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Photos of Zadar - Greeting to the Sun

Tourist numbers in Croatia up again in September

Sightseeing in Zadar - Greeting to the Sun

At night, the famous Greeting to the Sun becomes an instant disco!

More monthly tourism figures were announced in Croatia and this time round the reported figures are especially interesting as they cover the month of September – traditionally, a “transition” month for tourism as the summer crowds have packed up and gone home and activity in towns and resorts starts to wind down somewhat. Having said that, we’ve long recommended September as one of the best times of year to visit – for the reason that the busy season is over but the good weather remains!

Overall, Croatia welcomed 1.27 million tourists in September, up 15.3% on the same month last year. The month saw tourists stay for 7.26 million nights in total, also up by 11.5%.

Figures for the whole of the year so far have also been released – Croatia received 10.4 million tourists, who stayed for 62.7 million nights; these figures are up 7.6% and 6.7% respectively on the same period in 2010. Of the approximately 750,000 more visitors that Croatia has had so far this year, 500,000 have visited in pre- or post-season, a healthy sign that more tourists are visiting the country outside the traditional holiday months.

It was also revealed that Croatia earned €1.7 billion from tourism in the second quarter of 2011, up 14% on last year. Moreover, 13.6% more people were employed in the tourism industry in the country in the first seven months of the year than last year.

Dubrovnik-Neretva county

Figures were also revealed for individual towns and resorts as well. The county of Dubrovnik-Neretva – home of course to Dubrovnik and Croatia’s southernmost county – recorded 145,316 tourist arrivals during September (9% up on last September), with 695,200 nights stayed (up 11%). For the whole of the year until the end of September, the county received 977,512 arrivals (6% up on 2010) who stayed for 4,810,259 nights (5% up) in total.

German, British and French tourists recored the greatest number of nights stayed, followed by domestic tourists.

Of the total nights stayed in the county, 2,703,739 were in hotels (an increase of 7%), whilst campsites registered 334,150 nights, roughly the same as last year. Registered private accommodation accounted for 1,491,294 nights, a decrease of 1%.

Zadar

Zadar also had a successful September – the town saw 33,773 tourist arrivals during the month (up 6% on September 2010), which was made up of 29,558 foreign tourists (up 5%) and 4,215 domestic (up 17%). Tourists stayed for 112,558 nights in the area, which is a rise of 9% on the nights stayed in September last year.

The most numerous guests were German visitors (5,202) then Austrians (3,284) and visitors from these two countries – unsurprisingly – were also top of the list for nights stayed.

For the whole year, Zadar’s data (incomplete as it has yet to include figures from nautical tourism) shows that the town welcomed around 270,000 guests who stayed for 1.1 million nights. Zadar’s hotels have also done well this year, with 17% more guests who stayed for 29% more nights.

Sources: Vecernji, Dubrovacki Vjesnik, Slobodna Dalmacija

Three Men Go To Venice…via Croatia

Croatia was nicely featured in a BBC2 broadcast of the first episode of a new series last night, the latest in the Three Men In A Boat set of documentary shows. Featuring comedians Dara O Briain, Rory McGrath and Griff Rhys Jones, previous programmes have seen them take part in various japes – on boats – in Britain and Ireland. This particular series sees the trio start their journey in Montenegro, making their way up the Adriatic – via various Croatian towns and islands – with the aim of reaching Venice to take part in a gondola race there. (I suppose they could have just gone straight to Venice for water escapades there, but that probably wouldn’t fill two 1-hour episodes. Having said that, Griff Rhys Jones revealed that the original title of the show was supposed to be Three Go To The Balkans, but that was apparently deemed unappealing sounding.)

The Croatian section of last night’s episode (with more of Croatia featured next week) showed them in Dubrovnik, Korčula and Vis. Having sailed into Dubrovnik in rather stormy weather, on a boat that was part of a holiday flotilla, they awake to glorious sunshine and there’s a comedy-sketch-like scene where Rory McGrath returns with breakfast for all of them – including some kind of pig’s ear – only for the other two to have decamped to a local cafe.

Read more

Photos of Dubrovnik - Cable Car

Dubrovnik’s cable car a hit just one year on

The Dubrovnik Cable Car attraction in the beautiful Croatian town has already become a very popular tourist attraction, in less than a year of opening – as reported by today’s Slobodna Dalmacija.

