When you picture Dubrovnik, this is what you see. Red tiled roofs, narrow streets and enormous fortifications enclosing it all. Well you’d be right. Except there’s one thing missing from this. The frankly ridiculous number of tourists.
Now I’m not exaggerating when I say, this was possibly the most obviously touristy place I’ve been to in my life. On my first visit I felt claustrophobic. The people were always around me, there was no space to relax and admire the undeniable beauty of the city. When you enter through Pile Gate, you see them. A marauding swarm of sweaty tourists gushing up and down the main street as far as the eye can see, which consequently isn’t very far, due to someone always standing in front of you. What do these people do in the city? They stand still in the middle of the street, walk in front of you taking photos (some with IPads, which I confess is a sort of pet hate of mine) and visit the tacky tourist shops. If you can’t tell from this brief description, my first visit wasn’t a success. I just wanted to leave.
However, we did return on multiple occasions and it got more bearable each time. You realise there is a way to escape the crowds and no, its not drinking so much that you forget they are there, although that was a very real option for me as I was reaching the end of my tether. Instead, you can save your liver some trouble and spare the hangover by heading away from the streets around the centre. Once you get towards the outer reaches of the old city there are alleyways with only locals going about their daily lives. In those places, the true city shines through. These areas may not have the big buildings but they do have a serenity that the rest of the old city misses out on.
Once you’ve embraced your temporary existence within the hive mind of the tourist horde, you realise that you can’t really come to the old city without walking the walls. They surround the entire city and the views you get from them, both out to sea and over the city are stunning. For the sake of your sanity and health, don’t even consider going near midday. It’s packed. The cruise ship guests are flooding the old town and it is very hot to be walking around up there.
For the sake of making this a blog post actually vaguely helpful for once, the price for the pleasure of walking the walls is 150HRK for adults and 50HRK for children. Just go in through the Pile Gate and look left and you’re there.
Now our culinary experiences of this area of Dubrovnik weren’t great, but more than anything, this was our fault for appeasing my brother. He decided that on almost every night he wanted calamari. While calamari is very tasty and is served practically everywhere I was thinking something a little more varied than a plate of battered squid would be nice on holiday. But alas, he whined and whined saying that he wouldn’t like anything else and so we had to turn away from the lovely looking restaurants situated in the outer parts of the city (I won’t forget you ‘Azur‘). The Asian fusion restaurant was just what I wanted, but instead we ended up going back to the centre of the old town, I had 3 tasteless scallops and some leaves for double the price (180HRK or £21) . I wasn’t happy.
The best food we had was outside of the walls and into the rest of the city. Where instead of 140 Kuna (around 17 pounds) for a meal it was 90 Kuna at the very most. Our favourite restaurant in Dubrovnik was in Mokošica, near where we were staying. There is a pizzeria (Pizzeria Laus) in the area with high rise flats. Now this isn’t the type of place I would usually go looking for great food (despite experience teaching me otherwise) but on the recommendation of our host we went up there and found it. The “small” pizzas were enormous and even someone who eats as much as me felt full after one. The price? A mere 45 Kuna. That’s like 5 quid. If you’re not feeling up to a pizza, the menu here comes with plenty more and from what we saw the other options looked very good.
The old city consists of narrow, pretty alleyways and wide open squares filled with cafes and restaurants. Towards the outer walls, the city becomes quiet as there are less restaurants and the streets no longer act as funnels for people. Dubrovnik old town is incredibly beautiful but in my opinion marred by the constant stream of tourists. If walking around taking photos isn’t what you look for and you want some adrenaline, see the next post for some activities to do in Dubrovnik.