Dubrovnik Travel Guide

Dubrovnik Travel Guide

A fairy-tale city at the southern tip of Croatia, Dubrovnik is without a doubt the country’s crown jewel. As we travelled from north to south down the length of this narrow, coast-hugging land, we had the distinct impression that Croatia was saving the best for last; an instinct that turned out to be 100% on the money. Dubrovnik makes for a breath-taking first impression and it´s not for nothing that it´s considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful walled cities, clinging to the steep mountainside and perched over the stunning Adriatic, her sandstone walls and terracotta roofs contrast with the deep blue sea, and you literally feel as though you have stepped back in time. It´s little wonder that the period-fantasy series “Game of Thrones” was filmed here. During the 16th century, Dubrovnik was one of the wealthiest port cities in Europe, her merchant traders rivalling Venice in both riches and reputation. The walled city is now a UNESCO world heritage site, and while wandering through the narrow streets, it´s hard to believe that only a few decades ago the city was badly hit during the Yugoslav war. The damage was quickly repaired, and now the only visible signs are bullet holes in some of the old building walls, proudly pointed out by the locals as a testament to the strength and endurance of the city they love. Looking for the ultimate Dubrovnik gay guide? Mr Hudson has got you covered.

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The best hotels in Dubrovnik

Let’s start this gay Dubrovnnik travel guide with a roundup of the best hotels in Dubrovnik. Perfectly situated right in the heart of the old city, St Joseph’s Boutique Hotel is hidden away down a narrow cobblestone road. Housed in a fully restored 16th-century building, the hotel is small but elegant, and with only six rooms the focus is on personalised service for the discerning traveller. Their breakfasts are legendary and as an added little touch of luxury, are served in your suite. Because who doesn´t like breakfast in bed when on holiday?

For a full-blown luxury stay at the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace. The name conjures up images of gilded old-world opulence and red velvet curtains but thankfully this couldn´t be further from the truth. Tucked away in a pine forest at the end of the Lapad Peninsula, the hotel is all clean lines and minimal styling, every room has a sea view, and the entire hotel is designed around its most alluring asset: the mesmerising blue waters of the Adriatic. The hotel boasts a private beach, a vast range of dining and drinking options as well as an in-house wellness centre and spa dedicated to your complete relaxation.

Another equally gorgeous option is the Villa Dubrovnik, an exclusive boutique hotel situated on the cliffs to the south of the old town, with spectacular views over the city and entire coastline. Tucked away in amongst pine and citrus trees on one of Dubrovnik’s most upmarket stretches of coastline, the hotel is a private oasis of tranquillity a short distance away from the old city: 15 minutes on foot or make use of the exclusive Venetian style Vaporetto service for a stylish arrival.

Hotel Dubrovnik Palace Dubrovnik

Hotel Dubrovnik Palace

Photo: Kerry Murray

Photo: Kerry Murray

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Recommended hotels in Dubrovnik
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For those looking to catch some sun, there are several beaches within the city limits

Things to do in Dubrovnik

The best way to see the most important Dubrovnik points of interest is on foot of course. Explore the narrow streets and steep staircases; the further you venture from the central avenue the quieter it becomes, and you get a sense of what it would be like to live here. Walking the perimeter walls is also a must-do; there are several points where you can enter the walls and then walk all the way around the city, taking in the magnificent views from all directions. Keep in mind that this is a very popular activity. The best time to avoid crowds is first thing in the morning or as the sun is setting, shortly before they close.

For those looking to catch some sun, there are several beaches within the city limits. Banje Beach is Dubrovnik’s most famous and is a short walk to the south of the old city. It´s THE place to see and be seen but can get quite crowded in the peak of summer, in which case you should head to quieter Sveti Jacob beach, a bit further down the coast. For wild beaches and an escape from the summer crowds, make a day trip to Lokrum, the densely forested island just off the coast from the city. The beaches on the eastern side of the island are locally known as nudist and gay-friendly, and there are regular ferries throughout the day. If you´re feeling energetic, take a kayak tour around the island and stop off for a swim at any one of the many sheltered coves.

Banje Beach | Photo: Kerry Murray

Banje Beach | Photo: John Weinhardt

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What to see in Dubrovnik

Lovers of history will have a field day spending their vacation Dubrovnik sightseeing. From countless museums and architectural heritage to contemporary galleries and natural surroundings, there are almost endless choices of what to see in Dubrovnik. First up is the Lovrijenac, also known as St Lawrence Fortress, a theatre cum medieval fortress just outside of the western wall, a whole 37 metres above sea level. Here visitors can enjoy traditional al fresco performances, such as Hamlet during the Dubrovnik Festival, and soak up the history present here – a famed former site of resistance against Venetian rule. For more history in an exotic locale, get yourself to the Trsteno Arboretum, a botanical garden surrounding the former summer residence of the noble Gozze family. In addition to the remarkable house itself, the Arboretum is a real gem, showcasing tropical plants and trees procured by ship captains of the 1400s under the family’s request.

