Croatia travel guide


Dubrovnik’s Stradun

When you visit Dubrovnik, it is almost impossible to avoid the city’s main drag, the Stradun (Straw-DOON) or Placa. The Stradun itself one of Dubrovnik’s tourist attractions, and it’s the place to wander and window shop. The Stradun starts from the city bus stop outside Pile Gate and runs about 300 meters to the clock tower at the other end of town. It is a pedestrian zone, so visitors can walk with the comfort of knowing they won’t be bombarded by vehicles.

More information on >> things to do in Dubrovnik

What you’ll see

            Right inside the Pile Gate sits the Franciscan Monastery, which houses one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, operating since 1391.  On the right is a rustic polygonal fountain, Onofrio’s Large Fountain. On the eastern end of the Stradun there is a second fountain, Onofrio’s Small Fountain, carved by the sculptor Pietro di Martino in 1442 according to designs made by the engineer Onofrio de la Cava of Naples.  St. Blaise’s Church, a quaint Italian baroque building, is also on the east end of Stradun.  Gothic Rector’s Palace, built in 1441 is there as well. The palace now serves as a museum with furnished rooms, baroque paintings and historical exhibits.  At the very end of the Placa on the east side, sits the most superb building, the Sponza palace, built in the period from 1516 to 1521. Across the street is a bustling morning market.

What to know 

            The cobbled surface surrounded by buildings’ façades on both sides was at one point in time completely underwater. Years ago, Stradun was a sea channel, which separated the two settlements that founded Dubrovnik in the early Middle Ages. After the channel was filled up, Stradun became a street. Though there are several theories about the way Stradun came to be, this is the established explanation.  Stradun suffered significant damage in the earthquake that shook Dubrovnik in 1667.  Stradun also suffered other damages during the Homeland war in 1991, when numerous missiles landed on the popular street.

Where to shop

            The pavement is made of limestone and shines bright after rainfall. The houses on each side date back to the 17th century, with their height and style all in uniform. For the most part, the shops have the characteristic “na koljeno”—combined door and counter. The “na koljeno” type consists of a door and window in a single frame spanned by a semicircular arch. In the past, the door was kept closed and goods handed over the sill, which acted as the counter.  Though it’s become a bit touristy over the years, shoppers can find authentic Croatian items along with the typical souvenir offerings.   Restaurants offering traditional Dubrovnik-style seafood can be found along Stradun, as well as Vinoteka, (the Croatian word for “Wine Shop”) which sells Croatian and Slovenian wines alongside olive oil and truffles. You can find the shop at the entrance of the Stradun. Other items to buy are Croatian spirits, such as grape-herb and plum based brandies like grappa, travarica and sljivovica, which are to be drunk as aperitifs. You might see bottles crammed with herbs and spices. These lovely packaged bottles make wonderful and unique gifts. 

Early bird gets the chair           

            There is definitely a cafe culture on the Stradun. As soon as the sun rises, cafe owners can be seen setting tables and chairs out for the day. You have to be early and quick to find a seat if you want to spend time people watching on the busy street. It is definitely first come first served.  Come back in the evening for a few drinks when things quiet down a bit, and just observe.  It’s the best place to be after a long day of sightseeing or playing in the water, and the best place to explore for shopping and eating in Dubrovnik.

Croatia travel guide

Things to do in Dubrovnik

Ah, Dubrovnik. Adored by people like John Malkovitch, the king of Jordan and the late Pope John Paul II, this “jewel of the Adriatic” is Eastern Europe’s Venice, minus the flooding. The southern-most city in Croatia, Dubrovnik was one of the centers of the development of language and literature and was home to many famous poets, playwrights, painters, mathematicians and other scholars. Its gorgeous old town became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, and its charm has attracted tourists who want a taste of the Mediterranean without the crowds of Greece and Italy.

The city is perfect for the meandering sightseer, the beach-goer and those in search of a lively nightlife. Though many of the city buildings were damaged by the earthquake in 1667 and bombs during the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990’s, most has been rebuilt and Dubrovnik is still considered Croatia’s best kept secret.

Wander along Stradun

Grab a cup of coffee and a pastry as you wonder through Dubrovnik’s main street, the Stradun. Once a swamp, the Stradun, is now a place for locals and visitors to gather throughout the day and into the evening. With numerous cafés and restaurants, the street is a great place to rest your tired body after touring the various sites of Dubrovnik.

