If you love the sun and the sea, Croatia is the country to go to. This untouched Adriatic beauty is Europe’s fastest growing tourist destination. Believe it or not, you needn’t worry about pickpockets in Croatia. Despite the devastating war in the 1990s, this former state of Yugoslavia is probably one of the safest country in Europe.
There is one place not to be missed in Croatia—and that is Dubrovnik. This stunning medieval walled town by the Adriatic Sea is often described as the ‘Pearl of Adriatic’.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, Dubrovnik is one of the most well-preserved medieval walled cities in the world, and one of the top destinations in the Mediterranean.
Not to mention that Dubrovnik is also the filming site of HBO’s fantasy drama series—Game of Thrones.
Be enthralled by the graceful Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque churches, monasteries, and palaces throughout the city, and the 15th-century fountains on Stradun—the main street of Dubrovnik. Stradun connects the eastern and western parts of the old town. This 300-metre long limestone walkway is lined with shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants, and marked with two bell towers on each end.
Do as the locals do! Sip coffee at one of Stradun’s cafés—it’s a good spot of people watching too. Enjoy an ice-cream or a taste of the Mediterranean at a seafood restaurant. Spend your evening at Plaza Stradun, which is exceptionally romantic at night.
While strolling around the old town, I met a Croatian lady dressed in the Konavle national costume and selling Konavle embroidered bookmarks, tablecloths and cushions. Konavle is a small region located southeast of Dubrovnik, Croatia. These symmetrical geometric embroideries are unique souvenirs to bring home!
At the Green Market on Gundulic Square, there are various vendors selling hand-made products. You can get all kinds of handmade or home-grown items at the Green Market: fruits, vegetables, dry figs, aromatic oils, home-made cheese, handmade soap, jams, honey, arancini (candied bitter orange peel), lavender closet sachets… everything is organic!
The Green Market is open daily until 1pm, and most vendors will be there from late April till end-November. In particular, the sweet-bitter arancini is a must-buy—these candied orange peels are one of Croatia’s popular snacks, and are a sweet Dalmatian treat!
I love the narrow, cobbled laneways in this medieval walled town. Every lane and stairway leads to a spectacular discovery. At one corner, I discovered a barber salon and—to my delight—a traditional handicraft shop at the other end.
You can pay an admission fee of 100 Croatian kuna (S$19.55) to walk on top of Dubrovnik’s ancient city walls. The climb took around 45 minutes and the money was well-spent, as I had a fantastic view of Dubrovnik and the surrounding Adriatic Sea. There are numerous forts along the city walls, and I also managed to catch a glimpse of a resident’s backyard.
On my way down the city walls, I noticed a sign labelled, “Cold Drinks with the Most Beautiful View”. This was a familiar sight, as I had seen it before on the Korean travel-reality show, ‘Noonas Over Flowers’. Korean actor Lee Seung Gi patronised this café in that show.
The place of “Cold Drinks with the Most Beautiful View”—Cafe Buža, which means a hole in the wall, was the most surprising encounter I had in this captivating old town. This secret getaway has indeed the most spectacular view of the Adriatic Sea, overlooking the tranquil island of Lokrum and the Dalmatian coastline. I took a path down from Cafe Buža to have a closer look at the beautiful sea.
On my way back to the main square, I stumbled upon the town’s residential area. Many plump cats greeted me along the way. Laundry lines hung from window to window. The colourful socks and bedding against the stone walls created a picturesque scene.
There are 1,200 islands in Croatia, and in Dubrovnik, there are plenty of chances for you to go island-hopping. From the port of the old town, there are boats departing to the nearby islands of Lokrum, Cavtat, Elafiti islands, Mljet, the Peljesac Peninsula, and Korcula.
To round off my trip, I bought some pretty candies and chocolates at the “sweetest” shop in Dubrovnik—the newly opened Candy Bar located at Siroka Street. Their banana- and berry-shaped candies were simply too cute to ignore!