We had heard a lot about Dubrovnik leading up to our stay there, mostly about how crowded and touristy and terrible it would be. Some of this was true. It is indeed crowded and full of tourists, cruise ships dumping upwards of 8,000 people A DAY in the city. Fortunately, the day we arrived there were no cruise ships in the city which made it less crowded and a good day to do touristy things. We quickly learned on subsequent days that it is best to avoid the center of the old town as much as possible during the middle of the day, lest be overrun by large groups of cruisers. I’d suggest just 2-3 days here, if you stay longer there are day trips you can take to Bosnia-Herzegovina or Montenegro.
Getting There: The ferry from Korcula takes about 2 hours. When we arrived in Dubrovnik it was a bit of a cluster. We found a taxi and took that to Pile Gate – this is a very popular area for buses and taxis to drop people so beware that it will be crowded and busy. You can also fly into Dubrovnik’s airport which is not far from the city cetner, many people begin their tour of Dalmatia in Dubrovnik and end it in Split.
Lodging: I would suggest staying somewhere within the city walls to get the full experience in Dubrovnik. We stayed in a lovely Airbnb in the middle of the old town, which happened to be right near the “Shame” steps from a memorable episode of Game of Thrones. In fact, quite a few things will remind you of GoT in Dubrovnik as it is used for filming King’s Landing scenes. It truly feels like you are living in the show while walking around the city and its medieval fortress.
What to Do
- Game of Thrones tour – OK, I was surprised that we did this frankly. There are a lot of these tours offered near the Pile Gate entrance (one of the main entrances into the city). It’s actually a nice way to get a walking tour of the sights and learn a little history about Dubrovnik, so I would recommend it if you have an hour to spare. We did our tour in the evening (5p) when it was a bit cooler too. The tours are all very similar costs, etc – what i liked about our tour is that our guide was dressed up in costume 🙂 In fact our guide Filip worked very hard to entertain us. The tour was 180kn, we also got a 30% discount to entry price for city walls with our ticket.
- City Walls – The views of the city are amazing from the walls. This is definitely something you should do, but don’t go in the middle of the day when it is very hot/sunny/crowded. There is not a lot of shade! There are a few places to stop for refreshments along the way, but would suggest doing it early in the morning or in the evening. We arrived around 7:15p and were told we had to exit by 8p (or get to closest exit by that time). We managed to make it around in 45 minutes, no problem. It is definitely possible, especially if there are not a lot of people around. On a busy (and hot) afternoon, it can take twice as long!
- Visit Lokrum – Lokrum is an island just off of Dubrovnik (think Governors Island to New York City). Ferries to the island come every 30 minutes, and it’s only a 10 minute ferry ride. There are places to swim, walk around, just hang out for the day. You can spend a half day here just wandering around and exploring the island. The north side of the island is better for swimming, where there are large rocks you can climb across to get to the sea. Recommend wearing sneakers around the island as the rocks and rocky paths would be tough to navigate in sandals. Unsurprisingly, there is a Game of Thrones museum that you can check out (and take a photo on the Iron Throne). Surprisingly, there are also lots of peacocks roaming around the island.
- Kayaking – There are many kayaking tours offered in Dubrovnik which will take you to Lokrum and around the outside of the city. Some are offered during the day, others around sunset.
Sveti Jakov Beach – Our host recommended this beach which is more popular with locals and less crowded. About 20 minute walk from old town, with a lot of stairs to get down to the beach. There are many loungers available to rent – 70kn for 2 chairs and umbrella. Beach was not very crowded, super chill place with bar/snacks available.
Dining & Drinking in Dubrovnik
There are a lot of options in Dubrovnik since it’s a larger, more touristy place. Beware of the traditional tourist trap restaurants that seem to be everywhere. If you do your homework (including reviewing the below options), you will find some hidden gems and delightful meals.
- 360 – Higher end restaurant, located along the city walls. Our Airbnb host was able to get us a reservation here our first night. At first when we arrived we were not totally blown away, but it was definitely one of the best meals of our trip. The restaurant overlooks the old port which sounds better than it is. There is an option for tasting menu or just to order a la carte. We opted not to do the tasting menu and just share a few starters and mains. Of course we also ordered dessert. We were also given a dish of cookies/treats after our dessert!
- Stara Loza – We stumbled into this place when we were so hungry. It was a newer place within a hotel. Lunch was very good and didn’t feel as touristy as other places on the street.
- Soul Caffe – Cute little cafe tucked away on a side street, run by a Canadian woman. Coffees, cakes, sandwiches, cocktails. Perfect for a quick bite or drink away from the crowds.
- Buza Bar – Love this place. It is built into the side of the city walls. Tables for drinks, then some rocks below to sit on/layout. You can jump in and swim between drinks! There is no food served however. Which seems like a mistake as the drinks are good but strong. Perfect after touring the walls or returning from Lokrum.
- Azur – Restaurant near Buza Bar (ahem, when you get hungry/drink too much!). Good selection of food that wasn’t all typical Croatian food.
- Lady Pipi’s Grill – Highly recommended. They do not take reservations, you have to wait in line (we didn’t wait more than 20 minutes). Very casual place, grilled meats and seafood. Order the mixed grill with chicken, sausages, cevapi, lamb. Also comes with fries and grilled veggies. Drink the house posip. Everything was delicious, great service and nice view since it’s at the top of a lot of stairs.
- Taj Mahal – Bosnian restaurant, was very close to our Airbnb. Was a nice slight change of pace from what we had been eating and was, as usual, a lot of food!
- Cafe Dubravka – Right next to Pile Gate entrance so it’s in a busy area and somewhat touristy. Good spot for breakfast with a number of options, especially convenient when you are leaving town.
- Restaurant Orhan – Don’t go to this place. We came here because we were going to a play at the Fort which is next to the restaurant. Servers were not super friendly (ours kept mumbling to us). The food was mediocre. The best thing was the salad bar which was sad.