The Best Things to Do on the Dalmatian Coast

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The Best Things to Do on the Dalmatian Coast

If you’re a savvy traveler, you’re likely already aware that Croatia has become a sweetheart destination in Europe. If you haven’t been yet, make plans now to explore the best things to do along the beautiful Dalmatian Coast. Go beyond Dubrovnik to visit such delightful towns as Zadar and Sibenik. There are gorgeous beaches on the Adriatic, ancient temples and plenty of seaside cafes where you can sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy the view of the shimmering water. Here are the best things to do on the Dalmatian Coast.

Old Town of Dubrovnik

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Stroll about the Old Town of Dubrovnik, soaking up the 11th– through 13th-century historical vibes. Beneath red-tiled rooftops, between hills draped with pine and cypress trees and fronting turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea, the old town and the Walls of Dubrovnik stretch for 1.3 miles, full of forts and bastions. The six fortresses are Lovrijenac, Revelin, Minceta, Bokar, St. John and St. Lucas.) As you hike along the walls (which you may recognize from Game of Thrones) and fortifications, you’ll have breathtaking area views, including the Lovrijenac Fortress. Be sure to walk down the Old Town’s main street – Stradun (locally known as Placa) – which reaches to the old port and goes along the waterfront. Stop at one of the many benches along the pier to enjoy the views of Lokrum Island and Caytat. You’ll notice that most of the buildings inside the city walls are in the Baroque style – a fair amount of original Gothic and Renaissance architecture was destroyed during an earthquake in 1667. The only buildings to survive were the Sponza, Rector’s Palace and Revelin fortress – the rest of the city was rebuilt in the Baroque style and has survived to this day.

Lovrijenac Fortress

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Continue your historical tour of the Dubrovnik area with a visit to the city’s oldest fortress, sitting atop a 100-foot rock at the western entrance to the Old Town. Enter through the Pile Gate, then walk down to Kolorina Bay to climb the stairs to the fortress. It’s less busy here than the Old Town walls, making it a quieter way to experience local history. Notice the inscription over the entrance, which translates to, “Freedom is not sold for all the gold in the world.” Again, you may notice this as a filming location for many Game of Thrones scenes. And each summer, it is the site of a popular Hamlet production at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.

 

Dubrovnik Cable Car

For some of the best Old Town wall and Elpahite Islands views, take the quick four-minute ride up the Dubrovnik cable car to the top of Mount Srdi. If it’s clear, you may be able to make out Italy on the horizon. Visit Napoleon’s Fort Royal next to the cable-car station, which played an important part in the 1992 Siege of Dubrovnik during the Croatian War of Independence.

 

Lokrum Island

Take a 15-minute ferry ride from Old Town to Lokrum Island, where the locals go to escape the summer tourist crowds. You can take peaceful walks through the botanical gardens and olive groves and climb to the oldest Benedictine monastery in the region. During the summer months, you can swim and snorkel along the coast of the island. History note: King Richard the Lionheart used the island as shelter in the 12th century when he was shipwrecked on his way back home.

 

Sea Organ and Sun Salutation

The best place to see Zadar’s famous sunsets is from Sea Organ and Sun Salutation, two architectural masterpieces by Nikola Basic. At the Sea Organ, you’ll find pipes and holes drilled through stone stairs descending into the water. As the water passes through, you’ll hear whistling and percussion noises as air gets pushed through the pipes. Nearby, Sun Salutation is a series of circles made of photovoltaic glass panels. During the day, the sun charges the panels and come evening, the lighting beneath the glass creates a fantastical display that simulates the solar system.

Diocletian’s Palace

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A true Dalmatian Coast jewel, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Diocletian’s Palace – 1,700 years old! – sits on the Adriatic seafront in Split. The Roman emperor Diocletian constructed the palace as his retirement home and it went on to serve as residence for many conquerors over the centuries. About 2,000 Split residents live within the palace’s sturdy walls. Stroll along the labyrinthian streets of the quarter, discovering convivial cafes and interesting shops in thousand-year-old buildings. For great views of town, climb the 187-foot belfry tower at Peristil square. While you’re in the area, walk along the Riva, the seafront promenade on the Adriatic brimming with lively cafes, shaded benches and the culminating in the popular Marmontova shopping area.

 

Marjan Hill

While you’re in Split, take a breather at the Central Park-sized Marjan Hill park. This urban green space attracts locals and visits for running, biking, swimming and rock climbing. Follow the pine-lined path up Telegrin Peak to some charming chapels and amazing Adriatic vistas. There are even a few beaches tucked within the park, including the local favorite, Kasjuni Cove.

Sibenik

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Go under the radar at Sibenik, an exciting Dalmatian Coast destination that’s not as well known as Dubrovnik and Split. Go back in time in the medieval heart of the city, full of narrow, steep alleyways, adorable town squares, a pretty harbor and a seaside promenade with myriad cafes and shops. Don’t miss the UNESCO World Heritage Cathedral of St. James, known for its Gothic and Renaissance style mash-up – it is said that the cathedral is the world’s largest church built completely of stone (most of it locally quarried). Be sure to check out the frieze on the cathedral’s outer wall – 71 heads represent 15th-century Sibenik citizens and their various personalities.

 

Zadar’s Roman Forum

In the town of Zadar, be sure to see the Old Town ruins of the Roman Forum. Built between the 1st century BCE and 3rd century CE, the square was commissioned by the first Roman emperor, Augustus. Imagine life eons ago has you stroll through temples, porticoes and colonnades – even fantastic frescoes of mythological scenes.

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