Pearl of the Adriatic as some call it was a trading port throughout history and a major Mediterranean sea power from the 13th century on wards. The city walls have protected it from attacks throughout history (the Venetians were apparently jealous of Dubrovnik’s success). The city remained independent throughout the rule of the Roman, Napoleon, and Turkish empires as a seaport with open trade. Dubrovnik’s tumultuous history, breathtaking architecture and seaside landscape make it the most popular destination in the Balkan region, and one of the most popular in Europe. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site designated in 1979.
Dubrovnik is very welcoming towards foreigners, has a way of grabbing a hold of you, making you want to stay longer than you planned. The best time to visit Dubrovnik is from April to mid-June, and mid-September to mid-October, because it is still warm enough to swim and enjoy everything Dubrovnik has to offer, without being trampled by tourists.
Exploring Old Town
The most popular attraction in Dubrovnik is pedestrian-only old town and surrounding city walls. There’s lots of exploring to do and no better place to start than the old city. Once you enter through the Pile gate directly in front of you is the Stradun the main street and all the side streets that shoot out from there, and walking the perimeter of the city on the wall, which is an absolute must do.
Walk around the paved streets, take a look at the harbor, discover hidden churches and walk in and out of shops and restaurants, perfect places for pit stops on a leisurely stroll through the city. To the right is the Big Onofrio Fountain built in 1438 by Onofrio della Cava and at the end of the Stradun is the bell tower which is 31 metres high.
Sitting on the southeast part of the city’s port, the symbolic fortress of St. John is recognized as a top attraction in Dubrovnik. Famous for it’s structure dating back to the turn of the 16th century, the fortification of St. John features sloping walls and cannon ports.
Visit the Franciscan monastery and the palaces of the city. Built in 1317, the Franciscan Monastery is located right at the entrance of the city, pass the Pile Gate. The monastery houses the old pharmacy from 14th century. The monastery has two cloisters: upper and lower. The upper and lower cloisters. The lower cloister is built in Romanesque-Gothic, and it consists of 120 columns, and 12 pillars, frescoes, reliefs, statue of St. Francis, and a fountain.
Walking the city walls will give you a good idea of the town’s size, layout and breathtaking setting, but it is also one of the most beautiful strolls you can take. The views are spectacular the entire way.
The walls are made from limestone and are 1.3 miles long and between 4 to 6 meters thick and consist of four fortresses: Minceta, Revelin, St. John, and the Bokar Fortress; two additional round towers, 12 square towers, 5 bastions, and 2 cornerstone forts. After the earthquake in 1667 the walls were still standing. The City Walls are open year round, and take about an hour and a half to complete the full circle. Be prepared to take tons of photos.
Gornji Ugao Tower
For a Dubrovnik history lesson, visit the Gornji Ugao Tower. This is an interesting look at the history of the city as you tour the excavated foundry. An archeological research brought to light impressive discovery of metallurgic foundry with all it’s original segments. A forge, the mould casting section, water basins, a sedimentation channels and a sand depository all used for the production of gunpowder, casting bronze and bells mulding. The Gornji Ugao Tower is difficult to find. It is located near Minceta Tower but you do not enter it from the city walls. You have to walk up to Minceta Tower from the Stradun.
Bird’s Eye of Dubrovnik
Seeing Dubrovnik from the top of Srd is a must. You can either hike or take the cable car to the top. The views of the city and the Adriatic Coast are spectacular from up here. On a clear day, you can see 35 miles away. Maybe the best time to go on mount Srd is just before dusk to watch the amazing sea sunset.
The easiest Dubrovnik beach to get to is Banje Beach east of the Ploce Gate and the Old Port. There is a beach club that charges for chairs, but it’s free to spread your towel and hang out for free on the public side on the sand, soak up the sun and cool yourself with a swim in the sea. Use the ladders bolted to rocks to lower yourself into the water or jump right in. If you want to be at one with nature Dubrovnik also has a few nude/naturist beaches to choose from such as Plat Beach or Lokrum Beach.
Buza beach is a perfect swimming and sunbathing spot just south of the city walls. It may be somewhat crowded but the view of the outer islands is worth the visit. Finally, stop by Dance beach, one of the most authentic beaches and the oldest beach in Dubrovnik. It’s just 5 minutes west of town and has large rocks and jetties to sunbathe on and ladders to get into and out of the water. The water is also deep enough to jump off of for fun. Though it’s not a sandy beach, it’s one of the best places to swim in the Dubrovnik area. There is even a small cave that you can swim into and a beach bar that runs during the day.
Plat is fairly small, but objectively speaking it also probably has the most beaches per square meter than area other small village or town in Croatia. Has a small local beach bar called “Coco Beach Club” right next to it. It’s a great area to go and meet locals and escape the crowds. It is also extremely accessible by bus or car.
Pasjača Beach may be perhaps one of the best local gems of the Dubrovnik region. Sadly, many tourists think that Dubrovnik is only the Old Town and miss this area entirely. Konavle is the region near Dubrovnik’s airport, and this a gorgeous cliff-side walk along the Adriatic will take you to this hidden beach. The beach itself is not that big, however, the incredible scenery makes up for it. Most tourists don’t bother making the trek out here, but if you have a car, it is completely worth it. You won’t find any beaches in Croatia quite like this one.
Kayaking is one of the best ways to experience what the seaside landscape has to offer and uncover the hidden areas of Dubrovnik.
Lokrum is a pleasantly quiet island 15 minute ferry ride from the Old Port. It’s main attraction is the Benedictine Monastery of St Mary, which is possibly all the more beautiful for being in ruins. A green oasis just a short boat hop from Dubrovnik’s old town, the island of Lokrum is a nature park, and a popular swimming spot among locals, surrounded by trees and populated by rabbits and peacocks. Also available for exploring are the rock pools around the south end of the island, the cactus gardens next to the monastery, and the ruins of Fort Royal at the highest point, which you can climb to look back towards Dubrovnik.
Best Drink and Place to Eat
Located on the cliff above the sea, and accessible only through a passage in the city walls, Buza I and Buza II are the most popular bars among tourists. People love them for great views, and cool vibe. Drinks are pricey. This place probably has the best setting in all of Dubrovnik.
Hugging a cliff on the edge of the walls and looking out directly over the Adriatic Sea, you really can’t beat the views from here. With steps leading down to the water, guests can enjoy a swim in between overpriced drinks. But really, just suck it up and pay for the overpriced drinks. The view is worth it.
Located outside of the busy Old Town, Pantarul is the most modern and innovative dining experience we had in Croatia. Using fresh, seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients, dishes are served in smaller portions, allowing diners to indulge tapas-style. If you’re staying in or around the Old Town, you’ll need to catch a cab to Pantarul. It’s worth the ride. This is one of best place to eat in Dubrovnik. Food and super-attentive service are both amazing.
Go Wine Tasting
Did you know that Croatia produces awesome wine? The Pelješac peninsula is good grape growing country and as a result you can get some surprisingly good Croatian wine in Dubrovnik. To sample Croatian and Montenegrin wine, don’t miss D’Vino Wine Bar. A few bars in the Old Town offer tasting options or you can stop right at the vineyards on your way to or from Korčula. Try the Dingač.