“The best way to explore Dubrovnik is to go on foot,” says Sandra Milovčević of the Dubrovnik Tourism Board. In addition to getting around the pedestrianised Old City, she suggests it’s also the easiest and most sustainable way to travel a little further afield: “From any part of the city, you can easily walk to the Pile or Ploče Gates (the western and eastern entrances to the Old City) in half an hour,” she explains “A stroll from the Gruž Harbour, where cruise ships land, will take you to Lapad Bay – another pedestrian zone – in less than half an hour, while a leisurely 40-minute walk will take you to the city walls.” Whether you’re planning on roaming the city centre, the suburbs or adventuring farther afield, this guide will help you navigate your way.
Dubrovnik’s airport is located 22 kilometres (14mi) south of the city, near Čilipi. Regular buses from the airport are timed to meet commercial flights. The journey takes half an hour and costs 35kn (£4.25), first stopping near the Pile Gate before reaching the bus station, five kilometres (3mi) west of the city centre at Kantafig. Buses from the bus station to the airport don’t stop at Pile Gate – the stop at Petar Krešimir IV near the cable car terminal is the closest one to the Old Town.
The best way to travel around Dubrovnik is on foot, according to Milovčević, as it allows visitors to see “many things and details you would miss driving in a car or riding on a bus”. Easily the most atmospheric way of exploring the Old Town, “Walking along its streets, you will over and over again discover a new detail carved in stone, a new chapel and a secluded lane,” she enthuses.
That said, Gruž is a deceptively long walk to and from town. Allow yourself 30 minutes for the journey. From the resorts of Babin Kuk and Lapad, the trip takes between 45 minutes and an hour and can be a challenge in the midday heat. Consider taking a bus or taxi to Gruž.
Libertas city buses link Gruž, Babin Kuk, Lapad and Ploče to the Old Town via routes 1A, 3 and 8. Purchase a ticket for 12kn (£1.45) at Tisak newsstands or pay 15kn (£1.80) in exact change to the bus driver. As Milovčević points out, if you plan on making regular journeys, it’s a good idea to purchase a hopper ticket. Valid for 24 hours from first use, “They’re sold at Libertas company kiosks and cost 30kn (£3.60),” she says.
Timetables are displayed at every major bus stop, and you can also get timetables at the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, at Libertas bus company kiosks or at hotel front desks. For disabled access, most local buses feature a ramp at their middle door. Some routes have low-floor buses offering easy pavement access.
Visitors looking to get out of town to explore the historic waterfront of Cavtat should take bus number 10 from Gruž harbour, which runs every 45 to 60 minutes. The peaceful fishing village of Slano is reached by bus no. 12, Osojnik no. 28, Gruda no. 30 and Brsečine no. 35. For up-to-date bus schedules, check the Libertas website for suburban timetables.
Half a dozen services leave for and arrive from Zagreb daily (a ten-hour journey); buses from Split (4.5 hours) are more frequent. Keep your passport handy, as the bus passes through a 5km-long sliver of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Dubrovnik has a clunky one-way system that struggles to accommodate the number of visitors in high-season. There are plenty of cabs at Pile Gate, but the road to Gruž is busy and often gridlocked. Taxis start at 25kn (£3) and charge 8kn (£1) per km – a taxi to/from Gruž costs between 50kn-70kn (£6-£8.50). Taxi apps Uber and Bolt serve the city and are marginally cheaper than local services.
Whether it’s for a day trip or overnight stay, Dubrovnik offers the perfect opportunity for island hopping. Connected to Split and the pearl necklace of islands Brač, Hvar, Korčula and Lastovo, the city also has regular boat transfers to Koločep, Lopud, Šipan and Mljet. All the main ferries and catamarans leave from Gruž harbour, some 30 minutes by foot from the city, with most ferries offering disabled access.
The nearest of the Elaphiti islands, the verdant Lokrum is extremely popular among visitors to Dubrovnik, not least because the journey takes just 15 minutes from the Old Town’s port. Covered in lowland pines, and fringed by shingly beaches, its focal point is a ruined Napoleonic fort and botanical gardens, planted by Habsburg royalty. A miniature salt lake is located on the south side. At less than a mile wide, the island is one of Dalmatia’s smallest, and an afternoon is plenty of time to enjoy it. Cars are banned on the island, as are overnight stays.
An orange cable car whizzes up the historic Mount Srđ, which provides a dramatic backdrop to Dubrovnik’s Old City and was an important military asset during the Croatian War of Independence. A spectacular ride, the Old Town disappears from view as you climb the mountain, engulfed by the brilliantly blue Adriatic Sea. At its summit, Panorama restaurant offers refreshments, classic Dalmatian cuisine and superlative views. The cable car takes four minutes to climb 778 metres (2,552ft) and runs from 9am to midnight daily. A one-way ticket costs 90kn (£11) and a round-trip ticket 170kn (£20.50) – check the website for more ticket prices and updated timetables. Hiking one way (or both!) is also an option.
If you decide to travel to the Old City by car, Milovčević recommends that you park at Ilijina Glavica, a five-minute walk from the Old Town. Look out for street parking signs with payment instructions and costs; you can pay at parking metres or on your phone at Sanitat’s website.
Looking to go island hopping? “There is a parking lot at Gruž Port that’s particularly useful if you decide to take a day trip to one of the islands because it is located in the immediate vicinity of the pier, where the boats that connect Dubrovnik with the local islands dock,” Milovčević says.