I have never visited a place and hated it. I even visited Benidorm, notorious for drunken (often nude and rude) Brits abroad, and found some places to fall in love with, but I did not like the Old Town in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Had it been off-season, I am sure it would have been enchanting. However in mid-September (not even peak season), it was overpriced and overflowing with tourists.
I realise I was one of them, a tourist I mean, and I can laugh at the irony, but battling my way through the crowds and repeatedly losing sight of P felt more like a last minute dash to the supermarket on Christmas Eve than it did a holiday.
We went into a bar and ordered to gin and tonics, distraughtly dishing out the equivalent of £16 and expecting doubles, but tasting only tonic.
We wondered around looking for cheaper drinks and possibly some food, but the never ending ridiculous prices put us off. Eventually we settled on paying £2.50 for a pizza slice, a triumphant find among the others at £4 or £5.
However, my intention is not to put you off visiting Dubrovnik — I simply want to be honest and tell you my opinion of the Old Town. The areas that surround it, however, are sensational so if you do go, there are plenty of other things to do in Dubrovnik…
The best beaches in Dubrovnik
Going to the beach should be top of the list of things to do in Dubrovnik. Pasjaca Beach is the most Instagrammed beach in the area, according to a cab driver, and I’m sure you can see why from the photos.
Steps take you down a cliff to the remote spot where you will find no shade and no restaurant or bar — so go prepared.
The Croatian sun is HOT and even if you don’t burn easily you will still surely get tired of it after a while. So, if you can, take an umbrella, or a pop up tent, or some things that can be fashioned into a structure that creates shade.
Take food and drink as well, but remember that you will have to climb back up the stairs to get back and the way up is a hell of a lot harder than the way down.
Also, you’ll need your own car or you will have to be prepared for a long walk. We got a taxi there and were warned there would be no signal to get one back.
I walked down the pathway that lead to the cliff edge which descends to the beach and managed to get enough signal to access Uber, but nobody would come. Thankfully another cab came to drop off a group so we were able to leave!
Other beaches to visit include Banje where you will find water sports, Sveti Jakov where the locals go as it doesn’t get too busy, and Bellevue beach where the water is a clear green and there are caves to explore.
Day trip from Dubrovnik: Lokrum Island
Out of all of the things to do in Dubrovnik, this one is my favourite. Located just off the mainland, with boats going regularly from the Old Town Port, is this idyllic location that is delectably rich in history.
Evidence show it was inhabited since prehistoric times, but it isn’t now due to a curse on the island that the locals take very seriously. Nobody even stays overnight.
Benedictine monks settled in the early 1900s and created a prosperous monastery, they sowed the land and had a rich industry of agriculture and wine. People from the mainland would even come and stay for a spiritual retreat.
Legend goes that a French army general ordered their expulsion and the aristocratic families from Dubrovnik were made to give these orders to the monks.
The monks held a final mass before their eviction from their home, during which they donned hooded cloaks and walked around the island in single file letting wax drip from candles as they went. They circled three time and chanted: “Whosoever claims Lokrum for his own personal pleasure shall be damned.” At dawn they left and never returned.
The head of those three aristocratic families soon died and bad fortune followed every owner of the island for several centuries, such as death, bankruptcy and shipwrecks. Today it is a beautiful destination to visit, but no one is permitted to stay overnight.
Now you will find botanic gardens running wild with rabbits and peacocks, you will find the old monastery and a museum to learn all about it. You will find little coves and bay beaches and, most spectacularly, a landlocked pool of seawater so high in salt it has been dubbed the Dead Sea.
Where to eat in Dubrovnik
Head to Cavtat. You can get there by taxi or you can drive, there is a car park just next to the pedestrian seaside spot that is brimming with restaurants. It isn’t cheap here either, but during the evenings in the Old Town you could hear three different songs at once from nearby spots and the crowds are loud, so it isn’t ideal for a fine dining experience.
At first P and I tried to find something reasonably priced and found ourselves in Ivan Restaurant. Unfortunately, we got what we paid for (or less perhaps, considering it wasn’t cheap it was simply normal prices in our minds). We both got fish and prawn dishes which were bland and the prawns smelled like damp…
On another night we did away with our budget and went to Restaurant Leut and not only was the food decadent but the staff were affable and attentive. We had a wonderful night and returned for lunch on our final day. If your budget is tight then go for lunch as their special day menu is so much cheaper.