Nestled inside its mighty ramparts is Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic." From this remarkably preserved medieval fortress city, we venture into less-touristed corners of the former Yugoslavia. In Bosnia, we visit Mostar — war-torn in the 90s, but bursting with promise today. In Montenegro, we sail the fjord-like Bay of Kotor and explore its mysterious, mountainous interior.
This building, from 1522, is a combination of Renaissance (ground-floor arches) and Venetian Gothic (upstairs windows). This used to be the customs office (dogana), but now it's an exhaustive archive of the city's history, with temporary art exhibits and a war memorial. The poignant Memorial Room of Dubrovnik Defenders has photos of dozens of people from Dubrovnik who were killed fighting Yugoslav forces in 1991 (free, long hours daily in peak season, shorter hours off-season). Beyond the memorial room, the impressive courtyard is worth a peek (small entry fee for temporary exhibits).
As you meander along this lofty perch — with a sea of orange roofs on one side, and the actual sea on the other — you'll get your bearings and snap pictures like mad of the ever-changing views. Bring your map, which you can use to pick out landmarks and get the lay of the land. Because it can be very hot up top, with almost no shade, it's essential to bring sunscreen, a hat, and water. The main entrance to the walls is just inside the Pile Gate, but you can also buy tickets and enter the walls at two other points: near the Dominican Monastery north of the Ploče Gate, and by the Maritime Museum south of the Old Port.
Villa Ragusa is a renovated a 600-year-old house at the top of town. High above the Stradun, it's an excellent value. If you don't mind the very steep hike up, you'll find this to be a wonderful enclave of hospitality. Pero and Valerija Carević's comfortable, modern rooms come with atmospheric old wooden beams, antique furniture, and thoughtful touches (Žudioska ulica 15, tel. 020/453-834, mobile 098-765-634, http://villaragusa.netfirms.com, email@example.com).
For up-to-date specifics, see the latest edition of the Rick Steves' Snapshot: Dubrovnik travel guide or the Rick Steves' Eastern Europe travel guide — or join us on one of our free-spirited Eastern Europe tours.