To take in some of Dubrovnik’s religious history, a visit to the Dubrovnik Synagogue is a must. A testament to the former maritime power’s tolerant nature, the Dubrovnik Synagogue dates back to the 14th century, making it one of the oldest in Europe, still operating on holy days. These days, however, the synagogue is mainly used as a museum, displaying medieval and ritualistic religious artefacts. For some of the city’s Catholic history, the Dubrovnik Cathedral and adjacent Orlando’s Column, symbolizing the independence of the city, are two sights not to miss. Allegedly financed by Richard the Lionheart in the 12th century and rebuilt after the earthquake in the late 1600s, Dubrovnik is now home to the jewel-encased body parts of St Blaise as well as gold vessels from Byzantium, Venice and the Orient.

Photo: Kerry Murray

Photo: Kerry Murray

Of the city’s top museums, the Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art is our favourite for its unmatched collection of Croatian art gathered from the late 1800s onwards, now based out of the ornate, sea-facing Banac Mansion. Throughout the former home of a maritime magnate, across four floors, garden and atrium, the museum now hosts a permanent rotating collection alongside temporary shows. If you have time for one more historic site, make it The Rector’s Palace, designed by Onofrio de la Cava in 1435, now housing the city’s Cultural Historical Museum. The structure itself has seen many alterations through the centuries, as the result of various natural and manmade disasters, but stays well preserved, with a combination of late Gothic and early Renaissance styles still on show. As well as the lovely central courtyard, sites to see within the grounds include exhibits detailing medieval life in the Republic of Ragusa, the Miho Pracat merchant bust, and various collections of Venetian and Dalmation artworks.

Lovrijenac theater | Photo: Loannis Loannidis

Lovrijenac theater | Photo: Loannis Loannidis

Photo: Charlemagne

Photo: Charlemagne

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Where to eat in Dubrovnik

Croatia is famous for its seafood, so it goes without saying that the best restaurants in Dubrovnik all feature fresh fish and shellfish on the menu. Proto in the centre of the old town, just off the Stradun (the main avenue that runs through the middle of town) is one of the cities oldest and most reputable restaurants. Dating back to 1886, it has been recently modernised without losing its sense of history and tradition. In addition to a sublime selection of seafood (the lobster and squid both come highly recommended) the restaurant also boasts an extensive wine list featuring the best of Croatia´s wines.

Outside the city walls, a few meters from the Pile Gate (the western entrance to the old city) Nautika is another of Dubrovnik’s most highly acclaimed restaurants, with seafood again featuring strongly on the menu. With an emphasis on local produce, the menu focuses on simple, traditional ingredients combined with innovative techniques to create modern dishes with home-grown flavour. And to add to the sensorial experience, Nautika boasts one of the best views in town, facing the western fortresses and overlooking the rocky cliffs and small bays that surround the old town; the perfect spot to watch the sun set.

Sesame is a lovely restaurant worth a visit, a short walk to the west of the Old Town and a bit removed from the crowds. It´s a great place for those seeking a leisurely lunch in tranquil, leafy surroundings.

Like most Mediterranean countries, Croatia has a long history of wine making, and no visit would be complete without exploring the wines from this unique and distinctive region. And by exploring I mean drinking, with perhaps a bit of cheese and olive oil soaked bread on the side, locally sourced of course. Serving more than 60 wines by the glass, D´vino Wine Bar is a great spot to stop in and enjoy a glass or 2 of locally produced wine, many of which aren´t available to buy in mainstream outlets as they´re sourced from small-scale family estates. For a taste of something truly local, try one of the wines from the nearby Konavle Valley, a lush green region a short distance south of the city, famous for Dubrovnik Malvasia, an old-world white varietal that sank into oblivion for several centuries until its recent revival at the hands of a few dedicated winemakers.

