Ok lets not beat around the bush. Dubrovnik is absolutely stunning! And for a small city (only 21kmsq) there are plenty of fantastic & fun things to do in Dubrovnik!
But before you read through all my suggestions, let’s just clarify what all the fuss is about this ancient UNESCO world heritage city.
The main thing is it’s truly ancient! Founded in the 7th Century, the old city is surrounded by its majestic defensive city walls built during the 15th & 16th centuries.
While much of the City was destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1667, some of the original buildings in the old town survived and are still there to this day.
Add to that smooth cobble stoned streets, winding back alleys, magnificent baroque style architecture, the most incredible views over the Adriatic coast, and lots and lots (and lots) of steps and you have yourself a stunningly beautiful city to explore.
Plus it’s most recent claim to fame is as the filming location for many of the most iconic Games of Thrones episodes (mainly used for scenes at King’s Landing), ‘Nottingham’ in the 2018 Robin Hood movie and scenes in the Last Jedi, part of the Star Wars saga!
And you’ll soon see why when you visit and see for yourself!
I recently spent 3 fantastic days in this fabulous city and here are my top recommendations of the best things to do in Dubrovnik.
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Top 10 Very Best Things to Do in Dubrovnik; TL;DR;
- Walk the Dubrovnik City Walls
- Explore Dubrovnik Old Town
- Jump the Cliff at Buza Bar
- Take the Cable Car to Mount Srd
- Do the Game of Thrones Walking Tour
- Explore Lovrijenac Fort
- Take the Ferry to Lokrum Island
- Take a Boat trip to the Elaphite Islands
- See the Dubrovnik Coastline by Sea Kayak
- Take a Day Trip to Montenegro or Bosnia
Some 1940 meters long, and completely surrounding the old town, the city walls are an absolute must do, when visiting Dubrovnik.
With six fortresses (four within the walls, two external), four gates and multiple towers & bastions, plus the most incredible views over the Adriatic Sea, the city harbor and the entirety of the old town, it took me around two hours to explore the city walls.
Of course it’s obligatory to stop for the odd cold refreshment en route plus plenty of photo taking. In fact, close to the end of the walk there is a fabulous little bar built into the walls where you can stop for a cold Croatian beer while enjoying the views.
So beautiful are Dubrovnik’s city walls that many Games of Thrones scenes were filmed here.
Entering the city walls costs 250 HKR (around $30) but that also includes the entrance fee to the Lovrijenac Fortress.
Probably the one of the most important things to do in Dubrovnik is to explore the old town.
Old town Dubrovnik is absolutely beautiful and took me completely by surprise.
The Stradun otherwise known as the Placa is the wide, main cobbled street that runs through the center of the old town.
Housing multiple cafes, bakeries, shops and restaurants, it’s also the entrance to numerous alleys and walkways where you’ll find even more restaurants, shops and cafes.
Much of the city was destroyed in the 1667 earthquake. Only The Sponza palace, Rector’s palace, and Revelin fortress survived. The rest of the city was rebuilt, damaged again during the Croatian War of Independence in 1991 and then repaired and restored in the late 1990’s to become one of the Mediterraneans top tourist destinations.
When you start exploring you get the feeling it’s big and confusing to get around, however, after an hour or so you realize it’s actually quite small, yet majestic in its appearance because you’re surrounded by the most beautiful baroque, renaissance and gothic architecture.
Places to look out for while wandering the streets of the charming old town include;
Otherwise known as ‘The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.’ The Dubrovnik Cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of Dubrovnik and was partially funded by King Richard the Lionheart following his survival of a shipwreck near Lokrum Island in 1192.
Visit the Cathedral Treasury which holds 182 reliquaries holding relics from the 11th – 18th centuries and be sure to study the painting of the Assumption of the Virgin over the main altar.
Built in 1317, the original church was destroyed in the 1667 quake, leaving only the decorated portal overlooking the placa, (Dubrovnik main street). However, the pharmacy is still standing and open and is the oldest functioning pharmacy in Europe and third oldest in the world!
There’s also a library built in the 17th century housing over 20,000 books.
