How to spend a long weekend in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Croatia is firmly established as a holiday hot spot. It's known for its turquoise waters, signature pebbly beaches, traffic-free islands, and historic Venetian harbours.
However, while people flock to this Adriatic charmer's attractions all summer long, it's often overlooked as a place for a weekend escape - particularly outside of summer - and at only a few hours' flight time from the UK, that's nothing short of criminal.
Mention Dubrovnik and you'll likely receive enthusiastic adoration from anyone who's been. And rightly so. The scenic medieval port, with its undulating Old City enveloped in imposing stone walls, simply is Croatia to many people.
Yet, Dubrovnik, like so many popular destinations hitting the headlines over the past year, has become somewhat of a victim of its own success. Throughout summer, the port is frequently dwarfed by as many as five cruise ships at one time, each depositing thousands of day trippers into the embrace of the small Old City.
Tip: Dubrovnik Port Authority has handily created a traffic light system to show which days in each month will be busy with cruise ships - search Dubrovnik's cruise schedules by month, and choose a quieter day to get stuck in.
So what do you do if you want to see this city in all of its splendour with pleasant weather but without the maddening crowds? It's time to think outside of the box or, more accurately, outside of the peak season, and add Dubrovnik to your city break hit list!
Check in to Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel
Head straight for Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel, where modern rooms, expansive views and top-notch service will help you make the most of your long weekend away.
Situated in Babin Kuk at the northern end of the Lapad peninsula, Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel is a mere 4 km from the Old City, and easily accessed by bus or taxi. It's a five star hideaway complete with spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and beach bar.
Tip: get a discount on your bus fare by buying your tickets at the shop in Valamar President. The number six bus departs from in front of the hotel and will get you to the Old City in around 10 minutes - traffic allowing!
Staying at Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel gives you the best of both worlds on a short trip: enjoy the sights and delights of the Old City before retreating to a luxurious resort with all the trimmings, away from the chaotic cluster of Dubrovnik itself.
Delve into the Old City
The Old City put Dubrovnik on the map. Since the 13th century, Dubrovnik has been considered a vital Mediterranean port, from both strategic and trading points of view.
This significance afforded the city wealth to build the eclectic mix of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architecture that fills its streets and continues to pull in the crowds. The warming limestone and marble hues that radiate around the Old City help to make it one of the most romantic destinations to explore.
Getting a little lost in its compact grid of streets is the perfect introduction to this UNESCO World Heritage site. Stick your head in the various churches and monasteries while discovering ornate drinking fountains, statues, squares, staircases, decorative doorways and secret boltholes at every turn.
Stradun acts as the main funnel into the Old City. You'll see many shops and cafés lining this ancient, smooth-surfaced, thoroughfare but a dive down one of the side streets will let you find your own slice of old Dubrovnik.
Walk the walls
Dubrovnik's Old City is tightly wrapped in 2 km of impenetrable stone walls. Dating from the Middle Ages, these thick medieval fortifications provided the city with a snug and reliable system of defence that was never breached.
While the majority of construction took place between the 14th and 15th centuries, additions and adjustments continued well into the 17th century. Today, the walls are one of Dubrovnik's most popular attractions, offering splendid views and a good idea of the Old City's layout from up high.
No visit to Dubrovnik is complete without a walk around these walls. Purchase your ticket at one of the entry gates and join the counterclockwise flow of people making the most of the seascapes, bastions, towers, well positioned watering holes of a more modern nature (think wall-top bars), and more.
Go late afternoon to see Dubrovnik bathed in golden-hour sunshine, and stop by Buza Bar for 'cold drinks with the most beautiful view' (there's a sign and everything). It's a laidback, low key affair: grab a beer and soak in the vibes from this rocky terrace below the walls.
