Facing out over a glistening Adriatic sea is the walled city of Dubrovnik. With its imposing stone walls surrounding the old town, mix of Baroque and Renaissance architecture, this UNESCO World Heritage site is wildly popular with tourists, especially in the summer when vast numbers of cruise ships dock at its port.Consider Dubrovnik for your next city break, check out the picturesque old town, the huge city walls, fabulous restaurants & nearby vineyards. Click To Tweet
Dubrovnik has exploded in popularity in recent years, especially since it became an iconic Game of Thrones filming location, with fans eager to get a ‘shame steps selfie’. Severe overcrowding has resulted in announcements of caps to visitor numbers in an attempt to curb the number of visitors pouring into the ancient old town during peak season.
If you don’t fancy battling the selfie stick-wielding summer crowds then why not consider visiting during the off-season. I visited in October when crowds are fewer and temperatures are pleasantly Autumnal. I spent a fabulous 48 hours in Dubrovnik for a recent weekend break, exploring the old town, staying at a beautiful resort, sampling its culinary delights and enjoying a glass of vino or two at nearby wineries. I have therefore created a handy guide to what can see, do and eat when you spend 48 hours in Dubrovnik in the Autumn.
Walk the ancient City walls of Dubrovnik
Walking the giant stone city walls is the best way to get a birds-eye view of the old town and a sure way of getting enviable Instagram snaps. The full circuit of the 24m high and 6m thick walls is a two-kilometre walk that offers a range of views including the battlements, the patchwork red roofs, fortresses, the sea and pretty nearby islands.
I would recommend being led by a qualified and knowledgeable guide. This way all the sites are put into historical context. Dubrovnik has a fascinating history, it was a powerful merchant republic trading with the east and with Africa, it was invaded by a jealous Venice in the 12th century, became part Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1815, then became part of Yugoslavia and sustained substantial shelling during the 1991-1995 war.
I am always amazed at the sheer volume of knowledge of tour guides. I have no idea how they are not only able to reel off a stream of dates and keys events in a historical timeline and also make it sound interesting at the same time? It’s not often I find myself nodding along saying “Oh I would LOVE to know more about the reinforcement of the Pile Gate.”
I visited Dubrovnik in October and I found this was the ideal time to walk the city walls, it was pleasantly quiet and peaceful, the weather was a perfect autumn temperature and there were plenty of photo opportunities, without having to battle for a space with selfie sticks, in my quest to get a ‘Khalessi surveys Kings landing’ style shot.
Lunch at Panorama Restaurant
Dubrovnik’s Panorama Restaurant offers unparalleled views of Dubrovnik, you can dine 415 meters up Mount Srdj, at this contemporary restaurant. Accessible by foot, car or cable car, this is the place to get some seriously amazing #platedpics for your Instagram account.
It’s frankly very hard to concentrate on your dinner when you have such spectacular views. I was lucky enough to sit right by the window, so I could not only gaze out over the gorgeous old town, but I had the perfect lighting for a spot of food photography.
Fresh seafood and steak feature heavily on the menu and local and seasonal produce is used where possible. I savoured a selection of dishes including Beef tenderloin carpaccio with artichokes, Ribeye steak with potato mousse and sauteed mushrooms and wonderfully light and ridiculously moreish Cheesecake. This was accompanied by a few different glasses of Croatian wine, which is massively underrated in my opinion, my absolute favourite being a lovely Plavac Mali red. The service was also impeccable, with friendly and knowledgeable staff on hand to answers questions and showed extreme patience at endless requests for photos from our table, “Just one more, my hair doesn’t look quite right in this one!”
Panorama Restaurant is really popular, you often have to make a reservation 4 to 5 days in advance, especially if you want to dine at Sunset. Visiting in Autumn means that you are far more likely to get a table at this coveted spot and you won’t be battling for views with snap-happy tourists.
Visit Croatian Vineyards
Wine lovers should endeavour to visit Croatia’s famous wine growing region, Pelješac Peninsula. It’s approximately a 90-minute scenic drive away from Dubrovnik and is home to some pretty wonderful vineyards where you can sample Croatian wine. Croatia is not really known for its wine internationally, the names of the wines are complicated [try pronouncing ‘Pošip’ after several glasses of vino], production is often very small, vineyards are fairly boutique and Croatian winemakers don’t really export at all.Wine lovers should endeavour to visit Croatia's famous wine growing region, Pelješac Peninsula. Click To Tweet
If you love a glass or two of vino then it is definitely worth booking a Wine Tasting Tour of Pelješac Peninsula. You can visit several locally-owned wineries with a guide and sip on a selection of stunning Croatian wines. I visited three vineyards on a wine tour of this region and learnt more about locals wines such as Plavac Mali, whilst sipping on a glass or two of the good stuff of course.
