Dodge the lunchtime tourists and discover a slower-paced Dubrovnik – the real city – after dark.
Dodge the lunchtime tourists and discover a slower-paced Dubrovnik – the real city – after dark. Photos Damian Bathersby

It’s all in the timing when it comes to travel

IN TRAVEL, as in life, timing is everything.

What is one day an idyllic holiday destination can quickly transform into a busy, overcrowded nightmare.

Take the historic port of Dubrovnik, for example.

Make the mistake of visiting the Croatian hot spot during the lunchtime rush and you will quickly want to flee to the relative peace and quiet of nearby beaches.

There's no way of sugar-coating it - the place is packed.

And in the middle of summer, it's packed and hot.

But now it's back with a vengeance.

A lot of the credit can go to the hit TV series Game Of Thrones, which is filmed in and around the old city and ensures a steady stream of fans beat a path to its sturdy drawbridge.

The money is flowing again, but with it comes the problem of overcrowding.

So here we are again, standing on The Stradun - the old town's historic main street - at lunchtime as thousands of visitors jostle for their share of the Dubrovnik experience.

My advice is to get out as quickly as you can.

Take a boat out to the island or a day trip to nearby Bosnia or Montenegro.

Maybe ride the cable car to the fortress sitting high above the town and spend some time in its war museum or simply admiring the stunning views.

Then come back to the old town just before dark.

That's when the walled city is at its magnificent best.

Sure, there are still plenty of people, but nowhere near as many as during the day and the pace is much less frantic.

Wander down to the waterfront and watch the swell hit the historic walls as the day slowly disappears.

Laugh at the antics of the young boys playing soccer with all the seriousness of Champions League stars.

Share benches with young lovers keen to grab a moment's peace.

Let the conversations flow around you and marvel at the mix of languages - Croatian, Italian, French, German, Dutch and plenty of English.

Then make another attempt to visit The Stradun, where the lights are on, the music is gently playing and the restaurants are busy.

All along the Stradun and the maze of alleyways which run off it, laughter and the tinkling of glasses has replaced the screaming of children and general hub-bub, which so dominated just hours earlier.

This is the real old city of Dubrovnik.

It's a city to be explored at a leisurely pace with a glass of wine and a platter of the local seafood.

Yes, timing is everything.