Dobro jutro! That’s about the only bit of Croatian I picked up on our honeymoon. It means “good day” and I fooled zero Croatians into believing I was anything but an American tourist. I’d like to write many things about Croatia: guides for all the cities and towns we visited, praises from a wine enthusiast, why my husband Rob and I decided to delay our honeymoon, why we picked Croatia, etc.
But for now, I’m going to work my way backward, beginning with our last stop on this Dalmatian dreamscape.
Dubrovnik, hailed as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” is worth every bit of the hype and more. Exploring this city was an incredible journey through hundreds of years of architecture and history. It was definitely crowded when Rob and I went in early September, however, we were able to escape the masses by finding nooks and crannies we loved. September in Croatia was simply transcendent. We were met by brilliant blue skies, warm temperatures, mild breezes, and seawater that was spa-like. It rained on our very last night in Croatia, a charming little reminder that there’s precipitation in paradise, too.
Though there’s no shortage of incredible hotels in Croatia, Rob and I prefer to stay in Airbnb apartments when we travel. Not only are the places affordable, but Airbnb makes the booking process so simple. Plus, it is easy to contact your host for authentic recommendations! In Dubrovnik, we booked this beautiful home in Old Town, which was within walking distance to countless sights and restaurants. Again, we highly recommend traveling this way if you’re on a budget or would rather experience a place as a resident rather than a tourist. Start planning with Airbnb here!
Read on for more activities in this sunbaked city!
Walk the city walls
This chart-topping urban stroll is a must. In one pleasant walk you see 360 degree views of stunning Old Town Dubrovnik, beloved for its charming orange roofs under clear blue skies. Wake up early, pick up an espresso and a pastry along the way to beat the heat and the crowds. The incredible views include Isle of Lokrum, and Onofrio’s Fountain. Don’t forget, your ticket includes entry to Lovrijenac, a distinctive triangular fortress and theater.
Cost: 120 hrk
Try the seafood
I’m a coastal girl by birth so the Croatian culinary scene was a briny, crustaceous throwback. Try some regional classics: fresh oysters from Ston; crni rižoto, a cuttlefish risotto that is a beautiful, rich black with a rustic flavor; and brodet, a warming seafood stew similar to cioppino. Our kind Airbnb host recommended Kamenice, Sezam, and Takenoko (sushi), but we didn’t receive his message till after we left! We tried Proto, which was delicious, though a tad pricey.
If you’re feeling something a bit different, try Taj Mahal in Old Town. It specializes in cuisine from neighboring Bosnia and was one of our favorite meals. I ordered bamija, a veal stew with okra and tomatoes, and it was divine.
Another iconic Croatian dish we unfortunately were not able to find was peka. Peka is a rustic meal, essentially a mix of vegetables and meat (or fish), drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh herbs, then slowly baked underneath an earthenware bell till perfectly tender. So please, go find that and tell me how it is. I’m dying to know.
Cost: Depends on market price
Pop bottles on Palmoticeva
Head over to Palmoticeva ulica where you’ll find two bars serving up local wines and craft beers. D’Vino Wine Bar has a fantastic selection of Croatian wines with a knowledgeable staff, and a comfortable atmosphere. If you’re a red drinker like me, try a teran from Istria, or a plavac mali from Hvar island (careful, that “little blue” wine will make you wobbly!). Directly across the street, Glam Café features a menu of quirky Slavic craft beers such as a Brkaa APA from the Serbian Kabinet Brewery, Barba Pale Ale from LAB Brewery in Split, and Fakin IPA from Dostava Pivo in Zagreb. I’m a wino, but my husband is more of a beer drinker, so we loved this set-up which allowed us to compromise!
Cost: Depending on the type, a glass of Croatian wine or a bottle of craft beer is ~25-50 hrk
Dubrovnik may be gorgeous, but it sure is touristy. If you tire of crowds or have been clotheslined by a selfie-stick, hop on the ferry to the Island of Lokrum. Once there, you’ll find a small botanical garden, a lovely monastery, beaches, and beautiful, solitary walking trails. When you arrive, spend 20 hrk on a map; it’s helpful, and a good souvenir. Walk perimeter “Discovery Path” first to acquaint yourself with the island. You’ll stroll through forests of Aleppo pine, up the Path of Paradise, through Fort Royal, and back down to Skalica, the rumored place of landing of Richard the Lionhearted during the Crusades. After lunch, pick a beach to read a book and sunbathe before catching the ferry back to the city.
Cost: 100 hrk/ferry ticket + 20 hrk for a map
Cold drinks + cliff jumping
Right around the corner from our apartment in Old Town was Buza Bar. I’d read about this hole in the wall bar clinging onto the cliffside. A sign reading “COLD DRINKS” is the only indication that you’ve arrived; the arrow points directly into a hole in the city wall which leads down winding stone steps to Buza Bar and Beach.
Fun fact: I hate jumping off of cliffs. It’s not that I don’t like heights; it’s simply a mistrust of adrenaline. That said, I simply could not leave Dubrovnik without jumping off the cliff at Buza. You can pick your height; I chose a rock about 20 feet up and that was gracious plenty. After your leap, climb back up to bar and elbow your way to a table with a sunset view. Sip on Ožujsko while soaking in a languid orange sunset. We came here every evening in Dubrovnik; it’s not to be missed!
Cost: ~35 hrk/beer (definitely overpriced for cheap beer, but you’re buying the view!)
We booked a 7 AM flight out of Dubrovnik, so we decided to say goodbye the beautiful orange-capped city and head down to Cavtat which is closer to the airport. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting much. Cavtat, however, was simply charming! A small, mellow little town with a beautiful harbor, great seafood, and a lovely walking trail around the peninsula.
The highlight of our brief stay was visiting the Račić Family Mausoleum on top of the hill. This stunning white tomb is the work of acclaimed Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović. Overlooking the Adriatic Sea, it features beautiful relief carvings, a cupola, and a bronze door.
Etched onto the bell in the cupola reads this beautiful quotation: “Know the mystery of love and thou shall solve the mystery of death and believe that life is eternal.”
You could drive or take the bus from Dubrovnik to Cavtat, but we recommend going by boat. It’s a beautiful, inexpensive boat ride with excellent views of the sea and Dinaric Alps. If you make your way to Cavtat, try Destoso restaurant and Konoba Kolona.
Cost: 80 hrk boat ride; 10 hrk entry to mausoleum