City guide: Dubrovnik

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More and more visitors are embarking on holidays to Croatia and being bowled over by Dubrovnik's architectural delights and rich heritage.

Lord Byron called it "The Pearl of the Adriatic" and, taking a glance at Dubrovnik's old town, it isn't hard to see why.

Sitting on the deep blue waters of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik's medieval city walls encase a network of marble streets, baroque buildings and a skyline filled with church spires.

Perfect for a city break or short holiday to Croatia, our Dubrovnik city guide will help you find the best things to see, eat, visit and do in Dubrovnik's old town and beyond.

City break guide: Dubrovnik
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City guide: Dubrovnik

The Old Town is where you'll find the breathtaking old buildings. Start at the traditional entrance on the western side, Pile Gate (which dates back to 15th century), and you'll see the Stradun (the main shopping street), which runs all the way to the east gate, Ploce. At the west end, you'll find the Onofrio Fountain (built in 1438), and the Franciscan Monastery (dating back to 1316). Towards Ploce Gate in the east is Orlando Column (a favourite locals' meeting place), the baroque church of St. Blaise, Sponza Palace, and Rectory Palace, which is now the city museum. Don't forget your camera! For more information go to Visit Croatia.

Where to start? There's so many architectural delights to admire in the old town, so we've picked our favourite three: The Franciscan Monastery, the Dubrovnik Cathedral, and the Rector's Palace. The monastery is considered a masterpiece, and the Roman-Gothic styling features a stunning courtyard and the oldest pharmacy in Europe, which has been operating since 1316. The Cathedral is beautiful when it lights up at night, as well as supremely majestic in the day. Inside, it houses antique paintings, including Titian's 1552 The Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The Rector's Palace was built in the 15th century by Onofrio di Giordano de la Cava (of Onofrio Fountain fame), and is now home to the Cultural Historical Museum, where you can see ceramic, glassware and furniture collections as well as paintings by Carracci, Tintoretto, Giorgione and more.

Learn to love the local liquor of choice: Rakija. It's made from grapes, walnuts or plums, and is served in most cafes (just don't drink too much!). The cool Buza bar remains a favourite, and is accessed through a hole in the fortress wall marked with a 'cold drinks' sign. It hugs the cliffside, offering great views over the sea and serves drinks in plastic cups and candlelit tables all day through to the early hours. There's also a small beach here if you fancy a swim. Jazz and rock-lovers should try the Troubador Hard Jazz Cafe in Buniceva Square (next to the cathedral), for regular live music and a local tipple.

There's one thing you'll be eating in Dubrovnik more than anything else: seafood. For traditional Dalmation dining, head to Proto in the old town (yummy fish), or try Poklisar for an al fresco bite, live music and sea views at an affordable price. For something a bit different, make the 10-minute walk from the old town to Sesame, which sits in a 19th century house decked out with antiques, boasting a pretty terrace. Here you'll find an extensive menu, including fresh lobster, and barbecued steaks.

Definitely take the opportunity to visit some of the beautiful islands surrounding Dubrovnik. Lopud is about 30 minutes by boat, and its Sunj Beach has some of the best sand in the region. Sipan is another pretty spot, where you can enjoy a beachside lunch before sailing in the see-through Adriatic sea.

You've spent a day sightseeing and you fancy a cocktail (as you do!) - where do you go? Mingle with the odd celeb (Rio Ferdinand's been spotted here) at the trendy East-West beach bar by day, cool club by night. The open-air rooftop lounge is quite something. For something a little more laidback (and less expensive), try Lazareti, just outside the city walls. In the day, this 16th century building host art exhibitions and workshops, then turns into an alternative club when the sun goes down.

If you can muster up the energy, it's really something special to take in the view from the city walls, which encircle the whole city. Built in the 10th century, they're still in mind-bogglingly good condition, and you can see all the main attractions in the old town, as well as the locals going about their daily routines. It takes about an hour to complete the whole loop. For more information go to Visit Croatia.

At the daily local Farmers Market. Each morning, farmers gather at a square in the Old Town called Gunduliceva Poljana, where they sell mouth-watering locally-sourced delights like Adriatic honey, wine and jam. Perfect for souvenirs or gifts, or simply for getting a true taste of Dubrovnik.

The Cable Car: you need a head for heights for this tourist attraction but, if you can stomach it, it's really worth a go. It takes three minutes to get to the top of Mount Srd, where you can soak up fabulous views of the Old Town and the coast. You can grab a snack or a nerve-steadying alcoholic drink at the restaurant at the top. For more information go to Visit Croatia.

If you fancy pushing the boat out (and why not?), book yourself in at the grandiose Excelsior Hotel & Spa, where some rooms offer views over the ocean and the old town. For a boutique stay, try the luxury Hotel Bellevue, situated on a rock 30m above the Miramare Bay and walking distance to the old town. Watching the pennies? The small, stylish Hotel Aquarius and large Grand Hotel Park are both great three-star beachside options.


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