The Dalmatian Coast is a place of stunning beauty and human history so rich it seems to have soaked into the very air. Over the last two decades, Croatia has become one of the great superyacht charter playgrounds of the world, drawing those who cannot resist the appeal of lavender fields and medieval cities, pine-fringed coves and glamorous beach clubs.
The Bespoke Yacht Charter Croatia Series
As part of our new series on the yachting experience in Croatia, we’re doing a deep-dive on some of the most attractive luxury yacht charter destinations along the Dalmatian Coast, including the islands of Korcula, Mjlet, Hvar, Brac and Vis, as well as the breathtaking historical cities of Dubrovnik and Split.
Bespoke Yacht Charter begin our journey in the south, where you’ll join your yacht in Dubrovnik, the ‘Jewel of the Adriatic’ and one of the most awe-inspiring walled cities on earth.
A Film-Set Grandeur
Game of Thrones fans will immediately recognise the mighty ramparts, winding back alleys, and soaring sea views of Dubrovnik as the fictional setting of King’s Landing, where fiendish political machinations, overly-familiar families, and the occasional fire-bombing are the order of the day. It’s all too tempting to stand on the edge of the 60-foot-thick city walls and scan the sky for dragons.
However, you needn’t have watched the fantasy show to fall headlong under the spell of Dubrovnik. For this city is truly a film-set kind of place, where every turn of the cobblestone street delivers another jaw-dropping view, another baroque façade, and another cool little bar set into the thick city walls, its terrace hanging out over the sparkling Adriatic. There’s a particular magic to the city, with its exotic gardens full of date palms and bougainvillea, and its magnificent blend of the old world and the new. Whatever you seek, you will find it in Dubrovnik.
No Dragons, Maybe, but Intrigue, Invasions, and Earthquakes A-Plenty
Dubrovnik’s 21st century renaissance is far from its first. And while the dragons may not have ever cruised the skies above the city, the political intrigues and bombings certainly have certainly held true over the real history of Dubrovnik. (As for the overly-familiar families, we’ll leave that one alone.)
Dubrovnik was born from war and disaster, when a barbarian invasion and an earthquake forced the inhabitants of nearby Epidaurum to move to Laus, a small island separated from the mainland by a tiny strip of marshland. Laus (later called Ragusa) ultimately merged with the Croat settlement that become Dubrovnik.
By the 9th century AD, Dubrovnik was gaining prominence as part of the Byzantine Empire, and would trade as a powerful merchant republic with trade outposts spread as far as India and Africa. Its growing influence attracted jealousy, with Venice attacking Dubrovnik and holding it under their rule for more than 150 years from 1205.
Gaining its near-independence again under the Croat-Hungarian Treaty of Zadar, Dubrovnik continued its rise, only to be felled by a tremendous earthquake in 1667, where 5000 inhabitants died and much of the city was reduced to rubble— except those thick city walls which still stood strong above the Adriatic. While the city was rebuilt, (with many of the spectacular buildings we see today taking shape in this period), Dubrovnik had lost much of its power, making Napoleon’s 1806 invasion all too easy.
After Napoleon’s fall, Dubrovnik became part of the Austro Hungarian Empire, entering a time of peace before that empire, too, collapsed. Dubrovnik became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia after World War I, and then the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia after WWII.
Yet Dubrovnik’s history was not yet done, with one more terrible chapter to come. In 1991-1992, Dubrovnik came under attack during the Yugoslav War, suffering heavy shelling and a three month siege. For the visitor wandering through the superbly kept city today, admiring the stunning Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, it is hard to believe that UNESCO-listed Dubrovnik was near-devastated by the bombing.
The city’s rebirth is a marvel, but for anyone who knows a little about Dubrovnik’s past, and its ability to rise from the ashes and begin again, the resurgence of Dubrovnik is much to be expected.
The Highlights of Dubrovnik
If you are chartering a yacht on the Dalmatian Coast, you’re no doubt impatient to get out into the dreamy islands. Yet Dubrovnik’s charms are countless, and those with a love of history, fine food, architecture and dramatic views will certainly want to linger a little while. Here are some of the outstanding highlights of a day on a yacht charter in Dubrovnik.
Walk the city ramparts. At eighty foot high and 60 foot thick, walking along the high city walls of Dubrovnik is an activity that will sear into your memory and get your yacht charter off to a fantastic start. Take a leisurely promenade above the busy streets below, gazing out at the glittering Adriatic and across the red-tiled city roofs.
