Dubrovnik was much smaller than I imagined it would be. I mean, you can get from one end of the Old City in less that 5 minutes on foot. It’s insane. And if you’ve ever been to Disney World (or Land), that’s a bit what it feels like. Perhaps it’s the trafficless, immaculate streets. Maybe it’s the abundance of tourists. Or the rows upon rows of restaurants and gift shops. It’s hard to believe that the maze of cobbled streets and hand-carved buildings have remained pretty much unchanged since they were first built the 13th century.
Luckily, and unlike Disney Parks – there isn’t a rollercoaster in sight. The whole place oozes culture. There is loads to see and do. I’m no travel expert, but I did find some delicious places to eat and great places to adventure to. And I always find recommendations super handy – the food tour was one of them. So here’s a rundown, in a blog post-shaped nutshell, of what I discovered during my 4-day mini break to the beautiful city of Dubrovnik…
Dubrovnik is largely fuelled by tourism. It’s a summer destination, with the season running from April to October. According to our food tour guide, it’s pretty dead during the winter months. July/ August are certainly the hotter of the months to visit. Temperatures crept up to almost 35 some days, so apart from the day of our kayaking expedition, we tended to chill by the pool and then head into town once the sun had set. There’s nothing worse than feeling all fresh and ready to go out, only to board a sweaty sardine tin-like bus.
As a duo, while nothing was extortionately priced, the most economical way to get from A to B in Dubrovnik was on the bus. The bus system is easy to navigate, regular, and not too expensive. 15 Kuna (£1.70) will get you a bus ticket which is useable as much as you want within an hour (12 Kuna if you buy it at a kiosk rather than onboard). That being said, at peak times the bus was very busy and incidentally quite sweaty. Something worth being prepared for.
To get from the old town to our hotel in a taxi was 100 Kuna (about £11.50). So more than three times the amount for us both to hop on the bus (#mathsgenius), but still pretty reasonable. At the end of the evening on a couple of occasions, it was the quickest and most direct route to bed. And if you’re anything like me at the end of an evening, you just want to get there as soon as possible!
Lying by the pool was great. But these two particular adventures where my absolute holiday highlights. And both for very different reasons. I couldn’t recommend them more!
Sea Kayaking | Lokrum
Be warned – as soon as you approach the Old City, you’ll have kayaking tour operators coming out of your ears. And unless you want to embark upon a three-hour guided tour (250 Kuna/ £30 per person), I would avoid them. My recommendation is to hop aboard the boat to Lokrum (leaves every half an hour from the Old City harbour, takes 15 mins, and I think costs 50 kuna per person for a return ticket), and walk across to the other side of the island where you’ll find a pair of semi-attractive, super-tanned chaps in speedos armed and ready with a heard of kayaks. And the best part? They only charge 100 Kuna (about £11.50) per hour per kayak (mainland tour operators were trying to weasel 150 per person per hour!). We had a quick chat and map overview, before setting off on our circumnavigation. By the time we got back, I felt like flippin’ Columbus. We did it in an hour and 20. And that included a shady cave rest (not as dodgy as it sounds) as well as Franky swimming about a third of the way. God, we’re good.
Top sea kayaking tips (because I am clearly a pro now):
- go heavy on the suncream – the sun is super strong with minimal shade out on the water other than the occasional cave
- wear sunglasses – they protect against the ocean splashback, but take a pair of cheapos so you don’t ruin your Pradas darling
- don’t go nuts with the paddling – you’ll burn out early and struggle to get back
- listen to the speedo men when disembarking to avoid getting into a scrap with the rocks (huh hum Franky)
- take a waterproof camera – there is plenty of opportunity for B-E-A-UTIFUL snapshots
Dubrovnik Food Tours | Old City
I don’t know why booking a food tour on holiday had never crossed my mind before. It’s the perfect introduction to a city. Dubrovnik Food Tours was recommended to us by a friend. They offer a variety of packages, but we opted for the Old City walking tour; a 6pm slot on our inaugural evening.
Each tour accommodates up to 8 people, which means it can be pretty hit-or-miss on who you end up with. But lucky for us, were a group of 4 – an Australian couple and ourselves. Similar age, and plenty to talk about. The tour consisted of four stops – a wine bar with fresh olives and cured meats, a rooftop restaurant for starters – Burrata and seared duck, a harbour-side family-run outlet for our mains – black cuttle fish risotto and fresh octopus salad, and then a cute little spot down a cobbled street for a cheeky slice of citrus cake. Our guide not only led us from feast to feast, but also provided a wealth of local insight en route – from 90s war stories to Game of Thrones filming facts – it was all rather educational! Plus the food was delicious, and every dish was paired with a local wine. All for £75 per person. I would have happily paid more. It was amazeballs.
Finding delicious places to eat is essential for any holiday I embark upon. And luckily, Franky’s priorities are very much aligned. These were our favourites…
Stara Loza | Old City
Stara Loza was actually the second restaurant we sampled on the food tour. The food and the rooftop views were so incredible that we decided to return for a full feast on our final night. And boy was it worth it. You can’t go wrong with the menu – it’s all beautifully presented and mouth-wateringly delicious. I would recommend trying the duck, stracciatela, or beef tartare to start, and the lamb rack or sirloin for main. The meal cost us about £40 per person, which included starters and mains for us both plus one bottle of wine. So very reasonable!
Otto Taverna | Nikola Tesle 8
Otto Taverna was a TripAdvisor find. High-five to me on the searching skills. Although I would never have found the place without Franky’s navigational skills. Well, Google Map’s navigational skills in Franky’s capable(-ish) hands. What would we do without the internet, eh?
From the outside, it looks relatively unimpressive. I’m not sure I would have even considered going inside had I not been specifically looking for it. But inside is a small, tight run restaurant, with attentive staff (one of the waiters looked a lot like Kyle Chandler YUM), delicious food, and a buzzy atmosphere. The inside is definitely more picturesque than the outside area, but we still chose sat outside. It’s important to make the most of the weather when you hail from the land of eternal drizzle.
Food-wise – the moules were delicious, as were our mains; I had the lamb and Frank went for the pan-fried sea bream. Price – similar to Stara Loza. So again – not going to break the bank.
Dubrovnik definitely doesn’t have a shortage of places to drink. So these are just a view of the places we found, primarily based on views provided! Beverage-wise, we generally stuck to Pošip, a Croatian dry white wine grown almost exclusively along Dalmatian coast. Neither of us had ever come across Croatian wine before this trip, but quickly learnt the reason – Croatia exports very little wine. The vineyards don’t produce enough to deal with export demand. So we made damn sure that we tasted as much as possible to make up for it!
Cafe Buža | Old City Walls
There are actually two of these beauties. Quite literally a hole in the wall, Cafe Buža (I & II) are located on the outer Old City walls, both with a spectacular view of the ocean. I’m not exactly sure which we went to, but having read up on the matter, can assure you that they are both offer equally excellent views. And where are they, you ask? Well all I remember is clambering up the steps where Cersei Lannister was stripped bare before being paraded through Kings Landing (GoT ref sorry), past a chicken restaurant, round a number of cobbled corners, and through a hole. In other words – your best bet is to ask a local for directions! We actually went for a post-food tour bevvy, but I think it would be a spectacular spot for sundowners. Get there early though, because its a popular watering hole. Also – don’t get too boozed up as the tables are dotted on varying levels of rock, and the steps are yet more uneven rocks. So perhaps ditch the heels too!
Arsenal Taverna | Old City Harbour
For a ground level view of the Old City harbour, pop into the Arsenal Taverna in the Gradska Kavana, located just off the main square and next to the clock tower. Again – we went post dinner, which was beautifully breezy, but this is definitely another good spot for sundowners. We obviously didn’t taste the food, so can’t comment on that, but if you do plan to eat there, book a waterfront table for the best views.
? | Lokrum Island
No – it’s not called ‘?’. To be completely honest, I was so set on treating myself to a post-kayaking prosecco reward, that I didn’t catch the name of this particular spot. And all the Google searches in the world don’t seem to be providing me with an answer. But the good news is that it’s easy to locate! Lokrum isn’t huge. Find the lagoon, and there lies the bar. The bar offering cold glasses of prosecco for 21 kuna. With the questionable addition of a maraschino cherry, I’ll add. But I guess you can opt out of that little fruity imposter.
Beachside, I mean. If you’re looking for secluded, never-ending white beaches with bendy palm trees and pina coladas in pineapples, then Dubrovnik probably isn’t the place for you. The land is largely mountainous, and so the beaches are incy wincy. And a little crowded. And stoney on the feet. But we did stumble across a couple of beach clubs that seemed pretty hip-hop-and-happening. For any Dubai peeps reading this – think Barasti, but much classier. And more family friendly. With better food. And better views.
Coral Beach Club | Babin Kuk
Coral Beach Club is about 5km north-west of the Old City – about 15 minutes on the bus. Lucky for us though, we were able to walk to this particular spot from our digs. Deathly bored of the prawn and mango salad at the hotel, we decided to wonder down for lunch on our last full day. It was busy, but not rammed, there was a DJ playing some excellent beachside tunes, and while the kitchen seemed rather chaotic, the food was excellent. As was the wine. We sampled a good few glasses to make sure, of course.
The view was beautiful. It almost felt like we were lakeside, rather than on a beach. And there was a pontoon where people were diving off to cool down. You could rent a double or single lounger for I think 200 and 14o Kuna respectively, which included a towel. I think you would need to nab a spot relatively early though, as they were all full when we rocked up at lunch. From the looks of things, it turns into more of a party in the evenings, but it was our final evening, so we didn’t stick around.
Banje Beach | Old City
Similar to Coral Beach Club, Banje Beach is another waterfront spot, but further along the coast, the other side of the Old City. We got the bus to the Old City bus stop and walked around to Banje. It took us about 10 minutes. It was surprisingly empty when we went for dinner one evening, but the view again was beautiful and the food was delicious. We saw the club from the boat on our way back from Lokrum the following day, and it was busy. So definitely one to visit during the day rather than in the evening.
We are both completely over scrimping and saving on accommodation. I really need a clean bathroom and a comfy bed to stay in. So we opted for a 4* hotel in Babin Kuk – the Valamar Lacroma. And at less than £80 per person per night with breakfast included, I think it was still a pretty sweet deal. The staff were friendly, the rooms were a good size, the pool was huge, the drinks weren’t over-priced, and there was a bus stop right outside. I would happily stay there again.
I’m sure there is an abundance of other accommodation options, but one word of warning – apparently it’s best to avoid staying within the Old City. While it is beautiful, the prices tend to be on the steeper side, it’s quite hot, and also noisy until the early hours. You’re welcome.
In conclusion – Dubrovnik is definitely worth a visit. If you’re planning a trip, I hope this has been helpful. And if you’ve already been – is there anything else that you enjoyed that’s worth recommending? Let me know in the comments below! Over and out.