When it comes to planning your summer vacation, Dubrovnik is THE place to go! Its spectacular Old Town and massive city walls has been perfectly preserved after all these centuries, and as soon as you see them you will feel like you’re in another world. But that’s just one part of the offer. Luckily for you, we have a local who will prepare you for all the things you need to see and experience here. Main sights, best bars and restaurants, fantastic beaches, even islands and boat tours, it’s all in this guide! Read everything and prepare to be blown away.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR DUBROVNIK TOWN
(written by a local)
There is absolutely no doubt that Dubrovnik is Croatia’s most famous city. People from all over the world flock to see its magnificent walls and arguably even more stunning Old Town. Due to its beauty, the city has also become quite prominent in showbusiness, and moviemakers love coming here and using these cobblestone streets as a backdrop for their projects.
However, Dubrovnik is much more than its illustrious culture and heritage. The people here are incredibly friendly, and there are so many great places where you can feel welcome and completely relaxed.
This guide will help you find them, as well as teach you about the importance and history behind the main Dubrovnik sights. And since you have a local on your side in this text, you will also learn loads of useful information. With this knowledge, you will be able to really make the most of your vacation because we will show you some truly spectacular bars, excellent restaurants, and even help you save money along the way.
Ready? Great, here’s what you need to know!
What’s the weather like in Dubrovnik?
Like the rest of Croatia’s coast, Dubrovnik has what can be considered a fairly standard Mediterranean climate. Fairly hot summers peak in July and August, which is also when the tourist season is in its full swing. The number of people coming in is usually huge, so if you’re planning to visit during that period, you should seriously consider making your reservations way ahead of time.
However, since Dubrovnik sees more than 250 sunny days each year, June and September are also excellent periods for a visit. You can expect the weather to still be quite warm, and the sea may very well be even better for a swim during this time because its cooling effect will be more pronounced.
October and November are the wettest months, so maybe skip that if you want to explore the city thoroughly. December, on the other hand, can be pretty nice, primarily because of the holidays, Christmas market, and especially New Year’s Eve.
As a matter of fact, spending your winter holidays in Dubrovnik can be a great idea because it’s really not too cold, the crowds are gone and you can get better prices for your accommodation.
Finally, with the start of April, and maybe even in the latter half of March, you can expect the temperatures to start climbing back again.
What to do in Dubrovnik?
Dubrovnik is at the forefront of Croatian tourism not just because of its outstanding beauty but also because of its excellent organization. Therefore, there are indeed plenty of activities you can do, in and outside of the city (within a reasonable distance, of course), so no matter what kind of experience you’re looking for, just dig a little and the chances are you’ll find it.
Naturally, sightseeing is almost obligatory when you come here. The Old Town has been perfectly preserved, and the examples of architecture you can find here will make your jaw drop. The city walls are the cherry on top of a unique and awe-inspiring cake, but we’ll talk more about the sights just a little bit later.
Dubrovnik’s coast is perfect for sailing and all other types of enjoyment on the open sea. The small island in front of the city, Lokrum, is ideal for a day trip, but there are other fantastic destinations you can visit. If the crowds ever get too much for you, just rent a boat and take off. And if you want a real adventure, kayaking with a spectacular view of the city and to Lokrum can be arranged very easily.Wine lovers should definitely head out of town and towards Pelješac, a peninsula slightly northwest of the city. When it comes to red wine, this is the most famous region in Croatia and beyond, so you MUST taste some of the wines made there. Of course, the wineries will accompany that with excellent local food, so this is almost like a gastronomy fairytale come true. Plavac mali is the most famous Croatian variety of red grapes, so pay special attention to wines called Dingač and Postup, which are made from this variety. They are internationally recognized as authentic Croatian wines.
If you don’t want to leave the city, one of the best things to do in Dubrovnik is to climb Srđ, the hill overlooking it. You can get to the top by a cable car, or you can simply hike up there if you feel up for it. Whatever you decide, you will be rewarded with a truly spectacular view of the city below and the Adriatic that stretches in front of you. There’s also a restaurant up there, so you can enjoy an unforgettable meal, right on the edge of the hill.
Apart from the aforementioned kayaking, however, there are many other activities suited to more adventurous visitors. You can, for example, go on a safari in Konavle, a part of the Croatian coast south-west of Dubrovnik. There you will enjoy wonderful nature in an off-road vehicle and see firsthand what makes the eastern Adriatic so famous when it comes to sheer natural beauty. You can also go ziplining, exploring caves, bungee jumping and much, much more, so you certainly won’t get bored when in town.
Speaking of which, let’s take a look at the best sights Dubrovnik has to offer.
