Port of Dubrovnik
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The medieval-era Old Town is a walled city, and from above -- you can walk the 1.3-mile stretch some 80 feet above ground level for spectacular views -- it is reminiscent of Venice, just on a smaller scale (and with marble alleyways instead of canals). Like the Italian city, which lies just to the northwest, Old Town Dubrovnik is free of vehicular traffic and dotted with Renaissance churches and fountains, with a rich history as a trading port. In lieu of canals, you'll find narrow, cobblestone streets where pedestrians stroll from shop to shop, dine and drink at al fresco cafes and soak up the sun.
Dubrovnik is nestled in the southwestern corner of Croatia, a boomerang-shaped country directly across the Adriatic Sea from Italy's east coast, under which lies Bosnia and Herzegovina. The atmosphere is light and welcoming, due in no small part to the city's gorgeous setting on the Dalmatian Coast, which can be appreciated on one of the many boat tours offered from the Old Town harbor. Nearby beaches are also accessible; tours further inland include country bike rides and wine-tasting.
The port is a mainstay on Eastern Mediterranean cruise itineraries, sprinkled among greatest-hits stops like Athens, Venice and so many Greek Isles. Most Eastern Mediterranean cruises set sail from spring through fall, though winter cruising is gaining popularity.
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Where You're Docked
There are two possible docks, though most (bigger) ships wind up in Gruz Harbor, a suburb of Dubrovnik. Smaller vessels may be permitted to anchor in Old Harbor, right in the heart of the old city.
Gruz Harbor, an open-air terminal building directly opposite the dock, offers some souvenir shopping opportunities, money exchange capabilities and inexpensive Internet connectivity -- both wired and wireless (for those with laptops or smartphones).
Good to Know
The Old Town can be quite crowded when there are cruise ships in town, but don't let it deter you from visiting -- people-watching is part of the fun. Locals warn of pickpockets. (We didn't hear of any on our visit, however.) This is a walking destination, and the smooth marble streets of the old town can be slick, particularly if it rains. Wear comfortable shoes.
Free shuttles: Many ships provide free shuttles from Gruz Harbor to the Old Town; it's a 15-minute ride, and you'll be dropped off right at Pile Gate, the main pedestrian entrance into the walled city.
Buses: If your ship doesn't offer a shuttle or you'd prefer to take transportation into your own hands, you'll find a local bus stop just outside the pier gates; look for numbers 1a, 1b and 8. You can purchase tickets at the adjacent newsstand, but you'll need exact change in Kune, so make sure you convert some money at the exchange bureau just inside the port's gates.
Taxis: Expect to pay about 50 Kune to take a taxi to the Old Town; they'll be available at the pier.
Walking: Once in the Old Town, you can easily get around on foot; the Placa is the main pedestrian boulevard. There's really no reason to rent a car as, like Venice, the old city is pedestrian-only.
Excursion boats: Other sightseeing options -- like nearby islands and resort towns with historic appeal -- are accessible via public boat service. These boats depart for various nearby islands from the pier of the old harbor.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The local currency is the Kuna. (Check XE.com for the latest exchange rate.) Merchants and restaurateurs will grudgingly accept euros, but almost none will take U.S. dollars, though we were able to use them to buy lovely painted glass candle holders from a street vendor. Your best bet is to use a credit card wherever possible for the best exchange rate, though you'll probably want to change a small amount of money (for attraction admissions and inexpensive purchases) into Kune.
There are plenty of ATM machines and exchange bureaus, both at the port and in town.
Croatian, though just about everybody speaks fairly fluent English. German is common, as well.
Food and Drink
The cuisine of Croatia's coastal regions relies heavily on traditional Mediterranean flavors -- gelaterias and Italian al fresco trattorias abound in Dubrovnik. For more typical Croatian fare, look for dishes made with fresh, local seafood.
Enjoy lunch with the locals -- Spaghetteria Toni (Nikole Bozidarevica 14; 385-20-323-134) and Pizzeria Castro (Gunduliceva Poljana 5) are two favored restaurants that feature yummy pizza and pasta dishes. For something with a bit more Croatian flair, look for pies topped with local cured ham.
Seafood Galore -- Lokanda Peskarija (Na Ponti bb; 385-20-324-750) and Kamenice (Gunduliceva Poljana 8; 385-20-323-682) both offer outdoor seating and family-style portions.
Proto (Siroka 1) has no view but makes up for it with outstanding dishes; try any of its grilled or fried fish dishes or the seafood risotto. Want a view? Just outside the Pile Gate is Restaurant Nautika (Brsalje 3).
Around town, you may see women crocheting doilies and such; these are for sale. Dubrovnik also seems to be a magnet for artists (of varying abilities) -- there are numerous scenic-style works, from watercolors to oils.
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