I never saw myself as the kind of person who would visit the same place twice in a row, particularly when there are so many destinations on my bucket list that are crying out to be visited too, but Dubrovnik was the exception. Last October Paddy and I spent a week on the sleepy little island of Lopud, just off the coast of Dubrovnik, and we soon fell in love with the area. We hadn’t originally planned on returning for a second visit this year, instead, we were considering exploring the Split area further up the coast, but when my mum and dad booked to spend a week there and just so happened to have space in their apartment we were sold.
We decided to fly out a little bit earlier than the rest of my family, partly because flights were half the price leaving from East Midlands as opposed to Glasgow, and partly so that we could spend a few days in the heart of the Old Town together too. As a result, we spent the first four days of our holiday staying in a cosy little apartment that was perfectly placed to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Dubrovnik’s Old Town.
On our last trip to Croatia, we barely spent a full day in the Old Town, instead spending the majority of our week sheltering from the rain in the little restaurants on the island, so I was really excited to be staying right in the heart of it on my return visit. Luckily, the weather was considerably better this time around, and we were blessed with 12 days of sunshine and blue skies.
We spent our first day getting reacquainted with the city, revisiting some of our favourite spots such as Buza Bar which is perched on the cliffside walls. Dubrovnik Old Town is full of hidden staircases, winding paths and a maze of alleyways which you can easily spend the day getting lost in. The heat was tiring, though, and after spending a few hours navigating through the cruise ship crowds we headed back to our apartment to recharge with a nap ready for dinner. I rave about the food in Dubrovnik a lot, but for good reason. You don’t have to go far to find incredible quality dishes and when you take a step back from the main Stradun fanfare there are hundreds of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. After enjoying a pizza from Mea Culpa after arriving late on Wednesday evening, we set off in hunt of steak on Thursday and discovered Paparazzo Steakhouse at the foot of the cathedral. I ate a lot of steak in Dubrovnik, and this delicious, flavourful find was the perfect way to kick things off. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best steaks I’ve ever had, only beaten by the steak I had the next night.
During the summer you’ll find that Dubrovnik is swarming with visitors from the cruise ships who dock there daily and the crowds can be a little bit overwhelming during the day. On our second day, we opted to escape the hustle and bustle of the walking tours and huge groups clustered around every corner by paying a visit to the Franciscan Monastery. This peaceful spot feels like a world away from the chaos outside and also plays host to a small museum as well as a historical pharmacy. Here we learned more about the earthquake that nearly destroyed the city in 1667, as well as the lasting impact of the Croatian War of Independence that took place in 1991-1995, with the bullet holes in the walls serving as stark reminders of the violence that took place here. There is so much history hidden behind the city walls here, meaning that Dubrovnik is so much more than pretty orange roofs and winding alleyways, as aesthetically pleasing as they may be.
Paddy and I had celebrated our seven year anniversary the week before we flew out to Dubrovnik, and as we’d had to spend the day itself apart we decided to do something special whilst we were away to make up for it. Having spent more time in lectures researching restaurants than I should have, I suggested that we had dinner at the top of Mount Srd, taking the cable car up to Restaurant Panorama. As the sun set, we travelled up the side of the mountain in the cable car to soak in some of the spectacular views over the Old Town and neighbouring islands before settling down to dinner.
Although Restaurant Panorama is a bit pricier than many other restaurants in Dubrovnik, the quality is undeniable and I can honestly say that it was quite possibly one of the best meals of my life. With stunning views, delicious cocktails and The Best Steak I Have Ever Eaten, it was an unforgettable night. If you’re celebrating a special occasion in Dubrovnik, or just fancy a bit of a treat, you have to visit. I’m desperate to go back and eat that meal all over again whilst watching the sparkling city lights below.
We booked a couple of weeks in advance to secure the best view and even then we had to wait until 9.30 for our table, so if you’re heading over and want to pay Restaurant Panorama a visit I’d definitely recommend arranging it in advance. Luckily, we ended up with one of the best tables in the restaurant, but the views are spectacular from wherever you’re sitting. For two steaks, sides, cocktails and desserts we paid around 800 HRK which is just under £100, so it’s not really going to be an everyday occurrence with my budget, unfortunately, but it was so worth it for a treat. They do have a slightly cheaper menu available over lunch time, which could be an alternative. If you’re a steak fan, then the Beef Tagliata is unmissable, and possibly the best dish I’ve ever had in a restaurant. Take me back, please?
As we were saving most of the “touristy” attractions until the rest of my family arrived, we spent a lot of time just wandering around soaking up the atmosphere. Days were spent sitting in the marina eating ice cream or grabbing a drink in little restaurants whilst watching the world wander by. I dedicated a lot of my holiday to counting the resident animal population, seeing a total of 191 cats and 97 dogs in our time away. Pretty good going, I’d say.
Although we didn’t really do that much in our first few days, it was perfect. Having all of the time in the world to explore at our leisure suited us to a tee, and not having to rush around trying to fit everything in whilst also having plenty of time for naps was exactly the kind of holiday I needed. I love city breaks, but they can be exhausting, so knowing that we would be getting the best of both worlds across the 12 days took a weight off our shoulders.
After checking out of the apartment on Sunday morning we headed to the marina for a very chilled out breakfast, spending the first half of the day tucking into pastries and cheese with cups of tea and fresh juice aplenty. The Old Town is great for people watching, particularly with a cold drink in hand… and maybe an ice cream in the other. Before long my family had landed and it was time to head off to our villa just outside of the city for the remainder of our holiday.
As always, returning home has left me feeling like my holiday was an age ago, and looking back at these photos has me desperate to get somewhere else booked as soon as possible. Where have you loved visiting recently? I’m thinking about a short break in Barcelona next spring, then possibly squeezing in a week on a Greek island during the summer. We’ll see!