Undoubtedly one of Europe’s – not just Croatia’s – most alluring destinations, Dubrovnik can simultaneously charm and bewilder in one whirlwind visit. A well-deserved tourist hot spot, don’t let the throngs of crowds deter you from getting to the heart of Dubrovnik – with these tips (and some clever day planning), you can go beyond the walls of this sparkling city and discover exactly why it’s loved by so many.
Forgo the late-night activities the eve before and muster an early start. Trust me, it’s worth it. The Dubrovnik Cable Car that ascends Mt Srđ promises four minutes of picture-perfect, unspoiled views of the city’s Old Town and terracotta roofs. Purchase an adult return ticket for 100 kuna (about $15 USD) and make sure your camera is fully charged – this is one experience worth waking early for.
Enjoy a coffee with a side of epic Adriatic vistas on the terrace of Panorama Restaurant & Bar (opens at 9am) or make your way down the mountain for breakfast at one of the Old Town’s many lively cafes. Café Festival is the perfect spot to ease into your day with a croissant, coffee and a spot of people watching.
After fueling up, make your way to the Homeland War Museum for an important history lesson. For only 30 kuna (about $4.50 USD), you can delve into decades of photos, recordings, documents, weapons and materials from the Balkan War and other global conflicts across multiple themed, interactive rooms. Heavy, but insightful.
If the aforementioned activity is a little too much for your morning, why not follow the footsteps of your favorite film and TV characters instead? Featured in blockbusters like James Bond, Star Wars, Robin Hood and of course, Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik is a star in its own right. Brush up on your favorite episodes – there’s a myriad of tours on offer for the GoT enthusiasts.
Recreating famous scenes in King’s Landing can really work up an appetite. Thankfully, there’s loads of restaurants and cafes just steps from where your tour finishes up. Croatia is renowned for its Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, with seafood topping the menu at most local eateries. For a street-food version of your favorite crustaceans, head to Barba and sample juicy oysters, morsels of fresh fish and even an octopus burger.
If you can’t decide (we forgive you), opt for the Plata Barba, which is basically a combo of the entire menu, for two. Once you’re sufficiently stuffed, top it all off with a lip-smacking gelato – perfect for combatting the sweltering Dubrovnik heat.
Now that the temperatures are really starting to soar, it’s time to cool off. Take a 15-minute ferry ride from the Old Port to Lokrum Island (40 kuna or about $6 USD), a small oasis only 600-metres from the walled city. More active adventurers might choose to rent sea kayaks to get to the island, which can be done from the Old port, too. Here, you can swim in the salt-filled lake on the southern part of the island, or break up the water activities by stepping inside the Benedictine monastery complex for a look at its 12th century architecture.
Modest travelers, beware: there’s also a nudist beach situated on the island. For a swimming alternative, catch bus 6 or 4 to Lapad Beach, where you can bask on a sun-bed under an umbrella (for a fee), snorkel from the pebbly shore and freshen up in the crystal-clear waters. There’s also a huge selection of cafes and restaurants nearby for a late lunch or mid-afternoon snack.
As the sun sets and dusk casts a welcome relief over the city, it’s time to indulge in some evening cocktails. For the ultimate sundowner spot, make your way straight for Buza Bar –a literal ‘hole-in the-wall’ beach bar that’s perched atop the cliffs that look out to the Adriatic.
You’ll find it by scaling the south-west side of the wall and keeping your eyes peeled for a small opening with people coming and going. As night falls, sate your growing appetite with some light but tasty vegan and vegetarian dishes at Nishta. That stomach of yours isn’t going to line itself, right?
If dancing the night way in one of the world’s top 100 nightclubs sounds like your idea of a killer night, beeline straight for Culture Club Revelin, located inside the 500-year old Revelin Fortress. Not only does this nightlife mecca host some of the top DJs, but it also boasts a state-of-the-art sound system and lofty, stone interiors. Alternatively, get your fix of electronica at Skybar – made famous by its party-loving crowds and novelty bucket drinks.
If clubbing isn’t your thing, be sure to hit up the various wine bars in Dubrovnik to celebrate the end of your busy day, with most offering the pick of the region’s specialities.
An Australian content specialist living in London, Alexandra is a self-confessed ‘word nerd’ with a passion for storytelling and Haribo Tangfastics. Ask her about interior design, the latest true crime documentary and of course, all things travel.