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By this point I have been to Dubrovnik over 20 times, and am fairly confident that this Dubrovnik guide will be among the most comprehensive you will find!
Dubrovnik to me is synonymous with the word ‘fairytale.’ This place is the closest I have come to actually feeling like I was in another world. The castle-like walled old town with a lasting medieval vibe presents a perfect setting for an adventurous escape. Like most old town areas in Croatia, Old Town Dubrovnik is comprised of spotlessly clean pedestrian passageways with high walls made of smooth light stone. Cars aren’t allowed in this area, and foot traffic crowds the narrow bustling streets during the day and night alike. Locals and visitors enjoy visits to pubs, shops, gelato parlors, and tiny seafood restaurants with tables lining the alleyways along the main street of Old Town, stradun.
There are a few beaches nearby, and even more if you’re willing to get on a bus or even boat to small Lokrum island 10 minutes off the coast. Get there in early July and you might catch their annual Summer Festival, complete with a firework show and traditional Croatian dance rituals. It’s a good idea to pay a tiny bit more to stay within the old town walls – that way, you’re already situated right in the middle of the excitement and don’t have to make an excursion of getting there each time.
Adventure Spots in Dubrovnik:
Cable Car/Fort Imperial
Depending if you want an easy or strenuous adventure, you can pay a small fee to take a cable car up to this fortress, or you can be like me and spend the entire morning searching for and hiking the switchback trail that leads up to it. I definitely recommend hiking at least one way, though, because this hike presented me some of the best views I have ever seen and a picture-perfect view of old town.
This fortress was actually the last stronghold for Croatia during the seige of Dubrovnik in the early 90’s, after the breakup of Yugoslavia. I’ll go more into that next!
Museum of the Croatian War for Independence:
If you’re so inclined, there’s also a museum inside Fort Imperial that tells you all about the recent history that occurred in Dubrovnik and how it was engulfed in war in the early 90’s. It costs 30 kuna to go in, and has loads of videos, newspaper articles, and history written out about the Croatian War for Independence. If you do one historical thing while in Dubrovnik, you should go here. Croatia is a fairly new country, gaining independence from Yugoslavia in the early 90’s – that’s right, just over 25 years ago. Dubrovnik was under siege by Serbia & Montenegro for over 7 months, while the old town was an UNESCO world heritage protected site! This museum has lots of footage and info about that terrible time, which is very important to learn while here.
Everywhere in Old Town Dubrovnik
One of my favorite things to do in Dubrovnik is to get lost wandering around the streets of Old Town. You never know what treasures you might find! I’ve stumbled my way up to a park where local kids were playing (there are only a few hundred locals inside the walls – if that!), a few dead ends, a basketball court, lots of hanging laundry, beautiful gardens, and lots of amazing views. Be prepared for a workout, though – it may not look like it to the naked eye, but this little city is as hilly (and stair-y) as it is small. The stairs seem almost vertical at times and can be deadly in the rain, but they give old town that much more of its enchanting character.
Dubrovnik Game of Thrones Tours / Other Tours
If you watch GoT, you pretty much have to go on a Game of Thrones tour while in Dubrovnik. The show was filmed in many different locations all over the town, and if you get a good guide like my friend Ivan Vukovic, you’ll be shown everything in great detail. Ivan has been a GoT tour guide since the first season, and he knows aaaaall the ins and outs of the show and the happenings in each season and location throughout Dubrovnik (check out his website here). He also does other tours: history, war, jewish quarter, and more. In GoT, you’ll see King’s Landing, the shame steps, and many more, and end the tour with a photo on the iron throne. I haven’t watched it yet (mostly because I think I’ll get addicted real quickly if I do) but I still enjoyed the tour and comparing his photos of all the scenes from the show against the sites of filming. Apparently Dubrovnik will feature in the next Star Wars film too!
Buza/Cliff Bars in Dubrovnik
Buza means ‘cliff’ in Croatian, and there are actually two of these cliff bars! One is the famous cliff jumping one that you might have heard about (the one I’m not supposed to tell my passengers about but sometimes do ‘as a friend’ because I’m a cool tour guide :P) and the other is kind of more for lounging and swimming where there are actual stairs into the water – no jumping required. They are pretty much right around the corner from each other right above the Adriatic outside the southwest wall of Old Town. You get to them both by walking through a slightly non-obvious doorway through the stone walls of old town that opens up to a majestic and sweeping view of the clear blue sea.
Being the adventurer that I am, I prefer the cliff jumping one because, well, I like cliff jumping. No matter which one you decide to go to, grab yourself an Ozujsko Lemon beer (one of my favorite Croatian discoveries) and enjoy the view… Or, even better, enjoy sips of it in between jumps off the side of the cliff bar or swims in the water! Just make sure to be careful getting back up onto the rocks – more people get hurt trying to get back up in rougher seas than they do jumping in the first place.
