum, though still in its formative stage, exhibits artwork, photographs, media footage and weapons from the recent conflict.
Descending back into the city, we dedicated the afternoon to exploring Dubrovnik’s Old Town. The area’s historic significance is made clear from your entrance through the drawbridge of the breathtaking Pile Gate, built in 1537. If you take this route at night, you’ll notice the lights placed outside the walls, which illuminate them from underneath and creating an amazing, majestic atmosphere. For us, however, it was a bright afternoon which meant locating a delicious lunch of bread, olive oils and wine in the Dalmatian sunshine.
We chose Restaurant Amfora for dinner on day one. A little further away from the main town, it offered a Mediterranean menu from which I took about three seconds to decide on the calimari. As I’d hoped, this was not your average, breaded version of squid. The Croatian style of preparing this culinary delight is…frugal. It has a tough, rubbery texture and you can tell from the tentacles that you’re really eating seafood. It’s delicious.
On our second day we took on Dubrovnik’s city walls. Dating from the 13th and 16th centuries, these are the city’s main attraction, offering spectacular views of the surrounding sea. At the southern-most part of the walk, looking out onto miles of open water, is a small art gallery, where I purchased a tiny Croatian tapestry for my room back in St. Andrews.
We next visited the Franciscan Monastery in the centre of the city. Inside, you’ll find one of the oldest functioning pharmacies in Europe, in business since 1391, but I was content to sit beneath the orange trees in the beautiful, tranquil courtyard.
I tend to prioritise wine wherever I am, but especially when visiting a new country. We ended day two at the cosy, atmospheric D’vino Wine Bar in Dubrovnik’s Old Town. I chose the flight of white wine, three small glasses from around the region, and discovered one of my favourites, Pošip, from the Pelješac Peninsula, which I would recommend to everyone.
Our last morning was spent wandering around the Old Town once more, visiting the 16th century Sponza Palace. Its mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture make it an incredibly interesting building. We then toured the city’s Cathedral and the beautiful church of St. Ignatius, the small proportions of the city meaning that each sight was about three minutes apart!
For one last desert that evening, we visited the bustling graDskavana coffeehouse, a vintage cafe with a modern makeover. Open from 8am until 2am in the summer, they serve wines by the glass, cocktails, cakes and coffees and offer a perfect view of the city’s square.
My trip to Dubrovnik was a kind of travelling I’d never experienced before. It wasn’t a lazy beach holiday or a packed city break, but something entirely different. Everything from the landscape, to the food, to our conversations with the friendly and welcoming local people alerted us to the fact that we were in a unique place. Dubrovnik was peaceful and exciting at the same time, somewhere I felt I could happily stay for much, much longer.
Images courtesy of the author and sourced from Pinterest.