What to see in Dubrovnik?
Dubrovnik Old Town is where all the magic happens, and if you ask me, you could roam its streets for days and just enjoy that incredible scenery along with some excellent places for food and drinks. However, I’m aware that you probably won’t have that kind of time, so allow me to point you to the most important places around.
The city walls are probably Dubrovnik’s most distinguishing features. Massive and perfectly preserved, they are probably the best example of fortifications you can find anywhere in the world. Loads of incredible fortresses (some detached, some incorporated into the walls), fantastic views of the city and of the sea will leave a lasting impression on you. The construction started in the 13th, but the final touches were only added in the 17th century. That says a lot about the walls’ complexity and significance. Walking them is something every visitor should do.
The Fortress of St. John
As you’re walking the wall, the Fortress of St. John should be one of your prime targets. Not only is it quite impressive to see and boasts a long and prolific history (it was built in the 16th century), but it also houses an incredible restaurant (more on that later), a maritime museum and even an aquarium! The fort itself was vital for protecting the city from pirate raids because it was from here that a huge chain would be lifted whenever the alarm was sounded. If a ship collided with it, it would become heavily damaged and incapacitated.
A massive round fort overlooking the northwestern part of the city. Fortress Minčeta was built in 1464 and is today considered to be one of the symbols of Dubrovnik. It was built by Juraj Dalmatinac (also known as Giorgio Dalmata or Giorgio Orsini) and Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi, two of the most distinguished sculptors and builders of the time.
Dubrovnik Old Town has a whole lot to offer and you could spend days just walking around marveling at the perfectly preserved architecture of an age long past. Do stop every now and again and try to just soak the scenery in. However, since there is a lot of history inside these magnificent walls, it would really be a shame to just walk around not knowing anything. To help you appreciate them more, here’s some info on the main sights in Dubrovnik Old Town.
The main street in the Old Town, Stradun is the beating heart of Dubrovnik, so it’s maybe best to use it as a starting point from which to visit other major attractions. Also, it’s a great place to feel the pulse of the city and maybe do some people watching. There are plenty of souvenir shops and places to sit down for a drink here and just enjoy the feeling of Dubrovnik.
The Church of Saint Blaise
St. Blaise is very famous in Croatia as the patron saint of Dubrovnik, so visiting his church is very much recommended. This beautiful church was built in 1715 and is a great example of baroque architecture. According to legend, the only thing that survived the terrible fire that destroyed the previous church in 1706 was a silver statue of St. Blaise. The old church stood on this exact spot, and everything in it melted, but the patron saint’s statue was later found in pristine condition.
Right in front of the Church of St. Blaise is one of Dubrovnik’s most famous monuments – Orlando’s Column. It is one of only four such columns outside of Germany and depicts a medieval knight. The flag of Dubrovnik used to adorn it and it was a symbol of the city’s freedom back when Dubrovnik was fully independent. The name of the column, which dates back to 1416, comes from the legend that the famous Frankish leader Roland helped defend the city in the 8th century and that it is in fact him who is depicted with a sword in hand.
The Franciscan Monastery
The Franciscan Monastery is located right next to the Old Town’s western wall. It dates back to the 14th century and has loads of notable artistic and architectural features that are worthy of your time. However, the monastery’s interior has loads of spectacular things you need to visit. Not only is the library in there incredible impressive, with tens of thousands of books, but the monastery houses one of the oldest pharmacies in the world – from 1317 – and a wonderful garden of medicinal herbs. In the pharmacy, you can buy a fantastic souvenir: a creme made of roses and other Mediterranean herbs according to a recipe that is more than 200 years old. Ladies, don’t miss this if you want your skin in tip-top condition.
One of the most representative examples of Dubrovnik’s architecture is the Sponza Palace. Built in the early 16th century, it was first used as a customs office and then as the city mint, but it has always had a secular purpose. Its importance in the public life of Dubrovnik is immense because this is where merchants and later intellectuals would gather. A mixture of the Renaissance and Gothic styles, it now houses one of the richest collections of public archives in Europe, with more than 100,000 documents, the oldest of which is a manuscript from the 10th century.
Where to eat in Dubrovnik?
One of the things you will surely enjoy in Dubrovnik is food. Loads of great restaurants focusing mostly on Mediterranean food are scattered all over the place, but even if you’re looking for something in particular, I’m sure you’ll find it. However, many restaurants here have absolutely spectacular locations, which makes them a great choice for an evening out. Here are a few restaurants I can personally recommend.
Yes, Dubrovnik has its fair share of spectacular restaurants, and 360 is the perfect example of that. It is located on the city walls, along the aforementioned fortress of St. John, and provides an incredible atmosphere in the evening as you get an incredible view of the rest of the wall and the port below. I tell you, bringing your significant other here is a beginning of a magical night.
