Dubrovnik is quickly finding itself on everyone’s radar – and for good reason. A cool evening on the brink of the tourist season, the walled city’s streets are barren. Strolling down the marble paved Stradun from Pile Gate to the harbour at the opposite end is like stepping into a fairy tale.
Right on the ocean, the small walled city is a world away from most of Europe’s popular tourist destinations. It has played host to some of the most famous film crews and its exposure has certainly boosted tourism. For Game of Thrones fans like myself, the city takes on the role of King’s Landing. Before you get too excited, many of the recognisable landmarks of King’s Landing, most notably the Sept of Baylor and some of the Red Keep are CGI. But there are parts of Dubrovnik which fans can actively geek out over like the infamous walk of shame stairs. I recommend taking a guided walking tour to see all of the filming spots. Star Wars fanatics will also be excited to know that part of the upcoming The Last Jedi was also filmed in Dubrovnik. But the city is not just an obscure destination for TV and film buffs. It is an increasingly thriving holiday hotspot for people from around the world. Sadly, this means the quiet tucked away fairy tale is no longer quite so quiet and tucked away, but it remains magical.
The pale grey stone used in the city walls and for most of the inner houses and buildings, shines almost white in the sunlight. Driving along the coast from the airport, my first view of the white city contrasted with its red tile roofs is one of striking simplicity. I could barely contain my excitement, and no, that was not just because I am a diehard Game of Thrones enthusiast and personal fan of the Lannisters – no judgement please. Walking the walls offers another spectacular view over the impossibly bluer than blue Adriatic Sea and a birds eye view of the city. The Dalmatian coast is stunning and there are also plenty of long coastal walks outside of the city. The view is so beautiful I sometimes did not even realise that I had been walking for several miles, which considering I was consuming hoards of gelato and not spending any time at a gym was probably a good thing. Overlooking everything is Fort Lovrijenac, impressively perched atop a cliff thirty-seven metres above sea level. It is open to visitors so if you can manage the short hike up the steep stairs, I can assure you it is well worth it. For the physically less fit, there is a bench halfway up that I was very grateful for.
Inside the city it is no surprise that Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The old architecture remains in tact and in use with not a single modern structure in sight. Stradun is flanked by two beautiful matching clock towers at either end and the street is lined with outdoor restaurants. At the far end from Pile Gate, the street opens up into a square in front of the small but very elegant cathedral. Walking beyond the walls takes you out to the small harbour which has more restaurants and is full of small fishing and tour boats. You can walk all the way around it in about five minutes but there are also benches where you can sit and enjoy the bustle and the view. Alternatively, turning right at the end of Stradun takes you up the famous walk of shame stairs (an unofficial Game of Thrones name to be sure), which I have already mentioned, and into anther courtyard in front of the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius. Further back is a maze of narrow streets and long stone staircases. It is the perfect place to get lost for an afternoon.
The city offers a combined city and seaside break. Do not expect to spend endless days in museums or searching for famous monuments. The museums which Dubrovnik does have are small and for the most part uninteresting, with the exception of perhaps the Maritime Museum and the first floor of the Art Museum. It is not that kind of a destination. There is a pretty beach right outside of the city walls, but spending all of your time there would be a mistake as well. Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited so it deserves your full attention. Exploring the old city and leisurely walking the walls is the highlight of any visit. The whole city is a monument to Croatia’s rich history so take it in. I promise it is an unforgettable experience.
Top: View of Dubrovnik from Fort Lovrijenac
Middle: View of Dubrovnik from City Walls
Photography by Savannah Hayes