Travel to Dubrovnik, Croatia – tips from the locals

The second leg of my #Eurotrip2016 adventure, my mom and I traveled to the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. Croatia is like the less popular cousin of Italy and Greece. And I say that in a good way. Most people, when they travel to Europe they hit the main countries: France, Italy, Germany, Spain etc. Dubrovnik is everything you love about Italy (hello, Mediterranean food) with the beautiful rocky landscapes of Greece.

Travel to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik is a quaint town in Croatia where most of the things to do is centered around the Old City walls. You may recognize the Old City of Dubrovnik from scenes from Game of Thrones. The city is really capitalizing on the tourism drawn from the fans of the show.

If you are not sitting on the Iron Throne replicas, you are most likely walking the ancient stone steps of the Old City’s inner walls. Most of the tourist action and restaurants are centered around the tourist hub. My mom and I stayed in an apartment a few miles up the mountain from the old city. Though some tourists may prefer to stay in a hotel, an apartment is more affordable. On our arrival, we made the foolish attempt to walk to the apartment. Thanks to Siri, we had the hubris to walk 1 mile up hill with two 20 pound suitcases. Lets, just say the walk was the longest mile I had done in a long time. I also walked the stairs in heeled booties and a poncho in 82 degree weather.

 

If you haven’t thought about visiting Dubrovnik before, you should think about adding it to your bucket list.

Things to do in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Walk the Old City walls

Wear your comfortable shoes and bring a water bottle because the city walls are long and tall and you will be climbing a lot of stairs. Once you are up there, the view of the city and the sea is amazing. The Old City walls are THE thing to do in Dubrovnik. Since being featured in Game of Thrones there are GoT fans everywhere recreating pictures from the show. That being said, plan accordingly for when to climb the walls. The wall walk is a bit more than a mile, but this mile includes stairs, lots and lots of stairs. So wear comfortable shoes.

Dubrovnik Old City

I made the mistake of wearing a pleather skirt which for anyone with chub rub knows, probably isn’t the best for walking. Also, it didn’t allow for a lot of breathing room when it came to the sweat pooling up on my back and butt (TMI again?).  Luckily my shoes were nice and loose, unlike the lady I saw walking the wall in heels.

A few tips for exploring the Old City walls:

  1. Pack a water bottle. It’s hot and you are in direct sunlight almost the whole time.
  2. Start early. For the reason I mentioned above, but also because the earlier you start the less people are there and the better photos you can take.
  3. Explore the whole wall. I found a great street artist in a small nook of the wall who gave me some restaurant tips and told me to stay away from restaurants located in the city walls.

Pick fresh fruit off the side of the road

Dubrovnik is brimming with juicy life; specifically, fruit. Fresh produce grows around every corner like it’s no big deal. To two American women who have only ever seen orange and apple trees in “the wild,” this was so exciting. I ate wine grapes, a kiwi, an olive and a pomegranate right off the branch. By the way, olives taste gross.

Dubrovnik pomegranate

It’s hard to decipher if a road is someone’s yard or if it’s open to the public. My mom and I wandered into a courtyard that we thought belonged to a church, but turns out belonged to a family. We may or may not have picked a few of their raw olives to try.

P.S. Raw olives are disgusting and I don’t recommend you try them unless you are like me and have a “now or never” attitude.

Drink fresh squeezed juice while overlooking the Adriatic sea

All that fresh fruit around every corner of the city means opportunities for fruity desserts and fresh squeezed juices. Around every corner you will find a juice spot offering pear, apple, pomegranate juice and more. I had THE best pear juice ever in my life at a little hole-in-the-wall (that’s what it felt like) on the walk along the city wall.

Kayak to the other Croatian islands

My mom and I kayaked against the wind to watch the sun set over the Adriatic Sea. It was fun, a workout, and a great way to see the city and take in the history in a new way. This took us about three hours, and when we arrived back on shore they gave us each individual bottles of wine to-go.

Kayak Dubrovnik

The kicker with this activity is that it’s heavily dependent on the weather. My mom and I almost backed out of it because the tour guides kept asking “are you experienced kayakers?” To us, we’re thinking we don’t want to get stranded or have to have a boat come get us, but at the same time we are not wimps. We decided to have the same mentality we did with the grape eating: now or never. We got to see Dubrovnik from a whole new perspective plus my arms were sore for two days after that.

Drink wine with every meal

Croatia has a bustling wine production industry that the rest of the world doesn’t get to taste. Because Croatia is such a tiny country it costs them too much to export their wine, so you can only get Croatian wine at restaurants and stores in Croatia.

Croatian white wine

Since all the wine is local, it’s a much better value to order wine at dinner than water. Restaurants will bring you a bottle of water if you do not ask for tap. All of the locals I talked to said that tap water is perfectly safe to drink, so make sure to say you want tap water when ordering. Then, use that money to buy some Croatian wine.

Eat dishes with truffles

Croatia is one of the few places where truffles are common and not as expensive as it would be in other countries you may visit. The Istrian Forest produces three sorts of truffles including the expensive white truffle. Take the opportunity to eat every truffle laden dish you can find. You can even sign up for truffle hunts.

Croatia truffle cuisine

We collected a lot of information from locals on our journey to the apartment. Between the bus ride to the town from the airport, to the mile walk up the mountain, we had a lot of time to ask for information.

Here are some Dubrovnik travel tips from the locals:

  1. Don’t eat within the Old City walls.
    • Food is overpriced and not as good because it is aimed toward catering to tourists. We broke this rule on our last day and ate at Bistro Tavulin.
  2. Don’t take a cab.
    • Cab drivers will apparently hustle you. But you can workout a deal with them to take you around for a whole day for a fixed price.
  3. Negotiate for everything.
    • Food, clothes, street art, always negotiate. I even successfully negotiated two extra trips to two separate countries (Montenegro and Bosnia) with a travel agency.
  4. Order the black rice.
    • It’s squid ink risotto and it’s delicious. I later go on to also try arroz negra in Barcelona.
  5. Eat at Magellan and El Toro. They are away from the tourist traps and locals referred us to both. Both were pretty good but get busy around dinner time. They will turn you away if you do not have a reservation.

Let’s just say, that Dubrovnik gave me the most beautiful natural views I have ever seen. As an American, I never see fruit growing naturally; if not on a farm it doesn’t grow. But in Dubrovnik, pomegranates grow on the street, olive trees line the gates of people’s houses. Wine is an important part of the agriculture and tourism. Every home has a pergola that shades their car with the juicy wine grapes or firm kiwis.

Visiting Dubrovnik is like taking a vacation on a vineyard. The city is a metropolis of tourists and locals during the day. At night, it’s a quiet town where the waves crashing on the rocks go uninterrupted. The buses to and from the Old City come often. After, our mile-long journey up 40 flights of stairs, we learned that there was a bus that takes you into the city just across the street.

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2 comments

  1. Nice. But it was funny you ate olive, because nobody eats fresh olives. haha and if you visit in summer there would t be all that fruit,:/

    1. In the states you never see fruit trees unless it’s in a grove. I’ve never tried a raw olive before so I figured “when would I ever have the change to this back home?” The answer turned out to be “never.” Even my mom warned me it would taste gross but something in me said I needed to try it. I guess it’s like when you parents tell you not to stick your finger in an electrical socket…some of us take their word for it, then some of us need to stick our finger in the socket. LOL lesson learned though.

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