There’s a fire-twirler spinning flaming rods, men on stilts skillfully negotiating cobblestones and traditional dancers and acrobats tumbling and rolling – welcome to Dubrovnik.
This historic city on the Croatian coast hosts festivals, parades and concerts throughout its busy season and is an exciting destination for all age groups.
The Dubrovnik Summer Festival sees the city’s palaces, churches and squares transformed into unique stages for dramas and concerts. Theatre and folklore performances are held from May to October.
Although always crowded during the peak season, head out to popular attractions early morning and late afternoon and visit galleries and shops at midday while others have lunch.
If you are a fan of the hit television series Game of Thrones, you may well be familiar with many sights of Dubrovnik, where filming of the popular show has taken place for several seasons.
The fictional town of King’s Landing in the imaginary kingdom of Westeros features in the HBO series and Dubrovnik’s old city dwellers are used to seeing cameras and film crews.
There are special tours to see film sites on offer with expert guides providing information on the plots and themes of Game of Thrones.
Fans can wander the same King’s Landing walls as Tyrion, Joffrey and Cersei, stroll through the same gardens as Lord Varys and Olenna Tyrell and see where the Khaleesi hung out in Qarth.
But fan of Game of Thrones or not, it doesn’t take long to fall under the magic of this old city, which gained its UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979.
It is no wonder Dubrovnik, known as the pearl of the Adriatic, is classified as a museum city - everywhere you look there’s a tale to tell.
The historic city walls are the most visited attraction and the perfect place to enjoy magnificent panoramas of the area.
Again, be the first to climb the walls early morning or leave it to late afternoon when it is cooler and less crowded.
Crowned by the Minceta Tower, the 13th to 16th century-built walls are a proud symbol of Dubrovnik’s history and afford wonderful views of the city and port.
The intact walls with five fortresses also overlook the island of Lokrum and the open sea.
Considered to be among the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages, the walls were never breached by invaders.
Standing about 25 metres tall and stretching for 1.94 kilometres, the walls encircle the old city and are great for photographs.
The best way to discover the charm of the old city itself is to wander through narrow cobbled streets and see where you end up.
The Dubrovnik Cable Car also provides a great bird’s-eye view of the old city - it whisks visitors to the top of Mount Srd in less than five minutes.
The upper station has two panoramic terraces with telescopes to further enhance the views.
The city’s main promenade and business street, known as the Stradun or placa, divides the old city into the northern and southern halves.
The wide street is lined with interesting old buildings and monuments that have a unique colourful history.
One of the most interesting is the Franciscan Monastery of the Friars Minor, which is home to the Friars Minor Pharmacy.
It is the world’s third-oldest pharmacy and has provided continuous service since its inception in 1317.
Recipes used to prepare some of the balms and ointments are more than 200 years old.
The monastery library also has more than 20,000 books including 1200 manuscripts which are considered extremely rare and valuable.
One of the loveliest buildings in the city is the Rector’s Palace, which was the seat of the Rector whose term lasted for just one month confining him to the quarters which he could only leave on official occasions and religious holidays.
There is a beautiful colonnade with stone benches, which are a great place to take a break and watch the world go by. The palace is now a Cultural History Museum where you can see the appointed offices and quarters of the rector, as well as the arsenal, courtrooms and prison cells.
The city’s Maritime Museum is also one of the most visited especially considering how vital sailing and shipbuilding were to the growth of the Dubrovnik Republic. There are displays of fine galleons that were once built at the port.
Art and architecture lovers are in for a treat in this city that boasts intricate stone carvings and wonderful artwork wherever you go.
Step into any old building and the architecture is impressive and you have to wonder about the skilled craftsmen who lived in the area and created such works of art.
For a change of pace the Modern Art Gallery hosts works of Croatian and international painters often inspired by the city’s vistas and marine life.
Walk to the port and you will see lots of yachts and sailing boats and you will often hear traditional
Croatian music played by musicians sitting beside fountains and monuments. There are cafes and restaurants on every corner in the old city and a visit to the market with its bountiful fruit and vegetables is a great way to pick up some supplies for a picnic.
Authentic food includes smoked ham, cheese in oil, octopus salad, sporchi macaroni, fried sprats and grilled sardines.
A great base to stay is the iconic Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik close to the Pile Gate which has been the main entrance to the Old Town for hundreds of years. Opened in 1897 as the Grand Hotel Imperial it was the first modern hotel in Dubrovnik and its building signalled a historic transformation of Dubrovnik’s tourism.
It was the first hotel that had modern equipment including its own electric lightning, steam central
heating throughout, hot and cold running water, bathrooms, an electric lift, room bells, reading salons and card rooms, a special hall for ladies, a spacious restaurant, a belvedere on the main roof and an attractive garden.
Guests were served for the first time by professionally qualified staff.
Today it’s a modern hotel with every comfort including an indoor swimming pool and great restaurant but it retains its charm of yesterday and there are some great historic photos.
It is easy to see why playwright George Bernard Shaw said: “Those who seek paradise on earth
should come to Dubrovnik”.
Published under license from Well Travelled.