Soaring majestically above the cobalt-blue Adriatic Sea, the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik is both beautiful and conveniently compact – meaning 72 hours in the city is plenty of time to take in the very best it has to offer.
Beyond the sights made famous by Game of Thrones, the stone fortifications that surround the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ house Michelin-starred restaurants, cult destination bars and historical attractions. Three days in Dubrovnik is just enough time to get a sense of the city, exploring the Gundulićeva Poljana market, the city walls and one of the world’s oldest pharmacies.
Walk Dubrovnik’s city walls
Start with the Walls of Dubrovnik, the perfect place to help you get your bearings and suss out the layout of the city. As you stroll the circuit of the strikingly well-preserved Medieval walls that surround the Old Town, you’ll pass one or two familiar sights from Game of Thrones – look out in particular for Fort Lovrijenac, recognisably part of King’s Landing in the HBO series. The walls open to visitors at 8am, and the route can take up to a couple of hours to complete. Make a beeline for here first thing in the morning to beat the crowds of cruise-trippers and the burning midday sun, as there’s little shade on the route.
Sandra from Visit Dubrovnik recommends buying a 24-hour, 48-hour or 72-hour Dubrovnik Card, which gives you access to all of Dubrovnik’s attractions, museums and public galleries, as well as free travel on public transport and discounts on restaurants, shops and tours. “The Dubrovnik Card is a key that opens the door to all of the top attractions in Dubrovnik and nearby Cavtat, with discounts and savings, as well as some extra surprises,” she says.
Savour local specialities at Trattoria Carmen
A small, family-owned trattoria set down a stone alleyway near the Maritime Museum and Fort St Ivana, Carmen is a great place to refuel after climbing the Walls of Dubrovnik. This small but excellent Istria-influenced restaurant is run by couple Ivana and Damir Raguž, and offers the best value lunch in the city. “The emphasis is on fresh Adriatic fish and local vegetables,” says Ivana. “It’s very small, with 16 chairs outside and just ten inside, but great for those looking for shade during hot summer days.” Order the house specials: pašticada (Dalmatian stewed beef) with homemade gnocchi, pasta with Istrian truffles, or fresh fish. Afterwards, stroll back towards Rector’s Palace and admire its dazzling array of antiquities from the days when Dubrovnik was an independent republic.
Watch the sunset at Buža Bar
Situated on the rocks beneath the Old Town walls, the two cliffside bars, Buža and Bard, offer spectacular views and a superb setting to enjoy a swim. Arrive before sunset to order your cocktail and watch the sky swirl with shades of neon pink, orange and purple. At Buža, you can dive into the moonlit waters until midnight; and in summer, films are regularly projected onto the cliff face. Afterwards, take your pick from one of Dubrovnik’s excellent seafood restaurants.
Visit the Gundulićeva Poljana market
Located behind the Church of St Blaise, the Gundulićeva Poljana market is open daily in the morning. As well as being the busiest, this is also the most diverse of Dubrovnik’s markets, with local honey, jam, lavender and homemade brandy on offer, ideal as souvenirs. This is the perfect place to pack your picnic basket before heading out to the beach – you won’t find fresher fruit and veg anywhere else.
Hit the beach
Beachside bliss is what many visitors are after on a trip to Dubrovnik, and they won’t be disappointed. Spend the afternoon sunbathing on Sveti Jakov, a beautiful shingle beach just 20 minutes from the centre. With fewer sunbathers jostling for a place, it offers a more secluded and relaxed experience than some other local beaches, with golden views of Dubrovnik’s iconic fortress at sundown.
Party in the city
Dubrovnik isn’t exactly a party hub, but there’s still plenty to do in the evening, and a crop of cult bars and clubs to choose from. Start at D’vino wine bar to get a taste for locally-produced wine, paired with sheep’s cheese and prosciutto. Move on to Taverna Otto, a fantastic example of affordable, Adriatic gastronomy. For live jazz on the open terrace, head to Troubadour jazz club. Next up, the eccentric Buzz Bar has a decent range of Croatian craft beers to choose from. Once Dubrovnik’s bars call time, Culture Club Revelin is the place for after-hours partying. Concealed within the city walls, it’s a blend of EDM music, cage dancers and late-night, tacky fun.
Enjoy Dubrovnik’s best breakfast
For breakfast, top of the pile is the Hotel Kazbek, a terracotta-roofed gem just outside of the Old Town near Gruz Harbour. Perfectly poached Eggs Benedict are made to order on the hotel’s patio, an enclosed stone courtyard dotted with Mediterranean plants. In town, Cele lounge also does excellent breakfasts, including pastries, pancakes and smoothies.
Visit a historic pharmacy
Take shelter from the midday heat at the Franciscan Monastery. Adorned with intricate cloisters, it’s also home to one of the world’s oldest pharmacies. Packed with Ragusan curios and medical antiquities, the pharmacy is still in use today. The monastery houses a museum where you can see its artefacts and manuscripts, alongside a collection of Medieval artworks. The botanical gardens, dotted with orange blossom trees, are a tranquil place to unwind.
Splash out on seafood
If you’re looking to splash out on a meal in an atmospheric location, Dubrovnik offers a few top options. Restaurant 360 is the grande dame of the local dining scene – the upscale restaurant was one of the first in the country to be awarded a Michelin star. It may not be easy to get a table so book well in advance. The Michelin-recommended Proto also provides a fantastic insight into modern Adriatic cuisine. Under the stewardship of local chef Boško Lonac, the restaurant is particularly skilled with seafood – expect oysters from the nearby Mali Ston Bay, lobster tail with pasta or grilled Mediterranean scallops. According to Lonac: “Dubrovnik’s restaurant scene has improved, but it still fights for talented chefs. A few of us are working hard to burnish its reputation for creativity and innovation in cuisine.” You won’t find a better example of contemporary Croatian cuisine than this.