This is according to Tripadvisor, where travellers have ranked the cable car as the third best attraction in the town – out of 60 listed for Dubrovnik on the site. This puts the attraction behind the Old Town walls (called the Ancient City Walls on Tripadvisor – not entirely sure I agree with that name!), in first place, and the whole Old Town itself, in second.

Dubrovnik cable car
View from Mount Srd – at the top of the Dubrovnik Cable Car

Although this incarnation of the cable car opened in July last year following a €5 million renovation, the cable car was already a popular attraction back in the day. The first version was opened to tourists in 1969, ferrying up to 2 and a half million visitors per year until it was destroyed during the war in Croatia in 1991.

The cable car takes passengers on a 778 metre journey from Dubrovnik to Mount Srd – which is 405 metres high – where they can enjoy a fantastic view of the Old Town below, out to sea and of the nearby islands. There is a restaurant at the top for those wishing to kick back and relax whilst enjoying the view. The Museum of the Croatian War of Independence is also located there.

Open year-round, the cable car departs every half hour – though departures can increase in frequency (even every ten minutes) at busy times. Each cabin can hold 30 passengers.

Travellers on Tripadvisor rightfully comment on the wonderful views, and the quick journey time (around 4 minutes) to the top when praising the attraction. Let’s hope the reviews keep rolling in!

Sources: Slobodna Dalmacija, Valamar Hotels & Resorts

Photos of Dubrovnik - Old Town

Dubrovnik ready for Spring

A report in Slobodna Dalmacija last week noted that 19 hotels are open so far in the Dubrovnik region, already welcoming tourists for the spring months. This follows some healthy recent statistics from the Dubrovnik tourist office, which revealed that over the first weekend in March, 2,000 holidaymakers enjoyed the delights of the town. (Most were from Bosnia & Hercegovina, Croatia, Albania & Bulgaria.)

Photos of Dubrovnik - Old Town
Another view of Dubrovnik’s Old Town – and the island of Lokrum from the top of Mount Srd

The Dubrovnik Carnival Fest, which took place over five weekends from 4th February through to the 6th March, drew in good numbers of visitors (and groups taking part in the carnival, of course) meaning that for the month of February, Dubrovnik recorded 17,041 overnight stays in total, up 25% on the same month last year. The most numerous tourists during February 2011 were Croatian, then British, Bosnian, Japanese and Turkish. This increase in the number of nights stayed is particularly promising as February is considered one of the worst times of year for attracting tourists.

The Director of Dubrovnik Airport, Roko Tolic, says that air traffic at the airport has increased this January and February over last year although the overall increase for the year is only expected to be around the 3% mark, due to capacity limitations in accommodation on the Dubrovnik Riviera.

Only two airlines operate at Dubrovnik Airport in the off-season – British Airways and Croatia Airlines – whilst the end of this month, March, sees airlines reverting to their summer timetable, meaning a jump in the number of flights. There will also be new routes this summer connecting Dubrovnik with Venice, Athens, Belgrade, Lisbon and Moscow.

See more on Dubrovnik and Getting to Dubrovnik.

Source: Slobodna Dalmacija

Dubrovnik Carnival Fest

Dubrovnik Carnival Fest comes to a close

The final weekend of the first ever Dubrovnik Carnival Fest is already upon us, and there are a number of events taking place today, tomorrow and Sunday that will delight visitors and residents of Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik Carnival Fest

Tonight, 4th March, will see carnival participants from five countries (Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Slovenia and Croatia) take part in a carnival parade down Stradun at 8.30pm, followed by at party at the Carnival Park at 9pm (and open until 2am!) with live music.

Saturday, 5th March sees another parade take place on Stradun at 11am, with the above five carnival groups from Croatia and abroad once again taking part, presenting their original costumes and carnival performances in front of the Church of St Blaise.

Saturday evening sees the music final take place at Culture Club Revelin, with 16 songs battling it out to be crowned champion of the Dubrovnik Carnival Fest. There will also be performances from the Metropolitan Circus from Tirana, Albania, plus music from the Strumica (Macedonia) orchestra and choir, performing traditional Macedonian songs. A party until the early hours of the morning will then delight revellers, with Croatian pop band Magazin singing some of their hits.

Dubrovnik Carnival Fest

Sunday will be the final day of the Carnival Fest, with a parade once again taking place on Stradun from 11am, culminating in a final performance in front of the Church of St Blaise, with the winning songs from the previous night’s award ceremony performed.

