I (sadly) only had one day to spend in this magnificent place, a port visit on a Mediterranean cruise. If you plan a visit to Croatia including Dubrovnik, here are my must do Dubrovnik experiences.
There’s no doubt that the series “Game of Thrones” was responsible for a resurgence of travel to Dubrovnik, Croatia, home of the famed King’s Landing and other filming destinations. But even before this popular show brought more spotlight to the city, Dubrovnik was an incredibly beautiful and fascinating place to visit.
Dazzling Dubrovnik offers an interesting mix of great ancient walls, turquoise waters, terracotta rooftops, baroque architectural styles and beautiful churches and monuments. In fact, this magnificent medieval walled city was proclaimed a UNESCO world heritage site. Looking for the best thing to do in Dubrovnik, you’ll have no shortage of choices.
Though Serbian shells poured down on Dubrovnik during the 1991 to 1992 sieges, the city has seen extensive restoration. Much evidence of the conflict remains as a reminder, but the walled city remains remarkably lustrous, just as it was five centuries ago when the city was a major sea power with prosperous merchants dripping with Renaissance grandeur.
Best Thing to do in Dubrovnik
Old Town in Dubrovnik
Built to withstand pirates and invaders, Old Town in Dubrovnik, with its high walls and bastions, was once considered among the greatest fortification systems of the Middle Ages. Winding narrow roads surrounded by towering walls lead to the enchanting old Dubrovnik town. The Gate of Pile on the western edge of the town has been its main portal for centuries.
Streets and squares are made of smooth marble and the enchanting area with its Renaissance and Venetian influence is ringed with monasteries, churches, galleries, museums, shops, cafes, fountains, palaces and terraced houses. Private, guided tours are available and recommended for maximum efficiency with your limited time.
Exploring the Town
History oozes from every corner of the Stradun, the main pedestrian avenue and heartbeat of the city. Shops line both sides of this wide thoroughfare and in this vibrant setting, locals and visitors of all ages celebrate life.
Placed under siege by Serbian forces during Croatia’s war of independence, two-thirds of the city was damaged and the walls suffered direct hits. The mighty fortifications protected the city from total destruction exactly as they were designed to do.
Medieval churches are usually built as dominating landmarks, but it’s the City Bell Tower, originally constructed in 1444 soaring high above the stratum of Dubrovnik that steals the show. Every 15 minutes its melodious chimes can be heard for miles throughout the city.
When the primary streets of Old Town in Dubrovnik become crowded, as they often do, an escape into the magnificent lantern-lined narrow alleyways is a perfect reprieve. Here, quaint boutique shops and charming eateries beckon and beguile enchanted visitors.
Cliff Bars Dubrovnik
Everyone raves about the Buza Bar whose name comes from its entrance—a small hole (buza) in the side of the wall leading to a beach bar perched high over the sea cliffs. Prices are somewhat higher here for libations than in other Old Town establishments, but the views are to die for and it’s absolutely worth it.
The Romanesque Dubrovnik Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was built in the 17th century. It replaced an older cathedral destroyed in the massive 1667 earthquake.
The impressive cathedral is known for its fine altars including the violet marbled altar of St. John of Nepomuk. The church’s treasury contains 182 gold and silver relics, some set with jewels, and numerous religious paintings. The most famous is 16th-century Venetian painter Titian’s paneled polyptych of the Assumption of the Virgin mounted directly behind the main altar.
Walking the Wall in Dubrovnik
Walking the wall in Dubrovnik is the best thing to do in Dubrovnik and it was the absolute highlight of my visit. It takes approximately two hours to complete the challenging one-mile circuit as the walls and bastions encompass the sloping hillsides of the city. My husband and I found ourselves constantly climbing and descending narrow winding stairs.
From high above, we were treated to spectacular views of the town’s patchwork of red-tiled roofs, the shimmering Adriatic Sea, stunning coastline, and nearby islands.
