This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure about affiliate links here.
Given Dubrovnik’s status as an Adriatic travel hub, it’s usually the first introduction to Croatia for travellers. Given its exquisite beauty, the city is popular as a stand-alone destination as well.
This post outlines ten things to do on a Dubrovnik city break plus offers some useful tips.
DUBROVNIK CITY BREAK ACTIVITIES
Meandering around what is one of Europe’s prettiest old towns is an absolute must when in Dubrovnik. The Stradun is Dubrovnik’s main thoroughfare, running the length of the Old Town centre from Pile Gate to the Old Harbour area. The majority of the Old Town’s streets connect to the Stradun perpendicularly.
Sights within the Old Town worth looking at are Onofrio’s fountains, Sponza Palace, Church of St. Blaise (the city’s patron saint), Jesuit Stairs near the Church of St. Ignatius and the Rector’s Palace.
Exploring the Old Town in detail should take one day. The Old Town is mainly constructed from limestone and, over time, this stone has been polished to a marble-like finish by pedestrian traffic. My advice is to wear non-slip shoes when strolling.
OLD TOWN WALLS:
The Old Town is encased by 2km of fortress-like walls which helped defend the city from invaders and the Adriatic Sea. The entrance fee is quite pricey but for that you get 2-3 hours of stunning views of both the Old Town and the coast.
There are three entrances to the walls: near Pile Gate, by St. John’s Fort and by St. Luke’s Fortress. Bring some water for the journey.
All over the Balkan region, coffee is the main social lubricant. The quaintness of Dubrovnik Old Town lends itself to a plethora of cafes that serve a wide variety of snacks along with a measure of caffeine. Some of these cafes turn into bars and restaurants in the evening.
Two places that are as much of a tourist attraction as they are for food and drink are the Buza bar and the Cave Bar More. Buza Bar is located on the cliff outside the southern section of the Old Town wall. Access is via a hole in the wall. Cave Bar More is located underneath Hotel More in the Lapad area of Dubrovnik.
GAME OF THRONES TOUR:
Dubrovnik is one of the locations for the hit TV series, Game of Thrones, and there are tours of the specific areas featured in the series.
Not only does Croatia look good but it tastes good as well. Local produce such as wine, spirits, cheese, cured meats and chocolates are all great gifts to buy for self and others. Croatian lace is highly valued while the concept of the cravat is Croatian. The word cravat comes from the word hrvat meaning Croat.
CABLE CAR TRIP:
Dubrovnik is wedged between the Adriatic Sea and Mount Srd. For the best views of the city and the coast, head for the summit of Mount Srd. Those with a good head for heights can take the cable car which departs from Kralja Petra Krešimira IV Street, a few minutes’ walk north of the Old Town’s Buza Gate. At the top of Mount Srd lies the Imperial Fort and the Dubrava Observation Point. A hiking trail leads back to the main city.
BOAT TRIP TO THE ELAPHITI ISLANDS:
If you need a break from the high-season crowds in Dubrovnik Old Town, a boat trip to the nearby Elaphiti Islands is recommended. The Elaphiti Islands is an archipelago immediately north of Dubrovnik. These are the islands on the flight path as you descend into Dubrovnik from continental Europe and are as beautiful at sea level as they are from high altitude.
Koločep, Šipan and Lopud, the three largest islands, are the only permanently inhabited islands. Tours for Elaphiti trips generally depart from the new harbour in Gruz. Bring swimming gear as tours include an opportunity for swimming and sunbathing. Some tours include lunch. Check out this list of tours from Get Your Guide.
Dubrovnik cannot match Barcelona or Nice for large swathes of beach but it does have small coves dotted around the city. Banje, Sulic, Dance (rocky) and Bellevue are the closest to the Old Town. Lapad, Copacabana are west of the Old Town while Betina Cave Beach is east. Bring sea shoes as the Adriatic shoreline tends to be either pebbled or stony. Such geology yields the clearest sea water in all of Europe.
See Dubrovnik from a different angle by taking a guided sea kayaking tour. There are different types of tours offering options such as sunset trips, visits to Lokrum island and sea caves.
INLAND DAY TRIPS:
Some guides recommend doing day trips from Dubrovnik to the following places: Split, Kotor in Montenegro, Medjugorje and Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, I recommend overnight stays instead.
Split is over 220km from Dubrovnik while the other destinations involve crossing the EU frontier border (i.e. long delays). Getting to Split also involves an international border as Bosnia and Herzegovina bisects the Croatian coastline at Neum. Have a read of my posts on those destinations and you will get an idea of the logistics.
Trebinje is the nearest large Bosnian town to Dubrovnik and comes recommended by many commentators. The Peljesac Peninsula is one hour’s drive north of Dubrovnik and is another option for a day trip. I spent a week discovering the Peljesac Peninsula with a car so have a read of my post and see what part of the peninsula appeals to you.
WHERE TO STAY IN DUBROVNIK
Dubrovnik Old Town is expensive but if your focus is that part of the city then it’s worth it. Book a couple of months in advance if travelling during school holidays or high season (June to August inclusive).
The area adjacent to the Old Town has the best of both worlds: Proximity to the sights and good value. If your trip is focused more relaxation than sightseeing, then the Lapad and Babin Kuk areas have some excellent resort-type accommodation. Booking.com has an option of searching by area.
GETTING AROUND DUBROVNIK
No public vehicles are allowed in the Old Town but it is easily walked. If staying in outer areas such as Lapad, Babin Kuk or Gruz, then public bus and taxi are the best options. I don’t recommend renting a car during your time in Dubrovnik unless you are using it for an inland day trip.
Dubrovnik Airport is located 22km (14 miles) south of the city. A public bus connects the airport to Pile Gate and the main bus station in Gruz. On the return journey towards the airport, the pick-up point is near the cable car station instead of Pile Gate. If you suffer from vertigo don’t sit on the right side of the bus when travelling from the city towards the airport (i.e. sit on the driver’s side).
IS DUBROVNIK WORTH VISITING
Those who seek paradise on earth should come to Dubrovnik said Irish writer George Bernard Shaw. British poet Lord Byron called Dubrovnik the Pearl of the Adriatic. And I’ve been there twice. So we can’t all be wrong! The answer is yes, Dubrovnik is well worth visiting.
BEST TIME TO VISIT DUBROVNIK
However, those seeking paradise and spatial comfort should consider avoiding July and August. Both of my trips were in June and the Old Town felt cramped during the day but pleasant in the evening and at night-time.
Dubrovnik is on cruise ship itineraries and this has led to overtourism, although the authorities have capped ship capacity to remedy this problem. Early morning is best for the popular sites during these months.
The sea water in May and September is warm enough for swimming so consider these months for aquatic activities. Late April and early October are still warm enough for comfortable sightseeing.