Enjoy the city like locals do: Things to do in Dubrovnik’s Old Town
Here are a few snjoy the city like locals do: Things to do in Dubrovnik’s Old Town There is so much worth seeing in the Old Town that is all within easy walking distance. In November or December the town will seem relatively empty – one of the great advantages of visiting now when you can see real beauty of Dubrovnik without the teeming crowds. You will be able to adopt some of the local habits: stop for a leisurely coffee more than just once in a day, or just wander very slowly through the Old Town.
To get the best view, of both the town from above and of the wonderfully clear, blue Adriatic lapping the rocks below and stretching to the horizon beyond, take a stroll round the city walls. Most of your time will be well spent within the 15th-century ring of fortifications, in the small square half-mile of gleaming medieval space bisected by the 300-metre-long Stradun. You may drift between the two main gates of Pile and Ploče, guided perhaps by the list of places on the maroon flags, each venue with its own logoed white lamp, accosted sometimes by barkers on every side-street corner calling you up to the bland tourist restaurants on Prijeko.
Cats scatter in from the old harbour, a cacophony of tour guides give their spiels. All is free of traffic until you reach the bus-choked hub outside the Pile Gate. Beyond, over the drawbridge, stand the Lovrijenac Fortress, used for productions of Shakespeare classics during the Summer Festival and the permanently busy main road to the ferry port at Gruž, and Lapad.
Exiting the Old Town via the Ploče Gate takes you past the attractive old harbour, where taxi boats set off for the nearby island of Lokrum. Beyond the gate stretches Banje beach then a string of luxury hotels.
Back inside the city walls is the main square and crossing point of Luža, where you’ll find the landmark astronomical clock tower (sadly, a modern rebuild of the 1444 original); Orlando’s Column where all state declarations were read out to the citizens; the smaller of Onofrio’s fountains, and a prosaic statue of Shakespeare-era playwright Marin Držić, installed in 2008.
Surrounding Luža are the main historic attractions of the Rector’s Palace, the Cathedral and Treasury, the Sponza Palace and the Dominican monastery.
The other sights are within easy reach. On the south side of the harbour, round the corner from the Rector’s Palace, are St John’s Fortress and the Aquarium. The former houses an attractive collection of ship models, paintings and photographs detailing Dubrovnik’s seafaring history, while the latter consists of a gloomy collection of tanks containing examples of Adriatic sea life.
Walking round from the old harbour, along the rocks fringing the sea-lapped city walls, are spots used by bathers and divers. The most popular is by one of the Buža bars, its jagged stones concreted flat for sunbathers. Metal steps cut into the rock to help you clamber back up.
In front of the clock tower is the baroqueChurch of St Blaise, named after the protector of Dubrovnik through the centuries of trade, torment and tourism; it was rebuilt after the 1667 earthquake. Inside, the altar, with a statue of the saint, is the main draw. The stained-glass windows are a modern addition.
On the other side of St Blaise, the adjoining squares of Gundulićeva poljana and Bunićevapoljana are busy day and night. Market stalls of local produce cover the pavement in the morning, entertainment for diners and coffee drinkers at nearby terraces and bars take over after dark.
At the other end of Stradun, by the Pile Gate, built in the 15th century, the main draw-bridged entrance to the Old Town, stands Onofrio’s Great Fountain, less ornate than it was before the 1667 earthquake. Behind the Franciscan church nearby, the Franciscan monastery, embellished with beautiful cloisters, houses what is claimed to be the world’s oldest pharmacy and a museum of religious artefacts.
The best contemporary gallery is War Photo Limited, with changing exhibitions of conflict photography from around the world, with one room devoted to the 1991-95 war in Croatia.