Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik is one of Europe’s most beautiful tourist destinations. Its stunning Old Town has been preserved for centuries and is steeped in history. I have had a chance to explore it on my second visit to the country so here are my top 7 things to do in this beautiful corner of Croatia.
1. Wander the beautiful Old Town
Dubrovnik’s atmospheric old town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in the world despite the damage sustained in a 1667 earthquake and during the more recent conflict in the region in the 1990s. Walk along the smoothly paved Stradun (the main street) and check out the baroque architecture of the houses, explore the churches and monasteries or simply get lost in the many alleyways. Climb up the steps towards Buza Gate and explore the quieter part of town and see locals go about their daily business – just be prepared to tackle a lot of stairs! I could literally wander in the Old Town for hours and there is always something new to discover.
2. Walk the Dubrovnik city walls
To truly appreciate the beauty of the Old Town, you need to head above its rooftops. Climb the unassuming steps at the Pile Gate end of Stradun and see Dubrovnik from a different perspective. The walls, dating as far back as the 1500s have protected the city from invaders for centuries. Explore the towers, forts and turrets on a 1,940 metre long loop and get incredible views of the terracotta rooftops, Lokrum Island and the glistening waters of the Adriatic sprawling below.
The ticket (120 kuna) also includes the entrance to Fort Lovrijenac outside the city walls. I definitely recommend making the short climb to explore it! If all that walking sounds challenging, there is a chance to exit the walls around half way and there are cafes and drinks vendors spread out along the length of the walk.
3. Explore Kings Landing on a Game of Thrones Tour
HBO’s Game of Thrones series is one of the most popular and talked about shows out there and Dubrovnik is one of its key filming locations. It has doubled as the show’s Kings Landing from Season 2 onwards (Season 1 scenes were filmed in Malta). You can relive some of the key scenes from the show by going along to a guided Game of Thrones tour. Visit Fort Lovrijenac which has been used as the Red Keep or descend the Jesuit steps to recreate a famous scene from Season 5 (you know the one). We were lucky to be accompanied by a member of the crew who gave us very interesting insider info and insight into the lives of the actors on set.
Book your tour here and you might just be lucky enough to have Iva as your guide!
4. Sea Kayak around Lokrum island
One of the best ways of exploring the shimmering blue waters of the Adriatic is by sea kayak. A couple of companies run a variety of tours from Pile Bay (just a few minutes from the main city gate). We went with X-Adventure Dubrovnik Sea Kayaking who took us on a 3 hour trip around forest-covered Lokrum Island, along rocky beaches, coves and even hidden caves before stopping off to swim, snorkel and cliff jump by the mainland. You will also enjoy a different view of Dubrovnik as you glide below its impressive walls. All equipment is provided and the knowledgeable guides do a great job in providing a lot of information about the city throughout. It’s also a hell of a workout – sore arms and shoulders are almost guaranteed!
Kayak tours cost from 230 kuna (£25/$33).
5. Take a cable car to the top of Srd Hill
Some of the best views of Dubrovnik are from Srd Hill, rising 412 metres above sea level. The cable car that takes visitors to the top may be very touristy, but the panorama of the Old Town, Lokrum and the surrounding hills from the observation decks is worth sharing. Located next to the cable car station is Fort Imperial, which was built by the French over 200 years ago and was used for military purposes as recently as 1991 during the Siege of Dubrovnik. The giant white cross adorning the hill is visible all the way from the Old Town. There is also a restaurant if you wanted to savour the views for longer. I would recommend heading up in time for sunset for a spectacular light show. For an extra challenge, it’s even possible to hike up to the top.
6. Enjoy al fresco culture in Old Town’s bars and restaurants
There is no shortage of places to eat and drink in Dubrovnik and they suit all tastes and budgets. In the summer months, chairs will line streets, alleyways and rooftops, staff enticing visitors with delicious food. The cuisine on the Dalmatian coast is influenced by its Italian roots, featuring a lot of fresh fish and pasta.
Start the day with breakfast on the rooftop terrace of Hotel Stari Grad (Od Sigurate 4)with beautiful views over the city before grabbing a freshly made salads and smoothies from Mr Fresh (Od Puca 14) for lunch. For dinner head to Poco Loco (Buniceva Poljana 6) with its excellent choice of fusion dishes (try the pulled chicken flatbread) and Croatian beer served in cool beakers. The location, just behind Dubrovnik Cathedral, is fantastic for people watching and live music from the bar next door. Oh and their cocktails are amazing. After, head to Soul Caffe (Uska Ulica 5)tucked away in a quiet backstreet for a great selection of drinks, locally made rakiya and live musicians.
7. Take a day trip
If time is on your side, it’s well worth considering venturing further afield. Dubrovnik’s location makes it an ideal base for exploring the rest of the Dalmatian Coast and even neighbouring countries! Ferries run to the UNESCO-protected island of Lokrum every 30 minutes during the summer months where you can see a Benedictine Monastery and the beautiful Botanic Gardens. Or a nudist beach if that’s more up your street. A day trip to the Elaphite Islands takes you to an unspoilt part of the Adriatic where you can explore caves, Medieval towns and various ruins.
Take a trip to see Mostar’s famous bridge and Ottoman quarter in Bosnia and Herzegovina or spend a day exploring the walled Old Towns of Kotor and Budva in Montenegro with incredible views of Kotor Bay on the way.
http://www.dubrovnikdaytours.net/ has some great options but you will also be able to arrange many of the tours through your accommodation.
Where: Dubrovnik is a city in the south of Croatia, close to borders with Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a popular tourist destination
Getting There: Dubrovnik is served by a number of European airlines including British Airways, Lufthansa and EasyJet. Dubrovnik Airport is around 20km from the city centre.
Accommodation: We stayed at Hostel Villa Angelina Old Town which is located in the quiet residential part of the Old Town with some rooms offering fantastic views of the city. The guys running the hostel are super friendly and can help out with booking trips and transfers.
More Info: Visit Croatia has a comprehensive guide on Dubrovnik