At Buza bar circa 2014 during my first ever visit to Croatia… just a wee little one 😉
Buggie Tours In Dubrovnik
I haven’t actually done this myself yet, but I have had a few passengers really enjoy going on a buggy tour up at the top of Mt. Srd – the same mountain that the cable cars go up. I think you can get the tour including or not including the cable car, and you basically drive 4-person buggies around in the dirt up there and get a little tour out of it at the same time. Sounds good!
For something a bit different, take the boat over to Lokrum island right off the walls of old town (the island in the cover photo of this post!). You can see Lokrum from pretty much anywhere in Dubrovnik, and can catch a boat over there from the old port (in old town) for 35 kuna each way. Lokrum has beautiful gardens, some walking trails up to an old fort, a restaurant, a strangely high population of peacocks walking around, some insanely beautiful rock formations and clear swimming areas, and even a little rock pool that you can cliff jump into. It’s a bit of a getaway from the bustle of Dubrovnik, especially if you’ve done all the touristy things and have some extra time.
Down the Coast
If you adventure up or down the coast from Old Town, you are sure to find some amazing swimming spots and often some great views of the walled town from afar. South of old town there’s a pretty cool hotel sea pool and also a big cave! In this photo you can just see old town in the distance.
Dubrovnik Sea Kayaking // Water Sports
Sea Kayaking must be one of the most popular touristy things to do in Dubrovnik. As soon as you get off at the main bus stop you are pretty much assaulted by millions of Croatians in colored shirts stuffing sea kayaking brochures in your face… as soon as you get past their aggressiveness, its actually a really cool activity to do. You stop at the cave I mentioned above, and a few places on Lokrum island too. It’s not for the faint of heart, though; it’s a pretty long way!! The sunset kayak sessions also include some wine tasting and food.
You can also go jet skiing in Dubrovnik. I must mention that it’s a bit on the expensive side, given that you are pretty much in the most expensive town in Croatia, but the views make the extra price worth it.
My crew and I in the blue cave!
Mermaiding around in the blue cave
Elaphite Islands & Caves
Just north of Dubrovnik there are a few little islands known as the Elaphite Islands, and many people rent or hire boats to come and check them out. I have actually hired a speedboat for my tour groups a few times and it has been a highlight of the week!
The island of Koločep has a small ‘blue’ cave – a bit of a natural wonder where there’s a completely covered water cave and the light shining through the clear blue water creates the illusion that the whole cave is glowing blue. This one is one of only a few blue caves in Croatia and the only one that you can actually swim in – you enter it by swimming through a little opening about as high as your head, and then it opens up to the cave. It’s not as spectacular as some blue caves in the world but it’s amazing to swim through the luminous blue water!
Koločep also has what they call the ‘three caves’ which are one big cave, one small one that you can swim back a few meters and stand when the water is right, and another cave that you can swim through little chambers and get out the other side. There are also a few crazy cliff jumps here too – attempt all at your own risk though of course! The rocks here are all quite smooth and sandy, which is pretty rare in Croatia and fun to explore.
The island of Lopud actually has the only sandy beach for miles around. Croatia is all rock and pebbles, so getting to bask in the sand was a fantastic little surprise for me when I discovered Lopud. Lopud also has a little town you can visit as well!
Šipan is the largest of the Elaphite islands, and is absolutely stunning. We actually stop here for the night on one of my routes, and the views are spectacular. You can walk over to an amazing little beach bar or explore 2 different towns on either side of the island.
Sunset Spots in Dubrovnik:
Walk the Walls
This one is a no-brainer – the place to enjoy the sunset in Dubrovnik is while walking the walls of Old Town. Pay a small fee (even smaller if you bring your student ID – don’t make the same mistake I did and forget it if you have one!) and then you’re free to roam around the walls. Everyone goes in one direction – counter clockwise – to minimize confusion. I recommend getting your ticket and climbing up next to the mains entrance to old town (Pile Gate – pronounced like Pee-lay not pile :P) near the big fountain. Find which angle of the town/harbor you like the best, and catch a lovely sunset with supplemental amazingness from the Adriatic sea and the red roofs of buildings spreading from one grey plant-covered wall to the other.
This is where my boat is docked every time we’re in Dubrovnik, and I won’t lie, I have seen plenty of top-notch sunsets right from my boat. Gruž looks out in the perfect angle out to the sea where you can see the big fiery ball of sun dip below a watery horizon.
