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This unique Adriatic port has been luring travellers for centuries, known for its luxury accommodation, excellent cuisine and beautiful surroundings. From a turbulent history during which it was occupied and conquered by a succession of neighbouring European powers, Dubrovnik has emerged as a city at peace, allowing visitors to make the most of its historic architecture, white pebble beaches and crystal-clear ocean waters.
The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating from the 7th century. Its 13-century walls enclose well-preserved buildings representing a cross-section of Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture, while Onofrio's Fountain is one of Dubrovnik's most famous landmarks, found just inside the main entrance to the old city at Pile Gate.
The centre of the Old Town is its main street called the Stradun, which was originally a channel separating an island from the mainland. It was filled in to join two towns into the merged city of Dubrovnik.
There are many churches, monasteries and museums to explore, while the Old Town boasts plenty of restaurants, bars and shops. The coastal belt is awash with pretty marinas, coves and promenades, while most hotels and the best beaches are located northwest of the Old Town, at Lapad, or in Ploce to the northeast.
Dubrovnik is a favourite on European cruise itineraries and many tourists arrive by sea, ferrying in to the charming old port. Although Dubrovnik will delight cruise passengers with only a few hours to kill, it's incredibly rich in history and culture and can easily occupy travellers for days. The city is also well situated as a travel hub for exploring the villages and islands dotted along the dramatic Dalmatian Coast of Croatia.
Around 700 years old, the Franciscan church and monastery is enclosed in the walls of medieval Dubrovnik. While enduring many rebuilds and repairs, it still boasts one of the most beautiful Romanesque cloisters in Dalmatia. There is a working pharmacy, considered the third oldest in the world, which also holds a museum housing medical instruments and books, scales and gilded church relics. Its library is renowned globally by historians for its celebrated inventory of some 30,000 volumes with 1,500 handwritten documents. The monastery proves a great refuge after sightseeing in the heat and city crowds, offering peace and quiet in its tranquil gardens.
The impressive walls enclosing the ancient city of Dubrovnik were laid out in the 13th century and became an ongoing project for almost two hundred years. The fortified walls are up to 10 feet (3m) thick on the sea side and at least twice as thick on the land side, reaching up to 82 feet (25m) in height. Visitors access the walls via a steep stone stairway and once they reach the top they'll be rewarded with astonishing vistas. A walk around the old city from this fascinating vantage point is a must for visitors to Dubrovnik. The detached sentinel of Lovrijenac Fort to the west of the old city is also worth a visit.
Marin Drzic is Croatia's best-known literary genius, immortalised in his Dubrovnik home which serves as a museum dedicated to the famous playwright and author. It gives visitors a great insight into the writer with a 40-minute presentation on his life and work. The house itself has been restored to reflect the 16th-century Renaissance period that Drzic lived in, while also functioning as an exhibition space and museum of theatre. The museum collects theatrical material for study and is the only institution of its kind in Croatia.
Dubrovnik has had at least three cathedrals on the same site during its long history. The first was a Byzantine building dating from the 7th century; the second a Romanesque Cathedral destroyed by a great earthquake; and at present the beautiful Baroque structure completed in 1713. Within the current Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, there are several magnificent statues and paintings, including a work by Titian dating back to about 1552. As well as valuable art, the cathedral has stunning Baroque features as well as a treasury, filled with hundreds of relics, artefacts and religious icons.
War Photo Limited features changing photographic exhibitions relating to war and conflict, aiming to expose the horror and brutality experienced by innocents and combatants alike. These exhibitions in the historic centre of Dubrovnik are intended to be educational and showcase the work of world-renowned photojournalists. The minds behind War Photos Limited consider war a disease and the intention is to rid people of the perception that it can be glorious and righteous. Anybody interested in military history, photography or the strength of the human spirit will be fascinated by War Photo Limited. Although some exhibitions may be quite shocking, a visit to the gallery is an overwhelmingly rewarding experience.
Built between 1516 and 1522, the Sponza Palace was the centre of medieval Dubrovnik. A mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, it's one of the most beautiful and well-preserved palaces in the city. It has been suggested that the style of building gives some indication of what public buildings in Dubrovnik may have looked like before they were destroyed in an earthquake in 1667. Although this natural disaster caused considerable destruction to Dubrovnik, the palace itself was largely undamaged. Today, it houses the Dubrovnik archive, which contains 7,000 volumes and about 100,000 individual scripts. The atrium of the palace is an art gallery showcasing various exhibitions from contemporary artists, as well as those prominent in Dubrovnik's past.
Found next to the picturesque UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old Town and lined with palm trees, Dubrovnik's Old Port is unforgettable. Known as the 'Jewel of the Adriatic', it boasts fantastic sightseeing opportunities and intriguing, small markets along its tiny cobblestoned streets. The rich history and quaint shops of the Old Port make Dubrovnik a popular cruise port, with liners anchoring at the modern Port of Gruz less than two miles (2,5km) from the Old Town. Many different kinds of boat tours are operated from the harbour, offering a wonderful chance to explore the stunning coastline. Many will point out attractions and landmarks, providing insights into the port's past and Dubrovnik in general.
The biggest, longest and widest street in Dubrovnik, the grandiose Stradun dates back to the 13th century, while its uniform houses were mostly built more than 300 years ago. The commercial, entertainment and spiritual home of Dubrovnik, the limestone-paved Stradun is the best place to get a feel for the pulse of Croatia's capital. It holds many of the city's monuments and some great restaurants and shops. One of its more famous attractions is Onofrio's Fountain, which is located in a small square near the Pila Gate and Franciscan Monastery. Built in 1438 by a famous Italian architect from Naples, Onofrio della Cava, this large fountain is considered a masterpiece of its time.
