Review: A visit to Dubrovnik is like a trip to the set of Game of Thrones

The view from the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace

The view from the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace - Credit: Archant

Revitalised Dubrovnik has it all, Elliot Furniss discovers as he and his wife enjoy a babymoon.

Looking down on Dubrovnik's old city from the cable car base up on the hillside

Looking down on Dubrovnik's old city from the cable car base up on the hillside - Credit: Archant

Halfway round the 2km walk along the walls of the Old City of Dubrovnik, my pregnant wife and I pause for a much-needed drink of water.

It’s about the 10th time we’ve taken a pitstop as we meander around the historic battlements that encase the ancient citadel – a UNESCO World Heritage site – but each time we pause we’re presented with a stunning view either across the terracotta rooftops, out to Lokrum Island or down to the docks, which have barely changed in centuries, although the fishing boats have now been replaced by glass-bottomed tourist vessels.

The spring sunshine is perfect, the pace of the day is leisurely and there could be no better choice for our last pre-baby getaway together. Dubrovnik is on a par with Venice for its sense of history and unspoilt architecture, although it may come up short in terms of top-level classical music or opera – I expect it depends what you’re looking for in a city-break holiday.

One of the reasons I’m particularly pleased to be spending a couple of days in this part of the Dalmatian Coast is down to a certain big-budget HBO show of which I’m a massive fan (although Mrs Furniss not so much).

The harbour at Dubrovnik's old city

The harbour at Dubrovnik's old city - Credit: Archant

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Medieval fantasy epic Game of Thrones uses the Old City, and in particular the spectacular walls, as the backdrop for many of its sequences set in Kings Landing, the capital of Westeros. Many scenes are shot along the walls themselves, out on idyllic Lokrum or at various impressive locations around the city.

Anyone who has enjoyed this wonderful series will recognise plenty of buildings during even the shortest stroll around the Old City, most notably Fort Lovrijenac, which is used for the Red Keep, and the Minceta Tower, which portrays the House of the Undying.

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This may seem like gobbledegook to the uninitiated but it’s a big deal for millions around the world and has made Dubrovnik a must-visit destination for GOT devotees.

The Game of Thrones link has led, in recent years, to a surge in interest in what was already one of the Mediterranean’s most well-established tourist destinations.

The indoor pool at the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace

The indoor pool at the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace - Credit: Archant

Traditionally a big draw in the 1970s and ’80s, the city’s fortunes were understandably affected in the 1990s due to the Croatian War of Independence.

But it’s a different story in 2015.

As he’s taking us up through the city and to our hotel, our driver Mario claims he would happily leave his car unlocked and with the keys in the ignition, so low is the crime rate in Dubrovnik these days.

Our doubts about this claim are put to bed when, as we stroll into town, we see plenty of examples of like-minded people feeling confident enough to do just this. Hardly the sort of thing you’d do even in Suffolk.

The walls of Dubrovnik's old city

The walls of Dubrovnik's old city - Credit: Archant

Another claim made by Mario, who tells us all about Croatia’s love of football, basketball but most importantly water polo, is that we’re staying in the best hotel in the city.

And, again, he’s spot on.

The Dubrovnik Palace Hotel is our residence for this all-too-brief first visit to Croatia. Clean lines, wide windows and a stunning view out to the islands is an encouraging first impression when entering the lobby. The rooms, facilities and standard of service more than match up to the first impression, and help leave a lasting impression of quality, luxury and attention to detail.

From the L’Occitane goodies in the bathrooms to the breathtaking vistas that grace every balcony, it’s a test just to pull yourself away and venture into the town.

Dining outside at the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace

Dining outside at the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace - Credit: Archant

Although it’s positioned on a clifftop and on the edge of town, regular and speedy bus connections with the centre mean you’re never far from a cheap and easy hop to the bars, restaurants and cafes that line the main routes of the walled Old City.

A trip to Dubrovnik would not be complete without a journey in the recently-restored cable car, which soars 405 metres above sea level and up into the hillside above the city.

The Dubrovnik cable car began transporting passengers back in 1969, but the operation was completely destroyed during the Croatian War of Independence.

In the summer of 2010 it was restored and now once again transports visitors in great numbers to the top of Mount Srdj, giving them the best view of the city – both old and new – possible. Return tickets are about £10 – well worth the small fee.

The Hotel Dubrovnik Palace

The Hotel Dubrovnik Palace - Credit: Archant

Those taking the three-minute trip to the top of the hillside can enjoy a coffee or meal at the restaurant and explore the former fortress nearby – now a museum – while further work is ongoing to add to the attractions around the site.

With dozens of bars, restaurants and cafes both inside and on the routes leading to the Old City, and more than its fair share of museums, historic churches, island excursions and winding streets to explore, Dubrovnik has it all and I’m very much looking forward to a return visit – next time with the baby.

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