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Croatia Uncovered: Dubrovnik’s and Split’s Hidden Gems

The problem with Croatia – if you can call it a problem – is that there’s just so much to explore. I’ve returned time and time again over the past three decades, and I still can’t say that I “know it”. What I do know, though, is that this is a place that shines just as brightly off the beaten track as on the well-trodden tourist trails. Through the benefit of my extensive travels in this wonderful country, allow me to share a few things I’ve stumbled upon along the way.

Croatia has no dearth of festivals and historical, cultural and natural treasures on display. But if you step just a little to the left or right and peek around a few corners, you’ll be captivated by the diversity and authenticity of the country’s spirit. While my recommendations might not be state secrets, they’ll certainly show you a different side of Dubrovnik, Split and the surrounding areas – and will take you away from the crowds on your Croatia city break.

My Top Recommendations in Dubrovnik

When people think of a Croatia city break, more often than not they are picturing the sea-washed stone walls and red roofs of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. It is truly a postcard-perfect destination… but there is no denying that it has lost its “hidden gem” status in recent years.

If you want to experience the history and beauty of Dubrovnik on your Croatia city break without having to suffer the tourist hordes, I would highly recommend a stay at Hotel More. It is located in a stunning spot on Lapad Bay, which is a quieter district of the city with great transport links to the Old Town. This five-star boutique hotel offers a private beach and a fifth-floor Jacuzzi with ocean views among its other luxury facilities.

“This was our first visit to Croatia and we had a long term ambition to visit Dubrovnik… we knew within two minutes of our arrival at the hotel we had struck gold… we have to express our appreciation for the excellent hospitality and courteous service that was offered by the excellent staff.”

MR & MRS ROSIER

Have a Drink at Cave Bar More

Hotel More has a fantastic hidden gem up its sleeve. Its lounge bar has been built into a natural sea cave; it’s a magical setting for a sundown drink. The Cave Bar More is a popular and trendy spot among Dubrovnik locals that has remained largely undiscovered by tourists – unless you’re lucky enough to be staying in the hotel, of course.

Walk the Lapad Peninsula

For those who want to brush away the holiday cobwebs on a Croatia city break, I recommend a picturesque stroll on the Lapad peninsula. The well-maintained coastal promenade runs from the bay at Uvala to Babin Kuk. This walk is entirely relaxing, and is accompanied by spectacular scenery, including magnificent views out to Gruz. I suggest setting off first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon, as it can get quite hot in the early afternoon. You can walk as far as you want, but allow yourself at least 90 minutes for this beautiful outing.

Top Tip: Why not stop off for a dip at Copacabana Beach along the way?

Day Trip to Cavtat

The ancient town of Cavtat played a vital role in Croatia’s history. It was from here that refugees fled to set up their own outpost, which became Dubrovnik. While the latter thrived and evolved into the jewel in the country’s crown, Cavtat’s charm lies in its unspoilt traditional ambience and charming setting.

On a Croatia city break, a visit to Bukovak House is a must for anyone interested in this important artist’s work. The house where Vlaho Bukovak was born and raised is now a museum, packed with original art and mementos. The highlight is his very first artwork, which features a painted frieze of animals that runs around the walls.

Our Lady of the Snow Monastery is a lovely church that’s part of the fifteenth-century Franciscan monastery. It’s worth a visit to see the stunning Renaissance paintings and Bukovak’s poignant Madonna and Child.

My Top Recommendations in Split

Unlike Dubrovnik, where the history of the Old Town is somewhat cut off from the modern city, Split’s history runs right through it. I love the way that the colossal Roman palace of the Emperor Diocletian is not a relic but an integral part of the town, with shops, cafes and hotels all housed within its parameters.

For clients who are seeking that “hidden gem” feeling in Split, I can’t recommend Hotel Peristil highly enough. This charming hotel with just twelve rooms is built into the walls of Emperor Diocletian’s Palace. The traditional décor of the rooms harks back to another time, but the modern touches remind you that you’re wrapped in contemporary comfort. In my mind one of its best benefits is its incredible location right in the heart of Split, just moments away from the Trg Peristil, the grand courtyard of the old palace. It’s the perfect base for a Croatia city break.

Explore Diocletian’s Basement

Half a century ago archaeologists started excavating the subterranean level of the palace that dominates Split. In my opinion it’s worth the small fee to go down into the cavernous palace basement and explore the vaulted stone rooms, which offer a glimpse into the layout of the original palace as it would have been during the Roman period. There’s something very calming about the cool and quiet space in comparison with the bustle of the streets above.

Did You Know? Game of Thrones fans will recognise the basements as the place where Daenerys reluctantly kept her dragons in the hit HBO series. 

Walk to Marjan

Every time I visit Split on a Croatia city break, I make it a ritual to take a brisk walk up the forested hillside trail to Marjan. It does take a little effort, but it’s well worth it if you’d like to explore the interesting historic landmarks. On the eastern side, you can explore the city’s Jewish cemetery, with graves dating back to the 1700s. You’ll also discover two very sweet churches: the thirteenth-century St. Nicholas and the fifteenth-century St. Jerome. The interiors of both are lovely sights to behold, particularly St. Jerome, which is decorated with a fabulous Renaissance altar.

A Day Trip to Trogir

Excuse my whimsy, but I always feel that a little bit of magic’s at work when I visit Trogir. Set within medieval walls on the tiniest of islands, this town is truly charming, and for clients looking for some genuine peace and quiet, I always suggest a visit. The tranquillity of this town it a wonderful contrast to the livelier areas often visited on a Croatia city break.

The town is so renowned for its superb Renaissance and Romanesque architecture that it gained World Heritage Status in 1997. While there’s a lot to be said for simply wandering around taking it all in, I highly recommend seeking out the thirteenth-century St. Lawrence’s Cathedral, which features a stunning Romanesque portal. Another must-see for history lovers is the small but exquisitely curated Museum of Sacred Art, which is home to a Bellini painting and numerous illuminated manuscripts.

If you’d like to explore the lesser-known attractions of Croatia, Prestige Holidays’ portfolio of luxury accommodation in Dubrovnik and Split offers the ideal base. Feel free to get in contact  with one of our friendly and knowledgeable advisors, any of whom will be delighted to assist you with booking your perfect holiday haven.

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