At a glance
Even from afar, you can see why the makers of Game of Thrones and Star Wars picked Dubrovnik as a setting.
It is otherworldly; a fantasy; timeless. Perched on sea-washed rocks, a circle of fortifications hold in their firm embrace a settlement of stately buildings in soft sorbet hues, marble streets shimmering between them, russet rooftops juxtaposed against azure skies above, and a tiny emerald nugget of an island just off shore.
It might feel as unreal as a stage set, but between those lens-friendly monuments and palaces, behind the hawkers and the shuffling groups of tourists, are lively bars and bustling marketplaces, mom-and-pop shops where locals buy groceries and wine from the barrel, rocky promontories from which residents plunge for refreshing dips, and sleepy alleys where cats sun themselves.
It is the most popular tourist destination in Croatia, and you will immediately understand why – though if you are there in mid-summer you may wish you had chosen a more peaceful time of year, especially when the cruise-ship crowds clog the old city; try to book in late-September for still-warm seas and sunny skies to see this city at its best without the rabble.
Climb the ramparts, stroll the narrow passageways, peek into every palazzo, castle and monastery, watch the sunset from a Buža bar and savour a gourmet meal from an Adriatic-gazing terrace, speed across to Lokrum in a water taxi and kayak to Betina Cave.
Then head north from Dubrovnik to sample grand cru wines and local oysters on the Pelješac peninsula, swim off fine shingle beaches and dive to discover Ancient Greek urns teeming with marine life; take a boat over to Mljet to cycle the virgin trails of its national park, or head south to the scenic port of Cavtat, verdant Mlini and the rugged hills of Konavle with its rustic charms and honest farm cooking.
(Pronunciation guide: Dubrovnik is as it looks, but with the stress on the first syllable, to sound truly Croatian. Pelješac sounds like “pelyeshats”. Mljet is “Mlyet”. Cavtat is “Tsavtat”. Buža, as in the bars, is “Boozha”. Mount Srđ is closest in English to “Surge” but keep the vowel as short as possible and roll the ‘r’.)