Sponza Palace is the home of the city archives with documents dating back to the 12th century. One of only three main buildings to have survived the 1667 earthquake, the palace was built between 1516 and 1522 in a mixed gothic and renaissance style.
Over the years it’s been a bank, a school, a customs office, an armory, a treasury, a cultural center and a trading center and business meeting place.
Nowadays it’s used as a performance venue for the summer festival and the Luza square in front of the palace hosts the opening of the annual Summer Festival.
Right next to Sponza Palace and at the end of the main street of Dubrovnik overlooking the whole of the place is the awesome Clock Tower.
Standing at 31 meters high, it’s unmistakable from all viewpoints around the city.
There are two figures or ‘jaquemarts’ (mechanic bell strikers) which strike the bell each hour and are known as Maro and Baro or the green ones for obvious reasons.
Due to there being several churches and the clock tower in and around the old town, the sounds of the bells each hour are quite powerful!
A beautiful baroque church built in 1715, its namesake Saint Blaise is the patron saint of the city of Dubrovnik.
When the Venetians anchored their ships in the city port in the 10th Century promising to leave after they had supplied themselves with food and drink, they were actually surveying the city and taking note of the weaknesses in the cities defenses. However, St Blaise revealed their intentions to the parish priest and the planned night attack was thwarted.
St Blaise saved the city and was named the city’s patron saint. He is celebrated every year with St Blaises Day on the 3rd February, also known as the City of Dubrovnik Day.
The church itself is a stunning building and one of the most important in Dubrovnik.
Standing at the front of the church, in the middle of Luza Square, is Orlando’s column. Unfortunately it was enclosed in scaffolding during our visit, but serves as a well known meeting place and features the knight Orlando who helped Dubrovnik to remain a free trade city state by defeating invaders in the middle ages.
Simply stunning is the Old Port Dubrovnik just a short walk from St Blaise Church and Luza Square.
Home to the Lokrum ferry line, many Dubrovnik sightseeing boat tours and serving as a marina for local private boats, it’s overlooked by the majestic St John’s Fortress, the 360 restaurant, the city walls and looks out to the East Coast of Dubrovnik.
Spend some time simply sipping a coffee, or enjoying lunch or dinner while taking in the wonderful ambience of the beautiful surroundings.
The St Johns Fortress also known as the Mulo Tower is on the South Eastern side of the old city port.
As part of the defensive structure of the old town, it’s an impressive building which really lends itself to the entire ambience of the old city and in particular the port.
As you leave the port on the ferry to visit Lokrum Island you couldn’t wish for a better James Bond style movie setting!
Nowadays it houses an aquarium and a maritime museum.
Known as the main entrance to the city, Pile Gate is also very famous for some iconic scenes in the second and third seasons of Game of Thrones!
One of four city gates, this is the main meeting point for locals and visitors and where we met up with our walking tour guide.
There’s also a fabulous restaurant just outside the gate overlooking Fort Lovrijenac and the bay below, called Nautika. Unfortunately we only had time to experience breakfast here, but if that was anything to go by, dinner would have been superb!
Living in Asia I’m so used to drinking bottled water it was strange to be able to fill up my water bottle from a public fountain in the middle of town. However, in the old city Dubrovnik you’ll find freshwater fountains in several locations.
The biggest is the Large Onofrio Fountain next to the entrance to the City Walls.
A sixteen sided structure displaying a unique stone-carved masked face on each side, with the faucet protruding from the mouth of each face.
Another iconic meeting place and beautifully designed fountain.
Other than beautiful iconic buildings and charming streets, there are a plethora of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops.
Try the local cuisine and indulge in a Croatian dinner plate of cured ham and cheese. Stop off at a bakery and sample their Burek (a filled pie made with flaky filo pastry). Dig into a Mediterranean salad with creamy feta or goats cheese. Bite into one of the biggest peaches I’ve ever seen at the market or simply shop for useless souvenirs to take home for loved ones!
Here are the restaurants we ate at and highly recommend;
Mea Culpa – great pasta
Paradise Konoba – amazing seabass
Nautika – beautiful asparagus and smoked salmon breakfast omelet
So this is not an obligatory activity, however lots of fun for the more adventurous amongst you!
