Dubrovnik is one of those exquisitely beautiful fortified cities on the coast the Adriatic Seas. The city is a sea of terracotta coloured roof tiles (many of which look new because they were replaced after the cities bombing once they had declared independence from Yugoslavia – despite its standing as a UNESCO world heritage site).
A walk around the walls, a peruse through the many winding old town streets and visits to a cliff bar and beach are a must for your visit.
Hidden Court Dubrovnik
Ariel view of the cliff bar
Cliff bar ariel
A Pirates of the Caribbean feel to it, Dubrovnik
A sea of burnt orange, Dubrovnik
We opted to invest in a 1 day museum pass (which cost 150 kuna – 30 more kuna than entrance to the walls which was included). We visited 5 of their top museums with the pass but were very underwhelmed with their quality (I pretty much switched off after seeing a paper mache swordfish with drawn on eyebrows at the natural history museum). The pass did include other benefits including discounts at many of the local restaurants and shops and a 24hour bus pass so on the whole paid for itself…just.
We’d recommend just spending a day in Dubrovnik, its pretty but not a lot of depth to it. Also if you visit one of the cliff bars, bring your own drink (for around 7 kuna at the supermarket instead of the 40 at the bar) and head down to the lower sections of the cliffs which are for public use. This is the perfect place to watch the sun go down over a picnic dinner!
Split Waterfront Seating
Homes are built into the former walls of the palace, Split
While not as visually stunning as Dubrovnik from the outside we found Split to have more depth to it as we explored the town. The town itself is formed amongst the ruins of Caesar Diocletian’s Palace. Many of the palace’s walls were utilised and incorporated into today’s town. There is plenty to see here, so leave your bags with one of the many affordable left luggage stands at the bus terminal and check out some of favourite Split attractions:
Diocletian’s mausoleum/Cathedral of Saint Domnius
Caesar Diocletian was well documented as being one of the worst persecutor of Christians in history. So it was an ironic twist of fate that Diocletian’s mausoleum would eventually be turned into a Cathedral. Diocletian’s remains did not remain inside the mausoleum (and to my knowledge are missing) but some impressive religious artifacts have; including the impressive altarpiece which depicts two angels weightlessly holding a wooden box between them. The church stands in the recordbooks as being the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that remains in use in its original structure. The original mausoleum being constructed in the second century (then later converted in the 7th century and adding the bell tower in the 12th).
This art makes the central piece seem weightless
Bell Tower Split
Temple of Jupiter/Baptistry of Saint John the Baptist (free)
Another roman building reclaimed by the Catholic church was the temple of Jupiter. While the only remaining detail inside the temple of the original structure is the well decorated ceiling, the building holds an impressively modern statue of John the Baptist, a baptism pool and a couple of tombs holding the remains of two former Archbishops of Split. A short but very interesting visit.
John the Baptist in the former temple of Jupiter
Temple of Jupiter Ceiling
The Cellar’s of Diocletian’s palace (40Kuna pp)
While initially tempted to skip this attraction (because I thought the market, which was also located in the cellars, would give me a free preview of it), I’m glad I checked it out. The cellars are a reasonably vast network and showcased a variety of Roman technologies from Olive Oil Presses to original Roman sewerage pipes. Its an attraction that will help you to transport yourself back in time.
Main Sewer System
Lvxor Cafe & Restaurant
While anything more than coffee, sandwiches and deserts are pretty pricey, nothing beats consuming these 3 menu items sitting in the sun on the ancients steps of Diocletian’s palace gazing up at the bell tower of the cathedral. The staff were attentive and by stopping in this spot it gives you time to process the plethora of ancient artifacts in sight that you might otherwise miss!
The shell of Diocletian’s place can still be seen
Lvxor Lunch break Split
The Pillar of Shame
Lunch break in Zadar
While being smallest of 3 highlighted towns, Zadar had some secret quirky treasures to share with those who venture. With the main historic township is located on a peninsular, walking through the centre you are served glimpses of stunning waterscapes that add to an overall ora of tranquility and relaxation. Some of highlights from the town include:
The Gold and Silver of Zadar (30Kn / €4 pp)
St. Mary’s Cathedral, the entrance to The Gold and Silver of Zadar is through the gates to the left of the main door
On permanent display and curated by the nuns of the Benedictine Convent of St. Mary, the Gold and silver of Zadar is an impressive collection of religious art and artefacts. The collection holds an immense collection of art, religious tools (staffs, bowls, chalices, pews etc) and our ever-favourite the bones of saints and martyrs encapsulated in golden limbs. Entrance is cheap and as we went in off season we had the place to ourselves (other than the nun following us around to make sure we took no photos…but we still managed to sneak this one ;-))
All my saints give me a what what!
The Sea Organ (Free)
For those who are unfamiliar with sea organs, the general concept is that a series of semi submerged pipes of varying lengths are placed along a waterfront to utilise the natural lapping of the water to create sound. While its true that the Sea Organ is not unique to Zadar, its still unique enough that this was our first encounter with one. The sound created is a soothing and deep reminiscent of whale calls. Its the perfect accompaniment to lazy day at the seaside soaking up the sun, reading a book or picnic with friends.
Sea Organ Zadar
The Greeting to the Sun (Free)
Located adjacent to the sea organ is a piece of art called The Greeting to the Sun. What seems like a plain circular glass floor installation during the day, reveals its true form at night. The glass installation actually holds a series of solar panels which soaks up the energy of the sun during the day and lights up in magnificent moving colours at night. A perfect nighttime accompaniment to the moving deep sounds of the organ.
The Greeting to the Sun Daytime
Sometimes the easiest things to enjoy are the cheapest. This was the case with Crazy Pizza in Zadar (Stomorica ul. 1, 23000, Zadar). After trawling through countless expensive menus throughout town we were blown away by the affordability and delectability of this place. At only 10Kn (1.3 Euros) for a full quarter of a pizza this place was a bargain, I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in pizza that night. I highly recommend trying the bacon rasher pizza.
Overall, each of the 3 towns are definitely worth a day’s visit, each a pearl on the string of the Adriatic. While we enjoyed all 3 Jenny & I disagree on our favourite, Jenny opts for the immersive beauty of Dubrovnik while I vote for the historical intrigue of Split.
Got a different conclusion? We’d love to hear it! Please leave your thoughts, questions and comments below!