Sponza Palace

Dubrovnik’s Sponza Palace was constructed in 1522 as a customs-house, where merchants would bring goods from all over the world and pay a customs fee before trading. The palace exemplifies the simplistic Croatian architecture, which is very visually appealing. Now used to house city archives, the Sponza Palace is free to visit and is a nice, shady recluse from the sun. Be sure to notice the Gothic stonework and Renaissance-style windows.

Onofrio’s Large Fountain (Great Onofrio Well)

Originally constructed in 1438 by Italian architect Onofrio della Cava, the 16-sided drinking fountain was partially damaged in the 1667 earthquake, but remains rustic representation of old Dubrovnik architecture. The fountain was part of the city’s water mains constructed in the 15th century, and was considered an architectural masterpiece at the time it was built. Have a seat and a sip from this giant fountain, which supplied Croatians with water during the war in 1992.


For another rest in the shade and the opportunity to view intriguing works of art, peek inside the cathedral. The current cathedral was built in 1673, by Roman architect Andrea Buffalini to replace the original 12th century cathedral, which was destroyed by the earthquake. The cathedral includes Titian’s polyptych, Assumption, as well as the skull of St Blaise encased in a jewel-encrusted crown. When another earthquake struck in 1979, excavations beneath the cathedral revealed a Romanesque cathedral beneath the current one. Further digging uncovered another church underneath this one, dating from about the 6th century.

Rector’s Palace

2770797982_256ab4810aDesigned by Onofrio della Cava –who also designed Onofrio’s fountain—the Rector’s palace has not had the smoothest of histories. The original building was completely destroyed in 1435 by a gunpowder explosion. The second floor of the rebuilt palace was again destroyed by another explosion in 1463, and the entire building suffered more damage from the earthquake. As a result, the building has acquired various styles and designers over the centuries.

Other sites worth noticing

While walking the streets of Dubrovnik, these other monuments are worth noticing as you pass. Roland’s Column is a narrow stone flagstaff named after the legendary knight. Take an afternoon stroll around the Old City Walls, which boast great views of the town. Dubrovnik’s Franciscan Monastery is a Baroque-style Church, housing a Romanesque cloister and the third oldest pharmacy in the world.


Slews of public beaches offer Dubrovnik travelers plenty of options for swimming, tanning and boating. Banje Beach is the most convenient beach because of it’s proximity to Old Town. It also offers the best view of Dubrovnik’s walls. If you really want to lounge around, you can rent chairs and umbrellas from the nearby EastWest club, or just throw down your towel and enjoy the Mediterranean rays. 
Copacabana Beach is a perfectly pleasant and family-friendly beach on the Babin Kuk peninsula. With relatively shallow water, kids will enjoy the toboggan, and adults will enjoy the waterskiing, windsurfing and other watersports. On the Lapad peninsula, beach-goers might enjoy the pebble beaches that sit in front of the large hotels—but unlike other areas where hotels have private ownership, these beaches are open to the public. Sv Jakov Beach is known to few tourists and loved by the locals. To reach this lesser-known beach, travel east from Ploce gate and go past the Hotel Argentina and the former monastery, and take the long stairway leading down to this secluded, peaceful beach.


While not the raucous, out-of-control environment of Barcelona or Mykanos, Dubrovnik’s nightlife will completely satisfy those who enjoy lively outdoor bars and live music and shows, much like Venice. Clubs and discotecs open and close frequently, but you will never be short on friendly bars along Old Town’s Stradun, which do not allow traffic. Sidewalk cafes, like Café Festival near the Franciscan monastery, are perfect spots people watching and sipping wine. The narrow streets of Old Town also offer a welcoming atmosphere. For those who want to see something different, climb through the hole in the city to Buza bar (Ispod Mira) around sunset, a bar dangling right above the cliffs. Hemingway (Pred Dvoram) is a cocktail bar with comfy chairs and a 30-page cocktail menu. 
And for your fix of an Irish pub, check out Karaka in Od Polaca street, just of off Stradun for a refreshing pint of Guinness. 
Fuego (near Pile Gate, just outside the old town), also known as Latino club, is one of the best and busiest nightclubs in Dubrovnik. It hosts several different types of musical events, and has a cool interior, friendly staff and surprisingly affordable prices. Bikers’ Café, located just above the Old Town, has a more rock and roll vibe, while the more relaxed Troubadur Jazz cafe (near Gundulic square) is open until late in the night.

Photos by Jimmyharris on Flickr

Croatia travel guide

Things to do in Zagreb

While most travelers head straight for the Dalmatian coast, capital city Zagreb has a lot to offer for those who want to experience authentic Croatian culture. With several museums, parks, and arguably Europe’s most beautiful cemetery, Zagreb is well worth a few days of exploring. The city is situated between the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain and both the northern and southern bank of the Sava river. Wander through the open-air market with a coffee in hand and take in the beauty of Zagreb’s medieval architecture and rich history.

