City guide: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Inconspicuously nestled at the lower tip of Croatia's inverted Adriatic stretch, Dubrovnik mixes Unesco heritage with idyllic hideaways, a busy calender of culture events and excellent local cuisine.

Whether you are looking for an active culture-filled venture around the city and nearby coast or a complete luxury disconnection from the daily office slog, this Dalmatian treasure has it all, especially for foodies.

From civil war to an earthquake – Dubrovnik's impressive city walls have stood firm and maintained the Renaissance elegance and allure of this historically rich city of just under 50,000 inhabitants.

Walking within the walls through the Old Town's bustling cobbled streets and enchanting dimly-lit passageways is certainly a highlight but some visionary locals would like visitors to see more and are aiming to bring the chic and sophisticated side of celebrity to the Dubrovnik coastline through projects such as the restoration of historical buildings to meet contemporary standards for commercial use.

One of the most spectacular of these projects has been the transformation of a disused lighthouse into a luxury island getaway (Grebone), the emphasis being on quality over quantity.

Jet2.com flies direct to Dubrovnik from Edinburgh (www.jet.com) and Croatia Airlines flies daily from Gatwick and Heathrow direct to Dubrovnik.

It is difficult to imagine not eating well in Dubrovnik, so no surprise that you are able to do so at lunch time as well as dinner. The best lunch in town, Nautika 1 (www.esculap-teo.hr/restaurant_nautika.html

+385 20 44 25 26) is a sea-facing eatery just outside the Old Town entrance that counts anyone from Al Gore to John McEnroe as happy customers.

A former school for maritime studies, it welcomes walk-in customers to sample the tasty and fairly priced Dalmatian fare. Expect fresh, locally sourced fish, great wine and you can even try the restaurant's own home-made rakija (brandy liqueur).

Dating from the 16th century, the Sponza Palace, originally completed in 1522, withstood a huge earthquake in 1667 (over 5,000 people were killed and the city was almost totally flattened) to remain one of the most spectacular examples of original renaissance and gothic architecture in Dubrovnik. The building is now home to the city archives and a memorial room, which is accessible all year.

For more space, fewer queues and a refreshing airy breaze aim for spring or autumn, when temperatures are on average a pleasant 18- 28C during the day and cool at night. Peak time in summer has the upside of running alongside the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, though not recommended for those with a dislike for the bustle of tourist-filled streets.

As Dubrovnik tries to rebuild and develop an image of grandeur and class that attracts week-long visitors as opposed to the hordes of in-and-out cruise ship guests, an abundance of options for luxury breaks are available at reasonable prices. While the Bellevue is a handsome option for those wanting to stay nearer the Old Town, the Dubrovnik Palace (+385 20 430 000, www.dubrovnikpalace.hr, rooms from aound 100/night for two) is the less well-known crown jewel. Hidden away, but accessible by bus, the Palace has swimming pools, private beach, spa, views and peace among the surrounding nature.

Hard to imagine a place called 'hole' could be one of the most scenic and film-like spots in the atmospheric Old Town, but that is just what Buza (www.cafebuza.com) is. A patch of rocks that maze their way through the city walls and down to the sea via steep stepping stones and fairy light decorations, Buza is rustic, raw and glamorous at the same time. For a movie ending next to the sea facing the cool night time breeze, this bar and the recently added Buza II are the best options for a dramatic nightcap after a stroll through the Old Town streets.

Dinner time in Dubrovnik is a chance to dress up and grace some of the finest dining spots in the Adriatic as ambitious hoteliers invest in talented chefs and local ingredients to complement the stunning views already on offer. Up-and-coming local chef Sasa Racunica's delicacies at Vapor2 (www.hotel-bellevue.hr) are the talk of the town. But for an unforgettable dining experience book the stunning outdoor terrace at Hotel Excelsior's Salin (www.hotel-excelsior.hr) in advance, where dining by the sea as the sun sets is just a starter. Both serve the freshest, highest quality local produce in innovative styles and have excellent selections of local wines.

Scale the city walls in late afternoon for a view of the old port and over passersby making their way into the bustling cobbled streets of the Old Town below. Continue to avoid the daytime heat and hit the Old Town for an evening aperitif or after-dinner walk. The busy and well-lit main streets buzz with atmosphere and you can always dive through the inviting side passageways to find hidden watering holes, live music or gelaterias selling Croatian ice-cream (a must try).

This article was first published in Scotland On Sunday, 12 December, 2010