Dubrovnik, Croatia is high on many people’s travel bucket lists – and with good reason!
When our family traveled there this summer, I was awestruck by this beautiful coastal city from the moment we first walked through Pile Gate into the Old Town. The sound of the birds, the lively chatter of families strolling along the Straden, and the lack of advertisements and restaurant hawking were apparent.
I also was immediately struck with the idea that Dubrovnik was completely different from any other southern European city we’ve visited because of its compact layout, focus on local products and provision of numerous family-friendly activities.
Dubrovnik is a relatively small city of approximately 50,000 people who have lived there for generations. Its major industries are tourism and trade, but it tends to cater to local families’ interests rather than typical tourist activities.
For example, there are plenty of opportunities for children to listen to musical performances just outside the Old Town walls, taste local delicacies at the daily open air market, interactively explore Dubrovnik’s history (including gaining an appreciation for its leaders diplomatic skills), attend photo exhibitions about the recent war, freely walk through the Old Town, and find a favorite swimming spot of the ten that are within walking distance of the Old Town.
Another fun example of this city’s family focus was my son’s relative ease in joining a pickup soccer (football) game with other boys and girls – something we were unable to replicate in any other city in Croatia or when we were visiting Cyprus, Greece and Scotland. While their parents enjoyed a drink and some quiet conversation, the children organized themselves and played well together. They may not have spoken the same language, but they all spoke the language of soccer!
We spent four days seeing the sites of Dubrovnik and its environs and the only time that the city diverted from its family-style sentiment was when the appallingly large cruise ships docked for a few hours each day between 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.
For those hours during the summer, thousands of tourists did the same thing – namely take the funicular up Srdj Hill and walk along the Old Town walls. Rarely did we see a tourist spending money at a local shop, sitting and talking with a local person or visiting a historical site – so contrary to what we sustainable travelers do!
But after the crowds left, remarkably and in front of our eyes, the Old Town came to life again with its fervent spotlight on local artists and local products. It was lovely to be in a place that still held on to its traditions.
Dubrovnik’s siren call was heard and we will be back!