Great things to do in Dubrovnik's Old Town
The first thing any visitor should fork out for is entrance up to the City Walls. The main one is by the Pile Gate. Arrowed up towards the Adriatic side, you're soon scaling staircases to allow you a sublime view of the blue, blue sea to one side and people's red-tiled roofs, terraces and washing lines to the other. There are a couple of cafes towards the harbour end, where you turn and head towards the thicker, inland-facing walls. You can also choose to head out here, near the Old Port. As well as giving you a perspective on Dubrovnik, you can see how intricate a job this was. Remember to pack a hat and sun cream.
The original church, allegedly funded by Richard the Lionheart in recognition of the local hospitality when shipwrecked on Lokrum in the 1190s, was lost to the 1667 earthquake. In its place was built a somewhat bland, baroque affair, free but unenticing to walk around. The main draw is the treasury at one end, a somewhat grotesque collection of holy relics. The arm, skull and lower leg of patron St Blaise are kept in jewel-encrusted casings, another box contains one of Christ's nappies, and wood from the Holy Cross is incorporated into a finely crafted crucifix from the 16th century. Perhaps the most bizarre artefact is the creepy dish and jug designed as a gift for the Hungarian King Mátyás Corvinus, who died before he could receive it.
Managed by conflict photographer Wade Goddard, who came here in the early 1990s this gallery exhibits works by some of the world’s leading exponents of this brave and often unrewarded art. See website for details of this year's principal exhibitions.
Apart from his plays, religiously performed every summer at the Dubrovnik Festival, only patchy details remain of the life of Croatia's most celebrated playwright, who died shortly after Shakespeare was born. This most unusual theatrical museum, set up in the 1990s, fills in the gaps by illustrating this local writer's life and works with a series of models and mock-ups. Marin Držić, the Dubrovnik-born playwright of the 1500s, is a revered figure in these parts. He fell out with the local nobility, and exiled himself to Italy, intent on bringing down the Ragusa regime. He died penniless in Venice before he could set about it. Perhaps this museum can be considered Dubrovnik's revenge. English-language visitors are immediately handed a retro Sony Walkman and guided round with commentary you just couldn't make up. 'By stepping onto this ground you yourself are becoming a magician,' booms a female voice, accompanied by some kind of musical interlude straight from Blackadder. As you walk past life- size representations of some of his most famous character creations, you are instructed to 'use your magic powers to let them speak to you' - and speak to you they do, jesters, satyrs, women representing the hand of fate. Unfortunately, it goes on for quite a while and you find yourself fast-forwarding certain sections, hoping that no one is looking. Next up is a short film. (The DVD must be changed to your language so you may need to wait.) We discover that Držić lived in Siena which,
The attractive, 16th-century former customs house and Ragusa mint is used to house the extensive state archives. Several rooms off the arcaded groundfloor courtyard are used to display photocopies of the archives' most treasured historical documents. A small room opposite the ticket office holds the Memorial Room of the Dubrovnik Defenders. Covering the 12 months from October 1991 (although keen to point out that isolated attacks continued until the summer of 1995), the exhibition contains portraits of the 300 defenders and civilians who died during the siege and the tattered remnant of the Croatian flag that flew atop strategic Mount Srđ.
The most historic monument in Dubrovnik, the Rector's Palace was rebuilt twice. The first, by Onofrio della Cava of fountain fame, was in Venetian-Gothic style, visible in the window design once you ascend the grand staircase to the Rector's living quarters. Thereafter Florentine Michelozzo Michelozzi was responsible for the loggia façade. On the ground floor, either side of a courtyard, are the prison and courtrooms of the Ragusa Republic, and a glittering display of medieval church art. Upstairs, where each Rector resided for his month's stint, is a strange assortment of items: sedan chairs, carriages, magistrates' robes and wigs, portraits of local notables and Ivo Rudenjak's beautifully carved bookcase. One curiosity is the clocks, some set at quarter to six, the time in the evening when Napoleon's troops entered in 1806. The same ticket is valid for the Archeological Collection, a small but attractive collection of medieval carvings as the Rector's Palace) right by Ploče gate.
Between the Sponza Palace and the Ploče Gate, this monastery is best known for its late Gothic cloisters and late 15th-century paintings of the Dubrovnik School in the museum – in particular masterpieces by Nikola Božidarević, including his Our Lady with the Saints. On the walls of the monastery church are a beautiful wooden crucifix by Paolo Veneziano from 1358 and a painting by renowned fin-de-siècle artist Vlaho Bukovac from Cavtat, The Miracle of St Dominic.
The more well known of the cliff-face bars; tourists follow the 'Cold Drinks' sign from the open square of Rudjera Boškovića. Prices are a little steeper but you get a thatched roof and table service. Buža II also the same jaw-dropping view – if you can find a table in high season.
The more haphazard of the two open-air bars cut into the sea-facing rocks, Buža I welcomes sunbathers, divers, drinkers and film fans. Its entry faces the terrace of the Konoba Ekvinocijo; on the wall is daubed '8-20 Topless Nudist'. Down a stone staircase are bar tables and metal steps towards the sea. Films are also shown.
A good place to pick up your beach picnic contents is this popular market in the heart of the Old Town. It mainly sells fruit and veg but you'll also find nuts, olive oil, lavender, honey and local spirits.