Off the beaten path in the old town

It has only been a very short time since the cruise lines have discovered Dubrovnik.  I began to notice the town being added to Mediterranean itineraries just prior to moving here 3 years ago.  Europe’s best kept secret has now become the cruise lines major destination in Croatia.  Little did I realize what kind of impact this would have on the small town of Dubrovnik.

Anchored in the old port, next to the island of Lokrum

Recently the local newspaper, the Dubrovnik Times, reported that there were over ten percent more cruisers in town last year than the prior year. With over 1.1 million visitors arriving in 856 ships, you know this means a lot of things. Some stimulus to the economy, sure, but for residents, it mostly means crowds.

I moved to Croatia in January 2008 and Dubrovnik was quiet with only local residents in the old town buying seasonal locally grown fruits and vegetables at our green market.  Winter became spring and I began to notice slightly more tourists arriving and suddenly it was May and the flood gates had ruptured.  My first summer here was difficult dealing with the massive amounts of guests, not only cruisers but also land guests who seemed to triple in numbers in August and September.  It was late fall when the crowds began to diminish and finally we had our town back again.

Ships at dock and tender in our Gruz harbor

So like any resident in any tourist location, I adapted my pattern.  I kept track of the arrivals of the cruise ships as posted on the Dubrovnik Port Authority website.  During high season I completely avoid the Old City when the town expects over 7,500 day visitors. Those days when 3,500-7,500 people are expected, I will go to the market in the old town by 7am making sure I am gone before 10am. On those days when less than 3,500 people are expected I know I can visit with my friends.

I have the option to adjust my lifestyle and habits as I live here every day. But what if you have chosen to be one of those cruisers?  How can you manage to see what glorious sights Dubrovnik has to offer without crawling at a snail’s pace behind the hordes?

Stradun on a typical summer day

One choice is to take advantage of the fact that there are wonderful day cruises possible, a day trip out-of-town, perhaps to one of the Elefiti islands or perhaps Konavle or Cavtat.  All of these wonderful destinations are a mere 45 minutes to an hour trip.  Each of these magnificent locales deserves their own story, upcoming soon.

The other choice cruisers have is to explore the town in a way that is different from the rest of the people. For those who wish to visit Dubrovnik during high season, here are a few tips:

●       The vast majority of guests walk the city wall during their visit here.  Best time to be on the wall is as early as possible; opening hours begin at 8am during high season.  First you will miss the larger crowds and the heat of the sun will bake the stone wall and hold that heat until the cool dark hours of night.

●       Many guests tend to stay on the Stradun (main promenade), so use the side streets when possible.  Not only is there next to no foot traffic, but it is cooler in the shade.

●       Don’t miss visiting the Rupe Museum; it’s a perfect sight to spend the high temperatures of mid day when our golden sun is cooking the pearly white stones of the old town.

●       Our Dominican Monastery is just outside of the Ploce arch, built into the outer perimeter of the wall and off the beaten path.  The museum is open from 9am to 6pm and filled with many Croatian artworks.

●       Continue up the Ploce walkway to the Vrata od Ploce (Plo-cha), translation is Door of the Ploce, a few meters on the right is Komarda Restaurant, definitely stop for a glass of wine and then stroll down a short few steps to the Lazareti, one of the first quarantine in Europe.  Do not miss the opportunity to enjoy our Lindo Dance troupe, performances every Monday and Friday at 9:30pm under the stars at Lazareti.

Pile Brsalj (square) is the usual starting point for guests arriving into the old town, where you can find our local Dubrovnik Tourist Bureau office.  Pick up printed literature and our detailed town map or you can download it from the website before your trip.  The best option would be to hire a private guide and enjoy the hidden back streets and hidden treasures in the old town.  I can help, or perhaps meet me for a coffee, especially on those less busy days.

Sunrise on the Stradun, my favorite time of day