It was our second visit to Dubrovnik’s majestic Old Town and we were still very much enchanted by this walled city with its cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, churches supporting ancient bell towers and a feast of historic architecture, overlooking the sapphire blue of the Adriatic. Our first visit was for one day as part of a cruise itinerary and, during that brief encounter, we only had time to walk the wall and a short stop at the beach.
(See our story: http://gaymenonholiday.com/2015/09/walking-the-wall-in-dubrovnik)
This time we were fortunate to stay in the Old City for three nights and explored it much more fully. One thing that immediately sets Dubrovnik apart from other cities is not only its medieval fortifications but also it is car free. As pedestrians we entered through Pile Gate (pronounced ‘pillay’) and we were immediately drawn to the magnificence of the central limestone, paved walkway running the length of city, with its three storey stone buildings either side.
Although in the daytime it is absolutely overrun with tourists, in the evenings the shimmer of soft lighting from the limestone pavers, fewer tourists and the subtle sounds of musicians from nearby bars, makes this area a truly grand, glorious and entertaining promenade.
Dubrovnik once famous for trade, then for its UNESCO listing, is now renowned as the film set for the Game of Thrones series and hundreds of thousands of visitors each year are keen to do the ‘GOT’ walking tour of film locations.
Off the main promenade we found the Cathedral and plazas filled with restaurants and dozens of tiny streets where many tourists, like us, stay in historic, refurbished apartments. Accommodation in the Old City can be noisy as most apartments are directly above restaurants and bars but the huge advantage is, one step out of your bed and you are totally immersed in the celebrated ambience of this ancient city.
Dubrovnik has many highlights but it does have a few downsides. It’s certainly not a gay destination. Accommodation, restaurant prices and alcohol are more than twice the price compared with other parts of Croatia. One jazz bar we called into was charging 100 Kuna for 30 mls of red wine, (about two decent sips) which is more expensive than we have found in London, New York or Singapore.
Also the overcrowding in the daytime makes tourism unpleasant. This is one place getting up early pays off. Walking the wall at around 8am, or going anywhere else in the city, is so much more pleasant than later in the day. Although, sanity returns in the evening, when strolling around the narrow streets searching for the right place to eat can be a real treasure hunt.
On one of our days we took the cute little ferry across to Lokrum Island, a small, pine-covered, tranquil, nature reserve just a 15 minutes boat ride from Dubrovnik. The tickets were 120 Kuna return and the ferry leaves on the half hour.
Most of the straight couples headed towards the island’s monastery, the museum or the swimming hole called the Dead Sea. Being more cheeky we turned left and walked down the track following the coastline to the nude beach located on the southern coastal rock ledges.
The immediate area just below the stone steps tends to be more ‘naturist’ than gay. Two hundred metres further to the right of the steps is the gay area and much less public. However, there is always a constant flow of tourist boats and kayaks making their way around the island.
Swimming off the island is a dream, the water is perfectly clear and clean and in late September the rocks are not crowded. Before you leave the rocks you can treat yourself to a fresh water shower to wash the salt away and make your return journey much more comfortable.
After leaving the beach we called into Lokrum Island Cafe for a beer before joining the long queue for the 4:45pm ferry. (Tip: be early for the ferry as the end of the day is busy and the queues are frustrating in the hot sun) Is it worth taking the time to travel across to Lokrum Island? We say it’s a definite yes, even if it is just to see a naked man doing an impressive handstand on the rocks for the admiration of the passing kayakers and, for us, of course .
The next day we ventured outside Pile Gate and climbed up a few hundred steps to Fort Lovrijenac. The rewards are amazing views over the old town, the mountains and the sea. Entry is 50 Kuna, and it is a must for Game of Thrones (GOT) fans and keen photographers alike.
The Fort’s main claim to fame is that it successfully protected the city from the Venetians, but today it is for GOT devotees and the Croatian leg of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.
At the southern end of the Old City is Outer Ploce Gate and we had to walk through it on our way to Benjae Beach. However, first we called into Gusta Me Mediterranean Restaurant to sample their delicious fresh steamed mussels.
Benjae Beach is nothing to rave about but it has some sand and small pebbles and is easy to walk to from the Old Town. There are kayaks and other water craft to hire including jet skis. For a more luxurious and glamorous day at the beach, you might want to pay the entry fee into Benjae Beach Club which has a private pier to anchor your dingy, boat or yacht, if so inclined.
This ‘city’ beach provides safe, clean swimming and a cafe for lunch on the rocks but it can get quite crowded in the afternoon when the locals arrive for a refreshing swim during their late lunch break. Don’t forget your beach roll for a really comfortable day out.
Our tour of Croatia concluded in Dubrovnik this time and we were very sad to leave. However, we still have a swag of different island destinations to explore next time we return to this amazing part of paradise.
- July and August have serious over crowding issues in this popular tourist hotspot.
- Dubrovnik is an expensive destination so don’t expect it to be like the rest of Croatia in terms of prices.
- If a fan of Game of Thrones pre book your tours online so you won’t be disappointed. Queues are horrendous.
- The most gay thing to do is visit Lokrum Island and that is a must when in Dubrovnik.
- Whenever you go to the beach in Croatia you need a padded beach roll to provide some comfort on the rocks. They are inexpensive and the best purchase you will make early in your vacation if you intend to spend time at the beaches.