Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town.
Today, I’m happy to introduce Ivana, a local from popular Dubrovnik, Croatia.
First, tell us about you.
I was born in Dubrovnik, enrolled at university and moved to Zagreb, and then returned to Dubrovnik after finishing my studies and working in Zagreb for a couple of years. I’m currently teaching English in high school and translating. In my free time, I hike. And I’m learning the guitar at the moment.
If someone is visiting Dubrovnik for the first time, what do you recommend they do and see?
Definitely walk the city wall, as it can give you a nice idea about what to see later.
I think the Rector’s Palace is a bit anticlimactic, but tourists seem to like it.
Really, just wandering the alleys is great and the area just outside the wall called Pile is one of my favorites.[Editor’s note: I concur wholeheartedly. Definitely walk the walls and spend some time just wandering and losing yourself in the many alleyways of old town. One of my personal favorite spots we discovered while just wandering was a basketball court that overlooks the town. Wander the western part of old town and I bet you’ll stumble upon it.]
What are some of your favorite hidden gems?
I love every part of the Island of Lokrum; I spend most of my free time there when the boats run.
What neighborhoods do you recommend?
Pile or Ploče. I live in town inside the wall and it can be hell in summer. But outside the season it’s great. March, the first half of April, and October are my favs.
Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should we consider visiting?
The Konavle region is cool. The Pelješac Peninsula is wonderful (my favorites spots on it are Ston and Trstenik); there are wineries and a really good food film festival in Ston in September.[Editor’s note: for history buffs, the ruined hotels of Kupari are also a spooky, sad, strange thing to see. They’re slotted to be torn down, but as of this writing they’re still around.]
What nearby walking paths, parks, or natural areas would you recommend?
There is a nice walking path from Nuncijata (bus 3’s last stop) along the river/old railway. I also like the walk from the Konavle village Mihanići to Kuna–and when you get to Kuna you can hike up to Snježnica (1,234 meters -easy to remember!).
Mala Petka hill in Lapad is an ok walk, where some paths have been marked by our local hiking club Snježnica.
I also used to recommend the stroll from Hotel Kompas to Babin Kuk, though there have been so many new buildings lately that I don’t enjoy it anymore.[Editor’s note: If I may add to Ivana’s list, out on Lapad, the walk along the harbor (keeping the water to your right), into the neighborhood, and then around past the big hotels on the coast is a truly lovely.]
Tell us about the food.
People like to try oysters and risotto in the local restaurant Kamenica.
My personal favorite dish is pašticada (a stewed beef dish in a special sauce), but I never eat it in restaurants. And, of course, local olive oil is a must.
And, as for cafes, I’m a fan of Buzz and Art Cafe.
Do you have any tips for saving money while traveling here?
Try to avoid shopping for food anywhere near the city wall – it’s much more expensive. Pemo markets supposedly have better local groceries than Konzum. I shop at the fresh market, but do note that sellers immediately rise the price when they see a tourist, so if you can shop with a local by your side, that’s your best bet.
A budget-friendly bar would be Buzz and Fontana in town.
Is there anything tourists do that locals find rude or strange? What can we do to better fit in with the culture?
We tend to be really sick of disorganized management of cruise line tourists from May until November, so by the end of July citizens, especially commuters, tend to be a bit standoffish or rude.
Tourists sometimes pee in the corners of the houses, especially in town because they can’t find the public toilet (or it doesn’t work) and can be pretty loud at 2 a.m. Obviously, this is less than ideal behavior. Don’t forget that people live here in town.
For someone staying a bit longer, what is the best way to meet locals and make friends?
Join a local hiking club. That’s what I did after I came back from Zagreb.
Join a workshop of any kind. And don’t count on meeting people in clubs or bars; it’s a small town and people tend to already have formed social circles and get too lazy to meet new people.
Where are the best places to get a memorable photograph of Dubrovnik?
Love the interview?
I’ve written a whole series of books asking locals and experts about their homes.