However, the location is not the only thing worth mentioning – 360 is actually the first restaurant in Dubrovnik to be awarded a Michelin star! French techniques with Adriatic ingredients proved to be an excellent combo. Keep in mind that they serve dinner alone, and you’d do well to book a table in advance.
Another way to dine on Dubrovnik’s city walls is to go to Nautika. This place also has a stunning view, perhaps even better than the last one, with two fortresses towering over you. Like the previous entry on this list, Nautika is also a high-class restaurant, and sometimes you can enjoy your meal on its terrace with the gentle sounds of a live piano performance reaching you as the waves crash beneath you. Romantic, huh?
Seafood is the way to go here, in my humble opinion, because these guys get fresh fish straight from Croatian islands every day. Add to that an excellent wine list, and you get quite a gastronomic experience.
Time to move away from the city walls to visit Pantarul, a restaurant you will find on pretty much every list of best Dubrovnik restaurants there is. Their motto is “feels like home”, and they really do make you feel welcome and cozy whenever you visit. Pantarul has a seasonal menu and will proudly point out that they get their meat from farms around Dubrovnik and their fish from the local fishermen. In addition, you can also enjoy incredible homemade pasta here.
But I would recommend you go for a fish or meat menu (each has five courses), just so you can get a real taste of what these guys are capable of.
Proto is also a place you will see widely recommended by everyone, and I certainly won’t be the one to deny the restaurant’s quality. This is probably the best fish restaurant in Dubrovnik, plus it has an excellent location: it’s in the heart of the Old Town, right next to Stradun. Not only that, but the place has an incredibly long tradition – it was opened way back in 1886!
They are very careful here when it comes to their food, so only the freshest ingredients make their way to the table. Even the Michelin Guide has noted that! Therefore, see what the catch of the day is and go for that.
But if you want something simpler and more affordable, go to Pizzeria Tabasco. Not only does this place make an excellent pie, but they’ll also give you a great price too. And there are a few interesting creations you can try, chief among them for me being the kebab pizza. Good atmosphere, good food, good prices, and it’s just north of the Old Town. A great choice for a quick and tasty meal.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a quick bite in the Old Town, Barba is probably the best choice you can make. This place offers some incredible street food, but the catch is that everything is made of fish. I bet you haven’t tried an octopus burger before! Also, their sardine burger is quite interesting, but you can also choose stand-alone fish, salads and several types of sandwiches. Oh, and I strongly recommend you drink Barba (a Croatian craft beer) with all of that.
A visit to Dubrovnik doesn’t have to be dull. On the contrary! As mentioned before, there’s something for everyone in the city, and Dubrovnik nightlife has a lot to offer, too. Here are a few suggestions on where you can spend a great night out.
Whenever somebody who hasn’t been here before asks me where to go out in Dubrovnik, I point them to the Banje Beach Club first. It’s a great nightclub on a sandy beach that has a spectacular view of the city walls, so the background for partying hard is something really special. You really get a very special vibe here, and the DJ is always pretty good, so you can easily dance your night away. Honestly, if you like to party, coming here is a must. The location takes the experience to a whole new level.
Another vital part of Dubrovnik nightlife is Culture Club Revelin. World-famous DJs can be regularly seen performing here, the location is absolutely fantastic, inside the Revelin Fortress, and the atmosphere is great. As a matter of fact, Culture Club Revelin is a regular guest of lists naming top 100 nightclubs in the world, with DJ Mag placing it in top 25 for 2020.
Away from the Old Town, beyond Lapad, is Špilja Bar More. This amazing place is located in a real cave and has a spectacular terrace right next to the sea. I guarantee you’ve never had a drink in a place quite like this. And they also make great cocktails. While they are open from 10 AM, you really should come here later in the day, especially at sunset or in the evening, to really enjoy the scenery, although having your morning coffee here is not a bad idea, either.
Finally, Buzz Bar is a great place to grab a drink in Dubrovnik’s Old Town. The atmosphere is very relaxed, and you will be surrounded by old stone houses, which brings the experience on a whole new level. And the prices are pretty fair, too. After a whole day of sightseeing, come here and just relax a little.
Buses are the backbone of public transport in Dubrovnik. You will recognize them easily as they are predominantly orange in colour. Tickets can be bought from the driver and will cost you 15 kunas (2 euros), but you can also by them from newspaper kiosks around town. They cost 12 kunas there. However, if you planning on getting around this way a lot, the best thing to do is to buy a daily ticket which will set you back 30 kunas, i.e. 4 euros.
