Often when I travel to a new destination, I try to see and do as much as possible in the time available. I want to get to know the place, try it on, and see if it fits. I’m usually asking myself questions: Could I live here someday? What would that be like? But every once in a while, I arrive somewhere and simply want to absorb its beauty. Koh Lanta, Thailand, Santorini, Greece, and Dubrovnik, Croatia are a few of those rare places where I was content to do nothing. I didn’t go to a single museum or palace. Rather, my three days in Dubrovnik were spent relaxing by the sea, eating all the Croatian food, and admiring the medieval city from every possible angle.
Thick stone walls have encircled Dubrovnik since the 9th century, protecting it from invaders. Visitors now patrol the ramparts, searching for ships on the horizon and perfect photo ops, of which there are many. It’s possible to walk the entire length of the Dubrovnik City Walls, which continue unbroken for 1,940 meters. Watch towers punctuate the fortifications and afford a dramatic look at the city’s jumble of red rooftops. Damage incurred during the 1991 siege and bombing is noticeable, though the city has mostly been restored thanks to UNESCO support.
Dubrovnik’s walls provide a dramatic backdrop even from ground level as visitors slink along their perimeter like so many ants. One of my favorite ways to pass the time was people watching at a harbor-side cafe, ice cold beer in hand. Others soaked up the late summer sunshine atop a small jetty or from rocks at the base of the walls, jumping gleefully into the blue water to cool off. Those in the know relaxed at a secluded bar that clings precariously to the city’s foundation.
Between the walls, a grid of steep stone staircases forms the backbone of the old city. I loved wandering beneath hanging laundry and the profusion of plants, watching locals carry on with their daily life inside a medieval fantasy world. The alleys were lined with apartments and guesthouses, restaurants and shops, and yet they never felt loud or crowded. Perhaps this was because it was late September and most of the tourists had moved on, but I still felt like I was in on a wonderful little secret.
One evening I came across d’vino wine bar and took up residence at an empty table tucked along an alley wall. Unfamiliar with Croatian wines, I opted for a tasting of three refreshing whites from different parts of the country. While all were tasty, the most memorable was a full-bodied Posip from the island of Korcula.
To fully appreciate the Pearl of the Adriatic in all her glory, I headed to Panorama restaurant atop Mt. Srd. Reached via cable car (€15 round trip), the umbrella-shaded terrace is the perfect spot to marvel at the sweeping view (over wine and cheese, naturally).
My rental apartment was located in the neighborhood of Gruz, some two kilometers from the Old City. The daily climb up and down the hill was strenuous, but it provided a fascinating glimpse of workaday life in Dubrovnik. And the gorgeous scenery more than made up for the effort.
Is Croatia on your bucket list? How would you spend three days in Dubrovnik?