Note: This Guide to Dubrovnik is part of my Tour Guide’s Super-Guide to Croatia. Click to see the rest, and for some preliminary Croatia info that would be useful for this guide!
By this point I have been to Dubrovnik over 20 times, and am fairly confident that this city guide to Dubrovnik 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 a few small islands right 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 (although I don’t really recommend July, to be honest :P). 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. Dubrovnik could also be the start of a ten day Croatia itinerary if you are looking for ideas!
Adventure Guide to Dubrovnik:
Cable Car/Fort Imperijal
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.
You can reach the cable car through Buza gate, at the top/inland wall of old town. You will see the signs for the cable car not too far away, and it will take you right to Fort Imperijal. 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 Imperijal 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 can take a top-rated walking tour or simply explore yourself. 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. Dubrovnik will feature in the next Star Wars film too!
Buža/Cliff Bars in Dubrovnik
Buža 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 Buža 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!
Lokrum Island Tour
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.
Explore Down the Dubrovnik 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. You get a little meal and even some wine if you book a sunset tour! It’s not for the faint of heart, though; it’s a pretty long way!!Book Your Sea Kayaking Adventure!
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 of the old town walls from outside make the extra price worth it.
My crew and I in the blue cave!
Mermaiding around in the blue cave
Elaphite Islands & Caves Tour
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 a beutiful little town, but a highlight for me is a small ‘blue’ cave on the other side of the island. It’s 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.
Sponza Palace & Rector’s Palace
The Sponza Palace is right near the entrance to the old port, and used to be where they would deal with the logging and taxation of goods coming and going from there. But today, it is a lovely courtyard and museum where you can view the “Memorial Room for the Defenders of Dubrovnik” and many other historical artefects.
The Rector’s Palace is where the rector (leader) of Ragusa (what Dubrovnik used to be called when it was an independent state for 450 years) used to live. They used to keep the artillery and gunpowder in the basement of this palace, and it exploded to the ground twice before they decided it might be a better idea to keep the gunpowder somewhere else! Today the Rector’s palace is home to three museums – a maritime museum, an ethnographic museum , and a cultural history museum, which you can visit all in one ticket along with a few other museums in town.
St Blaise + St Blaise’s Church
St. Blaise is the patron saint of Dubrovnik, and if you keep you eyes peeled you will see him all over the old town. Legend has it that he came to a priest in a dream to warn him of an imminent Venetian attack, and through this knowledge the priest was able to warn the city so they could fend off the Venetians. Nowadays you will see him above Pile Gate, scattered around old town, and also atop his very own church in the center of town. On the right day, you can go inside and see the 17th century church with a few remaining artifacts from the original church in the 1400’s.
Sunset Guide to Dubrovnik:
Walk the Old City 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.
Take a Sunset Boat Cruise
There are lots of different Sunset Boat Cruises in Dubrovnik to enjoy the sunset behind an island-dotted coast from the gentle rocking of a boat. What could be better? But there’s nothing quite as iconic as enjoying a sunset cruise about the super-legit pirate ship, Karaka. Everyone in Dubrovnik knows this massive wooden ship (often accompanied by traditionally-dressed workers), and you can spot it out at sea when you walk the walls or are up on the cable car. Taking a boat cruise is definitely the best way to see the old town walls, and this one even comes with champagne and a Croatian buffet-style meal.
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. If you’re active, you can even do a sunset hike up to the best view in town.
Food Guide to Dubrovnik
The only issue with my food suggestions in Dubrovnik is that because I take my groups to the same restaurants 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! Or, you can try a food and wine tour that people also seem to love.
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 Croatian, 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 was actually really not bad. Dare I even say, it was… GOOD. And coming from California, that’s saying something. They put their own little twist on Mexican favorites, have great margaritas, and serve tequila as well! 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 😛
This is a famous restaurant right at the top of old town, with a view! It has quite a provocative statue/fountain out front that will give you a good idea of where its name came from, too.
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
Of you can always take a Traditional Dalmatian Cooking Class!
I will have to try these out next summer! If you go, let me know what you think!
A Nightlife Guide to Dubrovnik
This is the first bar we go to in Dubrovnik before hitting the clubs. Trocadero (previously ‘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 cocktails 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.
Dubrovnik Day Trips and Tours
Not too much time? Luckily Dubrovnik is one the the best places to take day trips all over the country, and even to neighboring countries like Bosnia&Herzegovina and Montenegro.
If you don’t have time to visit these places on your travels, it would be a great idea to see them on a tour from Dubrovnik (although I do recommend spending at least a day there – see my Korčula Guide to see what you think!)
Korčula is a medieval walled town on the coast of an island of the same name, which comes within 1km of the rocky and mountainous Pelješac peninsula. Both regions are very famous for wine and are as picturesque as can be.
Again, if you don’t have much time, Montenegro is 100% worth seeing during your trip to the Balkans. It’s only a few short hours from Dubrovnik and, in my opinion, is one of the most impressively scenic and underrated countries! Check out some of my photos of Kotor and my day tour driving around the country to see if it looks good to you.
Excuse the face, I was just preparing to jump off a 12 meter platform in front of the Stari Most (old bridge) in Mostar. That's just about half the height of the actual bridge, which people also jump off – I saw a few do it while I was there! The 12 meter one did a pretty good job convincing me not to try the real thing😝 one day! @sandmarc pole link still in my bio📷 #GoPro #sandmarc #goprotravel #goprogirl #herzegovina #bosnia #river #cliffjumping #neretva #peoplewhodofunstuff #inspiredbyyou
One of my hands-down favorite places in the Balkans was Mostar, in the Herzegovina side of Bosnia + Herzegovina. The small, muslim city is as charming as can be, with the iconic ‘old bridge’ and river. You can visit Blagaj spring, Počitelj castle, Medugorje, and Kravice waterfalls all in the same area.
Another place that would be good to spend an entire day if you have it is Mljet island. Most of the island is a national park characterized by two tidal salt water lakes that are connected by a small bridge. You can kayak or bike around these lakes, or soak up the sun in one of the most picturesque places in Croatia.
Other Destinations in Croatia
Need Help Planning Your Trip to Croatia?
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