dubrovnik: cities with walls are just better

theromanticIt’s true, though, right? Cities with walls are just more interesting and romantic. Romantic with a capital R, even.

In my post on Montenegro, I noted how frustrated I was by the crowds in Dubrovnik, and I fear it gave off the impression that I didn’t like the city. Really, this was not the case at all—but I will say… the cruisers did negatively affect our experience. However, our overall view of the city was true love.

In reality, Dubrovnik was just as beautiful as I had imagined, and though I think Kotor has more Old World charm, Dubrovnik has more life to it.

So, how to keep your sanity when throngs of cruise shippers try so desperately to snatch it away?

croatia

*Fair warning: another picture-heavy post is about to kick off, but I seriously don’t know how to help it. This part of the world is just stupid beautiful.

Stay outside of the city.

dubrovnik apartment

We stayed at an AirBnb apartment a little bit away from the Old City, and despite that fact a few locals gave us the side eye when we revealed our accommodation choice, it was perfect! We anticipated needing a bit of a detox before meeting up with the wino & her mister in Budapest (rightfully so, might I add), so having a reason to head back to our apartment and relax on our terrace, as pictured above, wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Our hosts were an incredibly lovely family of three, complete with an impossibly cute St. Bernard puppy and a three year old daughter who eyed up my bracelets on the first night and declared I was a golden lady. I mean, this is how her mom translated it and I choose to believe it because how cute?

We took the bus to Old City each day, and tried to arrive early before the dreaded cruise ships docked. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t the only ones who headed to the Balkans instead of Istanbul—tons of ships were redirected to Dubrovnik as well. This meant that, while the city tried to limit these floating monstrosities to a maximum of three per day, there were a whopping SEVEN when we were there. Obviously, the streets were nearly impossible to navigate between the hours of 11 AM and 3 PM daily, as they were full of dawdling families and pushy faux-photographers, snapping photos faster than they could even get their lenses into focus.

Arrive early.

It’s rare you’ll hear me utter these words, but seriously: the earlier the better, especially in the summer. Beat the crowds, beat the heat, enjoy some coffee & chocolate brioche sent from heaven above. This is literally how I started every morning. See how empty the streets & cafe are?

dubrovnik mornings

Explore the city with a guide.

We kicked off our first full day with Stefica Curic Lenert, an incredible tour guide who is currently getting her PhD in the history of Dubrovnik. Right from the beginning, she asked what we’d like to focus on, and the hubs and I opted to explore Dubrovnik’s culture. She talked us through the Croatian War of Independence and how it affected life in the 90’s, and led us to some of the best local bars, bakeries, and cafes. We tested out D’Vino, and can solidly recommend for a glass of local wine.

walking tour

Stefi was a wealth of knowledge, and really gave us a totally different take on the city. Most importantly, she alerted us to the “Authentically Croatian” check mark that denoted where to buy real souvenirs, made in Croatia:

authentic croatia

Though we weren’t in the market for mementoes, I appreciated knowing that the city was making strides in preserving local heritage, even with the influx of tourists. Luckily, the stores that had the Croatian seal of approval were regularly crowded so it seems to be working.

Stefi also let us know that the locals were equally frustrated by the insane crowds caused by the cruise ships, and are working to moderate how many people enter the walls each day. Clearly, tourism is key for Dubrovnik, but knowing that they’re trying to make things more manageable for everyone made me think that perhaps the current crowds are just the result of some tourism growing pains.

Flee for the beach.

On our last day, we hopped on a little boat and had the captain take us to a nearby beach, as recommended by both Stefi and our host. The boat ride itself was complete perfection and so relaxing, and the views of Dubrovnik from the sea? Unreal.

sailling in croatia

I’m a bad blogger and the name of the beach has totally slipped my mind, but it was a popular spot off the coast, with full views of Dubrovnik. Naturally, as soon as we settled in for some sunning (/crisping), this pulled into view:

cruise ship UGH.

CURSE YOU, CRUISE SHIPS.

Take it from the top.

On two separate occasions over the span of, like, two days, we saw Dubrovnik from above–first from the ride up the hill via cable car, second during our walk around the walls. Both are a must, though the walls were my favorite. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Here are views from the top of Srd Hill, post-cable car ride (which was about $17 USD each, roundtrip):

dubrovnik

Annnnd here we see the Old City while walking the walls, knights in shining armor-style (I mean, I assume):

city wallsThe next day, we high-tailed it for Split, where we caught our overnight train to Budapest. We only had a few measly hours in Split, which was another gorgeous little pocket of Eastern Europe, so Croatia? I’m coming back for you. And seriously, I might just move to the Balkans and never leave.

xo!

the romantic

– Thank you to Croatian Tourism for pairing me up with Stefica. All opinions are, as always, my own… because seriously, the pictures? How could I make this up?

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13 Comments

  1. November 15, 2013 / 08:07

    Oh, I love it all! Funny, I was watching an old episode of the Amazing Race last night, and they were in Dubrovnik. It’s probably the only time I’ve seen contestants forget about racing and just enjoy the views 🙂

    I agree with you about the cruise ships. I don’t usually like complaining about tourists since in the end I am one myself, but MY GOD. The worst ones were the ones on the Disney cruise ship, following each other around with Mickey Mouse ear signs. They’re not paying for accommodation and often eat on their boat, so are they really that valuable in terms of the tourist dollar?
    Caitlyn recently posted..Belgrade, the Balkan let-downMy Profile

    • November 15, 2013 / 09:49

      oh, cruise shippers are NOT normal tourists.

      and you’re right–the smaller ships are definitely more valuable to the local economies than the monstrosities that are just trying to see as many ports as possible in one week.
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..dubrovnik: cities with walls are just betterMy Profile

  2. November 17, 2013 / 13:11

    Oh Dubrovnik is so beautiful! So, I’ve never been to the city, but Croatia is my true love. This past summer, my brother, parents, and uncle had the chance to explore the city and fell in love. I guess this means I’ll have to get there sometime too! I’ll use your tips for sure. xx
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted..A Weekend in Washington State.My Profile

    • November 19, 2013 / 06:57

      i’d definitely be interested to know what you think of dubrovnik after having a much more local perspective of croatia. OR maybe i’ll just go with you and we can visit your family and dubrovnik and compare together? it’s a date.
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..no travel required: #frifotosMy Profile

  3. November 18, 2013 / 14:59

    I love this part of the world. I spent some time in Dubrovnik, Kotor, Montenegro and Mostar a few years ago at Easter. The stand-out memory for me will always be the incredibly blue water. Amazing.
    Fiona recently posted..24 Hour Challenge: LondonMy Profile

    • November 19, 2013 / 07:00

      right?? colors were unreal. the aegean might rank as my favorite body of water. which is a very weird thing to have a ranking for, i’m just realizing.
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..no travel required: #frifotosMy Profile

  4. November 18, 2013 / 16:39

    Although it looks like a lovely town, I would do the same with all those floating uteri giving birth to throngs of tourists. It definitely was time to split for Split.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Five Big South Fork day hikesMy Profile

    • November 19, 2013 / 07:01

      omg. floating uteri birthing tourists just about killed me dead.

      i will note that i purposely did not point out the abundance of fanny packs just for you, ted.
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..no travel required: #frifotosMy Profile

    • November 19, 2013 / 07:07

      i know we bonded over our cruiser hate already, but seriously?! these bitches need to get schooled on proper touring behaviors. they should do that instead of the lifeboat drills people always post pics of.

      and yeah, not a sand of the rocky beaches either. they hurt my feet 🙁
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..no travel required: #frifotosMy Profile

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