Dubrovnik is one of Europe’s most breathtaking destinations. Combining the perfect mix of city, sea, and relaxed mediterranean flare, Dubrovnik is the jewel of the Adriatic. Just across from Italy on the Adriatic Sea, Croatia packs some serious punch, especially considering it only declared independence in 1991.
Formerly known as Ragusa, you can trace the history of all the empires that left their mark here, from the Venetians, to the Hungarians, the Ottomans, the Austro-Hungarian empire, and Yugoslavia. When Croatia declared independence, more than half of the buildings in the old town were damaged by continuous shelling, but this has all since been repaired. These days Dubrovnik is invaded by tourists, not armies.
Essential Croatian Experiences
A picturesque old wall surrounds this gorgeous city perched above the emerald sea. Tourists flock here, parading down the shiny streets of old town. At night Dubrovnik’s streets glisten with reflected light, as if there has just been a fresh rain shower. By day, they appear glossy and polished, as if buffed to a brilliant shine by the thousands of feet that pass over them. You can’t help but unwind here over fresh seafood and a glass of wine by candlelight. This, of course, must be followed up with a late night ice cream (or two).
Walking the Old City Walls
The one thing you can’t miss out on when in Dubrovnik is walking the full perimeter of the city atop the old city walls, which will reward you with breathtaking panoramas. Perched up above all the orange rooftops and church spires, you can circle the city while you take in the ocean, surrounding islands, and a backdrop of sun-baked hills that tumble right into the sea.
Swimming in the Adriatic
Once you’ve walked the walls, you have to take a dip in the sea. There are a few rocky swimming spots within walking distance of old town with water so clear you can see fish zipping around your ankles. The best of these spots is Buža, where you can take a swim then enjoy a beer at the bar afterwards. There are also a couple public beaches within walking distance of old town, the most famous being pebbled Banje beach.
A Trip to Lokrum Island
However, for the best swim spots, a side trip to Lokrum island is essential. Just 10 minutes away by ferry and costing 50 Croatian kuna (about $8), Lokrum island is a nature park and is the perfect place to spend the day relaxing and swimming. Lokrum is the closest island to Dubrovnik and is filled with prime swimming spots and hidden coves.
It’s also a great place for hiking. After swimming on one side of the island and sunning yourself on the rocks, you can grab lunch at the only café on the island, before heading to the other side. It’s a quick walk across the entire island through a short thick of woods, which are filled with wild peacocks and house a Benedictine monastery and botanical garden. In contrast, the other side of the island is rugged, windy and even more rocky.
Croatia Beyond Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is a stunning city to visit and the perfect place to enjoy the ocean and the city in one swoop. It’s also the prime jumping off point for a tour up the coast to more of Croatia’s stunning beaches. Be sure not to miss Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. It’s filled with graceful European architecture, a vibrant live music scene and a charming old town where time seems to stand still. No matter where you end up, Croatia has something for everyone.