I Heart Hrvatska: Dubrovnik the Pearl of the Adriatic
This city truly is unique in its scale and location. We have now been to quite a few other old towns and we wondered if we would be as dazzled by Dubrovnik when we ended up there again, and we just were.
However, it is also getting VERY popular as a result, which as with most things, is kind of a bummer. The cruise ships hit it usually between 10am-4pm, and at the point it is a bit overwhelming. I would suggest walking the walls and wandering in the Old City first thing in the morning and definitely in the evening after all of the day tourists have left. Its much nicer.
The Walls: It is definitely worth it to walk the walls.
Tram: Also worthwhile to take the tram up the hill behind the city. Sunset is a nice time, its a stunning view.
If you are interested in the 90's conflict the museum in the fort at the top has a lot of information. It is a not a pleasant experience learning about the violence that ripped through this region in the very recent history, and not always what you want on vacation, so that will be up to you. I personally feel like the more I know the more I can connect and appreciate a different country. If you aren't into that and just want the smallest taste of what happened I would check out the Memorial Room in the Old Town. Most of the information on the conflict is very pro-Croatia which is something that you will pick up if you talk to many of the locals. They fought and bled for this country, to me they are an interesting mix of being totally jaded by the corruption of government and systems, but at the same time they are so SO very proud of their country, its success as an independent nation and all of the products, food, and lifestyle that they love to share.
If you like lamb, Croatia is a good place for you.
Konoba Dubrava is up on the top of the hill where the tram takes you. We actually walked from the tram stop which I wouldn't necessarily recommend. Croatia is very safe as far as petty crime, but it is also the country, and it is dark as can be at night, so I would probably take a cab. We tend toward local places when we travel and this is that. They specialize in cooking lamb (or other entrees) pika style, which is under an iron bell, so tender and delicious. However, you do have to order it 4 hours ahead of time. We just emailed them and let them know that we were coming and how many people we had.
Lady Pipi: at the top of the Old Town, everything there is cooked on an outdoor grill, so it closes in inclement weather. Also, there are no reservations, just first come first serve, so if you aren't lined up for first seating, then you will have to wait. It WILL be worth it.
Azur: If you want something quite different from the standard regional fare (getting sick of peppers) this was very good. A Thai and Croatian fusion. My Vietnamese friend thought that I was crazy taking her to Thai restaurant in the middle of a medieval Croatian city, but we both thoroughly enjoyed our lunch.
Due to the popularity of Dubrovnik it suffers from standard problems of a lack of good restaurants within the Old Town, with the good ones being maxed out or ruined quickly. There are a ton of restaurants and cafes that just cater to the tourists off of the cruise ships and the quality is not awesome, I would try to plan ahead and avoid these if you can.
Buza Bar: I'm sure that you've heard about this place, there are two. I think I liked Buza 1 better, it has the spot that you can watch cliff jumpers do that yourself if you've had enough Rakija (pronnounced rack-ee-ya).
Shopping is not a high priority for me when I travel but if I'm going to buy then these are the types of things that I like to bring home.
Aqua: this store has multiple locations throughout the country but they have some cute stuff... if you like stripes, which I do/may have a problem over-buying.
Life According to Kawa: the most unique options, just outside the walls. Get your Cevapi shirts here.
Limestone Store: Kameni Otuk???
Okay I can't remember the name of this place, its a little store in the old city of Dubrovnik, they sell all limestone goods made from Brac Island stone. My favorites are their mortar and pestles and some rough hewn candle holders. And yes this literally means that I am carrying home rocks in my bag, but since this is usually my last stop oh well, also I get compliments on the candle holders all the time and I love them so the extra weight was worth it. :)
Uje: more quality foods and oils. Lavendar oil and sachets.
In Dubrovnik we stayed at Apartments Mariana, we found them on Booking.com. Anna and her father run it, and they were lovely and helpful. Its a bit hard to find at first (not sure if you are renting a car) and it is a hike of about 300 steps up from the old town, but the view as you can see from the links, can't be beat.
Last time we did stay in the walls of the Old City. That was fun too, and Janette the owner was also a character and had excellent Rakija on hand.
All of our apartments were two bedroom at least, but both of these areas were great. In the city it is definitely busier, but one night we had klapo singers under our balcony for three hours, it was pretty cool.