The first stop was at the picturesque Milos vineyard, with it’s flowing vines, pretty stone buildings and old-fashioned basement cellar, wine production has been in the Milos family for generations. Milos have their own on-site wine cellar that you can take a peek at, as they explain their fermentation, bottling and ageing of wine process. These guys knock out some pretty amazing quality wine, of the Plavac Mali cultivar. We sampled several of their wines ranging from dry to half sweet to dessert wines. I was feeling pretty lively after drinking several glasses of wine at 10 am and it then dawned one that this was stop one of three. Luckily, I am a DELIGHT, when inebriated.
The next stop was the Korta Katarina winery, who produce a variety of premium Dalmation Coast wines. Where Milos was small and rustic, Korta Katarina is housed in a large and modern estate. We were lead through to the gleaming ‘tasting room’ that was set up in a style that I can only breathlessly describe as ‘Pinterest goals’.
“Don’t touch anything, I need photos for the gram!” Was my ever so slightly ‘blogger entitled’ instruction to the group. My husband often refers to these episodes as ‘Instagram tantrums’. To be fair, surely even he could appreciate why I wanted photos in this instance. Shiny glassware, fresh flowers and beautifully presented plates of cheese, olives and deli meats made for a gorgeous wine tasting experience. We sampled several of Korta Katarina’s premium wines over lunch, including Plavac Mali, Sabion, Pošip and Rose. You can also take your wine onto the terrace for beautiful sea views and wine tasting contemplation.
After a marvellous wine tasting session, we were wobbling out the door and on to our final stop, ‘Navis Myseterium’. This nautical styled establishment has several barnacle covered chests of wine on display, giving it a rather ‘hipster bar in Shoreditch’ feel. The sea chests aren’t just for decoration, they are visual evidence of the journey below the sea that their wine takes. Their Premium wine Plavac Edivo, is sunk 18-25 metres below the sea after it has been bottled and then aged for one to two years.
This was too much for my wine-addled brain to properly process. “But won’t it taste all salty and stuff?” I enquired in the slow, deliberate voice I use when trying to appear sober. Bemused staff explained that the wine is stored in perfect thermal conditions under the sea, covered with a layer of shells, algae and coral. They assured me that their wine does not lose its quality or aroma in the process.
Needless to say, I was rather ‘animated’ after a day on the wine, I decided that the taxi ride back to the hotel was the perfect time to perform a very loud, very slurred rendition of ‘Total eclipse of the heart’. The driver didn’t even raise an eyebrow at my theatrical performance, that my loves, is the sign of an utter professional.
Go bar hopping in the old town
Explore Old Town by stopping off in its many cool pavement cafes and atmospheric bars. There’s a wide variety of establishments serving a range of beers, Croatian wines and cocktails. Go exploring down narrow alleyways and see what hidden bars you can find when wandering around the pretty old town.
The weather is still warm enough in the Autumn to enjoy a drink or two outside and the best bar for outdoor drinking has to be uber cool, Buza bar. This joint is known affectionately as the ‘hole-in-the-wall’, as to get to this unique bar, you have to go through a hole in the wall, [‘buža’ literally means “hole”]. Once you are the other side, you are can grab a drink at their cliffside bar and enjoy beautiful views of the Adriatic, as you sink a cold beer or two.
If wine is more your thing, you can go wine and cheese tasting in one of the many wines bars in the old town. I visited Wine Bar Dingac Skaramuca, right off of Old Town square. Here you can sit on rustic wine barrel seats covered with a blankie. Our devilishly handsome waiter gave us a selection of local wines to taste as well as paired cheese and snacks. The wine went down a treat and it was nice to have the different wines explained to us as we sipped away. Dingac Skaramuca is the sort of establishment where the space-time continuum doesn’t seem to apply. You think you have been drinking and chatting for 20 minutes, but somehow 4 and a half hours have gone by and you can’t remember the name of the hotel you are staying in.
