Mathilde Giard - 2012-01-04
Jam-packed in summer but deserted in winter, Dubrovnik is looking to inspire tourists to enter its thick ramparts in low season. The city is set to give Venice a run for its money as the prime romantic destination on the Adriatic Sea.
Winter is a fine time to spend a weekend in Croatia. Certain travel and tour agencies offer highly discounted packages that might include, for example, a classical music concert in one of the Dubrovnik’s splendid Renaissance mansions. Restaurants post alluring fixed-price menus (beginning at around € 10/£ 8.35) with a focus on fish and seafood, such as oysters from Ston, a nearby village on the Peljesac peninsula. You might enjoy a glass of Posip, a golden-coloured Croatian white wine, with your meal. As for hotels, prices may be as low as a third of what they are in high season. Opposite the old port in the Ploce quarter, the Excelsior is the hotel closest to the old city at just a five-minute walk away. Double rooms begin at € 104/£ 87, versus € 350/ £ 292 in summer. The posh spa has a sauna, steam rooms and a covered pool...
After the museums, choose a terrace and unwind
Once you’ve crossed the drawbridge to Ploce Gate, you be able to tread the old city’s limestone cobblestones far from the madding summer crowds. Have a kava sa slagom (coffee with cream) on one of the terraces under the mild Mediterranean sky; it’s one of winter’s great pleasures here. The highly popular Gradska Kavana near city hall and the theatre has a covered terrace a few steps up from street level.
Take a leisurely stroll through pedestrianised streets that are ornamented with wreaths of oranges and bay laurel during the holiday season. The scars of Croatia’s most recent war (1991-92) have all but disappeared. The Dubrovnik’s history is well worth exploring: the city’s diplomacy was such that it was able to maintain its freedom vis-à-vis Venice and the Ottoman Empire until Napoleon I finally gained control in 1809.
‘The last Friday of January, museums will be open all night free of charge,’ says Mirjana Darrer, who runs the tourist office. During the day you might take a regularly scheduled boat line to one of the Elaphite islands. Friday 3 February is the Festivity of St. Blaise, patron saint of Dubrovnik, an event that figures on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List. According to legend, Blaise, a martyred 4th century bishop, appeared in a vision to pious Stojko to warn him that the Venetians were preparing to invade... and thus the city was saved. His relics - his head and one of his legs which are on display in his church the rest of the year - are carried aloft during a spectacular procession on his saint’s day. The next major event after that is from 18 to 21 February, when the carnival is celebrated between the walls of the aptly-named Pearl of the Adriatic.
* Fridays and Sundays, London-Dubrovnik with a connecting flight (usually around 4 hours total) begins at € 202/£ 169 return. More information at http://www.croatiaairlines.com/en
More articles about Dubrovnik