Get the best view over the entire Old City (Image: Daisy Cropper)
List Words : Daisy Cropper | 23 January

7 BIG ifs: Dubrovnik

Want to discover Dubrovnik without the crowds? Want to find the city's best food, photography galleries and views? Daisy Cropper shows you how

If... you love photography

Tucked away, down one of the Old Town's many back streets is War Photo Ltd (Antuninska 6) – a slick though gritty war photography gallery. Opened by New Zealander Wade Goddard, after he came to Dubrovnik as a photographer in the 1990s and stayed. Stop by and you'll get a unique insight into the area's history through permanent exhibition ENCLAVE: East Mostar – a powerful and shocking but beautifully presented collection of images from the battle of Mostar.

Other exhibitions have included works on Sudan, the US border and Northern Ireland. The key message of the gallery is to convey the “raw, venal, frightening” aspects of conflict by “focusing on how war inflicts injustices on innocents and combatants alike”.

Opening hours: Nov-Apr closed; May and Oct, Tues-Sun 10am-4pm; June-Sept, everyday 9am-9pm. Entrance fee: single entry 40kn (£4.30).

If... you want to avoid the crowds

Dubrovnik's Old Town is beautiful – it can't be denied. But it's also packed with tourists – so much so, the crowds often ruin the atmosphere and your appreciation of the city. My advice? Take a walk along the cobbled streets and narrow alleyways late at night or early in the morning. It may sound mad, but at both times the streets are gloriously empty, quiet and deserted.

There is little crime here so walking at night or in the early morning is perfectly safe. You'll also meet more, friendlier locals this way.

If... you want the best view

For the greatest vista over Dubrovnik's Old Town you need to get up high. And there's nowhere higher than the top of Srd Hill. From here you can see the entire walled Old Town, the crystal-clear Adriatic Sea and a spattering of surrounding islands. On a clear day you can see up to 37 miles away.

Take the easy way up in the Dubrovnik Cable Car (round-trip 94kn [£10]; one way 50kn [£5.40]), built back in 1969 it has ferried more than 2.5million visitors to the hilltop. The journey up takes around three minutes, rising to 450m above sea level. Alternatively, those who like a good hill climb can trek up – a path zig-zags its way up the steep slope. It takes 30 minutes to walk down – most people take the cable car up and walk back.

If... you want to learn a little history

While you’re at the top of Srd Hill, make time to wander around the Fort Imperial. Built by the French in the 1800s, it now houses the Homeland War Museum, depicting horrifying details of the recent war. You’ll find guns and shells used during the attacks, maps of the damage caused and photos of a very different-looking Dubrovnik. It’s very shocking and saddening, especially as the scars are so recent, but it’s a story you should know. Take a walk: outside, you’ll see shrapnel remains and bullet-holes scarring the Fort’s exterior.

If... you just want to relax

Stay outside of the Old Town to avoid the daily crowds and soak up the peace and quiet on the seafront by the New Habour. Hotel Kazbek (doubles from €173pn [£142pn]) looks out over the sea in the bay of Gruz, 3km from the Old Town, and makes a perfect base for a short break. With origins dating back as far as 1573, this hotel has stuck to its grand beginnings – it was once owned by one of Dubronik's noble families. Beautifully-decorated, wood-panelled rooms merged with a simply chilled atmosphere and fresh, light Mediterranean cuisine, make this the perfect place to kickback after a hard day sightseeing. Opt for a sea-view room or take breakfast on the cool terrace and watch the boats come into port.

If... you want to work up a sweat

Take a break from sightseeing and admire the city from the sea. Kayaks can be rented from many outlets around the city – in fact, you’ll end up being quite peeved by the way they tout their wares at every opportunity. Try Adventure Dalmatia, they offer single or double kayaks from 230kn (£24.70) for half day tours (lasting 2.5-3 hours).

Start your day beneath the towering Fort Lovrijenac and work up a pace gliding across the calm waters of the Adriatic Sea. Visit the nearby uninhabited island of Lokrum – a favourite with locals and perfect for a refreshing dip. Guides will take you to the hidden caves of Betina, one of the best places around the island for snorkelling.

Adventure Dalmatia also offer sunset tours from 250kn (£27.90) for 2.5 hours.

If... you want real Croatian food

Tuck into hearty Croatian cuisine on the narrow lanes of the city’s Old Town. But note, there are reams of restaurants lining the many streets, and it’s difficult to find a good-quality, well-priced place to eat. Stop by Proto (Široka no. 1) for a romantic and traditional setting with top-notch Dalmatian cuisine. The shrimps in garlic, white wine and parsley are a local favourite.

Alternatively, try Dubravka 1836 by the Pile Gate just outside of the walled city. A large restaurant with a less intimate feel but a large terrace overlooking an uninterrupted view of the Adriatic Sea. It's the perfect setting to enjoy a glass or two of chilled white wine.

Croatians, funnily enough, are pretty damn good at rustling up Italian food – no better place is this demonstrated than at Mea Culpa (Ul. za Rokom). Try the creamy risotto, sizzling lasagnes or seafood linguine, with ingredients straight from the nearby sea. Oh, and if you're friendly, you'll get a free aperitif of Croatian honey liquor. 

Follow Daisy's adventures around the world on Twitter: @daisy_cropper