Visit a 700 year old apothecary. Heading to a chemist may not seem the most thrilling thing you could do with your limited time in Dubrovnik, but bear with me, for this place is a joy. Established in the 1300’s, the pharmacy is hidden inside a Franciscan monastery, where whisper-quiet cloisters lead into a peaceful courtyard garden filled with orange trees. The pharmacy is the oldest in Europe, and not only does it have a collection of old poison jars and bizarre medical equipment, but most wonderfully, it is still a working chemist today! An absolute highlight of Dubrovnik and well worth your time.
Wander along Stradum Street. Those who read the history section above will remember that the people of Epidaurum fled to Laus, a tiny island only separated from Dubrovnik by a small section of marshland. When Laus and Dubrovnik became one, the marsh was filled in, creating Stradum, the main street of the Old Town and the beating heart of the city. Today it’s lined with souvenir shops and can get very crowded, but it still has an incredible historic charm.
Dive off the city walls: Daredevils will want to plunge off the city walls into the deep, cool sea, while the more risk averse will bask on the lower rocks and gracefully descend the bathing steps into the blue-green water like a 1950’s movie star.
Stroll the Aboretum Trsteno Gardens: It’s difficult not to pinch yourself as you wander through the Renaissance gardens, sitting high above the sea just outside Dubrovnik. Date palms line the shady paths, limpid green pools are guarded by giant sculptures of King Neptune and nymphs, and 500 year old plane trees soar over exotic gardens of magnolia and cacti. It feels like a place out of a dream.
Game of Thrones fans will immediately recognise the gardens as a major King’s Landing film location, including the spectacular lookout where Sansa Stark told the Tyrells her story, and the waterfront sparring grounds of Bronn and Jaime.
Take the cable car. You can’t get a true sense of a waterfront city until you have a) seen it from the sea, and b) seen it from above. Your yacht charter will take care of the former, and the spectacular cable car up to the mountain of Srd will take care of the latter. Hang above the terracotta roofs and stone turrets of the Old Town before being drawn up the mountain, drinking in the endless Adriatic views that seem to stretch to infinity.
Visit the War Photo Limited Exhibition. When you see the devastating photos of Dubrovnik during the siege and bombardment of the Yugoslav War, you’ll only appreciate the restored beauty of Dubrovnik even more.
The Night is Light, and Full of Wonders
‘The Night is dark and full of terrors’, as they say in Game of Thrones. In Dubrovnik, this couldn’t be less true, as the coming of night is the chance to get the party started in the warm Mediterranean air.
Watch the sun go down from a ‘hole in the wall’ bar. As the sun starts to hang lower in the sky, those in the know head to one of the spectacular bars set into the city walls, to take a table on the balcony hanging over the sea. Buza I and Buza II are legendary, with Buza II catering for a slightly older crowd, and Buza 1 the choice of those who want to be able to jump into the sea. For something much more refined, the Sunset Lounge at Hotel Dubrovnik Palace delivers decadence and dazzling views.
Find a performance: In summer, the streets of Dubrovnik’s Old Town come alive with the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, 47 days and nights of classical music, ballet, and theatre. Dress up and enjoy the orchestra at Sponza Palace, or enjoy some open-air Shakespeare at Lovrijenac Fortress.
Dine atop the city walls. Those with even a hint of romance in their soul must dine atop the ramparts at 360 Degrees, a fine dining restaurant which affords a magnificent view across the city and moonlit sea. Get swept up in the magic of the moment as you enjoy refined modern gastronomy in one of the most atmospheric restaurant settings in Europe. Alternatively, Nautika Restaurant is another superb Dubrovnik fine dining establishment with a stunning sea view terrace.
Go to a nightclub in a fortress. Club Culture Revelin is one of the great clubs of Eastern Europe, with a top line-up of famous DJ’s and live music performances in summer. Set in a 16th century fortress, the big dancefloor runs under the stone arched roof, while little nooks and crannies at the sides are the ideal place to escape the crowd.
Return to your charter yacht and enjoy a delicious sleep. You’ll wake up in Mjlet, a tranquil paradise of pine forest, buzzing cicadas, and a medieval monastery set in the middle of a crystal clear lake. Mjlet is our next Croatia Yachting Focus article, so stay tuned!
For more information about planning your dream Croatia yacht charter, contact Bespoke Yacht Charter, who create tailored yacht charter itineraries expressly based on your holiday tastes:
This article was written by Jo Morgan – Jo is a freelance writer for yachts and travel, offering targeted feature articles, content marketing, blogs and press releases for the yachting and travel industries.