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What are the best things to do in Dubrovnik?
Hands down one of the most beautiful places in Croatia, Dubrovnik makes for one of the best European summer city break destinations. It’s enchanting setting and fairytale look make it a magnet for visitors from all around the world, and in recent years its popularity has sky-rocketed after featuring as one of the sets for Game of Thrones. During my 10 day trip to Croatia I spent a few days here, and have composed this list of the 11 absolute best things to do in Dubrovnik to ensure you don’t miss any of the must-dos on your trip!
1. Walk the city walls late afternoon
One of the absolute best things to do in Dubrovnik is to walk around the city walls. Usually high on any visitor’s agenda (and quite rightly so), the iconic city walls conceal Dubrovnik’s Old Town and make it a truly unique and picture-perfect spectacle when viewing from near and far.
Dubrovnik’s city walls date back to the 13th century and span a length of 1,940 metres (just under 2km or ~1.2 miles) and offer the most incredible views over the burnt orange roofs, narrow lanes (and even football pitch) within the Old Town, Fort Lovrijenac, the Adriatic Sea and nearby islands like Lokrum.
The best time to visit the city walls of Dubrovnik is late afternoon – at this time, it is (usually) quieter and cooler, and enjoying a cold Ozujsko at Caffe Bar Sv. Peter on the wall whilst the sun sinks into the horizon makes for one of the most memorable experiences in Dubrovnik (it’s probably one of the most scenic bars in Europe)!
Tip: Definitely wear walking footwear when you visit Dubrovnik city walls, because there are a lot of stairs and slopes up and down! You can book your tickets for the Walls of Dubrovnik online, or there (this is what I did)!
2. Visit Fort Lovrijenac and Dubrovnik West Harbour
Standing on its own to the west of the city walls of Dubrovnik is the impressive Fort Lovrijenac with Dubrovnik West Harbour sitting at its base. Dating back to the 11th century and perched on top of a 37 metre high rock, Fort Lovrijenac is a detached fort which once acted as the primary defence for the western part of the city.
Over the centuries, it has been rebuilt and repaired many times since construction and like many places in Dubrovnik, has more recently has become famous as a filming location for various scenes within Game of Thrones. Along with the sheer magnificence of the fort, a visit is one of the best things to do in Dubrovnik due to the jaw-dropping views you can get of the city walls and Old Town concealed behind!
Tip: If you’re planning to visit Fort Lovrijenac on your Dubrovnik itinerary, then be prepared for the ~200 steps you’ll need to climb to enter the fortification. The good news is that the entry fee to Fort Lovrijenac is included in the price of entry to the city walls!
3. Get lost in the narrow lanes and alleyways of the Old Town
One of the very best things to do in Dubrovnik is to ditch the map of the Old Town and follow your curiosity, even if only for an hour. Turn down the narrow lanes and alleyways and see where they lead, and get lost in the maze of backstreets away from the boulevard streets and main squares. It’s likely you’ll stumble across quaint houses with picture-perfect flower boxes, and hidden gems away from the popular Dubrovnik attractions. Deviating from the main streets will give you a taste of what life is like amongst the city walls for the people who still reside there.
4. Visit Gunduliceva Poljana Market
Located in the heart of the Old Town on Gundulic Square is Gunduliceva Poljana – an open air market which opens in the morning six days a week, and stocks a variety of local products like lavenders, jams, oils and alcohol, alongside an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Aside from a small Konzum here and there, there aren’t any big supermarkets in Dubrovnik’s Old Town so places like Gunduliceva Poljana Market are still relied on for necessities. It’s the ideal place to grab your breakfast essentials, especially if you’re staying in an apartment (which is one of the top tips for cheaper travel in Europe by the way)!
5. Swim below the city walls at Buza Beach
Swimming below the city walls is one of the most unique things to do in Dubrovnik, and there is no place better for this than at Buza Beach. Located through a hole in the old town walls on the southern edge of the city, Buza Beach is a small area composed of concrete and rocky terraces to sunbathe, and stairs which allow access to the sea (there’s no sandy beach here).