Set in the cliffs below the walls of the old city, there are actually two separate Buza bars.
The one we discovered had a big cliff that thrill seekers were merrily throwing themselves off, into the deep blue of the Adriatic Sea below.
However, if you simply want to stop for a quick refreshment or snack while cheering on the cliff jumpers and admiring the views, the Buza bar is the place to do it.
For absolutely stunning views of the City of Dubrovnik, the new and the old port, Lokrum Island and even the Elaphite Islands, then one of the best things to do in Dubrovnik is to take a cable car up to the top of Mount Srd.
The cable car station is just outside the city walls and takes just three minutes to reach the summit.
At a height of 412m (1352 feet), at the top is a large white stone cross, a fort built during the Napoleonic wars, a Croatian war museum & a panoramic restaurant.
Look East and you can see Croatians border with Bosnia. Look South and you might just be able to see parts of Montenegro on a clear day.
If you don’t fancy the cable car you can drive to the top (as we did), get a bus, or if you’re feeling particularly energetic you can even hike to the top.
However you get there, a trip to the top of Mount Srd is worth it for the breathtaking views.
Probably one of the most fun things to do in Dubrovnik, the Game of Thrones tour is basically a walking tour of Dubrovnik, highlighting various game of thrones filming locations.
However, even if you’re not a fan you’ll learn so much about Dubrovnik and see most of the sights you need to see.
Fort Lovrijenac, Pile Gate, Lokrum Island, Trsteno Arboretum (the oldest arboretum in the world), a replica Iron Throne and Mount Srd are all included, plus if you get a good guide, (see my recommendation below), you’ll also learn bits and pieces about Croatian history, the wars, and the general culture and Croatian people.
(NB: – I always recommend a guided walking tour or an audio guided hop on, hop off bus as the best way to see any city.)
If on the other hand you are a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll love it simply for that!
My sister, who’s always game for a laugh, humored me by walking down the shame steps, while other members of our group chanted ‘shame, shame, shame’! (We let her keep her dress on :))
Plus we got to take photos standing in the spot Joffrey stood on his name day at Fort Lovrijenac!
Our guide was a lady called Mihaela, you can see the Game of Thrones tour we took here.
Even if you don’t take the Game of Thrones tour, Lovrijenac Fort is worth seeing on its own. (However, for the fans amongst you, this was the setting for the red keep!)
Often referred to as ‘Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar’, Fort Lovrijenac or St Lawrence Fortress sits 37 meters above sea level defending the City of Dubrovnik from foes by sea or by land.
Built in the 11th Century to foil Venetian rule, the legend is that the Venetians wanted to build a fort in the exact spot and take over the City, so the people of the Dubrovnik Republic built this fort first before the Venetians arrived and ruined their takeover bid!
Nowadays it serves as a tourist attraction and a theatre. It can also be rented for weddings or events of any kind. Our guide was telling us about a Game of Thrones themed wedding that took place there!
Well worth a visit, the cost of entry is included in your City Walls ticket, so get your walking shoes on and be prepared to tackle a lot of steps! (If I can do it, you can!)
Another sight included in your Game of Thrones tour, and well worth a visit is Lokrum Island.
Legend has it that Richard the Lionheart, King of England, was cast ashore here after being shipwrecked in 1192. He apparently wanted a church built at the spot he came ashore, however, at the request of the people of Dubrovnik he agreed to have the church built in the City instead (see Dubrovnik Cathedral in the Old Town).
Just a short 10 minute ferry ride from the old City port, one of the highlights of Lokrum Island (apparently) is the naturist (nudist to you and me) beach. I must admit I didn’t go looking for it, but if you fancy letting it all hang out, Lokrum is the place to go!
My sister & I headed straight for the ‘City of Qarth’ of course, to sit on the Iron Throne, but the main attractions of the Island are a botanical garden, a monastery, an olive garden, a reservoir, a fort and just a beautiful walk around on a sunny day.
There’s also a smattering of cafes and restaurants, plus rocky areas you can sunbathe and swim. You could easily spend a lazy day here if you wanted to.
The Elaphites is a small archipelago of islands Northwest of Dubrovnik.
