I was hooked the moment I laid my eyes on Croatian soil. Dense green forests ran right up to the edge of the sea. The bright orange roofs of houses could be seen here and there between the trees. Suddenly, the greenery began to disappear, and imposing grey mountains rose up in the distance. This was all entirely new territory for me. New country, new language, new adventure. I think Devon was ready to jump off the plane after the tenth time I asked to steal her phone to take pictures. Yes, I’ll admit I was that person taking too many airplane wing photos. I couldn’t help myself. It was gorgeous.
Our first stop was Dubrovnik, the medieval walled city. This city has become steadily more popular over the last decade, especially now that it has served as the backdrop for several Game of Thrones locations. Dubrovnik served as the perfect gateway to Croatia with ferries, planes, and buses connecting to anywhere and everywhere we could want to go. The plan was to spend a few days getting to know the city before heading north via the various islands along the coast.
I’ve complied a list of my five favorite things in/about/around Dubrovnik. I hope you enjoy!
It goes without saying, the old town of Dubrovnik is iconic. The shining marble streets and grand main avenue make quite the impression when you first walk through the Pile Gate on the west side of town. Little side streets shoot off leading to pubs, shops, and residential areas. The main street, or Stradun, is lined with outdoor cafés perfect for people watching. This has to be one of the most unique city centres I’ve ever seen. Just be careful in the rain because the streets get slippery…
Walking the Walls
There is no better way to get acquainted with this little city than by walking along the walls. The impressive fortification runs around the entire city and can be as high as 25 meters in some spots. It is best to go in the morning or early evening to avoid the crowds and the summer heat. We went in the evening, and watching the orange glow of the setting sun wash over the city was incredible. My camera was definitely getting more use on this leg of the trip.
Some of you may recognize this fort as the Red Keep from Game of Thrones. Fort Lovrijenac sits atop a 37 meter high cliff looking over the sea and city. The ticket is included in the entry fee for the city walls, so you definitely shouldn’t pass it up. The views are amazing. My favourite spot in all of Dubrovnik was just outside the entrance looking out over a small cove. Dev and I returned there to watch the sunset on our final night. I am still not over how blue the water was. I swear it looked like people were swimming in blue Gatorade.
War Photo Limited
Alrighty, folks. Time to get a little serious. Dubrovnik is an incredible destination because of its historical sites and museums, but its history isn’t all ancient. Located in the city centre of Dubrovnik is a photography gallery/museum called War Photo Limited. As the name would suggest, the exhibits focus on the work of various photo-journalists. When we went, the main exhibit was on the work of Eddie van Wessel from his time spent in the Middle East. Shot over the course of about ten years, these portraits, candid shots, and artistic photos depicted the lives of individuals amidst chaos. It was powerful.
Aside from the main exhibit, there is also a permanent collection of photos from the Yugoslav Wars upstairs. Despite the fact that this occurred during my lifetime, I know very little about it. One of the photos showed the harbor of Dubrovnik burning. People in the city were without water. They were refugees. It is hard to imagine that seeing the city as it is now, a thriving tourist hotspot. It is amazing how things change and people can bounce back. It made me wonder how the city would look in another twenty years.
Watching the sun set over the Adriatic was one of my favourite experiences in Dubrovnik. Sunsets are usually beautiful, but watching the city slowly light up as the sky darkens was particularly magical. I really wish I had a tripod with me to do some proper long exposure shots, but I made do with a crumbling fort wall and some railings. I’d love to come back to the city during the low season. The restaurants and shops may all close, but it must feel incredible to have the city all to yourself. Though we missed the worst of the crowds, the day we left another cruise ship showed up and flooded the city with a new batch of tourists. Maybe I am selfish, but I can live with that.
Old Town Hostel
I also have to give a shout out to the hostel we stayed in. It was absolutely brilliant. The girls who worked there were so helpful and friendly. Being smack dab in the middle of Old Town didn’t hurt either. If you are ever planning to go to Dubrovnik, check it out!
And there we have it! Those were my absolute favorite things from our time in Dubrovnik. When the time came, I was very sad to go, but I knew Croatia had more to offer! Dev and I hopped on a ferry and jetted off to our next destination: the island of Korčula.