Prices can be high in old town, which is something to keep in mind when bar hopping. I think that it is worth spending a little extra to enjoy picturesque pavement seating and amazing foodie finds. It’s also really nice to walk around the old town at night when it’s all lit up. If you are travelling with a significant other, a romantic walk around the old town is a must! If you are visiting Dubrovnik during the autumn, you will find there aren’t as many crowds, so you can have a serene, candlelit dinner with your beloved.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from in the old town, you could spend an evening wandering the side streets and the squares and diving into pubs, or dining at a pretty pavement table. Recommended places to try are D’Vino Wine Bar, a tiny wine bar that offers Croatian wine tasting, La Bodega a swish wine bar with chilled out music, or why not feast on Dalmatian cuisine and fresh fish dishes at Villa Ruža?
Stay at Valamar Resorts
If you are on a short city break to Dubrovnik then why not pamper yourself with a premium hotel? Rather than opt for a plain old hotel room, spoil yourself with a fabulous resort! Valamar has a range of Hotels in Dubrovnik including the Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel, a gorgeous 4* hotel that is just 15 minutes from the old town and 250m from the beach. They have a range of stylish, park view or sea view rooms, or luxurious suites to choose from, I think it is definitely worth investing in a room that offers stunning, Instagrammable views.Planning a city break to Dubrovnik? Why not spoil yourself with a premium hotel? Valamar Resorts are perfect for pampering yourself! Click To Tweet
I stayed at the Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel for my weekend break, from the moment you wander into this ultra chic hotel, you are aware you are somewhere a little bit swanky. Impossibly beautiful and immaculate Croatian women are sipping wine as a string quartet plays in a lobby bar. I make a mental note to put my ‘nice shoes’ on as soon and brush my hair, as humanly possible.
This is where you come to relax, to wine and dine and to spa my darlings. This stunning hotel has a range of luxurious facilities including the Ragusa Spa, indoor and outdoor pools, fine dining restaurant and my favourite, a wine bar terrace with a gorgeous view of the water.
I think weekend breaks are all about balance, there should be time for sightseeing, shopping and soaking up the culture but there should also be time to unwind. I used to treat city breaks as a never-ending checklist of activities. I would spend most of my time running around the city ticking off the attractions I thought I should see, selfies by statues, hop on an open top bus, navigate metro systems to get from one must see to the next, cry when I realise I had gone 7 miles in the wrong direction. It was exhausting. I now try to enjoy the sights and make sure there is time to relax, after all, you’ve come away to get away from it all.
Luckily Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel offers plenty of opportunities to de-stress and unwind out at their luxurious Ragusa Spa, with saunas, jacuzzi and treatment rooms, as well as a ‘women only’ Afrodita Spa. I made sure to make full use of their spa and pools in my quest to relax, not writing, Instagramming, planning my next trip, having an existential crisis, just simply being. Foodies will also love the Langusto fine dining restaurant at the hotel, here you can enjoy seafood specialities, premium wine, delectable desserts and stunning views of the Elaphiti Islands.
I was lucky enough to feast upon a fabulous three-course meal of Mediterranean potato salad with artichokes, octopus, prawns and oysters, followed by beautifully cooked Grilled scorpion fish and ending with a gooey hot chocolate cake. The dishes were served with a selection of quality Croatian wines that were perfectly matched to the dishes.
I would really recommend a stay here if you are looking to relax in luxurious surroundings with stunning sea views. Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel is both accessible to the old town and yet far enough away to secluded and a bit ‘away from it all’.
Visiting Dubrovkin is the autumn is a different experience than visiting in the summer. Summer vacationing in Dubrovnik will most likely focus on boat trips, sunbathing at Banje Beach, boat trips to the picturesque Elafiti Islands or kayaking tours around Lokrum Island. Whilst you might not have the high temperatures when you visit in the autumn, you do avoid the crowds and have a more relaxing and immersive experience. You can wander the old town, shop in boutique stores, see the famous sites and dine out without having to battle against jostling crowds, selfie sticks and crazy thrones fans.
If you happen to be a huge Game of Thrones fan like myself, Autumn is the time to get an uncluttered, clear shot of Thrones filming sites, such as Bokar Fortress and grab your ‘Shame steps selfies’, without having to elbow other Instagram divas out the way.
I would definitely recommend a weekend trip and spending at least 48 hours in Dubrovnik, anytime of the year. This iconic walled city is surely the ultimate ‘Mediterranean getaway’, no matter when you visit.
My stay at Valamar Resort was complimentary but all views, as always, remain fabulously my own.