You can find the timetable of each line here.
Best beaches in Dubrovnik
Apart from all the sights, there are plenty of excellent beaches in and around Dubrovnik you can (and should) visit. No matter if you want a secluded place or if you’re looking for a location with nice drinks and parties, there’s something for everyone. Find what suits you best on the list below.
If you want to get away from the crowds and just enjoy the sound of waves crashing against the coast, there’s no better place for that than Pasjača. This beach was actually created by accident because the huge stones that were deposited there eventually became fine gravel. The beach is located some 30 kilometers southwest of Dubrovnik, near a small village of Popovići, but it is exceptionally beautiful and adored by the locals. Keep in mind, though, that Pasjača can only be reached after climbing down a long set of very steep stairs, so if you’re visiting Dubrovnik with elderly people or small children you may want to find another swimming place.
Lokrum and Mrtvo more
I’ve mentioned Lokrum several times in this text, and I’m about to mention it again (you can see why it’s so important to Dubrovnik, no?). Rocky beaches abound, and they are surrounded by numerous pine trees, so there is no shortage of shade here. The nature is quite incredible here, with a lovely little botanical garden to top everything of, but there are also many interesting historical buildings you can explore
But personally, the best beach on Lokrum is Mrtvo more, a saltwater lake located more towards the centre of the island. Families with children love this place, and the lake itself gets fairly deep (up to 10 meters), so you can even snorkel a bit. With a bit of luck, you will enjoy some peace and quiet here.
If you’re more of a sandy beach person, Šunj is the place to go. It is located on the nearby island of Lopud, so you can rent a boat or board one in Gruž harbor to get there. But trust me, the beach is very much worth the trip. Šunj is one of the most beautiful beaches around, and its shallow waters and fine sand make it ideal for little children, too. Of course, adults will also find plenty to be excited about.
However, if you would prefer a beach where you can rent things out and enjoy various activities, Copacabana is the place to go. Yes, Dubrovnik has its own version of the famous Brazilian beach, and it’s located just 15 minutes by car away from the Old Town. What sets this beach apart from the rest of the beaches in the vicinity is the wonderful view of the nearby islands and the Dubrovnik Bridge. In addition, it has a small aqua park for the kids. There’s something for everyone here, so if you’re looking for an active vacation and excitement on the beach, come here.
One last thing I have to mention when talking about the best beaches in Dubrovnik is Lapad. Now, Lapad is not a beach per se, it is a part of the town, but it has loads of great swimming places to choose from. Big and small beaches are accompanied by loads of excellent cafe bars and restaurants, so this is a great place to visit if you’re planning to spend a whole day out. There’s something quite relaxing in the air here, regardless of the number of people you may see walking around. Everyone is just chilling out.
Dubrovnik tips and tricks
Given its status as a world-renowned tourist destination, Dubrovnik can be pretty expensive. However, if you know where to look, you can get some excellent deals and not get ripped off.
First of all, if you want to save money, avoid buying anything on Stradun, especially sitting down for a drink or a meal. The prices there can be huge compared to the rest of the city, even the rest of the Old Town. Just move away a little, literally go around the corner, and you will see prices start to drop quite quickly. As a matter of fact, there are a few bars and cafes in the Old Town where the prices are quite affordable. Caffe Bar Libertina is an excellent example, as you get to enjoy a cup of coffee in a very cozy setting for just 9 kunas (about 1.20 euros). The locals love it, so stop by and enjoy surrounded by a narrow stone street.
A major surge of visitors to the city occurred after Dubrovnik was chosen to play one of the major cities in the spectacularly popular Game of Thrones. And not just any city – Dubrovnik was King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms! If you’re a fan of the show, book a Game of Thrones tour of the Old Town and you will see most of the major sights there.
Keep in mind that a huge number of tourists come to the city on cruise ships. These people can significantly increase the waiting time at all the main sights. Doing sightseeing early in the morning or later in the afternoon can help avoid that influx of new people in the Old Town.
Croatian Tourism Board has seven offices in the city and one in Dubrovnik Airport. These are great if you want to explore the city on your own. The offices can share a lot of useful information and even give you a map of the city to help you out.
And if you’re looking for a nice destination for a day trip, for a place where you can get away from the crowds, go to Arboretum Trsteno. It’s just 20 minutes away from the city (with a direct bus line to it), so the trip is very much worth it. The arboretum is over 500 years old and has some exquisite specimens within its premises, but the biggest stars are two Old World sycamores which are more than 500 years old and the only such trees in the whole of Europe! For 50 kunas (about 6.5 euros) per ticket, you will enrich your Dubrovnik visit with quite a memorable experience.