British Airways sale – return flights to Dubrovnik from £98!

As you may have seen and read, British Airways are currently running a sale with a variety of good offers to destinations all over the world – although of particular interest to us here at Visit Croatia are the deals they have on their flights and holidays to Dubrovnik!

They are offering flights to this wonderful Dalmatian destination in January, February and March from only £49 one-way or £98 return. That’s a great price, especially when you consider that all taxes are included plus, of course, a whole host of services not found on certain other (i.e. low-cost) airlines! (Think generous free baggage allowances, in-flight meals and so on.)

They are also offering deals on holidays in Dubrovnik, with a return flight plus a 2-night stay in a three star hotel costing from only £139, or £169 for the same holiday in a four star hotel. Alternatively, a return flight plus 7 days car hire costs from £229.

As mentioned, all the above deals are only available for holidays or flights booked during January to March (exact dates are 6th January to 31st March), although there are still good deals available on flights for the following months too.

I’ve found return flights to Dubrovnik during July and August being offered from £145 (once again, including taxes) which is a great deal for the height of summer. If you’re interesting in flying to Dubrovnik in June, there’s flights from a slightly more expensive £158 return, which again is not a bad price at all.

British Airways has a helpful cheapest fares to Dubrovnik in economy grid which is an easy way of seeing how much flights cost during the different months.

The sale ends 25th January 2011, so you do have some time left to book – though the best deals are sure to go soon, so act quickly!

Dubrovnik

A week in Croatia cheaper than a week in Cornwall!

Here’s some news that will definitely interest those who are just about to book a half term holiday or an autumn break and are debating on whether to go overseas or remain in the UK.

Recent research by Travelex.co.uk, the world’s largest foreign exchange specialist, has revealed that holidaying abroad is actually cheaper than staying at home – in particular, a family of four could save over £150 if they spent a week in Croatia instead of a week in Cornwall!

Part of the reason for this is that the Pound currently holds a strong value against the Croatian Kuna (£1 = 7.78 Croatian HRK, as of 15th October 2010), having risen in value throughout the year. In fact, holidaymakers to the Adriatic country will receive 7.38% more for their money now than this time last year.

Comparative holiday costs of course also play a part in Travelex.co.uk’s research. They have found that a week’s self-catering accommodation for four in Redruth, Cornwall is £125 more expensive than the same type of accommodation in Dubrovnik. Meanwhile, an average meal for four is 70% more expensive in Redruth than in Dubrovnik, whilst two beers in a bar is 50% more expensive.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik – who can resist its charms?

Even travelling to the two destinations in question has costs that are considerably closer than one might think. The cost of return flights for four people to Dubrovnik comes in at £260, whilst return train tickets to Redruth are a none-too-cheap £200.10 – and that includes a special deal that allows children to travel for 5p.

Julian Neal of  Travelex.co.uk says: “Croatia has continued to be great value for money throughout 2010 and with the Pound currently up 7.38% against the Croatian Kuna compared to this time last year, a bargain is in store for families this half term break. With temperatures currently set fair at 22 degrees and with flight times of less than two hours, it’s a dead cert hot spot for imminent October school holidays.”

Travelex.co.uk also offers a free online Travel Rate Tracker to allow travellers to watch exchange rates to make their money go even further. The Tracker monitors selected currencies and can then send an email notification either once the currency has reached a certain threshold or as a reminder – say a week before a trip abroad.

Neal added: “Families looking to get the best value on their currency should make sure to order what they need online at Travelex.co.uk and take advantage of the Travelex Price Promise – if a customer finds a better price offered by another foreign currency retailer (whether or not online), Travelex.co.uk will refund the difference between the price paid by the customer and the more competitive price.”

Tour Croatia Online - Stradun in summer

Amusing travel questions asked at Dubrovnik’s tourist office this summer

We’ve all read similar reports before about travellers asking amusing travel question to tour operators and tourist information offices across the world – and it seems that the office in Dubrovnik isn’t immune to them either.

A recent article in Dalmatian daily newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija highlighted a number of funny questions that the tourist office in the city has had to answer this season. These include questions about the wonderful Old Town walls – with one guest questioning whether the walls come down at the end of the season, and another wondering why the walls weren’t removed when the war ended 15 years ago. Another person asked why not everyone in Dubrovnik lived within the Old Town walls. St Blaise, the patron saint of Dubrovnik, was also queried about by one visitor, who wondered whether he was still alive.

