A Walled City

A pro­tected gem in the Adri­atic, and an idyl­lic TV set, Eloise Carey dis­cov­ers Dubrovnik has a lot to of­fer

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For such a small city, Dubrovnik has an in­cred­i­ble amount to of­fer all ages. With a fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory, the city comes to life dur­ing tours.

And it’s proved its stun­ning aes­thetic as a back­drop in TV saga Game of Thrones, al­though even the show’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy doesn’t fully do jus­tice to the beauty of this lit­tle pocket of life, sur­rounded by azure seas and sun-baked walls.

De­spite its com­pact size, there is much to do and the food and ho­tel busi­ness has flour­ished while still re­tain­ing the city’s au­then­tic­ity.

A new per­spec­tive

Dubrovnik is fa­mous for both its walls and the panoramic sea views from them, as well as its mo­ments in the spot­light as a TV lo­ca­tion. How­ever, there is an eerie con­ver­gence be­tween its role as a fic­tional city in Game of Thrones and its vi­o­lent real-life his­tory, which you don’t fully ap­pre­ci­ate un­til you’re stand­ing on the bat­tered walls. While the pic­turesque and spot­less main street down to the clock tower gives lit­tle in­di­ca­tion of its past, the bright or­ange roofs are ev­i­dence of the huge re­con­struc­tion the city un­der­went fol­low­ing the on­slaught of nearly 200 bombs in one day, cour­tesy of the Yu­goslav Na­tional Army in 1991.

The few weath­ered and darker roofs left un­touched are a poignant re­minder that the city that was once at real risk of de­struc­tion.

Sights from sea level

Al­though the main tourist draws in Dubrovnik are the views from its walls (and I agree, they are a must-see!), there is a way to see the city from a less lofty po­si­tion. We kayaked around the city walls and nearby is­land of Lokrum on a guided tour. You get to see the city as it would have looked to ap­proach­ing boats in the past, and the gran­deur of the for­ti­fied walls when you are ex­cluded from them is awein­spir­ing. Be­ing on the wa­ter is also a great way to es­cape some of the heat of the day.

Our tour guide gave us en­gag­ing de­scrip­tions of the city’s his­tory as well as ex­plain­ing his own per­sonal ties to it. We also had the chance to stop

at a tiny beach across the bay for lunch and look back over the crys­tal wa­ters at the city. These views are from a to­tally unique an­gle, one you won’t find on the post­cards.

A ride into the past

An­other way to see Dubrovnik is to book on to a buggy ride at the top of Mount Srd – a great al­ter­na­tive to the queues for the crowded ca­ble car. My fam­ily took a dirt buggy tour around the old forts, which gave a real sense of the iso­la­tion of the Croa­t­ians as they tried to hold their at­tack­ers at bay and pro­tect the city.

Our guide re­ally wanted to share the his­tory of his coun­try, and it made the visit to the mu­seum at the end all the more mov­ing. The bug­gies are a bril­liant way to get around for adren­a­line junkies and if you don’t fancy driv­ing, you can opt for the pas­sen­ger seat while a more ad­ven­tur­ous com­pan­ion takes the wheel! After an ac­tion-packed day, we de­cided to have a drink in the square un­der the clock tower be­fore din­ner. As dusk fell on the city and shad­ows length­ened down the stone, the at­mos­phere in the city was fan­tas­tic. We spent a happy few hours watch­ing tourists and lo­cals alike pour­ing out of the side al­leys and bou­tique ho­tels head­ing for the cen­tre.

Sun­sets and show­ers

The sun­sets are spec­tac­u­lar, even from within the walls, and the sky is of­ten lit pink and red in the evenings, al­though watch out for sud­den down­pours. If they do hap­pen, be sure to watch your step as the steep side streets be­come streams of fast-flow­ing wa­ter, giv­ing the city an al­most Vene­tian feel!

Al­though it’s en­joy­able to eat in the cen­tre, we de­cided to search back al­leys for a more au­then­tic restau­rant, and we were not dis­ap­pointed with the choice. Each of­fered an amaz­ing range of food, and the fresh seafood is not to be missed.

Dubrovnik’s im­pos­ing for­ti­fi­ca­tions and har­bour glow in the sun­shine

Ver­dant Lokrum is­land (left) is one of the sights to be seen on a kayak tour

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