Described by George Bernard Shaw as “the pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik has been attracting visitors for hundreds of years. With beautiful, sun-kissed beaches, superb restaurants and a backdrop of rugged limestone mountains and fragrant pine forests, it's no wonder that Dubrovnik continues to lure celebrities to its shores. Famous names like Beyoncé, Bob Geldof, and Sir Roger Moore have all holidayed here. However, the ace that this part of Croatia has up its sleeve isn't the beaches or the luxury hotels: it's Dubrovnik Old Town.
A UNESCO World Heritage SiteDubrovnik Old Town is widely hailed as the most perfectly preserved medieval city in the world. The imposing stone walls that surround it were built between the 11th and 17th Centuries, to protect what was once a city-state from invasion. Today, those same walls house rococo palaces, churches and monasteries, which rub shoulders with faç des and fountains from the Renaissance. Its twisting network of narrow, cobbled streets break into squares, paved with marble; home to cafés and bars where visitors and locals alike sit and watch the world going by. Much of Dubrovnik Old Town was damaged or destroyed after an earthquake in 1667. Shortly afterwards, it was restored to its former glory and it is this careful and sympathetic renovation that has earned Dubrovnik Old Town World Heritage Site status from UNESCO.
Explore a Living MuseumPart of the attraction of the Dubrovnik Old Town is that it is still inhabited by locals, giving it the feel of a ”living museum'. There are some superb architectural attractions to see, such as the Bell Tower, Dubrovnik Cathedral, the Pharmacy, and the Franciscan Monastery. However, for something more interactive, Dubrovnik Old Town also plays host to an open-air market, which is held every morning in Gundulic Square. In addition to seasonal fruit and vegetables, you'll also find stalls selling local produce such as dried lavender, locally-produced honey and home-brewed fruit brandies, along with bottles of fiery grappa, which has quite a kick!
The Old Town's Hidden TreasuresA popular part of Dubrovnik Old Town, the Stradum is a 300-metre-long street, which links the two ancient settlements that 21st Century Dubrovnik is comprised of. The widest street in the Old Town, it's lined with gift shops and stores, as well as a wide selection of cafés and bars, in which you'll see locals playing tense games of dominos at virtually any time of day. Once a bridge and now the main street in Dubrovnik Old Town, each end of the Stradum is decorated with flamboyant fountains and bell towers. While the Stradum is the obvious place to do a little shopping, venture into the narrow backstreets and you'll be rewarded with quirky shops that tend only to be known about by the locals. Here, you can find shops selling goods such as handmade sweets, locally-produced cheese and exotic-smelling oils. Along this labyrinth of cobbles and brickwork arches, you'll also find quiet and cosy bars, where you can enjoy a refreshing drink. While parts of Dubrovnik might be famous for luxury and opulence, visit the Old Town and you'll get to the heart of this superb holiday destination.