Dubrovnik Photos - Bell tower
Looking down Stradun towards the Bell Tower

Other questions centred on transport, including someone who asked about buses from Dubrovnik to Mljet – which of course is an island! – whilst another asked whether, as they were on vacation, they were allowed to take a ferry line whose schedule was marked as “Sundays and holidays”.

Some of the questions were a little more general – but no less random. These included the fantastic “Where is Croatia?” and a question on whether the Croatian currency could be used in Dubrovnik.

My personal favourite is the rather puzzling, “Something smells great out there, and I found the same in Split. Can you tell me what it is?”

Of course, Dubrovnik tourist office points out that they answer all traveller queries, no matter how weird and wonderful – which is how it should be!

Dubrovnik 2009 - Old Town walls

Dubrovnik Travelogue 2009

We all get up reasonably early for the next stage of our trip, Dubrovnik. Breakfast is the first on the list of things to do for the day, however and we’re greeted by standard fare at the Palace Derossi (breakfast is included): breads, spreads, ham, cheese, sliced tomatoes, eggs, tea, coffee, juice.

After checking out at the Derossi which involved a slight delay as their credit card machine wasn’t working (though this seems to be a common problem, according to TripAdvisor…hmmmm), we again make the very short walk to the bus station.

We eagerly await the 9am bus to Dubrovnik and sit attentively to make sure we don’t miss the bus, or haven’t misunderstood the destination of a coach that’s already sitting in the station. (As it later becomes crammed with Japanese tourists, it becomes apparent that it’s a local transfer bus.)

15 minutes late, the Dubrovnik bus finally pulls into the station and 30 people suddenly emerge from nowhere (where were they hiding?!) and run to the bus, piling on it as quick as they can. Seeing as the bus seemed already completely full anyway, these extra people make it packed to the rafters and the bus driver turns us – and our large bags and backpacks – down and doesn’t let us board.

What to do? The next bus was to depart over 3 hours away, which would mean 3 less hours in Dubrovnik…and the same problem as described above might occur again! Some quick thinking by my friend means we hop onto a local bus to Split instead and try our options there. (The number 37 bus which runs from Trogir to Split – it also goes past Split Airport, so would be the local bus to take from the airport if you’re heading to either of these two destinations or somewhere in between.) This takes us to Split suburban bus station, which means we still need to hot foot it or local bus it – or taxi it, in our case because of our luggage – over to the main bus station by the port.

Arriving just 10 minutes too late for the 10.30am bus, we have no choice but to wait for the next one at 11.45am. But this does give us an opportunity to cool down with refreshing drinks at the cafe there, as well as watching all the comings and goings on the large Jadrolinija and Blueline ferries in the port.

Our 11.45am Promet Makarska bus arrives and sets off promptly – we’re on our way to Dubrovnik…finally! The journey goes fairly smoothly, aside from the stop at Makarska where far too many people get on and there’s a very minor squabble over seats. (As there’s too many passengers for seats, and some have the same seats allocated.) Most passengers disembark by the time we reach Baska Voda, so an emptier bus means an opportunity to stretch out.

We pass through the Neum Corridor (in Bosnia) on the way to Dubrovnik, and get our passports checked with a brief glance at the photo page on both entry and exit. We also stop for about 20 minutes in Neum at a small supermarket (next to a restaurant that seemed to serve giant fish – what a shame there wasn’t time to eat there!), so we stock on some snacks and drinks.

Just after 5pm – and therefore a little late – we finally arrive in the magical city of Dubrovnik. The bus station there is situated in an area of the city called Gruz, so you don’t really see much of the beauty of Dubrovnik as you arrive at this pretty standard bus station building. (As we disembark we immediately get hassled by the typical “old ladies offering rooms” – though they start to desist as a couple of policemen swiftly tell them off.)

We then head towards our accommodation, and for the only time in our trip we’re separated into two groups of two. Two of us are staying just outside the Old Town, whilst my two friends stay in the Fresh Sheets hostel right in the Old Town which, I’m told, was very nice though the walk up to it (numerous steps are involved) with heavy backpacks was the only downer!

The Old Town in Dubrovnik is truly stunning – whether you’re inside it enjoying the sights, or are viewing it from the outside. It’s really one of those places that you have to see for yourself, and I’d strongly urge everyone to do so, if they get the opportunity! I can also see why the city is so popular, as well as being busy – so do be aware that if you go in the height of summer (July and August), there will be crowds. Not quite as manic as somewhere like Venice, but still quite bustling. (Incidentally, one of our common thoughts was that Dubrovnik reminded us of Venice – without the canals, of course.)

