AROUND THE OLD TOWN & UP MOUNT SRĐ
Most airlines operate early morning flights from the UK, meaning you can really make the most of your first day in DUBROVNIK. The focus of your time here should be the picturesque OLD TOWN, a network of gleaming limestone alleyways enclosed by Dubrovnik’s famous medieval city walls. It’s jammed full of monasteries, churches and museums – the Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site in its entirety – but the biggest draw is simply wandering the tight-knit backstreets.
The principal gateway is western PILE GATE, whose wooden drawbridge leads onto busy STRADUN, permanently packed with jostling day-trippers. Fill up your water bottles from the domed Onofrio’s Great Fountain, still working nearly 600 years after it was built, and then challenge your kids to balance on the gargoyle head that juts out of the wall on your left – it’s a traditional test of male endurance for young Dubrovčani boys. The main entry point up onto the city walls is near here, but you’ll be tackling those tomorrow afternoon, when the crowds have thinned and you’re refreshed and a bit more energised. For now, carry on along Stradun to LUZA SQUARE, at its eastern end, where you can take a break on the steps of St Blaise’s Church and watch the world go – there are several ice-cream parlours on and around Stradun selling deliciously creamy Italian-style gelato.
Heading away from Stradun, the colonnaded building on your left is the striking Gothic-Renaissance RECTOR’S PALACE [open daily until 6pm], where the republic’s head of state spent his one-month term in office (lest he get too powerful for his own good!). Scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed in the imposing courtyard, and the palace’s Cultural History Museum houses the rector’s luxuriously furnished apartment (along with an arsenal, court room and prison). The standalone admission fee for a family [80kn, under-18s 25kn, under-12s free] is probably a bit too steep to justify the interest children will have in its hotchpotch collection of artefacts, but if you’ve bought a Dubrovnik Card, it’s well worth a look [entry is free for Dubrovnik Card holders]. From the palace, dive into Dubrovnik’s backstreets, first to the south of Stradun, where the alleyways link open squares crowded with monumental old buildings, then to the north, where narrow stepped lanes lined with flower boxes and bijou cafés run up the hill towards BUŽA GATE.
Whilst the city walls put the Old Town into close-up context, a great way to get an overview of Dubrovnik on your first day (without the extra walking) is to take the DUBROVNIK CABLE CAR [open daily until 9pm in May, until midnight from June to August | 150kn, under-13s 60kn, under-4s free] up nearby Mount Srđ. The cable car’s lower station is just 5 minutes’ walk from Buža Gate; head due north from the gate, under the little underpass and up the road opposite, and turn right at the top, away from the fire station. The ride up is short but fun for kids, and the views from the summit of MOUNT SRĐ (pronounced in a similar way to “search”) are tremendous, with the Old Town laid out directly below you, the Adriatic coast stretching into the distance, and the speckled, granite-grey mountains of Herzegovina running along the horizon inland. At 405m above sea level, Mount Srđ can make a welcome respite from the heat of the walled city, though sunset is a particularly lovely time to be up here.
TOP TIP Depending on what you’ll be doing in Dubrovnik and when (and on the ages of your kids), it might be worth investing in a DUBROVNIK CARD. The cards are available as 1-day (180kn) and 3-day (225kn) passes (starting from the moment you first use it) and grant free entry to the city walls, the Rector’s Palace and seven other museums and galleries in Dubrovnik, as well as free public transport around the city; they also offer a variety of discounts at restaurants and souvenir shops, and on excursions to places such as Lokrum island. Children under 8 are free when accompanied by an adult cardholder.
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