A local’s guide to Dubrovnik: five great things to do

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Soon after moving to Dubrovnik in 2014, Alex Cram set up Piknik Dubrovnik, which runs gourmet walks, hikes and boat trips in the region.

Food

There are a lot of tourist traps in Dubrovnik, but there are a few gems. I go by what I believe is truly local; for example, Lady Pi-Pi in the Old Town. All its vegetables are from the Konavle valley, and the food is mainly grilled – very simple, good and tasty. It doesn’t have a website or Instagram, and doesn’t take reservations. There’s also Kopun in a wonderful setting by the Jesuit church, with a great wine list picked by its sommelier, Ana Bitanga. Its pašticada (braised beef) is a killer, and the truffle gnocchi is really good. I love the food markets in the old town and the much larger one in Gruž. It’s best to go early, about 8am, and you get to see all the seasonal changes in the produce.

Dubrovnik Old Town
Dubrovnik Old Town Photograph: Alexandru Magurean/Getty Images

Inspiration

The Red History Museum (adult entry 50 kuna, about £5.60) in Gruž is very well designed. It’s an interactive museum in an old carbon factory showing the history of communism in Yugoslavia in a really cool way, with staged sets that look like a house. They have a Yugo car in there too, and an old kiosk. War Photo Limited (adult entry also 50 kuna) in the Old Town is one of my top places because owner Wade Goddard, whose photographs of the Kosovo war featured in newspapers worldwide, does such a good job of explaining complex history in an informative but moving and digestible way. You gain such a respect for war photographers.

Green space

My favourite spot is Park Orsula south of the Old Town. It’s a bit of a walk, but so beautiful. The hike up to Mount Srđ is relatively easy if you’re used to a bit of an incline. An alternative route goes up into the hills above Ploče into Bosanka village. Another popular spot for greenery and relaxation is the island of Lokrum, which is gorgeous and magical. I also love the Elaphiti islands. Three-island tours are heavily advertised, but I prefer to just get on the local ferry and pick one island. Koločep is great for walking along pine-covered trails to cliffs that you can jump off for a swim.

Debrovnik beer company
Illustration: Hennie Haworth

Neighbourhood

The Gruž district, north-west of the city, is becoming trendy and getting a new face. An organisation called Dvorište TUP puts on all sorts of events including outdoor film screenings, second-hand sales and art shows. These are bringing life and people into Gruž. Dvorište TUP opened a bar in the back of the Red History Museum, and it’s super grungy. Other new places include Urban & Veggie, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant. And the Dubrovnik Beer Company serves the best burger I’ve had in Croatia. Right around the corner is Love Bar, which has an awesome roof terrace that looks out over the harbour. It’s a cool little pocket, that corner of Gruž, and what’s happening there kind of reminds me of a young Berlin. It’s for the more alternative crowd, not particularly for the people who just want to have a romantic seaside dinner. You’ll be hanging out with the young hip crew.

Nightlife

There’s not much nightlife in Dubrovnik, but one of my favourite spots is Gusto Giusto, run by Nada in a tiny hole in the wall, with only four tables outside. She has really good house wine and platters of Croatian and Italian cheese and charcuterie, including the best mortadella in the city. A lot of theatre people go there. Outside Ploče, up this weird little alley, is Mr Goodlife Gin Bar, where they had live music all summer, with local musicians who played everything from Croatian stuff to rock covers. I also really like Škar Winery in Gruž, and now the same people have opened a wine bar in the Old Town.

Stay

Right in the Old Town, Scalini Palace (doubles from €65 room-only in November) is in a beautiful 16th-century stone building. I’ve had a few of my clients stay here and they have loved it.