Dubrovnik is not known for its food. It’s a vital transportation hub, a gold mine for history buffs, and a “must see” for Game of Thrones fans, but it’s also the trophy wife of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast (it’s pretty and expensive). But anyone looking to score some tasty treats for their boat ride out to the islands, searching for snacks after a day of Old Town exploration, or wanting to know what the locals eat, should definitely visit the town’s two very distinct markets.
Old Town Market
The market in Dubrovnik’s historic Old Town is as much a tourist trinket market as it is a food market. That said, you will find a number of stalls selling fresh fruit and veg.
As this market is located in the heart of the Old Town tourist district, not far from the waterfront, the emphasis here is on provisioning visitors for the day, and meeting their gift and souvenir needs. With the market only open in the mornings and early afternoon, in a plaza surrounded by small cafes and shops, this is also a good spot for watching Old Town come alive in the morning.
Candied citrus (orange and lemon rind) is a local sweet treat that you’ll find everywhere along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. The tang of the citrus and the bitterness of the rind meld beautifully with the crystalized sugar, creating a taste that is both bitter and fresh.
It’s hard to describe, but is well worth a try. And because the rind is usually packed into attractive bags, it makes a great gift. At the Old Town Market in Dubrovnik you’ll find loads of stalls offering the Croatian candied citrus peel, so if you have a long gift list to fill, it’s worth a visit to secure some of these littler gems. You may even wind up giving some as gifts….
Whether you buy anything at the market or not, it’s kind of a nice strolling experience that primes the appetite for breakfast or a mid-morning coffee and pastry break at one of the local cafes. If it’s hot, pick a cafe with umbrella-shaded seating and your snack will be that much more enjoyable. So, come stroll through the market, sit back and enjoy your vacation as Old Town wakes up, and watch that couple from Brighton buy t-shirts for the grandkids. And if you are that couple from Brighton, watch the folks from Chicago buying Croatian honey and candied citrus.
Well away from the Old Town Market, on the far end of the peninsula that is Dubrovnik, the port of Gruž caters to cruise ships, fishing boats, and island ferries. It’s also the home of an impressive daily fruit, veg, and fish market that sits just off the quayside.
The products here are amazingly fresh. I watched one fisherman maneuver his boat right up to the quay (in the shadow of a towering dinner cruise ship) and carry bins of his freshest catch straight into the fish market inside a covered room at the back of the plaza. And that’s when the real fun began.
While the rest of the market is mostly filled with locals buying for home, and restaurateurs buying the freshest ingredients while strategizing the day’s menu, everyone goes to the fish market. There, standing inside the functional roll-up garage doors, crowded amongst the stainless tables and ice chests you’ll marvel at the bounty of the local waters. While the fishmongers painstakingly display their wares, spectators angle for a better look as the buying commences. The bargaining, haggling, and commerce are intense, but this is no Moroccan rug shop.
In Gruž bargaining is brisk but civilized. Watching these exchanges is a great way to see what locals eat and how last night’s scallops looked before they hit your plate. It’s also an opportunity to test your negotiating skills on local merchants.
The sellers, while serious, are almost universally friendly and helpful. So, if your accommodations include cooking facilities, fill your bags at the quayside market in Gruž. You’ll spend your evening cooking with the freshest of local ingredients.
If you’ve come to Dubrovnik and are kitchen curious, make your way to the daily Old Town market and the quayside market in Gruž. Both are convenient for tourists enjoying different parts of Dubrovnik. In Old Town, you get to watch the tourist area come to life, and stock up for the day. In Gruž you’ll get to see more of the local provisioning experience, and have a chance to haggle (a little) for the incredibly fresh catch at the fish market. Either way you’ll learn more about Dubrovnik and get a taste of the local foodways.
Text and photos by Glenn D. Kaufmann
1. Old Town Market – Opens at around 8:30-9:00 and wraps up in the early afternoon
2. Gruž Market – Opens at 6:30am, but doesn’t really get rolling until around 8:00am
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