Dubrovnik has a typical Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Summer days can be intensely hot, but humidity is moderate and gentle breezes ensure cool, pleasant evenings. Summer temperatures between June and August average around 79°F (26°C) but temperatures can rise to well over 86°F (30°C), especially in the southern region. Winters are significantly colder but they are not severe and snow is unusual along the coast. In winter (November to February) temperatures occasionally drop below freezing point on the coast but in Dubrovnik daytime temperatures tend to average around 48°F (9°C). The wettest months are October, November and December.
The peak tourist season in Dubrovnik is in the summer months when the weather is at its hottest, but the best time to visit is arguably September or May, because in these months it's still warm enough to enjoy the incredible coastline but the city is less crowded and slightly less expensive.
Dubrovnik has an efficient public bus system, usually running from 5am to midnight. Tickets can be bought from a kiosk (tisak) or vending points found on major bus routes. Cards can also be bought, allowing unlimited travel for anything from an hour to a full day.
Dubrovnik is a wonderful city to explore on foot, as many of the main sightseeing attractions are in pedestrianised areas. The Old Town is pedestrianised, so taxis cannot enter and those with rental cars park in specially designated spaces outside the gates.
But metered taxis are generally available at hubs such as major bus stations, Gruz harbour, Pile Gate and Ploce Gate. Regular ferries connect the city to nearby islands in the Croatian Archipelago and it's seldom difficult to find transport to outlying areas and nearby towns.
Renting a car is one of the best ways to get around Croatia, but travellers need to be confident drivers to handle local road etiquette. That said, roads are well maintained and having a car allows visitors more freedom and independence to explore outlying parts of Croatia.
With its quaint cobblestone streets and red-tiled roofs, Dubrovnik makes an amazing holiday destination for visitors from all walks of life. Its sublime location on the Adriatic Coast means it's a popular European travel spot, featuring Baroque churches, monasteries and palaces built behind iconic city walls in the UNESCO-listed Old Town.
Visitors can enter through Pile Gate and admire the imposing Fort Lovrijenac or journey to the Rector's Palace, housing the Cultural History Museum. One can also delve into more recent historic events with the powerful exhibitions of War Photo Limited.
A short cable car ride up the hill lies Mt Srd, presenting stunning views of the Old Town and the Elafiti Islands. Dominating the bay is the forested island of Lokrum, just a 10-minute ferry ride from Old Harbour. Visitors should take in the Benedictine monastery, pose on a replica of the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones and wander through lush botanical gardens.
Dubrovnik boasts a superb bus service, with key tourist routes running long past midnight in peak season. Discounted fares can be bought at a newsagent (tisak), and journeys to Old Town from Gruz or Lapad take just 15 to 20 minutes.
Those willing to brave the masses of July and August can explore the annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival of music, theatre, dance and film. But for most people, the best time to visit is May to June, or September to October, when the sun is out, the sea is warm and the crowds are noticeably thinner.
Covered by small villages, forests and vineyards, Mljet is famous for its national park. Main attractions include the two saltwater lakes of Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero, as well as a 12th-century Benedictine monastery. Mljet is said to be Croatia's greenest island, the beauty of the unspoiled oasis attracting nature lovers and those in search of peace and tranquillity. It's popular with couples because of the pristine natural beauty and lack of crowds, making it ideal for romantic getaways. It is also a great option for those who enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and kayaking.
In close proximity to the city of Dubrovnik there are lots of picturesque villages and stunning resorts to explore.
About 11 miles (18km) away is the quiet bay of Zaton, with sandy beaches and pine forest. The town has numerous restaurants, a relic of the days when it was the chosen retreat for the aristocrats of the Dubrovnik Republic.
The village of Tristeno features the Arboretum, a Gothic-Renaissance park on the coast. In the centre of this village, visitors are awed by two gigantic sycamore trees which are reputedly 500 years old and standing 197ft (60m) tall.
Even closer to the city, the towns of Kupari, Srebreno, Mlini, Soline and Plat lie along a chain of hills descending to the rim of Zupa Bay, known as one of the most beautiful resorts on the Dubrovnik Riviera.
Here, visitors will find plenty of modern hotels offering a variety of watersports to keep guests entertained. Also close to Dubrovnik is Lapad Beach, a popular getaway with a number of bars and restaurants, and a lovely spot to while away a sunny afternoon.
A popular excursion from Dubrovnik is a day trip to the offshore islands of Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan. They are an escape from the mainland crowds, boasting olive groves, orchards, sand- and pebble beaches, 15th-century mansions, and several interesting churches and monasteries. The smallest and closest island to Dubrovnik, Kolocep is lush and green. Lopud is the most visited, and famed for the sandy beach at Sunj. Sipan used to be the summer getaway of choice for aristocratic families in Dubrovnik and is fascinating from a historical point of view. Kolocep and Lopud are both car-free islands and easy to navigate on foot.
Korcula Island is one of the biggest on the Adriatic, boasting verdant vineyards, secluded beaches and olive groves. Korcula Town juts out into the sea, and is typically Dalmatian in character, with red-roofed houses and enclosing walls. Some theorise that Marco Polo was born here and his rumoured house is now a museum open to the public. The town is also famous for its 15th-century Moreska sword dance which is performed during summer.
Other towns on the island include Vela Luka and Lumbarda, which are surrounded by vineyards and coves. Korcula is said to have been a favourite Greek holiday spot over 2,000 years ago and since then it hasn't stopped delighting visitors with its culture and green landscapes. Of the 1,000 or so islands in Croatia, Korcula is often ranked most highly as a holiday destination.
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