Croatia has quickly soared to the top of everyone’s list of places to travel to in Europe, and now that I’ve visited it is extremely clear why. The country is a fascinating blend of old world culture, glamour and tradition; a coastline with sprawling beaches and clear turquoise-coloured water; military fortifications, palaces and fortresses and out-of-this-world national parks. If it’s not on your list of places to visit, why the heck not?!
One of the most popular destinations in Croatia is “The Pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik. In the past, the entire area around Dubrovnik was named Dubrava, which in the local language meant “woods”. The area was laden with towering oak and pine trees on the mountains surrounding Dubrovnik, and the dense forest is where the city’s name stems from.
We recently spent three nights in Dubrovnik exploring the Old Town (I’ve never seen so many cats wandering around. It’s like they think they own the place), taking the cable car up for panoramic views and walking along the famous city walls. Everywhere we looked there were flyers and signposts for Game of Thrones walking tours, and while I am a massive fan, there really is much more to Dubrovnik than Game of Thrones filming locations.
Tips you should know before you visit Dubrovnik
- Some places accept Euro but most places only accept the Croatian Kuna, so either withdraw some when you arrive (there are plenty of ATMs at the airport and down the Stradun main street) or exchange some money in town. 1 USD = approx 6.7 Kuna.
- Getting to the Old Town from the airport is easy, just take the Atlas shuttle bus. Tickets cost 40-45 Kuna one way, 70-80 Kuna return, just make sure you check the schedule as it varies from day to day.
- The Old Town, city wall and cable car gets BUSY when cruise ships dock at Port Gruz. Avoid the crowds by checking the cruise ship schedules to see when they’re arriving and leaving the port. Once you are on the Port of Dubrovnik’s website, click on “Arrivals/Departures” on the left hand side.
- Only have one day in Dubrovnik? It’s easy to get around on foot and by bus, so you can cover quite a lot of ground and hit up multiple sightseeing spots in just 24-48 hours.
- If you’re heading elsewhere by ferry or hopping on a cruise, make sure you have printed copies of your tickets as there is only one shop where you can print documents, and noone (including the tourism office) knows where it is. It’s actually down one of the side streets on the left (Ulica Zudioska), just off the Stradun.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
We stayed at Apartment Tereza, just off the Stradun in the heart of the city. The apartment was clean and super spacious, and Diana let us check-in a few hours early as well as let us store our suitcases after check-out. We did return to Dubrovnik after a few days in Split, and stayed at another hotel for our last night in Croatia: it was absolutely dismal and we seriously regret not booking a room at Apartment Tereza again. Click here to book a stay at Apartment Tereza in Dubrovnik!
Tip: The best place to stay in Dubrovnik If you only have a few nights to spare is to stay in Old Town. Dubrovnik is a very walk-able city, so if you want to stay close to the sights then book a hotel in this part of town. Click here to check current rates and availability for hotels in Dubrovnik’s Old Town!
Unmissable things to do in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Wondering what to see in Dubrovnik? There are a handful of attractions in Dubrovnik that are not to be missed.
1. Explore Old Town
There are several entrances into Dubrovnik Old Town, but the most famous is the Pile Gate. Cross the drawbridge and make your way into the heart of Dubrovnik.
Take the time to wander down narrow alleyways and up and down side streets, just make sure you don’t step in any cat poop! Old Town is where you will also find the Jesuit Steps where Cersei did her Walk of Atonement.
2. Zoom to the top on the Cable Car
The view from Mount Srd is a must see in Dubrovnik. The cable car is the fastest way (honestly, it only takes like 90 seconds) to get to the view point that offers amazing panoramic views across Dubrovnik. It’s open till late during the summer months so the best time to head up is before sunset. The entrance to the cable car is just beyond the Buža Gate (or North Gate), the Atlas shuttle also departs from outside the cable car complex if you’re heading back to the airport. Adult tickets are 120 Kuna a pop for a round trip. There is also a bar at the top (warning: prices are extortionate) if you want a sunset cocktail or two.
