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Sometimes you have to wonder if a destination you have heard about for years will live up to its reputation. This one definitely does - I have to tell you, Dubrovnik justly deserves its title "Pearl of the Adriatic."
I mean, where else can you find marble streets lined with baroque buildings all topped with red tile roofs? Add in that the whole pretty city is surrounded by intact city walls... and it's no wonder it's a favorite holiday destination for almost everyone who visits.
The first thing we did once we were settled in walked the city walls. They are one of the city's main tourist attractions, and why not? The walk around the city offers outstanding views into the Old Town and out to the Adriatic. There's no better way to get a feel for Dubrovnik's history and architecture.
There are several places where you can climb up to the city walls, and there is an entrance fee. It's about 1¼ miles (2 km) around the whole circuit, so it's a good idea to bring water and wear sunscreen, especially in the heat of the day.
The famous red tile roofs were badly damaged when the Yugoslav National Army laid siege to the city for eight months during the war of the 1990s. With the help of UNESCO and nations all over the world, Croatia has managed to repair most of the roofs. You can see the evidence by the difference in the colors of the tiles.
Walk the length of the main street, called the Stradun or Placa. It's only approximately 1,000 feet long (300 meters) from the Pile Gate to the Ploce Gate in the city walls. The entire length is a pedestrian zone. There are churches and museums and galleries to see, but we think just wandering the city and soaking it all in is the main draw.
Go out the Ploce Gate and sit on the harbor. Wander side streets within the city and find great seafood restaurants.
You can fly into Dubrovnik or come on a tour. It has become a major stop for cruise ships on Mediterranean cruises. Renting a car and visiting the Dalmatian Coast on your own is easy and fun.
Most of the hotels are located outside of the city walls. That's convenient if you drive in... but we wanted to stay inside the city walls. We parked the car at a parking lot just outside the walls, and we dove in to explore.
There are a couple of hotels inside the city, but the most reasonable ones tend to fill up fast. We found a great B&B, which interestingly enough, was run by a woman who had spent several years in California during the Balkan war when Yugoslavia broke apart.
Tourists from those hotels on the outside and from Croatia sailing cruise ships that dock during the day tend to make the city crowded in peak season... But late in the day, they go back to their hotels and ships, and the locals come out to take their evening stroll and children play football (soccer) in the street. If you sit at an outdoor cafe with a coffee or a beer, you'll get a feel for the real Dubrovnik.