Maksimir Park

Zagreb is full of wonderful wooded enclaves to explore. One such location is Maksimir Park, which was opened in 1794 and is landscaped similar to an English garden park, complete with artificial lakes and alleys. The park’s most popular attractions are the Bellevue Pavilion, which was constructed in 1843, and the Echo Pavilion, which resembles a rustic Swiss cottage.

Zagreb’s Botanical Garden

For a nice change of pace, wander through Zagreb’s botanical garden, which was created in 1890. With 10,000 species of plants and little bodies of water, you can easily spend a few hours walking in the shade.

Mirogoj historical cemetery

Though not quite a park, Mirogoj is one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Europe. Designed by Herman Bollé, one of Croatia’s finest architects, the cemetery features several cupolas and paths mingled with sculptures and impressive tombs. Inside, the cemetery is lush, green and eerily quiet. It’s definitely worth the ten-minute bus ride.

The Medieval fortress of Medvedgrad

Another site worth checking out is the Medvedgrad fortress, on the southern side of Mt Medvednica. Zagreb’s most treasured medieval monument, Medvedgrad was built from 1249 to 1254 to protect the city from Tartar invasions.

Zagreb Cathedral

Not to be missed is Zageb’s most famous building, the Cathedral. First built in the 11th century, Zagreb Cathedral was destroyed by the Tatars in 1242 and subsequently rebuilt by Hermann Bollé, the same architect who designed the Mirogoj cemetery. You can easily wander over the cathedral from the Dolac market.


Zagreb is home to a variety of historical, cultural and art museums. Not to miss is the Mimara Museum, which was founded with a donation from Ante “Mimara” Topić. Comprising more than 1500 exhibits, the museum features works by Lorenzetti, Cravaggio, Raffaello and Rembrandt. Other museums worth a visit include the Archeological Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art.


Zagreb’s impressive fruit and vegetable market is found in the Dolac quarter. The farmers’ market is the most visited and the best-known farmer’s market in Zagreb, famous for its combination of traditional open market with stalls and a sheltered market below. Located only steps away from the main city square, Ban Jelačić Square, and in the middle between the oldest parts of Zagreb, Dolac is a great place to grab breakfast or coffee and to satisfy cravings for fresh produce. While you’re there, be sure to pick up a Croaterra, an authentic Croatian cake made of organic and whole grain ingredients.


Much like in Italy, outdoor restaurants are good places to start the evening’s entertainment. Tkalcicev Street in Gornji Grad boasts the city’s highest concentration of bars and cafes, which are perfect for people-watching and dining. The Gradska Kavana and Lisna Kavana are both relaxing café bars and are perfect for the night’s first few drinks and to sit and talk.

Along the same street is Oliver Twist, “the place to see and be seen” in Zagreb. This trendy bar offers a wide selection of local and imported beers served on two levels and on an outdoor terrace. The Bulldog Belgian Beer Café is popular with both tourists and locals. It has a huge outdoor area, which is always packed practically any night of the week. The Belgian beer is excellent and as a result, the Bulldog is the destination of choice for many Stag parties. Middle Earth fans will especially appreciate Tolkien’s pub, one of the quirkier places in Zagreb. Decorated with images from the author’s famous books, the pub is a cozy establishment and offers a talking point for strangers to get to know each other. Who doesn’t love LOTR?

In the warmer months, the liveliest parties are found at Jarun Lake, a recreational area where people go to drink and dance (some of the clubs shut down for the summer, as many locals go and visit the Islands). Two of the most popular nightclubs in Zagreb, Aquarius and Piranha, can be found here. A tram ride away, Jarun Lake also has cafes, restaurants, a nude beach, sailing, rowing, windsurfing and bike rentals, so it may be a great place to spend the day (as well as the night

Day trips

Zagreb’s central location offers travelers several options for daily excursions. Samobor is a charming medieval town with well preserved old stores, beautiful parks and hiking trails. The Baroque architecture is picturesque against the wooded hills. Samobor is accessible by car or bus, and be sure to try the ice coffee, which is more like a milkshake.                                                                                                 

Vrbovec, east of Zagreb, is another town travelers might want to explore. Vrbovec is famous for cooking old Croatian specialties and a quaint example of authentic Croatian culture. Travelers say that once you come to Vrbovec, you’ll feel like you’re at home.