After a walk around town, we head to the most eastern tip of the Old Town and sit by sea for a bit, enjoying the sunset and watching people go by. (We also admire a waterpolo “court” marked out in the sea there and contemplate, for a brief moment, jumping in for a game.)

As we head towards dinner, we see a “pirate” ship reenactment as pirates storm land and fling a couple of sailors into the sea. Just fun and japes though, and all in aid of a party later on that night!

Lokanda Peskarija is our choice for dinner although it seems to be everyone else’s too as we have to queue (only for about 10-15 minutes, however) to be seated. I can see the reason for the queues – the restaurant has a great location right by the harbour, and the simple menu (seafood, of course) provides delicious food too.

Our choices for the night include shrimp, prawns and mussels which were all wolfed down, helped by the usual 1 litre carafe of house wine for the table. (Upon asking for a carafe of tap water, we amusingly get told this isn’t possible as carafes are “only used for wine!”).

Post-dinner involves another ice cream walk much like in Trogir (walk in Dubrovnik + ice cream = heaven) – one scoop of ice cream is a decent 7 Kunas. Passing by St Blaise’s Church, we stumble upon a group of French students doing a little concert performance, and watch them for a while.

Deciding a little nightlife may be the order of the day, we head to Buniceva Poljana square, which seems to be the location for every bar in town. Well, not quite, but there’s certainly plenty of them here, with all of the tables (and each bar’s music) seeming to merge into one giant, bubbling mass of people in the middle of the square – so definitely the place to go for some nighttime fun in Dubrovnik. (And if you’re a lazy bar-hopper, you won’t have to travel far to make a night of it.) There is also the Trubadur Hard Jazz Cafe in one corner which plays live music, if that’s more your kind of thing.

We all opt for a drink surely no holidaymaker can resist – a giant, 4-person cocktail – before we call it a night on our first day in Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik Travelogue Day 2

Morning Sightseeing

The next day, we decide to do a bit of cultural sightseeing first off and decide to do the walk of the Dubrovnik City Walls. There’s a few entrances dotted around town, and we choose the one near Onofrio’s Great Fountain at the end of Stradun.

Purchasing tickets (50 Kunas each for adults) from a separate ticket office (not from the guy at the entrance – he’ll only turn you away!) we climb the steps to the walls. Now, we made the mistake many people do if they are there in summer – which is to do the walk in the heat of the day. This will only exhaust you, so it’s much better to go in the late afternoon. Whatever time of day you go, however, you’ll encounter little stands selling drinks and ice cream, a little café and some souvenir shops along the walk. Overall, a great bit of sightseeing in Dubrovnik; the views are simply amazing.

Beach time

Dubrovnik Travelogue 2009 - Old Town walls
View from the Old Town walls

Following a quick lunch at Konoba Amoret (more seafood – as if you couldn’t guess!) we decide the only thing we could possibly do in the afternoon was…to head to the beach for a much needed refreshing dip in the sea. Banje beach is a public beach, and very close to the Old Town (just east of it, close to Ploce Gate). As it’s a public beach, it understandably does get pretty busy but we found there was still enough room to set up camp with our towels and assorted beach items. There’s a special roped off area in the sea for swimming, so you needn’t worry about encountering speed boats and the like. And Eastwest Beach Club [now Banje Beach Club], a trendy bar (which turns into a trendy club at night) is situated right there too if you need a little light refreshment.

For dinner that night, we chose Dubrovacki Kantun which is recommended by a number of guides including Time Out Dubrovnik. Most of us go for the variation on a seafood theme (i.e. more seafood, but different choices then we’ve had before), whilst I try the “Dubrovacki sporki makaruli” (essentially pasta with chopped beef in tomato sauce), supposedly a traditional Dalmatian recipe from the 15th century.