But wait, there’s more!
The best views in Dubrovnik are NOT from the cable car complex at the top. The view from the terrace is obstructed by the cable car lines, so take a short walk off the beaten path for better views. Next to the restaurant is a set of stairs leading down the hill. Follow the road down for a quieter, albeit less ~fancy~, view point.
3. Fort Imperial
While you’re at the top of Mount Srđ, step into Fort Imperial to take in some of the military history of Dubrovnik – it’s one of the top things to do in Dubrovnik for those looking to learn about the country’s past. The Fort also houses an exhibit on the military history and homeland war of Dubrovnik. This lesser-known view point is an amazing place to gaze upon the Old Town and across the Dalmatian coastline, without having to elbow your way past hordes of other tourists. Entrance is 30 Kuna for adults.
4. Walk along the Dubrovnik City Walls
There’s a good reason why this is the main attraction in Dubrovnik. It is not to be missed, but it’s extremely important to try to avoid the cruise ship crowds so plan wisely. The City Walls are a defining characteristic of Dubrovnik and its military resilience.
The walls date back to the early Middle Ages and were constructed during difficult times when the city was in constant danger of military invasion, and the walls have miraculously been maintained to this day thanks to the skilled construction workers and constant upkeep over the centuries. The current extent of the Dubrovnik city walls date back to the 16th century, making up an irregular parallelogram which surrounds the city.
The wall wraps around Old Town and spans nearly 2 kilometers in length (bring a bottle of water and wear lots of sun screen). Thank goodness it was overcast when we did the walk! There are some areas where crowds build up to form a bottleneck, so expect the leisurely walk to take approximately 2 hours. Tickets cost 120 Kuna and you can pay by cash or credit card, but they do not take Euros. When we visited tons of people were turned away and had to scurry over to an ATM.
There are several entry points to the wall, but the main one is at the start of the Stradun, right as you walk into Old Town via the Pile Gate. Hang onto your ticket because there are a few checkpoints along the way.
5. Fort Lovrijenac
Another reason why you should hang onto your ticket is because it also grants you entry into Fort Lovrijenac (AKA Fort of St. Lawrence), just outside Old Town at the western entrance to the city. We actually went to Fort Lovrijenac 1 day after we had bought the ticket for the City Walls, and it was still valid for entry into the Fort. It sits atop a steep cliff standing 37 metres in height, and you are pretty much handed free rein to wander around – it’s a great place to spend an hour or two on a hot day, and gives you amazing views across the Dubrovnik Old Town and city walls.
Local historians say that the invading Venetians intended to build a fortress at the same location, but when the people of Dubrovnik found out, they immediately decided to build a fortress on this towering cliff to protect their city; it is said that it only took 3 months to build the Fort! Throughout the centuries, this fort has served a variety of purposes including as a military base during the Austrian occupation, a hospitality facility and even a theatre stage. Engraved above its gates is a unique message: “Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro”, or “Freedom cannot be sold for all the treasures of the world”.
Where to eat and drink in Dubrovnik
Azur: fusion food in Dubrovnik – I know, don’t shoot me! But the food was really yummy and the ingredients were very fresh. Make sure you e-mail or call ahead to book tables as they are constantly busy.
Cafe Festival: no-frills cafe right on the Stradun. They have working relationships with many of the B&Bs that don’t offer breakfast, so have two different breakfast menus: a discounted menu with smaller portions for B&B guests, or their regular menu. We tried both menus and honestly you might as well pay a few more Kuna for a nicer breakfast with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Buza Bar: An extremely popular cliff bar, but they don’t serve food and ran out of 3/4 of the drink menu items when we were there; nevertheless, the view is pretty spectacular. It’s a great way to look out on the shimmering Adriatic on a lazy afternoon.
You might also enjoy these guides:
- Heading to Split and Krka National Park? Read on for my destination guide to the many faces of Split
- Here are some essential travel tips to bear in mind for your next trip
What are some of the other must-see places in Dubrovnik? Comment and tell me all about it below!
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