TASTEscape: Dubrovnik

TASTEscape: Dubrovnik

by Tom Shingler16 January 2017

Tom Shingler shares his love for the walled city of Dubrovnik, with its azure ocean, rich food scene and innovative organic wineries.

TASTEscape: Dubrovnik

Tom Shingler shares his love for the walled city of Dubrovnik, with its azure ocean, rich food scene and innovative organic wineries.

Tom Shingler is the former editor of Great British Chefs.

Tom Shingler was the editor at Great British Chefs until 2021, having first joined Great British Chefs in 2015.

Tom Shingler is the former editor of Great British Chefs.

Tom Shingler was the editor at Great British Chefs until 2021, having first joined Great British Chefs in 2015.

Dubrovnik has gone through an incredible change in the past few decades. What was once a beautiful but not-so-touristy city is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations in Europe, thanks to the beautiful weather, stunning architecture and incredible food and drink on offer. Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has something for everyone, whether you’re after exciting water sports, fascinating history or just a nice relaxing break sipping drinks on some of the best beaches in Europe.

It was the streets made of marble glistening in the sun that first struck me the first time I visited Dubrovnik. Every one of the winding roads seemed to contain its own form of baroque or medieval beauty, with little shops, restaurants or cafés tucked into historic buildings. There are no cars in the Old Town, either, which just adds to the feeling that you’ve been sent back in time.

For anyone visiting Dubrovnik, there are some must-sees and essential views, but scratch the surface of this incredible city and there’s so much more on offer. Here are my favourite places and things to do in the Pearl of the Adriatic.

Discover the best places to eat, drink and visit in Croatia's incredible city.

Dubrovnik’s Old Town

By far the most beautiful area of Dubrovnik, the Old Town has 1,400 years of history behind it and the architecture is some of the most impressive in Europe. Explore the streets and get a feel for the Croatian way of life.

Walk along the city walls

Dubrovnik’s Old Town is surrounded by 1,940 metres of walls dating back to medieval times which provide the perfect vantage point over the city and the sparkling blue waters of the Adriatic. There are several fortresses built into the walls that are home to museums, cafés and even an aquarium, all of which offer amazing views of Dubrovnik’s red rooftops and the Stradun – the main street running through the Old Town.

Catch a show at the Jazz Caffe Troubadour

If you’re a fan of jazz or just live music in general, a stop at this famous bar is a must. It’s the only place in Dubrovnik that plays live jazz every evening, and most nights the dancing makes its way out into the street, with locals and tourists alike appreciating the band. The terrace looks out over the cathedral, too, so you’ve got some beautiful architecture to look at while you groove along to the music.

Pick up some souvenirs in Gundulić Square

The only open market within the city walls, Gundulić Square is home to an array of local delicacies and typical Croatian products that are perfect for taking home after your trip. Bags full of locally-grown dried lavender fill the air with heady, floral scents as you browse the stalls, and there are plenty of Croatian sweets and liqueurs to stock up on. The market is only open until 1pm, so get there early and enjoy the morning sunshine.

The Pejelšac Peninsula not only looks stunning – it's where Croatia's most exciting wines are produced
Mali Ston Bay is home to some of the best oysters in the world

Taste of the Adriatic

Being so close to the beautiful clear waters of the Adriatic Sea means Dubrovnik is home to some truly incredible seafood. Paired with some local wine, there’s nothing quite like a meal in the city.

Grab some seafood street food at Barba

Octopus burgers, tempura prawns, local oysters... – if you’re a fan of fish and seafood then a meal at Barba is a must. The small, family-run restaurant has a lovely atmosphere, is very affordable and serves great local beer to go along with the dishes on offer. You can even leave your mark by writing a message on one of the wooden forks and adding it to the collection on the wall.

Eat the world-famous oysters at Mali Ston Bay

Oysters have been farmed at Mali Ston Bay – just an hour’s drive from Dubrovnik – since Roman times, and are famous the world over for their unique, clean taste. For one of the best experiences in all of Croatia, hop on a boat and sail out to the beds, where one of the farmers will catch, prepare and serve oysters as fresh as they can possibly be. Washed down with some local wine, it’s guaranteed to be the highlight of any foodie’s year.

Discover Croatian wine country on the Pelješac Peninsula

Croatian wine has experienced a complete transformation over the past twenty years, going from relatively unknown and generic varieties to some of the most exciting in Europe today. The Pelješac Peninsula is where some of the best is made, and there are many wineries offering tours, tastings and incredible views of the valleys that stretch into the oceans below. The Frano Milos Winery is one of the most exciting in Croatia, making the most of organic local Plavac mali grapes.

Lokrum Island is a nature reserve and can be reached by kayak
Buza Bar is one of Dubrovnik's hottest spots and the perfect place to watch cliff-divers

Life by the sea

Whether you’re more of a sun lounger or like getting involved in some activities on the water, Dubrovnik’s coastline and surrounding islands are one of the main reasons the city is so popular. Pack your swimming costume and enjoy the stunning weather of the Adriatic.

Hire a sea kayak and paddle to Lokrum Island

Seeing the abandoned Benedictine monastery on Lokrum Island is a sight to behold, and offers some of the best photo opportunities of any holiday I’ve been on. To get there, however, you have to take to the water, and the best method of transport by far is in a sea kayak. Paddling out to the island offers spectacular views of Dubrovnik’s coast, and after a few beers or a coffee on Lokrum you can paddle back as the sun sets.

Bask in the beauty of the Adriatic at Banje Beach

Dubrovnik’s most famous beach is popular for a reason – beautiful sunshine, clean sand and the pale blues of the Adriatic Sea make Banje more like a Caribbean beach than a European one. As well as relaxing on the sand in the sun, you can hire a pedal boat (or even a jet ski) and explore the surrounding coastline.

Refresh yourself at Buza Bar

Dubrovnik is home to many great bars, but Buza Bar is by far the best. Enter through the small gateway in the city walls, order a drink and take a seat while looking out from the cliff and across the ocean. Many come here to take part in a spot of cliff-diving, which is fascinating to watch, and it’s one of the few places in Dubrovnik that you can get a good look at the steep, striking cliffs that surround much of the city.

Catch a cable car up to Mount Srd and get a bird's eye view of the city
Watch Game of Thrones? Dubrovnik's streets feature heavily in the series
Still have time to spare?

– Take the cable car to Mount Srd and see Dubrovnik from above for an unparalleled view of the city. Built in 1969, the cable cars go right up to the Imperial Fortress, where on a clear day you can see up to thirty-seven miles away.

– Go on a Game of Thrones walking tour and experience the real life settings of places like King’s Landing and the Red Keep. Dubrovnik’s Old Town has been featured in the series since it began, and for any fan of the show this is a must.

– Go wine tasting at the Matuško Winery and Wine Bar and discover how much Croatian wine has changed in the past twenty years. While the wineries of the Pelješac Peninsula are famous for making the wine, it’s the bars in Dubrovnik that helped spread the word.