With its towering white walls and red roofs set against the glittering Adriatic, Dubrovnik is nothing short of breath taking. Add to this the fact that it has been the spot for numerous film crews, most notably for Game of Thrones, and you’ll find it has become a bona-fide tourist magnet. The old city thrives on its tourism sector and has certainly taken advantage of its moment in the limelight by adding multiple Game of Thrones souvenir shops and tours.
The sad thing is, between the crowds flocking to see this historic city and the cruise ships docking daily just outside the old town, Dubrovnik can become overrun with camera wielding intruders (myself included). It is best to visit the city in the lull between spring break and the summer holidays. On the other hand, if you visit in winter, you risk visiting a ghost town. Much of the old town shops and restaurants are closed up off-season.
If you catch it at the right time, Dubrovnik can be a magical place to explore and experience the best of Croatia. If you’re eager to experience everything, I recommend getting one of the Dubrovnik Cards as they include access to every museum and experience you could possibly want. But honestly, you’ll sooner find the best that Dubrovnik has to offer wandering the ancient streets and walking along the sea than you will behind glass in a museum.
Food and Drink
Best Croatian Cuisine: Kopun
Poljana Ruđera Boškovića 7, 20000, Dubrovnik
Open 7 days a week, 11am-11pm
It is a sin to visit a country and not experience their cuisine. Croatian cuisine might not be world-renowned but that doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious. Kopun has mastered the art of traditional Croatian cooking. Some of their recipes are hundreds of years old so they have had plenty of time to perfect them. Capon is their specialty and it is absolutely excellent. I’d recommend sitting in their outdoor patio area for a view of the beautiful Church of St Ignatius. They have blankets and heat lamps for chillier evenings.
Best Atmosphere: Dubravka 1836
Brsalje ul. 1, 20000, Dubrovnik
Open 7 days a week, 8am-11pm
When it comes to atmosphere, you can’t beat Dubravka 1836. Sitting just in the shadow of the old city walls, the restaurant has a view onto the Adriatic and a large outdoor patio. You can enjoy a full meal or just grab coffee or a cocktail while you enjoy the sunset on the water. They have an extensive menu perfect for pickier eaters and a delicious range of cocktails. If you’re looking for a treat, try their BBC cocktail – it’ll knock you off your feet.
Best Foreign Cuisine: Bota Oyster and Sushi Bar
Ul. od Pustijerne, 20000, Dubrovnik
Open 7 days a week, 12pm-12am
You would never expect to find this gem in the small city of Dubrovnik, but it has some of the best sushi I’ve ever had. Since Dubrovnik has a large fishing community, Bota’s fish is incredibly fresh. You’ll find some familiar sushi rolls as well as a few more interesting specialty rolls. Their Tiger Roll is particularly delicious.
Best Gelato: Dolce Vita
Nalješkovićeva ul. 1A, 20000, Dubrovnik
Open 7 days a week, 12pm-12am
Unsurprisingly for a city that attracts many summer visitors, Dubrovnik is full of gelaterias. However, the majority of them are at best a step above average. Dolce Vita is by far the best gelato in the city and the only place that can even be considered real Italian-style gelato. They might not have as many flavours to offer as other gelaterias in Dubrovnik but they rotate some of their flavours from week to week. If you aren’t a gelato fan (who isn’t?) they also make wonderful sweet filled crepes. Dolce Vita isn’t easy to stumble on, but it’s worth the hunt. It is located on one of the narrow streets just off the main Stradun.
The Main Street: Stradun
Dubrovnik isn’t a shopping city. But if you must shop, this is one of the few places to really do it. All of the shops are specifically geared towards tourists, but you might uncover a few treasures. There are a few interesting bookshops to check out and all of them stock a decent selection of English books.
The Side Show: Ulica od Puča
Again, you won’t find many locals shopping on this street but in addition to the souvenir shops you’ll find some more interesting spots. There is a small art gallery and a few stores specialising in Croatian leather goods, jewellery and pottery.
Top Tourist Things To See and Do
The City Walls
Cost: 150 Kuna
Poljana Paška Miličevića, 20000, Dubrovnik
There are few cities left in Europe that can boast fully preserved city walls dating back several centuries. The city’s historic walls are what have drawn so many tourists, historians and film crews to the tiny city. Stretching almost 2000 metres around the old city, visitors can walk the entire circumference, which usually takes around two hours. There is nothing quite like getting a bird’s-eye view of the terracotta roofs against the Adriatic.