The highest point of the wall is the Minceta Fortress. Resembling a large chess piece, the fortification was originally built in the 14th century and is one of the town’s iconic landmarks. This last part of our climb was quite challenging, but it was well worth the effort due to the postcard perfect panoramic vistas.
Bokar Fortress perched high at the western end of the city and surrounded by massive seaside walls served as the site of King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. The medieval walls of Old Town are also prominently featured in “Game of Thrones.”
How much to walk the walls in Dubrovnik: roughly $30 USD, with many guided tours available.
Dubrovnik Rector’s Palace
The Rector’s Palace, also located in the city of Dubrovnik, served as the seat of the Rector of the Republic of Ragusa between the 14th and 19th centuries.
The palace, a harmonious mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture with some Baroque additions, now functions as a museum. The majority of the halls have styled furniture recreating the original look of the palace. Numerous portraits and coats of arms of the noble families, paintings of old masters, coins minted by the Republic, the original keys of the city gates, and a number of important state documents are on permanent exhibit in the palace.
Old Port Dubrovnik
Though cruise ships dock in the new modern port of Dubrovnik, it’s the Old Port that has all the charm. A myriad of colorful old and new fishing boats moor along the ancient walls. It seemed comforting to think that standing here on the breakwater, we had the same view of the medieval town as seamen visiting Dubrovnik in centuries past. It’s an absolutely delightful area.
Kayaking the Adriatic
Adventure Dubrovnik is owned and operated by a locally born team and offers among its other adventures sea kayaking tours right outside the walls of Old Town in Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik’s massive fortifications are best viewed from the sea. Guides accompany kayakers on a two-hour trip over the calm Adriatic waters, under an awe-inspiring limestone archway, and into fascinating hidden caves.
Visiting Lokrum Island
Lokrum is a short ferry ride from Dubrovnik’s Old Town, so day trips to the island are very popular among locals as well as visitors. This can prove a refreshing experience especially on warm summer days, as the island has plenty of pine, cypress, and olive trees as well as other subtropical vegetation offering lots of shade.
Boats leave from Dubrovnik’s Old Port every half hour during the summer and less often during the other seasons. Once on the island, travelers can explore the ruins of a medieval Benedictine Monastery as well as the beautiful Botanical Gardens, planted in the 19th century. You’ll see and hear many peacocks here, brought onto the island more than a hundred years ago.
Dubrovnik by Cable Car
On clear sunny days, I highly recommend seeing Dubrovnik from the air. Hopping on a cable car, we soared 1,353-feet over the rocky cliffs of Mt. Srd.
Once on top, we marveled at the incredible vistas of the medieval town, the vast waters of the cerulean sea, and the many islands dotting the horizon. Locals say that on a day like this, one can see as far as 37 miles away. But there’s nothing like seeing the sun set from this location as the sky turns into a myriad of color blanketing the medieval city.
Tastes of Dubrovnik
The people of Dubrovnik are a friendly lot and Old Town has some wonderful taverns and eateries. Though the country’s currency is the Kuna, some businesses will take the Euro and most take major credit cards.
Seafood is the most common delicacy here due to Dubrovnik’s seaside location. Octopus, squid, calamari and grilled fish can be found on practically every menu, though a variety of other cuisines are offered as well.
Hotels in Old Town Dubrovnik
If you are staying overnight – lucky you – and enjoying Old Town in Dubrovnik over multiple days, treat yourself with a stay in the middle of it all,. Use the map below to search for the perfect hotels in old Dubrovnik town. Be aware, Old Town is on the small side with limited hotel options, so book early. Use the map below to help your search.
Weary from a long adventurous day, our group of friends met for a late dinner back on the cruise ship. Our champagne toast was quite spontaneously agreed upon: “To the Wall,” our hearty salutation to one magnificent day in Dubrovnik. A day we’ll never forget.destinationDubrovnikhistoricseaside