The locals’ guide to Dubrovnik

From its Baroque buildings to its contemporary art attractions, there’s plenty to discover inside the Croatian city’s ancient stone walls

 

For romantics at heart

Croatian journalist Ana Muhar, who was married in Dubrovnik, reveals the secret side of the city, and where to go for a dash of romance

 

Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The famous portraits of the fortified Old Town are stunning and the place is even more breathtaking in real life. It’s hard to resist diving into the sea – the locals don’t understand why tourists often require access to swimming pools.

The city is so photogenic that it can feel like a wedding set. Approaching the Old Harbour by boat is a special experience, perhaps after a long, delicious lunch in Gverović-Orsan in the nearby village of Zaton beside the sea. Hike up to Fort Lovrijenac for striking views. And stroll through the elegant Old Town in the middle of the night, when the old stones have a special glow.

It is impossible to divide Dubrovnik from its history, and people who don’t appreciate history are unlikely to fall in love with Dubrovnik. A simple walk in the Old Town will work its magic, however, it’s definitely worth having a guided tour of the City Walls. For a look into its more recent history, I would advise visitors to visit the War Photography Museum.

Croatians will tell you that the people of Dubrovnik are complicated, but I like them. I like their pride, peculiar accent and relaxed manner. The best way to meet them is at one of the local cafés in the morning, as a cup of coffee first thing is an absolute must in Croatia.

Spend your time and money on experiences. Visit the stunning Elaphiti Islands, eat the fresh fish, sample different olive oils and sip the grape from nearby Peljesac. If you must buy something, my favourite place to shop is antique boutique Moje Tezoro, which has a wonderful collection of original old jewellery that’s pricey but beautiful
and unique.

 

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For art buffs

Selma Hafizovic, owner of Dubrovnik Contemporary Gallery, shines a light on the city’s artistic and creative gems

Dubrovnik itself is like an evolving work of art. If you want to experience the art scene that’s developing there, head to Banje Beach on Frana Supila Road. All the major galleries and institutions are there, including Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik. Founded in 1945 it houses an impressive 2,620 works of art, many of which are by artists linked in some way to the Dubrovnik area.

For a grassroots experience, head over to Art Radionica Lazareti, an independent institution representing an alternative art scene with concerts, open discussions and exhibitions. It’s an amazing place to meet local artists at the many openings and events held there.

And, of course, Dubrovnik Contemporary Gallery is the place to go for works by mainly London and New York based contemporary artists. It’s a magnet for serious collectors who are interested in emerging and mid-career artists.

Next, head back inside the city walls to mingle with the locals in the old part of town. I recommend hanging out at Lucio’s café in Zlatarska Street – it’s where all the artists and sailors come to unwind. Once there, you can get a sense of the history of the place.

Afterwards, walk to Clara Stones Jewellery where you can peek inside one of the last red coral workshops in Croatia and see how these little pieces of art are transformed into jewellery. A walk through the city follows in the footsteps of Lord Byron (who described it as the ‘jewel of the Adriatic’) and playwright George Bernard Shaw (who wrote Pygmalion) who both came here for inspiration. The locals will also tell you stories of Dame Elizabeth Taylor who came here to hide away.

In the summer, the city takes pride in its Dubrovnik Summer Festival theatre programme, running from 10 July to 25 August 2018. The whole city will be out in will be out in support, and it’s really quite wonderful.

The distinctive terracotta rooftops that characterise the Old Town, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, have inspired many artworks and are a focus of a major restoration programme co-ordinated
by the organisation.

 

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For foodies

Ana-Marija Bujić, co-owner of Pantarul restaurant and author of What’s Cooking in Dubrovnik, takes us on a gastronomic tour of the city

 

Dubrovnik is a small town but there are several good restaurants scattered around and, even if you’re pushed for time, you should find it easy to experience all of them. For a fine dining experience, check out: Restaurant 360°, which has recently been awarded a Michelin star; Restaurant Nautika, a long-established venue with breathtaking sea views; and Restaurant Dubrovnik, where the quality of the food is always high.

During April there is an abundance of fresh produce at the local markets, such as wild asparagus (not to be confused with the cultivated varieties – the wild one has a bitter taste and is most often combined with eggs), a mixture of wild herbs called pazija, fava beans, green beans, new potatoes and dill. At Pantarul we make the most out of each season, so you are sure to find most – if not all – of these vegetables on our menu.

For something a bit different, Konavoski Dvori National Restaurant in Ljuta, in the Konavle area, serves delicious Croatian cuisine in a riverside setting. Try the sač (peka) – meat and vegetables prepared under an iron bell and cooked in the ashes – and also trout fresh from the river. The weather there is always pleasant and it’s a refreshing destination in summer.

To taste something truly unique, take a trip to Ston village, which is a 45-minute drive from Dubrovnik. The oysters and mussels you can eat there are a delicacy in Croatia and you can even have a go at harvesting them. You should also try cuttlefish risotto – special due to its jet black colour – and end the experience with makaruli, a dessert made from pasta and a sweet walnut and almond based cream.