Sesame | Photo: Kerry Murray

Sesame | Photo: Kerry Murray

Life According to Kawa

Life According to Kawa

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Good quality Croatian olive oil, honey and wine as well as ceramics and olive wood homeware are all widely available

Shopping in Dubrovnik

When it comes to shopping, while Dubrovnik may seem to cater largely to tourists, there are a number of stores on the Stradun that specialise in local produce and handicrafts, stylishly presented. Good quality Croatian olive oil, honey and wine as well as ceramics and olive wood homeware are all widely available. To get your fill of locally-sourced design, make a visit to concept store, Life According to Kawa just outside of Ploče Gate. Here you’ll find quirky contemporary gifts and lifestyle products made from neighbouring Hvar and Mljet islands, as well as KAWA’s own brand range of Dalmatia-inspired goods. Foodies won’t be disappointed either thanks to their selection of award-winning Perdisacca olive oil from Istria, smoked sea salt from Nin and various Croatian cookery books. For more gifts and souvenirs, Dubrovačka kuća is a great choice. Based out of the middle-ages St. Dominic tower within the famed City walls, this store sells a range of authentic Croatian arts, crafts and delicacies while also being a heritage experience. On the upper floor, you’ll find a gallery of Croatian and Dubrovnik artworks, while below lie the crafts, including gastronomic fares such as Croatian wine, various sweets and other artisan goods.

Life According to Kawa

Life According to Kawa

Those in search of more locally-made art should head to the Sebastian Gallery and Art Shop, located in the old church of St. Sebastian dating back to the 15th century. As well as being a unique place to experience the architecture of the Dominican Monastery, at the Sebastian Gallery visitors can expect to see exhibitions of Croatian artists and designers, including native paintings and sculptures, handmade ‘Raku’ ceramics and traditional jewellery. Another store combining heritage with commerce is Europe’s oldest chemist, Ljekarna Male Braće, otherwise known as the ‘Little Brothers’ Pharmacy’. Based just inside the entrance of the Franciscan Monastery and dating back to 1317, Ljekarna, as well as stocking regular prescription medicines, is also popular amongst tourists for its herbal remedies, such as the monks’ lush natural face creams made by secret recipe.

Unexpectedly located opposite the Rector’s Palace beside the Cathedral is Boutique Croata, a place selling silk ties; every English gentleman’s quintessential accessory. Having originated from Croatia in the 17th century, the silk tie was since popularized by Croatian mercenaries who fought for Louis XVII in France. Now, the store stands as a reminder of the nation’s creation, trading in silk bow ties, scarves and other Gentlemanly accessories in a variety of colours and prints. If there’s room in your case for one more souvenir, make it from Kraš, an old-fashioned sweet shop on Stradun that has been selling Zagreb-made dark chocolate since 1911. If the weather is not too hot, opt for the Griotte cherry liquor chocolates or the Bajadera chocolate layered nougat.

Photo: Kerry Murray

Photo: Kerry Murray

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Open until early morning, Club Revelin often hosts concerts and performances that you won’t want to miss out on

Dubrovnik nightlife

With balmy night time temperatures and unrivalled heritage surroundings, a night out in Dubrovnik is one to be remembered (depending on the amount of local wine being taste tested). Early in the evening, our Dubrovnik gay bar guide recommends you go to Love Bar, a charming and spacious rooftop terrace overlooking the glorious bay and neighbouring islands. The perfect setting to chill out and get some sea breeze away from the crowds of the Old Town, Love Bar is best known for its definitive sunset views and all-inclusive atmosphere, offering thirst-quenching cocktails at affordable prices. Another terrace location is Buzz Bar which has quickly gained a reputation among locals for its diverse range of Croatian beers, wines and grappas as well as international beers and cocktails. While offering good value for money every day of the week, Buzz Bar is best on the weekends of high season when there is live music and a dance-happy atmosphere.

Love Bar

Love Bar

Operating for just over a decade, D’Vino is Dubrovnik’s first real wine bar, run by Australian-Croatian owner Sasha and his friendly team. D’Vino stocks over 100 wine varieties, including every decent Istrian, Slavonian and Dalmation label worth trying. In D’Vino’s modern yet intimate space guests can enjoy a glass or two, alongside meat and cheese platters, with the option to sign up to one of their wine tours later in the week. If you can’t get enough of the beach, the Babin Kuk-based Coral Beach Club, is your spot, allowing you to enjoy signature cocktails and beachside vibes even at night on the club’s comfy daybeds surrounded by palm trees and Mediterranean sophistication.

As the night wears on, however, it might be time for something a little more high octane. Enter Culture Club Revelin, a nightclub based inside an old fort in the city walls, providing a wholly different perspective on the city’s biggest attraction. Open until early morning, Club Revelin often hosts concerts and performances that you won’t want to miss out on. This next one, despite not being located on the mainland, is also a nightlife spot worthy of a mention. Veneranda Club Hvar is a gay-friendly night club just off the coast of Dubrovnik on Hvar Island, a place where young gays and other fun-loving creatures flock to during the summer season, for its house and dance music with affordable entry. Featuring specially designed tents and award-winning architecture, Veneranda is an alternative hub for unforgettable concerts – by day or by night – as well as numerous other events and cocktail shows.

Photo: Kevin Kelly

Photo: Kevin Kelly

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