Elaphiti comes from the ancient word for deer which apparently used to inhabit the Islands in large numbers. Though they seem to have completely disappeared these days.
Only three of the islands are permanently inhabited and these are the three islands included on most boat trips.
Sipan, Lopud & Kolocep.
If you want to take your own tour of the islands, there are also ferry lines operating directly out of Dubrovnik.
We took a boat trip and started our day with a snorkel at what’s known as the Blue Cave at Kolocep.
It’s actually just a small cave, which once you swim inside and look out, the sunlight highlights the blue of the water. It’s very pretty, but a bit hyped up for what it was. A lovely swim in the Adriatic Sea was, however, extremely welcome!
We then headed to Lopud Island, where we encountered an extremely rude owner at the first cafe as you exit the boat ‘Mandrac’, (don’t go there!). However, further along the beach was a lovely little cafe called ‘Nickica’, which I recommend for a beautiful Mediterranean Salad & a cold beer!
You could also explore the island further and head off on a walking trail or to the monastery, or if it floats your boat another ‘naturist’ beach. Clearly they’re a thing in Dubrovnik!
Sipan Island was next on the agenda, which is the largest of the three islands. Unfortunately unknown to us, this was where we were due to have lunch (they hadn’t told us and we’d already eaten – oops), so all we saw of this Island was a beautiful little port area and ‘apparently’ the Captains house, where we were served super dodgy fish and even dodgier red wine. However, we were entertained by the Captain and his accordion!
With a bit more time it’s recommended to cycle around Sipan and see the monastery, the castle, the church or just spend your day swimming and sunbathing.
Last stop for us was back to Kolocep for a swim on the beach. Again a welcome cool dip in the Adriatic.
It’s definitely worth doing, however do your due diligence on boat trips. Ours had quite good reviews but was actually a bit disappointing.
Here are some trips with great reviews worth exploring further;
The one thing I didn’t get time to do, but will absolutely do if and when I return!
What a fantastic way to see the Dubrovnik coastline, the City Walls, the fort and all the small coastal towns and beaches.
Choose from morning tours with lunch included, a sunset sea kayaking tour or even cave tours. The choice is yours!
If you fancy something different for a day or even a few days, you can take a day trip out of Dubrovnik or do what we did and hire a car for a few days.
We actually drove into Montenegro for a few days exploring Kotor and Budva and then back through Bosnia and across to Split on route to the ferry to Italy.
If that sounds a bit much however, there are plenty of day trips into Montenegro or Bosnia if you prefer organized trips.
I highly recommend the Dubrovnik, Perast, Kotor Bay, Budva trip. Kotor Bay is absolutely stunning and completely took our breath away!
The day trips to Bosnia take you to Mostar & the Kravica Waterfalls. We didn’t get as far as Mostar, but the Kravica Falls were very pretty (but also very busy). Take your bathers as you’ll want to have a swim when you get there!
Most people will say the best time is during the summer months – June – August, and sure if you want highs of 35°C, premium prices and masses of tourists, be my guest.
Personally (and validated by my guide) I recommend September/October as the best time to visit Dubrovnik.
The temperature will have dropped to the mid 20’s. Many tourists will have gone home, flights will be cheaper, accommodation will be cheaper and you’ll have a much more enjoyable time.
If you prefer spring time then go just before summer in April or May. Once again it will be slightly cooler, less busy and more reasonably priced.
There is no shortage of hotels, hostels or Airbnb in Dubrovnik, so it completely depends on your requirements and budget.
However, here are some suggested Dubrovnik Hotels, Hostels & rooms to stay by budget, including where I stayed, which was a great room, for a great price, in a great location.
Hotel Imperial Dubrovnik (the crew for GOT stayed here during filming)
Love Dubrovnik Hostel (Where we stayed – from $50 – $150 depending on room. We chose a private room & bathroom)
SUNce Palace (Slap bang in the middle of the old town. Where I’d like to stay should I return!)
Try – Hostelworld.com
There are lots to choose from and when looking through the booking apps I recommend choosing something close to the Old Town, (no more than 300 – 400m from center), if not in the center itself.