Anywhere on the West of Old Town
Croatia is lucky enough to face the sea on the west -and you know what that means – sunsets over the sea!! (Am I the only one that comes right to that conclusion when I travel somewhere?!) So if you get to the coast, chances are that you’ll be able to see the sun set over the sea, behind an island-dotted horizon if you’re lucky.
Remember when I was talking about taking the cable car up to the top of the hill? Yeah, the restaurant up at the top is fittingly called Panorama because of its, well, ‘panoramic’ views of Dubrovnik, ha. See if you can get a table right on the edge of the hill, and catch an phenomenal sunset from up at the top of the world.
The only issue with that my food suggestions in Dubrovnik is that because I take my groups to the smea restaurant every time, I haven’t had much chance to explore different dining options in Dubrovnik. I know of a few, but nothing major and worth listing here… so I asked my tour guide friend Ivan Vukovic (mentioned above under Game of Thrones tours) and he gave me some suggestions below!
This is where I go every time I take a group to dinner in Dubrovnik – it’s fast, reliable, amazing Croatian food, every time. Veritas has fantastic meat and seafood, and pretty much anything really. They have a famous ‘kiss of Dubrovnik’ dish which is breaded chicken stuffed with ham and cheese, and their ‘beefsteak Veritas’ with gorgonzola is gorgeous. The cevapi is great, as is the seafood platter… so many options.
Right in the middle of the main street of old town, there is one of the best gelato places I’ve ever tried. You’ll probably know it when you see a mssive line out the door and heaps of happy people eating away at massive cones of colorful scoops. They’re only 10 kuna per scoop (5 if you are with me 😉 ) so you can’t really pass it up.
Bona Fide Mexican Cantina
I once made a vow to myself to never try Mexican food too far abroad out of California again (I had a shocking burrito in London once), but sometimes when you are abroad for so long, you miss Mexican food quite a lot…. so I gave this lil place a chance. And, although it wasn’t the most amazing Mexican I have ever had…. It really was not bad. And coming from California, that’s saying something. So if you want to quench a bit of a Mexican food fix, check this place out. They also serve Italian food which doesn’t make the most sense to me but there you have it 😛
My friend who was born and raised in Dubrovnik and works as a guide there has suggested the top three restaurants to go to –
Restaurant Gusta Me
I will have to try these out next summer! If you go, let me know what you think!
A Dubrovnik Night Out
This is the first bar we go to in Dubrovnik before hitting the clubs. Galeria, or better known as ‘bucket bar,’ is a little bar located up an alleyway in the center of old town that sells buckets of alcohol and gets extremely packed in peak season. Recently they have started serving buckets from two different bar areas, which has helped a bit, but it would be wise to arrive before 10:30 to get a place in this fun little spot. They have 3 different types of buckets, all usually served with a glow stick that people collect and put in their hair 🙂
Located right next to Onofrio fountain near the main (Pile) gate, this is another one of those European ice bars where you go in, put on a massive jacket, and drink from ice cups. It’s a cool experience to have at least once!
Okay, I will admit, I have never actually been here, but it seems to be popular among other tour groups. I always go to Galerie because I have heard Sky Bar gets pretty packed and sweaty (and is inside, so not much air) but I think I’ll give it more of a chance next year. Sky bar is right outside Pile Gate, so not too far – you can’t miss the big signs by the bus stop!
Revelin is where you always end up at the end of a Dubrovnik night. One of the most famous clubs in Europe, Revelin is located within one of the fortress walls near Ploce Gate, on the other end of Stradun (the main street) to Pile Gate. Revelin has a top-of-the-line sound system (if you have ear plugs, bring them), an amazing line up of big DJ’s over the summer, an incredible atmosphere of stone arches and high ceilings, and some pretty insane performers… think break dancers on the stage, stilt walkers perusing through the crowds, and much more. It’s a pretty clubby club if that makes sense – with bottle service, dancers, a VIP section, the whole nine yards.
There are two things you must be careful of here – first are drink prices. Drinks are very expensive here. So if you want to drink, do it before you get into Revelin if you would like to have any money at the end of the night! Secondly, the bartenders are pretty dodgy here and know people aren’t used to the currency and/or have been drinking, and will sometimes give you the wrong change back when you buy drinks. So make sure your change is right! Other than that, Revelin is a must in Dubrovnik.
One night when I made my group lick pieces of confetti and stick them to our foreheads. Don’t we look great?!
Just past Revelin, you can exit the walls of old town and come to a beach area called Banje Beach. Banje (pronounced Ban-yay) is a restaurant/bar area spanning across the whole beach area, and is always going whether it is day or night. During the day you can find people lounging around and drinking cocktails, and it becomes a bigger party when the sun goes down as well.
If you enjoyed my guide, please PIN it 🙂