After traveling through Bosnia and Herzegovina my next stop was a short visit to the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. A city I look back on with mixed feelings. On the one hand, Dubrovnik is unbelievably beautiful. The coastal city is also known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. On the other hand, I also felt constantly annoyed in Dubrovnik. Annoyed by the large groups of cruise ship tourists, by the Game of Thrones tour sellers and by the high tourist prices. The success of the HBO series has, in my eyes, ruined the city a bit. In the high season, there are simply too many tourists trying to push themselves through the Pile gate into the old center. Despite my irritations, I tried to keep an eye for the beauty of Dubrovnik. This city is a pleasure to photograph, because everything is so beautiful. Do not let the summer crowds ruin your city trip. You just have to know when to go where. I am sharing my tips with you on how I avoided the summer crowds and enjoy the city as best as possible.
MORNING TIP: VIEW THE CITY FROM above AND WALK OVER THE CITY WALLS
Dubrovnik is one of the last completely walled cities in Europe. The first city walls were built in the twelfth century and in the centuries that followed the walls were expanded. The total length of the wall is 1940 meters. The city walls played an important role in the defense of the city, with the last battle taking place not that long ago. During the Croatian War of Independence between 1991 and 1992, the wall suffered considerable damage. Today, the wall is a popular tourist attraction. A walk over the wall takes you two hours, but that time flies by so fast. You are constantly ‘distracted’ by the beautiful view over the sea and the red roofs of old Dubrovnik. The best time to visit the wall is in the morning. During the summer months it can get very hot on the wall and there is no shelter. Moreover, in the morning it is still relatively quiet on the wall, because the cruise ship groups often first make a tour through the old center.
Tip: hold on to the entrance ticket of the wall, because it is also an entrance ticket to Fort Lovrijenac. Game of Thrones fans will recognize this fort from the series. This was ‘The Red Keep’. The gray fort stands on a cliff just outside the city walls.
LUNCH TIME: GO TO WAR PHOTO LIMITED
After an hour or 11 more and more tourists are pouring into the old city of Dubrovnik and the temperature quickly rises. Time to go inside! I would advise you to visit a museum. I visited War Photo Limited, a gallery with raw and intriguing photo exhibitions. You would almost forget that the beautiful city of Dubrovnik was also a war area in the nineties. In 1991, the city was kept under siege for seven months by the Yugoslav People’s Army during the Croatian War of Independence. Inhabitants were cut off from water and electricity and the city was shot from the sea and from the hills around the city. The result: a city in ruins. War Photo Limited shows clearly how this period must have been for the people, based on photos. You will not only see photos of Dubrovnik in ruins, but also other conflict cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are shown. In addition to the permanent photo exhibition about the Yugoslav war, the museum also has temporary exhibitions about other conflict areas in the world. During our visit the temporary exhibition was about the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Afternoon tip: wander the alleys
The summer afternoons in Dubrovnik can be quite hot. Look for the shade in the alleys of the old center. Many tourists stick to the main street Stradun or at the square Loza, but the center also has a maze of beautiful alleys. You can walk around here fairly undisturbed by other tourists. I walked through the alleys around 3 o’clock in the afternoon and saw few other tourists. Moreover, the alleys are very charming. Dozens of stairs, laundry on the line and green plants on the steps. The higher you get, the better it gets. I really think that this the best activity in the old town of Dubrovnik!
Leave THE OLD CITY: abondoned HOTEL BELVEDERE
Still hating the crowds of tourists? Then go do something outside the old center. My personal favorite: discover the abandoned Hotel Belvedere. This hotel opened in the eighties and quickly made name as one of the most luxurious hotels of the Adriatic coast. Unfortunately, only after six years it had to close because of the war. The building is now abandoned, but perhaps not for much longer. A Russian billionaire has bought it with the ambition to open a new hotel. When I was there (2017), the construction was not started yet.
Hotel Belvedere is certainly not undiscovered by tourists. The hotel was one of the film locations in the Game of Thrones series. Since the series attracted so many tourists to Dubrovnik, I also expected crowds at the hotel. But it was actually quite okay. I only saw a handful of other tourists walking around when I was there. It certainly is not a hidden gem, but luckily it is not yet visited so massively.
A small instruction: the normal entrance of the hotel is closed with a large gate, but do not be discouraged. Look for a staircase down towards the terrace (= arena from GOT) of the hotel. You can walk around the former swimming pool and the rooms with sea view. We did not get any further than that, because the hallways were quite ruined.
A final tip: are you a bit flexible in your dates for your visit to Dubrovnik? Then do not plan you trip in the summer, but in spring or autumn. I would do this myself next time. Less crowds and better temperatures.
Would you want to visit Dubrovnik in summer?