There is no shortage of trips and tours to make the best use of your time in this beautiful city. However, here are some suggested trips I recommend you explore further.
As someone who works completely online while traveling and packs extremely lightly, here are some important tips for fellow digital nomads or those on a longer multi-city tour with just a backpack or small suitcase for company!
1. There are a lot, and I mean a lot of steps & hills in Dubrovnik. I made the trip after a 2 month stint in the UK visiting family and so had too much in my backpack which weighed in at 12kg. If you have a heavy backpack and have booked a hotel or hostel in the center of the old town just be aware, you’ll have to lug it down and up the steps.
2. I recommend booking accommodation very close to the old town as that’s likely where you’ll spend most of your time and also gives you maximum flexibility to get to the newer port or other areas of Dubrovnik. See accommodation options and costs above.
3. Wifi was pretty good all around the City. I had no issues connecting or jumping on Facetime etc.
4. Depending on how long you’re staying and the kind of phone contract you’re on, it might be worth getting a local SIM when you get there. Most times when I travel, a local sim is the cheapest option. A sim in Dubrovnik will cost around $15 for a week of unlimited data. A lot more expensive than Asia, but possibly cheaper than roaming from your own country. It’s worth checking with your phone company before traveling.
5. Use the bus system or walk! There are Ubers in Dubrovnik, but they’re not cheap and because of the one way system around the old town, will cost a lot just to get a couple of km’s up the hill. The local buses are cheap and easy to navigate or get your walking shoes on!
6. If taking money out of an ATM, always choose the ‘convert from your own bank’ option, rather than the convert from the ATM option. This is a golden rule worldwide. I have tried multiple ATM’s in multiple countries and the bank conversion is always without fail cheaper than a local ATM conversion.
7. Also when paying with your travel credit or debit card, always choose local currency. If you choose your own currency, the conversion will be done then and there by their bank. When choosing local currency, the conversion is done by your bank and will be cheaper. Not by much, but every little helps!
8. There are some great photography and videography opportunities in the old town, however if you want to get the best shots, first thing in the morning before the tourists have awoken is best, and for dramatic skies, nothing beats the sunset!
9. Croatian wine is pretty bad. Best stick to beer! Also take your own water bottle and fill up from the freshwater fountains!
It’s tough when organizing your travels to know which companies offer the best deals and can be trusted with your credit card details!
The following resources are companies I have consistently used over my 11 years of travels and who I believe are the best in the business. I’m constantly updating this list as I find new and improved services.
Rome2Rio – a fantastic app which will show you the best routes to get from city to city or country to country. Simply enter where you’re traveling from and too, and they’ll show you how to get there via planes, trains and automobiles!
Skyscanner.net – always my first port of call when looking for the best flights. Easy to use and consistently highlights flights I can’t find anywhere else, they’re the best flight resource there is. Plus an easy to use app.
Flight Aware – a free, handy app showing flights around the world. I use this to track family or friends when they’re flying, to check whether my flight has left on time on previous days so I can be prepared for delays etc, and just to double check my own flight details as and when I’m traveling.
Trainline (for Europe) – I used to use this just for UK trains, but nowadays you can book trains all over Europe using their services. Cheap, reliable and with a great refund policy for canceled or delayed trains, they’re highly recommended.
Booking.com – I have tried all the other hotel booking sites and without doubt booking.com has consistently offered the best deals. One caveat to this, is always to just check the hotel website directly before finalizing your booking as sometimes they’ll have specialized deals.
Getyourguide.com – the easiest and most reliable activity booking agent. I haven’t had a bad trip to date with them. Plus an easy to use app which tracks all your bookings and includes the meeting point, trip details and everything else you need to ensure your activity goes smoothly.
Discovercars.com – Easy to use website to find rental cars in over 145 countries around the world. Pick up from one location, drop off in another. Find the best deals with the best reviews.
Safetywing – quite simply the best insurance for digital nomads and long term travelers. See my Safetywing insurance review for more details, but with cheap monthly plans and an easy to use claims process, you won’t find better on the market.
As I said earlier I’m a very light packer and on this trip my backpack was unusually heavy as I was returning to Phuket, Thailand from a 3 month stint in the UK via a trip around Europe!
