Dubrovnik. The name alone is enticing. It’s alluring—conjuring up visions of red-roofed buildings set atop rocky outcrops where a hungry Adriatic laps at their feet. It’s historic—the massive stone walls that encircle the city were first constructed in the 12th century. And it’s multifaceted—reminding you of the military siege that befell the city for seven months in 1991 during the break-up of Yugoslavia.
The city has long been a popular stop for cruise ships navigating the Mediterranean where, in summer months, throngs of tourists sporting sunhats, shorts and flipflops flood the narrow streets. The Stradun, the main thoroughfare running 300 meters through Dubrovnik’s Old City, transforms into the Autobahn where young and old alike race to buy ice cream cones and Croatia-themed beach towels. But as the afternoon fades and the day trippers depart, the city quiets down. Alleyways darken and the stone facades of centuries-old buildings speak to you of their antiquity; smells of spice and seafood and tomato-based strews waft out of the open doors of small, family-owned restaurants; the Stradun’s limestone-paved street empties, and the forest green shutters lining the avenue’s windows are closed.
When you go—whether for the first or fifth time—you’re going to want to have a perch from which you can watch the red roofs glow under the setting sun while sipping a cold Ožujsko, and there is no better place than the Hotel Stari Grad. This boutique gem is one of only two hotels located in the heart of the Old City. Its eight rooms are all tastefully decorated and the service is excellent, but it’s the fifth floor rooftop terrace that deserves the most praise. From there, you can observe people traipse around the Old City walls, meander down the Stradun, hang laundry out to dry and return from a day fishing in the Adriatic. Stari Grad offers the best of both worlds—complete immersion in historic Dubrovnik while remaining above the fray in one of Europe’s most popular cities.
(http://hotelstarigrad.com; seasonal prices range from $160 in low season to $320 in high season).