Dubrovnik Travelogue Day 3

Day 3, sadly, doesn’t really consist of much time in Croatia as it’s the day we have to fly home. Due to various issues (availability; high flight prices), we find ourselves having to fly withCroatia Airlines to Zagreb, and then with Wizzair from there to London Luton. It all luckily runs very smoothly, including getting a taxi from Pile Gate to Dubrovnik Airport (price: 220 Kunas) and we just about have enough time at Zagreb Airport for a snack and a bit of duty-free shopping. (Tip: if you’re after magazines and newspapers – including English language ones – they’re only sold in a shop before immigration.)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where our trip sadly came to an end. All of us had a fantastic time, thoroughly enjoying ourselves at every stage, and my friends who hadn’t been to Croatia before stated that they’d definitely return very soon!

Dubrovnik 2009 - Old Town walls

Dubrovnik Travel Guide 2009

We all get up reasonably early for the next stage of our trip, Dubrovnik. Breakfast is the first on the list of things to do for the day, however and we’re greeted by standard fare at the Palace Derossi (breakfast is included): breads, spreads, ham, cheese, sliced tomatoes, eggs, tea, coffee, juice.

After checking out at the Derossi which involved a slight delay as their credit card machine wasn’t working (though this seems to be a common problem, according to TripAdvisor…hmmmm), we again make the very short walk to the bus station.

We eagerly await the 9am bus to Dubrovnik and sit attentively to make sure we don’t miss the bus, or haven’t misunderstood the destination of a coach that’s already sitting in the station. (As it later becomes crammed with Japanese tourists, it becomes apparent that it’s a local transfer bus.)

15 minutes late, the Dubrovnik bus finally pulls into the station and 30 people suddenly emerge from nowhere (where were they hiding?!) and run to the bus, piling on it as quick as they can. Seeing as the bus seemed already completely full anyway, these extra people make it packed to the rafters and the bus driver turns us – and our large bags and backpacks – down and doesn’t let us board.

What to do? The next bus was to depart over 3 hours away, which would mean 3 less hours in Dubrovnik…and the same problem as described above might occur again! Some quick thinking by my friend means we hop onto a local bus to Split instead and try our options there. (The number 37 bus which runs from Trogir to Split – it also goes past Split Airport, so would be the local bus to take from the airport if you’re heading to either of these two destinations or somewhere in between.) This takes us to Split suburban bus station, which means we still need to hot foot it or local bus it – or taxi it, in our case because of our luggage – over to the main bus station by the port.

Arriving just 10 minutes too late for the 10.30am bus, we have no choice but to wait for the next one at 11.45am. But this does give us an opportunity to cool down with refreshing drinks at the cafe there, as well as watching all the comings and goings on the large Jadrolinija and Blueline ferries in the port.

Our 11.45am Promet Makarska bus arrives and sets off promptly – we’re on our way to Dubrovnik…finally! The journey goes fairly smoothly, aside from the stop at Makarska where far too many people get on and there’s a very minor squabble over seats. (As there’s too many passengers for seats, and some have the same seats allocated.) Most passengers disembark by the time we reach Baska Voda, so an emptier bus means an opportunity to stretch out.

We pass through the Neum Corridor (in Bosnia) on the way to Dubrovnik, and get our passports checked with a brief glance at the photo page on both entry and exit. We also stop for about 20 minutes in Neum at a small supermarket (next to a restaurant that seemed to serve giant fish – what a shame there wasn’t time to eat there!), so we stock on some snacks and drinks.

Just after 5pm – and therefore a little late – we finally arrive in the magical city of Dubrovnik. The bus station there is situated in an area of the city called Gruz, so you don’t really see much of the beauty of Dubrovnik as you arrive at this pretty standard bus station building. (As we disembark we immediately get hassled by the typical “old ladies offering rooms” – though they start to desist as a couple of policemen swiftly tell them off.)

We then head towards our accommodation, and for the only time in our trip we’re separated into two groups of two. Two of us are staying just outside the Old Town, whilst my two friends stay in the Fresh Sheets hostel right in the Old Town which, I’m told, was very nice though the walk up to it (numerous steps are involved) with heavy backpacks was the only downer!

The Old Town in Dubrovnik is truly stunning – whether you’re inside it enjoying the sights, or are viewing it from the outside. It’s really one of those places that you have to see for yourself, and I’d strongly urge everyone to do so, if they get the opportunity! I can also see why the city is so popular, as well as being busy – so do be aware that if you go in the height of summer (July and August), there will be crowds. Not quite as manic as somewhere like Venice, but still quite bustling. (Incidentally, one of our common thoughts was that Dubrovnik reminded us of Venice – without the canals, of course.)

