The centrepiece of the whole Dubrovnik region is of course the Old Town – made famous as the location of ‘Kings Landing’ in Game of Thrones and also featuring in Star Wars.
It’s a beautiful, 16th century town enclosed by huge stone walls which are built right on the edge of the Adriatic coastline.
It’s full of narrow cobbled streets with small boutique shops, restaurants and bars and a busy central square and main street.
Our apartment was about 15-minutes’ drive along the coastal road from the village of Mlini so we drove here in the morning, initially looking for a parking space in one of the few, fairly small, car parks on the outskirts of the Old Town.
Two things quickly became apparent – one was the high cost of parking, working out at almost £5 per hour. The other was that there were no available parking spaces at all!
We ended up having to drive some way back out of town, in the direction of Sveti Jakov beach, where we’d previously seen a residential road which it looked possible to park in.
Sure enough it was, and it was free to park here, but we were now 20-minutes’ walk away from the town. The summer of 2017 in Croatia had seen a massive heatwave; it’s normally hot here anyway but with the car temperature gauge climbing ever closer to forty degrees as we parked up, we were starting to worry about having to walk 20-minutes with three children in that kind of heat!
We made it to the gates of the Old Town in the end – albeit very hot and sweating – and it’s certainly an impressive sight.
To be honest though, it felt a bit lacking in character and a bit too commercialised.
It was extremely busy – and indeed there are stories in the news about the authorities now wanting to limit the number of tourist who can enter the Old Town per day – particularly those visiting from cruise ships, which deposit thousands of visitors in to the town each day at the height of the season.
Having said this though, it wasn’t really a great deal busier than our local city centre back home on a weekend and certainly no busier than being in London.
Everywhere you turn there are reps trying to sell you something. They make a massive deal out of the Game of Thrones connection, with walking tours of the main sights from the TV show all over the place.
I don’t blame them – traders here have a short window of about three months to make all their money for the year; outside of the summer the city is a virtual ghost town.
There’s no doubt it’s a beautiful town and if you’re in the region, you have to visit the Old Town so you can say you’ve been there. But the best views and best experience of it in my opinion are from outside the town – either from the top of the cable car or from the sea and nearby beaches.
We’d spent the week prior to this in neighbouring Montenegro in Kotor, which has its own ‘Old Town‘ and is another UNSESCO world-heritage site much like Dubrovnik. Kotor is smaller, less famous and less popular than Dubrovnik, but we felt had much more character and was a much more enjoyable town to visit.
With the freakishly high temperatures on the day we visited, it became too hot to properly enjoy the experience of being in the town and we ended up looking for a boat trip from the harbour at the edge of the town in the hope of cooling down out on the water.