It doesn’t matter how many times you visit the Pearl of the Adriatic – the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik is always a delight. And so it was for Anna Hyman, and for new visitor Rob Philpott. It proved to be a memorable finale to their two centre Croatian visit.
It had been with real regret that we left Hotel Liburna and the enchanting medieval walled city of Korčula, but ahead of us lay another beautiful and ancient walled city – Dubrovnik – so often referred to as the Pearl of the Adriatic.
A catamaran crossing to Dubrovnik
Whereas a few days earlier we had been met by our charming driver Marko at Dubrovnik airport and driven to Korčula, our return journey from the island to Dubrovnik was by catamaran. And a very easy journey it was too with space for luggage and comfortable seats for the approximately two hour crossing.
Hotel More, our second hotel
To our delight, we were greeted once again by Marko, happy to resume my instruction in the Croatian language and hear about our adventures as he drove us to our second hotel the Hotel More.
There are only one or two hotels in Dubrovnik Old Town, the majority of them are located on close by peninsulas.
Hotel More was no exception. This luxurious hotel has been spectacularly built into the hillside of the Lapad Peninsular overlooking Lapad Bay, approximately 3.5km from Dubrovnik centre.
It was another excellent hotel choice that Classic Collection Holidays had made for us.
Dubrovnik is popular and crowded
There is a bus that runs into Dubrovnik and takes about 20 minutes. However, there was a few minutes’ walk to the bus stop and we were not sure of the frequency of the service so instead we opted for taxis.
We were glad we did – the taxi fare was reasonable and it meant we could get quickly to Dubrovnik giving us extra time before the coaches and cruise liners disgorged their passengers into the city’s narrow streets.
Understandably Dubrovnik is one of the most popular of all the Mediterranean cities, and consequently is always crowded. Arguably it has become even more popular since becoming a location for the popular Game of Thrones series.
From a rocky island to a major trading port
History has it that Dubrovnik, which dates back to the 7th century when it was known as Ragusa, rapidly became a major trading port.
Originally it was a rocky island just off shore from the mainland, but eventually the narrow waterway was filled in joining the island to the mainland.
Thanks to its vast wealth it must have been stunningly beautiful in the 15th and 16th century with its plethora of Gothic and Renaissance buildings created by noted artists and architects of the time.
But sadly in 1667 a major earthquake destroyed virtually all of it and some 5000 inhabitants lost their lives. The glorious Baroque city we see today is the result of the subsequent rebuilding.
Everybody should walk the walls
Every first time visitor to Dubrovnik should climb and walk the 2km long walls. They date back to the 10th century and in places are approximately 6m thick and 25m high.
Books frequently say to allow an hour for the experience – Rob took two hours, and would have happily taken longer.
I, on the other hand, set out to rediscover some favourite haunts.
First of all I took a stroll along the Stradun, its limestone surface polished smooth from thousands of feet.
Dubrovnik’s main street the Stradun
The Stradun is Dubrovnik’s main street lined with little bars, shops and restaurants.
At one end is the substantial Onofrio fountain – where medieval visitors were meant to wash themselves before being admitted to the city.
At the other it opens into a small square, the Luža, where stand Orlando’s Column, a clock tower, a bell tower, the elegant Sponza Palace, St Blaise’s church and the small Onofrio fountain.
Incidentally the imposing looking St Blaise church is not the cathedral. The cathedral is the somewhat austere building near the Rector’s Palace. Its glittering Treasury is well worth a visit.
The siege of 1991-92
Having by now met up with Rob we spotted a doorway by the Sponza Palace which led us to a thought provoking and moving exhibition room, its walls lined with photographs of those who lost their lives in the siege of 1991-92.
Considerable damage was done to the old city by the siege bombardments but those massive city walls withstood the invaders, nevertheless conditions for those inside the walls were horrendous.
Almost 70% of the buildings in the old town were struck by shells; traces of shell and bullet damage are still visible today but you have to look carefully to spot it.
Lots of museums
The Franciscan Monastery close to the larger Onofrio fountain on the Stradun draws me like a magnet.
I love its peaceful inner courtyard and cloisters and pottering around the little museum. And I love peeking into the old pharmacy, one of the oldest in Europe – and still dispensing medicines.
There are a number of other museums – we spotted one devoted to icons – others include a Maritime Museum and an Ethnographic Museum, there is also an aquarium. But for so many of us Dubrovnik’s walled city is itself a living museum – just look around at those wonderful old buildings.
Enchanting ancient, narrow alleys
Away from the Stradun are the enchanting warrens of narrow alleys many with steep steps leading up the hillside or down to the walls; along them little shops and a plethora of cafes, bars and restaurants.
We stopped at one – Luos Café at Uska Ulica 5. Our two freshly made tasty, well filled sandwiches, a beer and a glass of wine cost came to approximately £22.
Great and friendly service by the way.
Take the cable car up Mt Srd
Something I had always wanted to do, but had never achieved was to take the cable car up the Srd Mountain.
Just outside the city walls we found the base station and duly handed over 150Kn each for the round trip before hopping into the cabin for the approximately four minute 405m ride to the top.
One of us quickly checked out the Pearl shop, before we both headed for the views, along with tea and cake, on the cable car terrace.
The views really are spectacular and on a clear day extend some 60km. No wonder the powers that be, way-back-when, built the imposing Imperial Fortress on this strategic spot.
We saved Lokrum for another visit
We had managed to pack a fair amount in our two days in Dubrovnik and had we had one more day we might well have taken a boat out to the small and forested island of Lokrum.
Now designated as a nature reserve, Lokrum was where, legend has it, Richard the Lionheart was shipwrecked in 1192.
With the remains of a Benedictine Abbey, Fort Royal Castle, a highly-rated botanical garden, restaurant, saltwater lake called the Dead Sea plus a nudist beach it is a popular spot, and has become even more so since being featured in the Game of Thrones as Qarth.
But Lokrum will have to wait for another visit. Early the next morning our mentor Marko was outside the Hotel More waiting to drive us back to Dubrovnik airport.
Hvala, Thank you Marko for your excellent driving and for all your help and advice. And hvala, thank you, Classic Collection Holidays for organising the two centres of Korčula and Dubrovnik so seamlessly for us. It was a truly memorable trip.
The 5* Hotel More has been built into a steep hillside on the Lapad Peninsula, overlooking the bay of the same name. It is a modern hotel with seven floors and a new wing which makes finding your way around it a tad difficult as different lifts have to be used. But persevere. The 85 en suite rooms and suites vary in size but are well-equipped and elegantly furnished with a slightly nautical theme to them.
Down by the water side there is the atmospheric Cave Bar – a great place for an aperitif. An excellent buffet breakfast is served in the first floor Restaurant More which also offers an à la carte menu for lunch and dinner. The second restaurant is Restaurant Tramuntana. The cuisine in both restaurants is fine dining and very good it was too. Close to the pool we tracked down the Pastry and Cocktail Bar – great cocktails and sweet treats.
Other facilities include a Wellness and Beauty salon with a Hydro tub, there is also a Fitness room. And last but not least congratulations to all the delightful and helpful hotel staff.
Classic Collection Holidays
Classic Collection Holidays offer single, twin and multi-centre holidays to Croatia. A 4 night stay at Hotel Liburna, Korcula Island, combined with 3 nights at Hotel More, Dubrovnik, starts from £1215 per person this May. Price based on 2 adults sharing on a bed & breakfast basis and includes return flights from the UK to Dubrovnik (flights available from up to 15 UK airports), private transfers and ferry crossings. Tel: 0800 047 1064; www.classic-collection.co.uk