Dubrovnik city break guide


Why go?

Because, with its sublime location, overlooking the calm blue waters of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is one of the world’s most magnificent walled cities. Now a UNESCO world heritage site and Croatia’s most up-market destination, it was once the capital of the wealthy sea-faring Republic of Ragusa (1358-1808).
During its Golden Age in the 16th century, it had one of the largest merchant naval fleets in the world, with consulates in over 50 foreign ports.
Today people come here for leisure, not to trade. The main draw is the charming pedestrian-only old town, packed with aristocratic palazzi and Baroque churches, contained with sturdy medieval fortifications.
Add to this the beaches, pristine sea, informal eateries serving top-notch seafood, chic 5-star hotels and adventure sports facilities, and your holiday is made. Which is why celebrities such as John Malkovich, Mickey Rourke, Beyonce and Eva Longoria have recently been spotted here.
Although prices for virtually everything are almost double what they would be anywhere else in Croatia, that doesn’t seem to be putting anybody off. In 2008, Dubrovnik was the world’s tenth most visited port of call for cruise ships, with 650 ships bringing in some 850,000 passengers.
Numbers keep going up and up, with the total exceeding one million in 2012. In fact, the city has had to make an agreement with cruise companies that not more than 7000 passengers should disembark on any one day, to prevent overcrowding.

When to go?

For most people, the best months to come here are May-Jun or Sep-Oct - think sunny days with the sea warm enough to swim, and hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions open, but without the crowds.
During peak season, Jul-Aug, Dubrovnik is over-run by tourists - hotel prices rocket and restaurants and beaches are packed, but on the plus side you get the Dubrovnik Summer Festival and a glitzy nightlife.
Low season, Nov-Apr, can be lovely, though some facilities are closed and the weather is less reliable.

Getting there

Flights: British Airways (0844 493 0 787, www.britishairways.com) flies from Gatwick (all year, but with a reduced number of flights throughout winter), as do Croatia Airlines (0844 371 0310, www.croatiaairlines.com) (no direct flights through winter) and EasyJet (0843 104 5000, www.easyjet.com) (late-April to mid-October). EasyJet also flies from London Stansted (late-April to mid-October) and Edinburgh.
As of spring 2013, Monarch (0871 940 5040, www.monarch.co.uk) fly from London Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester; and Jet2.com (0901 230 0230,www.jet2.com ) fly from East Midlands, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Belfast. In addition, Aer Lingus (0871 718 2020, http://www.aerlingus.com ) fly from Dublin.
Flying time from London is around 2 hrs 40 min.
Cruises: Cruise ships disembark passengers at Gruž port (www.portdubrovnik.hr), 2.5km from the old town. Shuttle buses are laid on to transport passengers the 10 minutes from the port to the old town. Their frequency and cost depends on the cruise ship company involved. Taxis are also available. Some cruise companies offer a ‘scenic boat ride’ from Gruž port to the old town harbour, sailing around the outside of the medieval walls and towers.
Train: Dubrovnik is not served by train.
Transfers: Dubrovnik airport (www.airport-dubrovnik.hr) lies 20 km southeast of the city centre. Airport buses, operated by Atlas, are scheduled to coincide with incoming flights, dropping passengers at Pile Gate just outside the old town and at Dubrovnik Bus Station next to the ferry port, ticket 35Kn (£3.75). If you opt for a taxi, expect to pay around 200Kn (£21.50).

Getting around

Public transport: Dubrovnik’s old town is pedestrian-only and lies 2.5 km southeast of the port. To get there, take bus 1, 3 or 6 (www.libertasdubrovnik.hr), tickets cost 15 Kn (£1.60) if bought from the driver or 12 Kn (£1.30) from newspaper kiosks. A 24-hour day pass costs 30 Kn (£ 3.20). Alternatively, you can walk there in about 25 minutes.
Car-hire: You’ll be better off without a car while staying in Dubrovnik. The old town is pedestrian-only, and parking close to the city walls is extremely difficult. Even if you travel out of the city, I’d take the bus or local ferry – unless you are aiming for out-of-the-way spots. See www.travelsupermarket.com to compare car hire prices.

Know before you go

Essential contacts
British Consulate, Mercante Centar, Vukovarska 22/1; 00385 (0)20 324597. Open Mon-Tue and Thu-Fr 10am-1pm
British Embassy, Zagreb: 00385 (0)1 600 9100
Croatian Emergency services: Dial 112
Dubrovnik Tourist Office, Brsalje 5 (just outside the old town, close to Pile Gate); 00385 (0)20 323887 and 312011; www.tzdubrovnik.hr Open daily 8am-8pm.

Basics

Currency: Kuna (Kn)
Note that even though Croatia will join the EU on 1 Jul 2013 it will not immediately adopt the Euro.
Telephone code: 00385
Time difference: +1     
Flight time: London to Dubrovnik is around two hours and forty minutes.

Local laws & etiquette

Don’t mention the war. It’s still a thorny issue and as many families have mixed marriages somewhere down the line, it’s best to avoid discussing which side was ‘right’ and which was ‘wrong’.
Nudism is accepted on some isolated beaches, normally marked FKK (from the German Freikörperkultur, meaning Free Body Culture). On other beaches, topless bathing is accepted but not encouraged.
When driving, car headlights must be switched on at all times, both night and day.

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