Lastly, visitors might want to wander around ancient castle ruins, which are situated surprisingly close to the city itself. Escape for a few hours into medieval history.

photo by phillipshannon on Flickr

Featured Articles Los Angeles

Pink’s Hot Dogs

pinks.jpgHot dog stands rarely share clientele with the most exclusive restaurants in Los Angeles, but Pink’s Hot Dogs earn the business of even the most discerning patrons. Owned and operated by the Pink family since 1939, Pink’s Hot Dogs is considered a “locals” place that the whole city can claim.

What makes their hot dogs so special? It could be the special “family secret” chili-dog recipe, or inventive hot dog concoctions named after the celebrities that frequent their establishment, or the long line that gives you time to work your craving into a lather of lust for these one of a kind frankfurters.

Featured Articles Los Angeles

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

painting_paint_closeup_277362_m.jpgThe Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) features a little bit of everything in displaying more than 100,000 pieces of art from around the world and across many different disciplines and time periods.

From Africa to Europe to Japan and China and America, the only unrepresented region seems to be Antarctica, which has never had a very prolific output anyway.

The LACMA opened in 1910 as part of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art. The museum did not have an art collection at the time, nor did it have the ability to acquire one, so artists loaned their work to the museum on a temporary basis so that they could be displayed.

Since then, its mission has evolved to include the display of a wide selection of art from around the world and, more specifically, to display that art and make it interesting and relevant for as wide an audience as possible.


Visiting the LACMA costs $9 for adults, $5 for students and seniors and children 17 and younger get in free. The museum is also free to visit after 5 p.m. every day until it closes at 8 p.m.

Special exhibitions require tickets for admission that are roughly double the regular ticket prices, but children are still free and ticket prices are reduced on weekdays.

The biggest trick to visiting the LACMA is figuring out parking. There are three paid parking lots around the museum campus charging varying rates from $5 to $8. There is also metered parking on 6th Street, Wilshire Boulevard and adjacent neighboring streets. Parking is limited during certain hours.


The LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd, adjacent to the La Brea Tar Pits. It closes on Wednesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but is otherwise open throughout the year noon to 8 p.m. on weekdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.

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Los Angeles Things to Do

Muscle (Venice) Beach

muscle-beach.jpgJoggers, runners, walkers, swimmers and dogs all go to the beach to work out, but none exercise quite like the guys and gals at Muscle Beach. With their comic book bodies, weightlifters come to Venice to perfect their ripped abs, swollen pecs, tree trunk sized legs.

Muscle Beach is part of Venice, although the original location was a few miles north in Santa Monica. The beach side weight room has been home to many famous bodybuilders including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joe Gold, who founded Gold’s Gym, and a long list of world bodybuilding champions.

Weightlifting at Muscle Beach used to be restricted to the feeble equipment built in 1952 and placed right on the sand by the parks and recreation district. Now that the beach has gotten some notoriety, however, it has undergone a massive renovation and now features bleachers for spectators, a massive arch displaying a barbell over the entrance, and padded weightlifting, tumbling and jump-rope areas.

The original muscle beach held tumbling and gymnastics performances and competitions and most have now been moved to the Venice location. Each year, a bodybuilding championship is held at Venice Beach with the winner appearing in Iron Man Magazine. The contest is open to anyone for the $75 entry fee and attracts some of the top bodybuilding talent in Los Angeles, which can stack up with most places around the world.

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Featured Articles Los Angeles Things to Do

Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Hollywood I Love You

Hollywood Forever MainSqueezed against the back lot of Paramount Studios, with a full view of the Hollywood sign, is the home of many Hollywood greats, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It is a quiet place to contemplate the allure of Hollywood and the ephemeral nature of celebrity.

Cecil B. De Mille and his wife lie within sight of the Paramount water tower. Tyrone Power, Benny Goodman, Marion Davis and Valentino are all present. Mel Blanc rests right near the cemetery entrance. His stone is covered with small rocks (each signifying a visit to the grave) and two tiny pictures of Bugs Bunny. Further in, an obelisk marks the grave of Griffith J. Griffith, donor of Griffith Park. He is equally well known for shooting his wife while in an alcoholic rage. An early movie director, William Tanner, is also here. He was murdered. On discovering the body, his butler called the movie studio before dialing the police. Tanner’s murder is still unsolved.

Los Angeles Things to Do

Walt Disney Concert Hall

la-disney-hall.jpgThe most striking thing about Walt Disney Concert Hall is the architecture. The curving metal faces of the structure seem to peek around corners and stare down streets. You catch glimpses of the concert hall from odd angles through the buildings of the city and your view of the structure sticks in your mind. Light plays tricks, casts odd shadows and certain angles seem to gleam prominently while others are cast in shadows.

