The Best Things to Do And See in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik, Croatia | © Ivan Ivankovic/Flickr
The historic walled city of Dubrovnik is Dalmatia’s most prized jewel. Towering over the azure Adriatic Sea, it’s not hard to see why hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers flock to this handsome maritime town every year. Bolstered by the recent popularity of HBO series Game of Thrones which sometimes films here, Dubrovnik has been gifted a bucket-list destination status, and the city has cultivated a tourist industry to go with it – there is lots to see and do here.
A ramble along the city walls tops the list of essential things to do in Dubrovnik. These impressive fortifications thread around the Old Town for 1,940 meters, and for first-timers, it’s a great way to get your bearings on the layout of the city. The walk also has some of the best photo opportunities in Dubrovnik, with epic sea views at every turn. You can take the journey at your own pace – people usually complete the walk in a couple of hours, but a laid-back stroll along its meandering paths could take a lot longer. Things get considerably less tourist-laden towards late afternoon, and the journey is more enjoyable away from the searing midday sun. Visitors enter the Old Town through the Pile Gate, where the entrance and the ticket office is.
The bright orange cable car that zooms up Mount Srđ isn’t just a kitsch tourist attraction: it’s a veritable piece of history. Mount Srđ was an important military asset during the Croatian War of Independence, providing a strategic frontier against Serb forces in 1991. These days, the mountain’s primary purpose is to ferry tourists up and down to enjoy the view – but it’s a spectacular ride. As it climbs erratically above the city, Dubrovnik disappears into a hazy vista, engulfed by swathes of Adriatic blue. At the cable car station, the Panorama restaurant provides refreshments and more stunning views.
A stones-throw from Dubrovnik, Lokrum is an uninhabited island teeming with lush vegetation and historical ruins. Covered in a lowland pine forest and fringed by rocky beaches, its focal point is a ruined Napoleonic fort and botanical gardens set up by the Habsburg royal Maximilian. Another popular attraction is the miniature salt lake located at the southern part of the island. Taxi boats leave every half hour, and you could be relaxing under the pines in just twenty minutes from Dubrovnik’s Old Town.
Lokrum Island | © Andrija Carli
Seafood is at the heart of every menu in Dubrovnik, and must-try Dalmatian specialities include black cuttlefish risotto, fried squid and octopus salad. The best restaurants for seafood are the more high end Nautika and Proto and Orhan and Pantarul are good mid-range restaurants, but Lokanda Peskarija remains the top table in town for bargain caught-that-day fish and seafood, located on the main port.
A short walk from the Old Town’s buzzing thoroughfare Stradun, D’vino is the place to try Croatian wine in Dubrovnik. Much of the wine will come from nearby vineyards on the island of Korčula or the Pelješac peninsula, and look out for the internationally renowned red from Frano Miloš winery. With over a hundred domestic wines to sample, you could spend an enjoyably boozy evening on the terrace appreciating the finest Croatian grape.
The city beach Banje is close to Ploče Gate, the stone entrance to the Old Town from the eastern side. Here, deckchairs are available to rent for astronomical rates, jet skis cut tracks in the water and children on inflatables bob up and down in the sea. Essentially, Banje is convenient but touristy. Locals instead make a beeline for Sveti Jakov, a majestic slice of coastline that guarantees tranquillity, less than half an hour from Villa Dubrovnik. The sun here glows until late evening, dappling a golden light on the Old Town.
Seek refuge in a monastery
Take a break from the blazing heat and the crush of sightseers and spend an afternoon exploring the Franciscan Monastery and its Old Pharmacy museum. Adorned with beautiful cloisters, the monastery is home to one of the world’s oldest pharmacies. Stuffed full of curios and old jars, it’s still very much in use, and you’ll see locals collecting prescriptions from the chemist while tourist gawp at the antiquities. The monastery also houses a museum where you can see artefacts from the pharmacy, alongside manuscripts and a collection of medieval artworks. An attractive courtyard sprinkled with orange blossom trees provides a peaceful retreat. Visit during the late afternoon to avoid crowds.
© Andrija Carli
Placa 2, Dubrovnik, Croatia +020 321 410
Understand modern history
Established by New Zealand photographer Wade Goddard, War Photo Limited is an exhibition centre featuring war and conflict photojournalism, offering a profound and often difficult journey through human emotions. Goddard, who came to Dubrovnik during the siege in the early nineties, wanted to explode the myths of modern warfare, and to educate the public about the raw, tribal violence of conflict through uncompromising images of war. It’s hard to imagine now, but a few decades ago the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ suffered intensive shelling and bombardments. The permanent collection on the second level is dedicated to the Yugoslav wars, and the first floor features changing exhibitions by internationally celebrated conflict photojournalists.
© War Photo Limited
Antuninska 6, 200000, Dubrovnik, Croatia, +385 98 367 467