The waters are crystal clear and you will be rewarded with uninterrupted views of Lokrum Island, the Adriatic and the intimidating old town walls behind! And if you’re wondering what can you do in Dubrovnik for free then Buza Beach is it (unless you decide to grab a refreshment from Cafe Buza that is)!
Tip: Buza Beach is incredibly central to the Old Town, so why not pack your swimwear and do your Dubrovnik sightseeing in the morning, then cool down in the waters of an afternoon?
6. Wander Dubrovnik City Harbour
Located on the eastern edge of the Old Town, Dubrovnik City Harbour is one of the most picturesque places to visit in Dubrovnik. Once a centre for international trade, it’s now a popular place to enjoy a frothy coffee or evening meal. The walkway which meanders around the base of the city walls offers the opportunity to see the harbour from every perspective – be sure to stroll past Fort St. Ivana and around to Porporela (the breakwater) for more uninterrupted views of Lokrum Island.
Tip: If you are planning a day trip to Lokrum Island during your visit to Dubrovnik, then this is where you will likely embark your ferry!
7. Drink Croatian wine on a quiet square
Due to its popularity, Dubrovnik is a fairly expensive place to travel. But it’s definitely worth treating yourself to a glass of wine on a quiet square of an evening, to enjoy the dusky Dalmatian charm of the city! One of the top travel tips for Dubrovnik is to head down the side streets, as bars and restaurants may be a little cheaper than those which are situated on the main streets!
8. Do a Balkan day trip
Due to its close proximity to neighbouring Balkan countries, Dubrovnik is perfectly situated to explore the region. So ironically, one of the best things to do in Dubrovnik is to take a day trip out of Dubrovnik. During my trip to Croatia, I visited the quaint towns of Kotor and Perast in Montenegro with Amico Tours, and Kravice Waterfalls and the historic city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina with Laus Travel – both of which come highly recommended!
9. Wander through the Old Town at night
Quite unsurprisingly, Dubrovnik is a busy little place. It’s postcard-perfect Old Town nestled in amongst its historic fortifications draws visitors from afar, and it is a popular stop in the Mediterranean for cruise ships too. So with all of that in mind, one of the best things to do in Dubrovnik at night is to stroll the city streets when the cruise ship and tour group crowds fade away. The Old Town has a really special vibe at night, when the glimmer of lights reflects on the marble floors and the warmth of the Adriatic air permeates the streets.
10. See Onophrio’s Fountain and St. Saviour Church
Located just inside Pile Gate is Onophrio’s Fountain and St. Saviour Church, which are two of the best things to see in Dubrovnik Old Town. Quite incredibly, Onophrio’s Fountain was constructed in 1438 to supply water to the city from a spring 12km away. The fountain has 16 water taps and was originally adorned with sculptures but was damaged in the 1667 earthquake. Sitting opposite Onophrio’s Fountain is the quaint St. Saviour Church, which is dedicated to Saint Saviour to signify gratitude for salvation from the earthquake of the same year.
11. Walk through Pile Gate
One of the must things to do in Dubrovnik Old Town is to walk through Pile Gate. And if you don’t manage to do this on your trip to Dubrovnik, then you’ve probably done something wrong because it is the main entrance to the Old Town. Built in 1537, Pile Gate boasts a renaissance arch and consists of inner and outer gates. Now a stone bridge which passes over an undergrowth-lined moat, Pile Gate was once equipped with a wooden drawbridge and is one of the filming locations used in Game of Thrones. Wandering through Pile Gate (and Dubrovnik Old Town) certainly feels like you’ve stepped straight into a medieval film set!
Tip: If you’re off on a self-guided walking tour of Dubrovnik, then it makes perfect sense to start here and work your way through the Old Town and to Dubrovnik City Harbour at the other end.
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