Countless travel guides describe Dubrovnik as the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’ or as the ‘jewel in Croatia’s crown’. Glittering metaphors aside, as a tourist destination, Dubrovnik has truly come into its own. With something on offer for everyone – a wealth of historical sites, an exciting food scene, lively nightclubs and pristine beaches.
That being said, any trip to Croatia is not fully complete without a stop in Dubrovnik. Whether you’re just a day visitor or planning to spend the entirety of your summer in the picturesque walled city, you’ll find it impossible to run out of things to do and see.
Need some inspiration? Here are some of the top things to do while in Dubrovnik. For those with a little more time on their hands, there are many options for exciting day trips outside the city.
The Dubrovnik trilogy
Dubrovnik’s Old Town
Considered one of the world’s most well-preserved medieval walled cities, Old Town should be at the top of any Dubrovnik itinerary. Completely car-free and with its many narrow side-streets and stairways, it’s the perfect place to get lost for a day.
Start your Old Town explorations at Pile Gate, a 16th Century gateway into the city. Look out for the statue of Saint Blaise, the patron saint of Dubrovnik; this statue was made by one of Croatia’s most esteemed sculptors, Ivan Mestrovic.
On the other side of Pile Gate, Placa Stradun, a wide pedestrian street, is home to many of the city’s major attractions. The most-visited sights on Placa Stradun include Onofrio’s Fountain, a 16-sided fountain first built for public use in the 15th Century (look out for the individual stone masks on each of its sides), as well as St Saviour Church, a building considered to be one of Dubrovnik’s finest examples of its Renaissance architecture.
Top tip: If you’re near Pile Gate, make sure that you check out the Franciscan Monastery. This is not only a beautiful building – the monastery also happens to house one of the oldest pharmacies in the world!
At the far end of Placa Stradun is Luza Square. Here you can take your pick between Orlando’s Column, the Bell Tower, the 18th Century Church of Saint Blaise or the stately Rector’s Palace. Be prepared for crowds during the summer months.
A short walk away, Dubrovnik’s 18th Century cathedral is also a worthy stop.
An Old Town essential: Make the splurge and get a Dubrovnik Card; this can be purchased at the tourist office, as well as some of the museums. Coming in one-, three- and seven-day varieties, the card goes a long way in saving money on attraction admission fees, as well as providing discounts on public transport and restaurants.
The city walls
The walls you currently see around Old Town date to the 14th Century and cover 2km in length, with many towers and viewing points to admire along the way. With ticket offices at both Pile and Ploce gates, the only rule for your time on the walls is to follow a clockwise direction.
As you navigate the walls, you’ll be treated to stunning views over the orange rooftops of Old Town, as well as the sea and nearby islands. For Game of Thrones fans, many scenes featuring the fictional King’s Landing were filmed on these walls.
Top tip: Go to the walls at opening time (9AM) to avoid the crowds and to get the very best photo-taking opportunities. Since the walls are completely exposed to the sun, remember to put on some sunscreen!
Srd Hill cable car
This is the perfect option for photography fans. Take the cable car up the 400-metre-high Srd Hill for the best views over Dubrovnik and the surrounding area. There is a Napoleonic fort at the summit, as well as a museum, souvenir shops, café and restaurant.
Top tip: For those feeling particularly active, the hike up to Mount Srd is an enjoyable one and will save you the cost of the cable car ride.
Bonus attraction: Located just outside Ploce Gate is Dubrovnik’s old port. Apart from being a lovely place for a sunset stroll, you may also see one of the fisherman sharing his catch with some rather unusual companions!
Food and drink
Dubrovnik’s food scene is an increasingly exciting one, yet the city’s best fare doesn’t necessarily carry the biggest price tag. If you’re looking for a meal with a difference, Dubravka 1836 is located just outside Pile Gate, and features spectacular views over the Adriatic. The menu consists of pizza, pasta, as well as various meat and seafood dishes.
With one of the most deceptive names in the city, the Taj Mahal, located in Old Town at 2 Nikole Gucetica, could easily be mistaken for an Indian restaurant. In reality, the restaurant specialises in Bosnian cuisine, and receives rave reviews from tourists and locals alike.
Buza Bar deserves all of the hype it’s gathered over the years. Quite literally, it can be found through a hole in a wall during the spring and summer months. Follow the signs for ‘Cold drinks with the most beautiful view’ and you’ll find yourself on a cliff-top bar overlooking the island of Lokrum and the Adriatic Sea. If you’re feeling brave, this is also a popular cliff-diving spot.
The best day trips out of Dubrovnik:
For the beach bums: Situated just 3.5 km outside Old Town is the neighbourhood of Lapad. This is a great place to do some shopping, grab some food at one of the many seafood restaurants (Orsan restaurant is an excellent option) or, follow the trend by getting your towel and spending some time on the sunny beaches.
For the island hoppers: One of the most popular boat trips out of Dubrovnik is the three-island tour, which takes you to the nearby Elafiti Islands. This tour includes stops at the islands of Sipan, Lopud and Kolocep, and usually includes lunch. For those willing to spend a little more cash, there are regular day trips to Mljet, a narrow island that doubles as one of Croatia’s most beautiful national parks; this island is popular for hiking, swimming in the lakes and cycling.
A little further afield: Dubrovnik enjoys proximity to both Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the city’s tour operators have taken full advantage of this. There are regular bus excursions to towns like Mostar and Kotor, both of which are worthy of a visit.
For the food and wine lovers: Filled with a number of small towns and villages, the Peljesac Peninsula also plays host to wine tasting and food tours. With most tour providers offering both wine and olive oil tastings, as well as a full lunch, this is a great way to get acquainted with the cuisine of the region.
Ready to make your way to Dubrovnik? We provided affordable packages to the city; check out our cheap holidays to Dubrovnik.
Bio: Kasha Dubaniewicz is a travel writer and photographer. Originally hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, she is currently living in London and travelling at every opportunity. Follow her adventures on her blog, Lines of Escape, or on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.