Where to Scrimp & Splurge in Dubrovnik, Pearl of the Adriatic
By Anita Draycott
Jutting into the impossibly sparkling azure Adriatic Sea with its Baroque mansions and churches ringed by medieval walls, Old Town Dubrovnik looks like a fairy tale come true.
During the Middle Ages, Dubrovnik (then called Ragusa) bought its independence from various powers including Byzantium, Venice, Hungary, the Ottomans and the Vatican. As a major seafaring power, Dubrovnik, dubbed the “Hong Kong of the Middle Ages,” was an important trading hub linking Mediterranean and Balkan states.
An earthquake in 1667 left the city in ruins and in 1991 and 1992 Dubrovnik was pummeled with shells during the war that ravaged the former Yugoslavia. However, today the restored Dubrovnik is the most prosperous and elegant city in Croatia. It’s also a tourist magnet, and as such, it’s also the most expensive city in the country. But don’t that dissuade you from planning a visit. I’ll tell you where to scrimp and splurge with your kunas.
The “You Only Live Once” Splurge List
Indulge in the tasting menu at Stara Loza, part of the Prijeko Palace. A recent menu offered langoustine tortellini, braised turbot, slow-cooked lamb shoulder with an herb crust and figs glazed in Dalmatian Prosecco with mascarpone cheese and a cinnamon cookie. The tasting menu with wine pairings costs about $175 per person. The Prijeko Palace also has luxurious rooms, each named and decorated as a tribute to an artist.
Gifts from the Sea
Adriatic red coral is a symbol of vitality and served as a charm against evil spirits in ancient times. It was an important trade commodity on the Silk Route. At Clara Stones, visitors can watch as raw coral branches are cleaned, polished and set into fine pieces of jewelry—a unique gift or souvenir.
The Adriatic is teaming with wonderful fish and seafood and Moby Dick’s knows how to take the catch of the day and turn it into a magnificent Piscean platter.
Located on Rudjer Boskovic Square in the centre of Old Town, Kopun serves traditional hearty Croatian fare. Their signature dish is a castrated rooster braised in wine and porcini mushrooms and served with gnocchi.
Lokrum Island Cruise
Part of the Elafiti Islands, Lokrum is a gem about an hour away by boat. Take your swimsuit for a dip on the sandy beach and then enjoy refreshments on the seaside promenade. You can also take a hike or rent a bike and visit the botanical garden and historical remains of an ancient fortress. Leaving from Dubrovnik’s Old Port, Adriana Excursions offers day trips to Lokrum (about $50 return), plus other islands and options.
The “cheap thrills” save list
Walk the Walls
Old Town is completely surrounded by thick medieval walls and you haven’t really “done” Dubrovnik unless you’ve walked its top attraction with camera in hand. Total distance is about two kilometres. The best plan is to start at the Ploce Gate so you’ll tackle the steepest part first. If you’re too hot or fed up with the crowds you can bail out at the Pile Gate. But persevere if possible. Stop at the Café Salvatore for an overpriced freshly squeezed juice and lovely views of Banje Beach. High up above the city you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the red tile roofs, laundry hanging outside windows, the odd coveted garden and the sparkling sea. Try to time your walk when there are no cruise ships in town and start around 8:30 a.m. Cost is about $20.
The cheapest place to stock up on snacks, made-to-order sandwiches, bottles of soft drinks, wine, beer and water is the Konsum grocery store on the outdoor market square called Gunduliceva Poljana. You can also buy fruits, veggies, homemade hooch, cheeses and lavender from the island of Hvar at the daily morning market in the same square.
There are plenty of places to buy gelato on Dubrovnik’s main thoroughfare (note the Old Town is pedestrian-only) called the Stradun, but Dolce Vita on one of the steep alleys has the best prices. Try the chili dark chocolate gelato, crepes or milkshakes.
Bird’s Eye View
Near the Buza Gate, take the cable car connecting Old Town to Mount Srd, once a fortress built by Napoleon. Views from the top are spectacular. The fort houses the Homeland War Museum. Photos, documents and artifacts tell the story of the war during the early 1990s with Yugoslavia.