After spending the first half of our trip in Split, we were off to Dubrovnik, the center of Croatia’s unique history. Stone walk ways, worn smooth by centuries of inhabitants, surrounded by majestic walls, Dubrovnik is a sight unlike any other.
There are many ways to get into Dubrovnik, with its location along the Dalmatian coast in the Adriatic Sea. As a key strategic port throughout centuries of maritime conflict, the city walls and adjacent fortresses made it a stronghold for protecting those inside. Its position also makes it very easy to get to by land, sea, or air.
- Land: since we were in Split, one of the easiest ways to go is down along the Dalmatian coast via the many buses running throughout the day. We booked Croatia Bus, leaving from the convenient Split Bus Terminal and arriving in Dubrovnik’s bus terminal in about 4.5 hours. Note: the Dubrovnik bus terminal is about a 10 minute bus ride to the front of the walled city, and the bus picks up right outside the terminal)
- Sea: Another alternative is via boat – as a port, Dubrovnik is an easy boat ride from Split via the Jadrolinija cruise line. Travel time takes a little longer, and there aren’t as many options, but still a great option if you want to see the islands on the way down. If you’re coming from elsewhere, many major Adriatic cruise lines also use Dubrovnik as a stopover point.
- Air: Dubrovnik airport is only about 30 minutes outside of the city, and while relatively small, its a modernized building and very easy to get to. There are shuttles you can purchase tickets for that pick up just outside the city walls (or at the bus station).
Be prepared for crowds and crowds of tourists, both inside and outside the city walls. Unlike Split, pretty much everything happens inside the city walls of Dubrovnik. The main street, which you’ll come into immediately upon entering the Western main entrance (the Pile Gate), is called the Stradum, and is lined with shops and cafes all along the way. The Stradum, which serves as a de-facto central line separating the north and the south portions of the city, leads into the main square area (although there are plenty of huge squares throughout). To the north, quiet avenues filled with housing, small shops, and restaurants, taking you up many flights of stairs as you reach the northern part of the walled city. To the east, you have the main square that leads you to the harbor, and to the northeast the Ploce Gate, the main entrance from the east. To the south, you have the bulk of the old city, filled with chapels, cathedrals, squares, churches, hidden along many narrow streets and walk ways.
Staying in Dubrovnik:
Like Split, there are a plethora of independent hotels/apartments in Dubrovnik that are available to rent/book for your stay. Generally located on side streets off of the Stradum, no matter where you stay, you are literally steps away from all that is happening in the city. W and I stayed at the Celenga Apartments, just a block off the Stradum but quiet and private enough to feel cozy. There are plenty of hotels outside of the city walls (just outside the Pile Gate), including the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, which will run you about 60-70k points per night. Note: for a number of the excursions, since cars are not allowed in the old city, buses/shuttles pick you up from the Hilton parking lot.
Things to Do:
- Walk the city walls – the grandeur of the walls from the ground cannot compare to the views you get when you go up them. Since the walls completely surround the city, you can go in a big loop starting at either of the main gates along the interior. The cost is 100 kuna per person, cash only, and you can stay up there as long as you want, but the typical time spent is about 1.5 to 2 hours with plenty of stopping and picture taking. Make sure you go up early in the day to avoid the huge crowds as well as the piercing sun (there is no shade), but along the way you’ll see views of Lokrum Island to the southeast, Fort Lovrijenac to the west, and magnificent views of the colorful clay rooftops of the old city from the north.
- Fort Lovrijenac – another quick visit is to this nice little fort outside of the city walls to the southwest of the Pile Gate. Your admission to the city walls includes this in the ticket, so make sure you do this on the same day as the walls. This fort, which you see from the walls, is completely empty insid, but magnificent nonetheless. An added flair is that Fort Lovrijenac has been used to film many scenes in HBO’s Game of Thrones, including scenes inside Qarth and Kings Landing, including many of the sword fighting duels on Joffery’s name-day tournament.
- *Game of Thrones note: many other areas of Dubrovnik were used for filming scenes – including the Battle of Blackwater Bay (the bay outside of Fort Lovrijenac), and other walkabout scenes in Kings Landing were filmed inside the Pile Gate and along Dominika Street towards the Ploce Gate.*
- Dubrovnik Cable Car – The cable car picks up just north of the Ploce Gate (you have to walk up a series of windy steps to get there) but takes you up Srd Hill, where you can then take in the famous panoramic views of Dubrovnik in all its glory. A round trip ticket up and down runs 108 kuna for adults and 50 kuna for children under 12 years of age, and each way on the tram takes about 7 minutes. There’s a restaurant at the top that is usually filled with tourists (and quite pricey) so we highly recommend returning to the bottom and checking out some of the pizza places just outside the Ploce Gate.
- Lokrum Island – at the end of the east harbor, theres a single man with a small booth that sells tickets to Lokrum Island to the south east of the city. Lokrum is perfect if you have 4-5 hours to kill and it is a nice day. There are lagoons on the island, rocky beaches, open grass areas to lounge around and explore. Wild peacocks and rabbits also inhabit the small island; just be prepared that the last boat leaves around 5 and EVERYONE waits for that one.
- Day Trips to the Adriatic Islands – like in Split, you can get to the islands of Korcula and Hvar from Dubrovnik, although Korcula is much closer. We went with Supertours via Viator they took us out to the small town of Ston (a wine making and oyster farming town to the west of Dubrovnik) before venturing on by boat to the island of Korcula, the supposed birthplace of Marco Polo.
- Day Trip to Montenegro – We also took a day trip to Montenegro (again, booked through Viator with Supertours) which included a stop in the small medieval towns of Kotor and Perast. Great sights, and great history as well, but overall a very long trip, so prepare yourself!
Eats in Dubrovnik:
Everywhere you walk, there are bakeries, ice cream/gelato stands, and cafes, so you’ll never go hungry, but there are also a ton of hidden restaurant gems if you are willing to explore the nooks and crannies of the city! Seafood (obviously) is the catch of the day, so be sure to check out some of the fine dining options available. A couple we recommend:
- Lady PiPi – located in the northern part of the city, this is a small two-story outdoor restaurant where, you can look out from the top of the walls. Small is the operative word here – seating for maybe 20 people up top and 10 at the bottom; we came at 5pm and got the last two person table, and beat a long line of folks waiting to get in (they don’t take reservations). If you are willing to share a table with another group, you might be able to get in quicker. Their seafood is fresh, and we went with their huge platter for two that came with two types of grilled fish, shrimp, corn, and other goodies. Highly recommended – just get there early, and also don’t go when it rains (since it is all outdoors, they close when it rains).
- Taj Mahal – Bosnian cuisine here, located in the heart of the city, but just outside the main Stradum. Didn’t know what traditional Bosnian food was, but it was pretty delicious. Service was friendly and quick. Highly recommend the Tzatziki cold soup, the Taj Mahal “House Special” (veal, cheese, and mushrooms in dough) and any of their well cooked and well portioned skewers.
While this is no comprehensive list of Dubrovnik, I hope this helps you decide if you were on the fence about going! I wouldn’t hesitate to make the trip to Dubrovnik, a city with so much character and history unseen in any other part of the world.
For more on our trip to Croatia, check out the links below:
- Travel Notes: Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
- Travel Notes: Hvar and the Pakleni Islands
- Travel Notes: Split, Croatia
- 12 Days in Croatia, Montenegro, and Malta: The Budget & Itinerary