Dine on delicious delicacies
After all that wall-walking and beer-sipping, you'll be looking for a place to refuel within Dubrovnik's beautiful Old City. Dine alfresco at Paparazzo, which serves up sumptuous steak and tapas. Tempura prawns and chunky slabs of tuna paired with local Croatian wine make for a wonderful end to day one.
|Getting to Dubrovnik|
|Flights||Jet2.com offers great value fares to Dubrovnik from airports across the UK, including London Stansted, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh. Choose from convenient flight times and enjoy 22kg baggage allowance. Fares start from £39 one way including taxes.|
|Holidays||Fancy staying at Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel? Book your seven-night Indulgent Escapes break with Jet2holidays, and enjoy return flights (including 22kg baggage allowance), transfers and a B&B board basis from as little as £600 per person towards the end of the season.|
Saturday is your oyster when you're on a long weekend break in Dubrovnik. You could visit the many museums and further admire the architecture of the Old City.
How about a guided Game of Thrones tour to see some of the famed filming locations? Wine connoisseurs might want to get sampling at nearby vineyards. However, we think Saturday should be all about relaxation with a wee bit of indulgence thrown in.
Discover the Elaphite Islands
What better way to do just that than by booking your very own private boat trip with Adriatic Explore, and speeding across to the nearby Elaphite Islands.
Stop at the port on the sleepy island of Kolocep, before calling at more lively Lopud, with its sweeping bay and Franciscan monastery. Lopud also has some beautiful beaches and a hilltop fort if you want to put your hiking boots on and discover the interior of this Elaphite isle.
Lunch right at Bowa Dubrovnik
All that sea air can be very tiring, so best steer your skipper towards the island of Sipan for a leisurely lunch at Bowa Dubrovnik. Accessible only by boat, this super stylish - and highly sought after - spot is something else.
From private dining cabanas above the rocks to waterfront tables and loungers, this chic restaurant-cum-beach-club prides itself on creative dishes from the kitchen. The food changes according to what's available but it's the signature seven-course tasting menu that has people voyaging out here. Booking is essential.
Sip a sundowner
After a post-feast dip, set sail for Valamar President once more, where a cooling glass of local wine is the ideal accompaniment to the disappearing sun, which puts on one helluva show each evening from the open air Piano Bar.
|Tips for visiting Dubrovnik|
|When's the best time to go for a city break?||Although you'll find the finest weather in July, try visiting either side of the peak season (June, July and August) - such as May, September or October - when the weather is still warm and sunny. It's worth noting that many hotels, restaurants, and local tour operators close between from November until March or even late April in some cases.|
|Why go out of season?||The biggest advantage of going either side of the peak season is that Dubrovnik is much quieter. Cruise ships dock all year round but when you add summer holidaymakers into the mix during the heat of June, July and August, Dubrovnik becomes very congested.|
|Is it good value?||Yes! You will find more affordable, competitive, flights and holidays to Dubrovnik if you travel either side of the peak summer months.|
Ride the cable car
On your final day in this enchanting city, ride the famed cable car up Mount Srd, which looms behind Dubrovnik. In around four minutes, you're whisked high above Dubrovnik, and given the very best - and most famous - views of this Dalmatian wonder.
Learn about the Homeland War
The top station sits at just over 400 metres above sea level. There's a restaurant (cool down with the iced coffee) and shop, but it's the Homeland War Museum inside the Napoleonic Fort Imperial that's the real attraction.
This fascinating collection of objects, memoirs and photographs aims to tell the story of the not-so-distant Croatian War of Independence (or Homeland War, as it is also known), which was fought between 1991 and 1995.
Get your walking boots on
You could take the cable car back to the city below or, alternatively, make the views last that little bit longer by zigzagging your way down Mount Srd's hiking trail. What starts as an exposed stretch of stony path descends into a cool, tree-shaded one - just remember to wear sturdy shoes, plus take a hat and plenty of water.
Does Dubrovnik sound like your kind of city break? Check out deals on flights with Jet2.com and great value breaks with Jet2holidays to Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel to see if you could be on your way for less than you might expect.
Weather2Travel.com travelled with Jet2.com and stayed as a guest of Valamar Hotels & Resorts in Dubrovnik in May 2018. All views expressed are those of the writer.
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