Dubrovnik is Croatian city on the very southern tip of Croatia, just north of Montenegro and across the Adriatic from Bari, Italy. Dubrovnik is split into two parts: New Town, the modern part of town with swanky hotels and restaurants, and Old Town, the beautiful walled part of the city that stars as Kings Landing in Game of Thrones starting in Season 2 (it was filmed in Mdina, Malta in Season 1). Both are worthy of your time.
With crystal clear green water and warm temperatures from May – early October, Dubrovnik has been a popular European and Russian vacation destination for decades, until the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, when Dubrovnik sustained significant war damage. Rebuilt and open for business since the early 2000s, Dubrovnik is back as a major vacation player and home to two busy cruise ports. Rick Steves famously named Dubrovnik “The Pearl of the Adriatic.” As a result of its newfound popularity, tourists are flocking to the city in droves and the Old Town can get crazy busy, especially during the height of summer. If you haven’t yet been to Dubrovnik, you’ve definitely “missed the boat” on this exotic destination, but its still a city worthy of a few days, especially as part of a larger Croatian or Balkan itinerary.
Dan and I first visited Dubrovnik in 2010 on our Post Bar Exam Trip. In 2010, Dubrovnik was unknown, exotic, and unexpected, and we were the only Americans around. We loved Dubrovnik then and found it to be stunning, but more touristy than expected (though there were hardly any US tourists). So much more touristy than expected, we left early for the Croatian island of Hvar on the recommendation of other tourists. And this was pre-Game of Thrones.
Dan and I went to Montenegro this summer for vacation and, since Dubrovnik is only about 1.5 hours from where we stayed in Perast, Montenegro on the Kotor Bay, we spent 1 day in Dubrovnik, just to see it again, and because we are huge Game of Thrones fans! While difficult for us to believe, Dubrovnik was even more touristy than in 2010. Nay, wayyyyy more touristy than in 2010. We still had a lovely day and Dubrovnik remains as gorgeous and photogenic as ever. But, I would hesitate recommending spending much more than a couple days here due to the crowds. There are plenty of other stunning Croatian beach locations that see far less tourists.
Since we only had one day in Dubrovnik this time around, we pre-planned our itinerary to ensure we hit the highlights. I recommend doing the same to maximize your day, especially if that’s all the time that you have in Dubrovnik!
OUR 1-DAY ITINERARY
For our big day in Dubrovnik, a pre-booked car picked us up at our hotel in Perast, Montenegro and drove us to the main Montenegro/Croatia border crossing. After a bit of trouble at the border (a tag feel off of the car between our hotel and the border crossing – random!) we arrived at Dubrovnik’s Pile Gate – the main entrance to Old Town Dubrovnik – 2.5 hours later, around 10:30 AM. Not terrible.
Having visited previously, we generally knew our way around and got right to the touristing thing. If you are totally unfamiliar with the area, there are loads of tourists and people selling tours, trinkets, etc. at the entrance to Old town, and it can be quite overwhelming. Stay focused, watch your wallet, and get inside the city walls. Once inside the Old Town city walls (slightly less overwhelming that outside), we got some Croatian Kuna from the ATM. While most establishments accept credit card, having a few Kuna on hand is helpful, especially for waters and small souvenirs.
We also stopped for waters and coffees once inside the Old Town walls. There are tons of cafes, restaurants, and shops just inside Pile Gate. They are all touristy and overpriced, but the atmosphere cannot be beat. We just picked a random cafe on an atmospheric street. Prices are roughly the same at most cafes.
After coffee, our first stop of the day was Dubrovnik’s main attraction – walking the Old Town walls! As I mentioned, Old Town Dubrovnik is a walled city, with the entire perimeter of the walls being intact (spoiler alert, its not all original). Walking the walls offers gorgeous views of the Old Town, the Adriatic, and Lokrum Island. That being said, the walls can be difficult and steep in places and it gets extremely hot on the walls. The only entrance and exit is also a set of steep, slightly slippery old steps. As such, the walls aren’t for everyone but if you can do them physically, its totally worth it.
The main wall entrance is located on the left after you enter Old Town through the Pile Gate and tickets to access the wall cost a whopping 30 Euro PER PERSON in 2019!! Yes, that is crazy expensive. I’m not even sure there was a charge in 2010… In any case, you buy the tickets on the spot the day-of (don’t buy them in advance via a third-party online vendor). Keep your tickets the entire time you are on the walls, as there are a few checkpoints as you make your way around – walking the entirety of the walls took us about 2 hours. There are numerous shops and food (like ice cream, not full meals) and water stands on the walls, so you don’t really need to bring anything aide from a small bottle of water to get started.