Cost: Included in the ticket for the City Walls
Ul. od Tabakarije 29, 20000, Dubrovnik
This impressive fortress sitting on a 37 metre high mountain of rock has safeguarded the city of Dubrovnik since the eleventh-century. Visitors who can tackle the stone steps leading up to the high fortress are rewarded with stunning views of Dubrovnik and the surrounding coast. If you embark on one of the city’s many Game of Thrones tours, this will undoubtedly be one of your tour spots as it has been used to film multiple King’s Landing scenes.
Ul. Frana Supila 10/B, 20000, Dubrovnik
Many holiday seekers choose Croatia for its beaches. There are several beaches in the Dubrovnik area but this is the only one where you can enjoy the bright blue waters of the Adriatic and a view of the old city. It is only a five-minute walk from Ploče Gate so you can easily go from lounging on the beach in the morning to walking the streets of the old city in the afternoon. The beach is small so it can get crowded in summertime.
Cost: 450 Kuna with Karaka Day Excursion
By far the best experience I had while in Dubrovnik was taking a Karaka boat tour of the Elaphiti Islands. Generally, I avoid tourist excursions because they usually turn out to be cheesy and overpriced. Not this time. This isn’t you standard boat trip. This is the opportunity to take a triple mast sixteenth century replica ship and explore some of Croatia’s most beautiful and secluded islands. The excursion includes a delicious buffet lunch, live traditional music, and a visit to three islands – Koločep, Šipan and Lopud. Koločep is a tiny island paradise with a population of less than two hundred. On Šipan you will discover a giant sixteenth-century fortress and hoards of olive, fig, orange and almond trees while Lopud boasts beautiful beaches. Suffice it to say, it is an unforgettable experience.
Cost: Return bus ticket 50 Kuna
This quaint little seaside town dates back all the way to the sixth-century BC. Today, it is the perfect place to spend an afternoon wandering or to enjoy a meal on the waterfront. It isn’t tourist free but it will offer some respite from the crowds of Dubrovnik. You can also take the opportunity to tour the house of one of Croatia’s most famous painters, Vlaho Bukovac. Both bus tickets and entry to the house are included in a purchase of a three or seven day Dubrovnik card.
Getting To and From the Airport
The only airport in the area is the Dubrovnik airport located about 15 kilometres from the city. There are two ways to get from the airport to the city, by taxi or by bus.
The airport’s Atlas buses are comfortable and easy and they take you directly from the airport to Dubrovnik. The bus stops at Pile Gate for access to the old city and also takes travellers all the way to the main bus station in Gruž. There is no set timetable as the buses are scheduled to leave 20 to 30 minutes after the arrival of each flight. You can buy tickets for the bus at ticket machines, the travel agency counter or from the bus driver if you’re running late. Tickets cost 40 Kuna one-way or 70 Kuna return.
To get back to the airport, you can take the same Atlas bus from the main bus station in Gruž. The closest stop to the old city is on Ulica Kralja Petra Krešimira IVnear the Dubrovnik Cable Car. Buses generally leave the main station two hours before scheduled international flights and take about half an hour to reach the airport.
Getting Around the City
There are only three ways to get around Dubrovnik – on foot, by bus or by taxi. Within the old city walls you won’t find any cars and it won’t take you more than twenty minutes to walk from one side to the other. There are, however, a lot of stairs if you really want to fully explore the old city. Outside the walls, the rest of modern Dubrovnik is a sprawling mess.
Many hotels are positioned along the coast outside the old city but depending on where you are staying you might be able to enjoy a beautiful stroll along the cliffs overlooking the Adriatic to get to the historic heart of Dubrovnik. Alternatively, Dubrovnik has several local buses and Uber also operates in the area.
Bus tickets can be purchased in advance at newspaper stands for 12 Kuna or on the bus for 15 Kuna. You will need to validate your ticket using a machine on the bus. Tickets are valid for one hour from validation. Alternatively, you can purchase a day pass for 30 Kuna which will last a full 24 hours.
Photography by Savannah Hayes
Top: Dubrovnik from the City Walls
Middle: Bota Outdoor Patio; Stradun; Dubrovnik from Lovrijenac; Lopud
Bottom: Old City