However, generally for a summer trip here is what I would pack, with a maximum weight of 7 KG;
Swimming costume or bikini
Light Beach dress
2 x pairs of shorts
2 x summer skirts
3 x t-shirts
1 x ‘going out’ dress
2 x night shorts & tee
14 x underwear (I always take a lot as I hate washing underwear in hotel sinks)
1 skin color plunge bra (can wear under black or white, and with posh dress or t-shirts)
1 x flip flops or thongs or sandals (depending where you’re from in the world)
1 x trainers/sneakers (which I generally wear when traveling from place to place or hang off the back of my bag
3 x trainer socks
1 x leggings
1 x light cardigan
Travel size all in one Shampoo/Conditioner (sacrilege to some women, but hey I want to travel light)
Travel size shower gel
Small battery powered toothbrush (with cap)
Travel size sun lotion
50SPF lip balm
Travel size body moisturiser
Ziplock bags – for anything and everything!
Travel Bags – for separating tops/shorts/underwear etc, and also great for laundry
My husbands bag usually weighs less than mine and he takes;
2 x shorts (Both double as swim shorts)
2 x tees
7 x socks
7 x boxers
1 x ‘going out’ shorts & tee
1 x croc flip flops
1 x trainers/sneakers
Travel size shampoo
1 x razor
Dubrovnik is on the Adriatic Coast at the very Southern end of Croatia, almost on the border of both Bosnia & Montenegro.
The region is called Dalmatia (stemming from an Illyrian tribe pre-dating the Romans called Dalmatae) and is often referred to as the Dalmatian Coast.
The best way to get there is by air. Dubrovnik airport is only 20km South of the City and when we visited Dubrovnik it took less than 30 minutes to get to the center by taxi. During the summer months, you can also get there via overnight ferry from Bari in Italy.
Dubrovnik is a very safe city even for solo female travelers.
As with all popular tourist destinations you’ll need to watch out for pickpockets and keep your valuables hidden, plus for females, use your common sense and don’t go wandering on your own in the middle of the night plus be careful when drinking in bars/clubs. (Sad but true across the globe).
But on a general scale compared to the rest of the world, for tourists visiting Dubrovnik it would be considered a very safe city, for solos, couples & families alike.
Nevertheless, always ensure you have travel insurance wherever you go as it will protect you against theft, injury, illness or cancelations. Use the form below to get your personalized quote.
The currency in Croatia is the Croatian Kuna (HRK). Please note you will need Kuna. As at the time of writing (2022), they rarely accept Euros and many restaurants and bars still insist on cash.
Croatia is part of the EU but not a member of the Schengen area, so for long term travelers, staying in Croatia does not count towards your time staying in the Schengen area.
Most Dubrovnik restaurants serve traditional Mediterranean fare. Lots of salads, fresh fish, breads & oils, pasta etc.
However, Croatia has some dishes which are unique to the region including;
Burek – filo pastry filled pie – delicious!
Black Risotto or Crni Rizot – made from Squid Ink (not my cup of tea I’m afraid)
Fritule – battered doughnut balls
Pag Cheese – Local sheeps’ cheese.
Buzara – Mussels in a wine broth
Istrian Ham – Try a Croatian plate of Istrian Ham & Cheese – it’s beautiful
Peka or ispod čripnje – meaning ‘under the bell’ – meat & veg literally cooked under a terracotta lid over a fire. Can be veal, lamb, chicken or octopus.
There is no doubt Dubrovnik is a beautiful city with a rich history and lots to do and see.
Alongside the historic city center, the medieval walls and the stunning surroundings is its current notoriety as a prominent game of thrones filming location. (Hence the amount of game of thrones tours available.)
Dubrovnik is definitely worth a visit, however 2 – 3 days is all that’s needed. Personally I would visit Dubrovnik as part of a wider tour around Croatia or do as we did and drive across to Montenegro, which I’m definitely looking forward to exploring further.
For more posts on things to do & places to visit in Croatia please see the following;
I highly recommend adding Dubrovnik to your bucket list and taking some time to explore this beautiful city.