Our first stop while walking the walls was about 20 minutes in (yeah, we don’t get that far without a beer on vacation…) when we stopped for a half-litre of beer overlooking Lokrum Island, a green island just off of Dubrovnik that has been featured in Game of Thrones. We visited it in 2010; it was nice and home to white peacocks!!
After our beer, we continued around the walls, eventually ending in the largest tower on the walls, which we also ascended and took some pictures. While expensive, crowded, and exhausting, walking the Old Town walls is the best part of Old Town Dubrovnik and provides the prettiest. If you can physically do it, you will not regret it at all. For planning purposes, we spent about 2 hours on the walls.
After the wall walk, we were pretty hungry and set out to find a sit-down lunch spot. I had a couple places in mind, but we ended up at Konoba Jezuite, because it looked good, but not too crowded, and we were really hungry! It turned out to be a good find. Our meal started with the BEST complimentary tuna pate and our ordered meals were also good and huge. I ate a Croatian prosciutto and cheese sandwich with fries and Dan ordered Dalmatian stew. And before you start freaking out, Dalmatia is the name of the area where Dubrovnik is located. Dalmatian dogs are also from here. And no, they are not in the stew – its like a seafood stew!
After lunch, we want to one of our favorite bars from our last visit to Dubrovnik, Buza Bar a/k/a Cold Drinks with the Most Beautiful View, a pretty chill bar over looking the Adriatic sea. If you wear a bathing suit, you can actually climb down the rocks and swim! We only had drinks (a 7 Euro German sparking wine – kind of odd?) and the beautiful view.
We next explored the area around Buza a bit. This area is slightly removed from the tourist hoards and is less crowded, making it ideal for pictures. This is also the area where we stayed in 2010; it was fun to revisit. We eventually made our way back to the main touristy area and stopped for a local Croatian craft beer at the Dubrovnik Beer Factory.
Our day ended with more shopping back on Stradun (the main drag after the Pile Gate), including some Game of Thrones swag, and a Croatian wine tasting at D’Vino wine bar. I really loved the Plavac Mali grape, which is native to Croatia, and was happy to try a few glasses. Our pre-arranged driver was waiting for us promptly at 18:30 to drive us back to Perast, and we arrived back to Hotel Conte via our car around 20h30.D’V
And just because Dubrovnik is so pretty, some more favorite pictures!
TIPS & TRICKS
- Most everyone, especially in the Old Town, speaks English.
- There are no cars in Old Town; you have to walk everywhere on stone streets. Wear walking shoes.
- Dubrovnik does not use the Euro, though some tourist shops and restaurants will accept Euros. There is an ATM right at the entrance to Old Town via Pile Gate and several ATMs on Stradun.
- Wear sunscreen and drink a lot of water. Dubrovnik is right in the sun and it gets hot!
- If you are staying in Dubrovnik, stay outside of the Old Town. The Old Town is just too crowded, and there are plenty of nice hotels nearby.
- Plan your Old Town visit when cruise ships are not in port! You can find Dubrovnik’s ports’ schedule online, showing when cruise ships will be in port as well as the size of the ship. Its worth it to know what you’ll be up against, and you’ll want to avoid cruise ships at all costs.
- Make reservations for lunch and dinner if you are looking to eat somewhere fancy-ish. Due to all the tourists, restaurants book up quickly.
- Dubrovnik is expensive, much more so than the rest of Croatia and surrounding countries.
- Dubrovnik is cool (i.e. not beach weather) November – April and some shops and tours close or keep shorter hours during the off-season.
- Game of Thrones shooting sites are everywhere, and there are plenty of website dedicated to finding just such shots! The “Shame” stairs are located just next to our lunch spot, Konoba Jezuite.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Car Service from Kotor Bay to Dubrovnik and back: We used gettransfer.com to organize our car. The total cost was 160 Euro roundtrip. We had a good experience with gettransfer.com, but it has some iffy reviews online. You can probably set up a similar service pretty easily a few days in advance from the Kotor Bay.
Konoba Jezuite: Poljana Ruđera Boškovića 5, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia (just up the GOT “Shame” stairs). Open daily 8h – 23h. Reservations not required.
Buza Bar: Crijevićeva ul. 9, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia (up from Konoba Jezuite). Open daily 8h – 2h (yes, in the morning). No reservations. Extremely busy when large cruise ships in port. No website.
Beer Factory Dubrovnik: Od Puča 6, Dubrovnik, Croatia. Open daily 9h – 00h.
D’Vino Wine Bar: Palmotićeva ul. 4a, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia (near Pile Gate). Open daily 8h – 00h. Reservations accepted. This is a good place for an overview of Croatian wine, and wine tastings are offered.
Dubrovnik Cruise Ship Schedule: You should be able to find information concerning the size and hours of cruise ships docking in Dubrovnik at this link.