The concert hall is certainly a sight to behold.

It is also a fine place to catch a show or symphony concert. The Los Angeles Philharmonic plays concerts eight times a week, two concerts a day on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The LA Philharmonic is one of the top classical music organizations in the world and brings in some of the best guest talent to perform alongside it throughout the year.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall is a relatively new addition to the downtown area. A gift from the Disney family for a new concert hall in 1987 accumulated interest and generated other donors who put up the rest of the money for the concert hall. The county of Los Angeles provided the land and funded the construction of the parking garage. The building sits alongside the other performance halls in downtown, but was only completed in 2003. This is the LA Philharmonic’s 4th year in the building.

The hall is also used for other events. Concerts, TV show tapings like American Idol and the occasional charity event are held in the Disney Concert Hall.

Friday afternoon LA Philharmonic shows are the “casual Friday” shows where orchestra members and conductor Leonard Slatkin dress in casual clothes instead of the requisite tuxedo or formal wear as is the norm at symphony concerts.

Tickets to the LA Philharmonic or other events at the Walt Disney Concert Hall are available at the hall’s website. There are available payment plans and group discounts, as well as free shows every few months for special events.


The Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Public parking at the hall is available underneath the structure and is accessible on Second Street, or across from the concert hall on Grand Avenue. Valet parking is available at the front of the building on Hope Street.

Los Angeles Things to Do

Orange County’s “Great Park”

Los Angeles often comes under criticism because it doesn’t have enough parks or green space within the city. Sure, there are mountains nearby and the beach is always available. The city does have the one of the largest parks within city limits in Griffith Park, but the average person in Los Angeles does not have a park within walking distance. There’s nowhere to just take the dog for a walk or go for a quick run.

Nowhere is this problem more pronounced than in Orange County, where traffic locks up and strip mall parking lots are the closest thing to open space that the city has.

Orange County is trying to correct for that problem in one large, ambitious bout of overcompensation. The “Great Park” under development aims to provide the residents of Orange County with one massive mega park, where all their park needs will be met at one central location.

Built over the top of El Toro military base, the Great Park is going to be 1,347 acres of recreation opportunities and open space, baseball diamonds and soccer fields as well as cultural centers, interpretive experiences and nature hikes through three miles of canyon.

The park will also feature a museum presenting the history of El Toro base as well as some of the military aircraft that flew from the airfield. The Great Park will stretch from the beach to the mountains and will be larger than New York City’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park put together.

Unfortunately, a construction project of this size takes years to complete and the park will not be ready for general use for quite some time. For the moment, the only open attraction in the park is a balloon ride which takes visitors up and over the park to see the the progress being made on the construction. The ride also incorporates views of the mountains and the surrounding county. The ride is free, but visitors must obtain a boarding pass when entering the park.


Articles Los Angeles

Norton Simon Museum

painting_strokes_yellow_277363_m.jpgPasadena’s Norton Simon Museum describes itself as an “adventure in the visual arts.” This may be the case compared to other stodgy museums with comparable collections, but the Norton Simon Museum is probably referencing its place on the forefront of painting collections. The Norton Simon does not have the most extensive or complete collection in the world, the west coast, or even Los Angeles. But the collection is prestigious and focused, full of works you’re not going to see elsewhere.

In addition to the unique paintings the museum displays, the Norton Simon displays some remarkable statues from South Asia, tapestries and a lake built in to the museum garden.

The Norton Simon Museum has gone through several names in its history. The Pasadena Art Institute became the Pasadena Art Museum, which became the Norton Simon Museum. Along with its name the building has evolved over the last few decades. The architect Frank Gehry redesigned the museum so that it had had more display space, an increased capacity for temporary exhibits and a floor solely devoted to Asian art.


The Norton Simon Museum is located at 411 W. Colorado Boulevard, near Old-Town district in Pasadena. The Museum is on the Tournament of Roses Rose Parade route and during television broadcasts of the parade the building’s exterior can be seen.


Adults are charged $8.00 for admission to the museum and seniors $4.00. Students with ID, museum members and anyone younger than 19 get in free. The Acoustiguide Audio Tour costs $3.00 for use during your tour of the museum.


The Norton Simon is closed on Tuesdays, but open from noon to 6:00 p.m. the rest of the week. On Fridays the museum stays open until 9:00 p.m. and from 6:00 to 9:00 on the first Friday of every month admission is free.