By Susan O’Brien
Photos courtesy Croatian National Tourist Board
Have you always wished you had been on the Riviera with Hemingway, Stein and Picasso in the 1920s? Although time travel is not (yet) possible, there’s a place on the Adriatic coast that claims to capture that golden era.
Dubrovnik has a proud history that goes back to Roman times, and its ancient center is so remarkably well-preserved it is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. It is Croatia’s southernmost city, enjoying a sunny Mediterranean climate and a spectacular mountain coastline dotted with more than 1,000 islands. It combines the charm of an ancient walled city with the amenities of a first-class Adriatic resort. It’s easy to see why the city has been known as “The Pearl of the Adriatic.”
The city was built on maritime trade, becoming a rival to Venice In the Middle Ages. Supported by its wealth and skilled diplomacy during the 15th and 16th centuries, Dubrovnik was one of the centers of development of the Croatian language and literature, home to many notable poets, playwrights, painters, mathematicians, physicists and other scholars.
The easiest way to get to Dubrovnik is by air, although bus and ferry transportation are also possibilities. Croatia Airlines operates daily flights to and from Zagreb and select European cities. Planes land at Dubrovnik International Airport (Zracna Luka), located at Cilipi, 18km (11 miles) from the city center.
Buses are available from other Croatian cities, as are ferries from Bari, Italy and other coastal spots in Croatia.
The walled Old Town is pedestrian-friendly, and most major sites are inside. The Stradun is the main street through the Old Town. The Romanesque cathedral, which dates from the 6th or 7th century, was badly damaged in the earthquake of 1667 and rebuilt in the Baroque style by Roman architects Andrea Buffalini and Paolo Andreotti. There are also Jesuit, Dominican and Franciscan monasteries, among many other architectural treasures.
The basic style of Dubrovnik cuisine is Mediterranean. The emphasis is on olive oil, not butter. Polenta is a popular side dish and most dishes are liberally seasoned with parsley and garlic.
With strong historic links to Italy, it’s unsurprising that pasta and risotto is served in nearly every restaurant. Pizza is another favorite, usually toasted in wood-fired ovens.
The staple of traditional Dubrovnik cuisine is fish and seafood, expertly prepared but not necessarily local. The demand for best quality fish and shellfish far outstrips the supply, particularly in high season, and restaurants are often forced to buy frozen fish from afar.
Although the Yugoslavian wars of the ’90s severely damaged Dubrovnik, it has completely recovered and its tourist scene is as lively as ever. The city is home to dozens of accommodations from inexpensive hostels to luxurious, Riviera-style hotels. Apartment rentals are an economical option and are available in all price ranges as well. Some helpful web sites for finding accommodations are:
Dubrovnik hosts a lively nightlife scene and dozens of restaurants, all vying with each other for the attention of tourists. If you are used to the prices of Western Europe, this Eastern European city will seem like a comparative bargain.
There are plenty of good web sites about Croatia in general and Dubrovnik in particular, for help in travel planning. Here are a few: