It's hard to believe how much Dubrovnik has changed over the years. As recently as in 1991, it suffered an enormous damage during the horrific war in the Balkans - at that time it would have been the last place on Earth you would have thought of visiting. Today, not even 30 years after those dramatic events, the city has regained its grandeur - Dubrovnik is one of the most popular walled cities in the world, especially within the past few years when it has been featured in the extremely popular "Game of Thrones". But what can you expect from visiting it? Is it really as spectacular as in the famous show?
The good sides of Dubrovnik
- Dubrovnik is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful medieval towns on Earth. At least among those that I've visited. The location along the breathtaking Adriatic coast, the red roof tiles, the fortress and defensive walls, the limestone streets - they all create a perfect combination for a fairy tale-like, exceptionally beautiful tourist destination. Moreover, Dubrovnik seems spotlessly clean (not only in the old town) but also in the modern parts. I also like the fact the way the new houses integrate perfectly into the landscape - there are no horrible, concrete blocks and heavy architecture known in post-communist states.
- The size of Dubrovnik is just perfect. It's small enough if you want to see its beautiful old town in one day by just walking around. And big enough if you want more and like to be active. You can hike the Sdr hill - we took the cable car one way up and then walked down (it takes around 1 hour to get back to the center) - this way we could admire the absolutely amazing, bird's eye view over the old town as well as many islands surrounded by the crystal clear, azure Adriatic sea. You can also do some kayaking, hiking or cycling to other places around - you won't regret it! If you need some ideas - visit Exodus Europe Holidays.
- The sun, the weather and the beaches! Dubrovnik has the amazing, Mediterranean climate which guarantees a lot of sunny days throughout the year. The crystal clear waters and the beaches are also beautiful - especially contrasting with the view of spectacular walls of the old town. The only downside can be the fact that they are all pebble beaches rather than sandy. And if the area around the center is too busy for you, you can choose the amazing, a bit more secluded Lapad beach - it's easy to get by public transport.
- A walk down the main street called Stradun, right after passing through the main city gate will transform you into a fantasy world, it's limestone surface is so shiny and spotless that is seems you could eat straight from it. The buildings made of sandstone and little, winding streets are my favorite - I just love towns like this.
- Climb the city walls - the view, as usual is breathtaking. The red roofs squeezed tightly one next to another look out of this world - no wonder creators of Game of Thrones chose this location. There is one painful thing, however, (which I've described more in the part about "not so good sides" below) - in order to get to the city walls, you must pay the very high entrance fee!
- Visit Fort Lovrijenac - St. Lawrence Fortress which is yet another amazing viewing point.
- Spectacular churches and palaces of Dubrovnik include: St. Savior Church, Dubrovnik Cathedral and Rector's Palace.
The ugly sides of Dubrovnik
- Most probably, if I'd visited Dubrovnik 10 years ago, there would have been no bad sides to it. However, now, the Croatian city has suffered such incredible influx of tourists (especially those from the Mediterranean Cruises) that it's lost much of the unique, charming atmosphere which is present in similar towns. It can drive you crazy when you want to take a photo or just simply walk down one of the beautiful streets and a pre-organized tour composed of a few dozens of individuals (most likely Asian) with colorful flags and fluorescent outfits gets in the way. And usually, they don't like to move - they love to take hundreds of selfies. There's a solution to that however - you can come to Dubrovnik in winter when there's no cruises on the Mediterranean! The weather might not be as good and you can forget about lying on the beach - but you'll have a peaceful stay.
- Second thing is the prices. The Balkans are known for great value and cheap holidays, perfect for adventurous backpackers. Unfortunately, in this matter, Dubrovnik is an exception. It's ridiculously expensive - even more than some places Western Europe! While there's no solution to paying for the best attractions (the entry fee to the aforementioned defensive walls is 120 HRK - 15 EUR/18 USD!), if you choose accommodation further from the center, you'd still be able to find something affordable. Dubrovnik is connected by an excellent bus network so that shouldn't be a problem. Also, instead of taking the cable car which is around 15 EUR too, you can hike up if you like it. The views are spectacular.
- The third, and last thing is the commercialization - unfortunately, Dubrovnik shared the fate of places like Venice, Mykonos or Phi Phi islands in Thailand. The locals are not as easy going and friendly as in the rest of the Balkans - they don't have to care that much, they know they'll get tourists anyway. The hype (although rightly deserved), unfortunately, kills the spirit. That's the way it is. Expensive boutiques in the old, ancient buildings just don't match. I hate when such a unique place is turned into a some sort of a shopping mall for stuck up people.
Is Dubrovnik really worth the hype then?
There are places that, mainly because of the high exposure in the media, set our expectations extremely high. Then, we meet the reality - and how we react to the place, depends on our personal experiences. Some will love what they see, others will complain. The most famous example of it can be Paris - loved by the film industry and praised virtually everywhere as the best city in the world. I hated Paris, to be honest, mostly because my expectation weren't met - the city had turned out to be completely different than from I'd have imagined it to be.
But with Dubrovnik, it's a different story. For me, it was even better than I had expected. It's impossible not to fall in love with the sea, the mountains, the beaches and the old city all mixed into one scenery. Despite all the downsides, there are many more things to like than dislike in this ancient city. And to sum it up, I'd definitely visit Dubrovnik again, as well as other towns in Croatia. Although the hype doesn't help Dubrovnik, it turns it into yet another overcrowded tourist spot, in my opinion, the city really deserves the recognition it has gained over the recent years.
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