After a walk around town, we head to the most eastern tip of the Old Town and sit by sea for a bit, enjoying the sunset and watching people go by. (We also admire a waterpolo “court” marked out in the sea there and contemplate, for a brief moment, jumping in for a game.)

As we head towards dinner, we see a “pirate” ship reenactment as pirates storm land and fling a couple of sailors into the sea. Just fun and japes though, and all in aid of a party later on that night!

Lokanda Peskarija is our choice for dinner although it seems to be everyone else’s too as we have to queue (only for about 10-15 minutes, however) to be seated. I can see the reason for the queues – the restaurant has a great location right by the harbour, and the simple menu (seafood, of course) provides delicious food too.

Our choices for the night include shrimp, prawns and mussels which were all wolfed down, helped by the usual 1 litre carafe of house wine for the table. (Upon asking for a carafe of tap water, we amusingly get told this isn’t possible as carafes are “only used for wine!”).

Post-dinner involves another ice cream walk much like in Trogir (walk in Dubrovnik + ice cream = heaven) – one scoop of ice cream is a decent 7 Kunas. Passing by St Blaise’s Church, we stumble upon a group of French students doing a little concert performance, and watch them for a while.

Deciding a little nightlife may be the order of the day, we head to Buniceva Poljana square, which seems to be the location for every bar in town. Well, not quite, but there’s certainly plenty of them here, with all of the tables (and each bar’s music) seeming to merge into one giant, bubbling mass of people in the middle of the square – so definitely the place to go for some nighttime fun in Dubrovnik. (And if you’re a lazy bar-hopper, you won’t have to travel far to make a night of it.) There is also the Trubadur Hard Jazz Cafe in one corner which plays live music, if that’s more your kind of thing.

We all opt for a drink surely no holidaymaker can resist – a giant, 4-person cocktail – before we call it a night on our first day in Dubrovnik.

Day 2

The next day, we decide to do a bit of cultural sightseeing first off and decide to do the walk of the Dubrovnik City Walls. There’s a few entrances dotted around town, and we choose the one near Onofrio’s Great Fountain at the end of Stradun.

Purchasing tickets (50 Kunas each for adults) from a separate ticket office (not from the guy at the entrance – he’ll only turn you away!) we climb the steps to the walls. Now, we made the mistake many people do if they are there in summer – which is to do the walk in the heat of the day. This will only exhaust you, so it’s much better to go in the late afternoon. Whatever time of day you go, however, you’ll encounter little stands selling drinks and ice cream, a little café and some souvenir shops along the walk. Overall, a great bit of sightseeing in Dubrovnik; the views are simply amazing.

Dubrovnik Travel Guide 2009 - Old Town walls
View from the Old Town walls

Following a quick lunch at Konoba Amoret (more seafood – as if you couldn’t guess!) we decide the only thing we could possibly do in the afternoon was…to head to the beach for a much needed refreshing dip in the sea. Banje beach is a public beach, and very close to the Old Town (just east of it, close to Ploce Gate). As it’s a public beach, it understandably does get pretty busy but we found there was still enough room to set up camp with our towels and assorted beach items. There’s a special roped off area in the sea for swimming, so you needn’t worry about encountering speed boats and the like. And Eastwest Beach Club (now Banje Beach Club), a trendy bar (which turns into a trendy club at night) is situated right there too if you need a little light refreshment.

For dinner that night, we chose Dubrovacki Kantun which is recommended by a number of guides including Time Out Dubrovnik. Most of us go for the variation on a seafood theme (i.e. more seafood, but different choices then we’ve had before), whilst I try the “Dubrovacki sporki makaruli” (essentially pasta with chopped beef in tomato sauce), supposedly a traditional Dalmatian recipe from the 15th century.

Day 3

Day 3, sadly, doesn’t really consist of much time in Croatia as it’s the day we have to fly home. Due to various issues (availability; high flight prices), we find ourselves having to fly withCroatia Airlines to Zagreb, and then with Wizzair from there to London Luton. It all luckily runs very smoothly, including getting a taxi from Pile Gate to Dubrovnik Airport (price: 220 Kunas) and we just about have enough time at Zagreb Airport for a snack and a bit of duty-free shopping. (Tip: if you’re after magazines and newspapers – including English language ones – they’re only sold in a shop before immigration.)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where our trip sadly came to an end. All of us had a fantastic time, thoroughly enjoying ourselves at every stage, and my friends who hadn’t been to Croatia before stated that they’d definitely return very soon!