A few years ago my roommate in Germany, Ava, told me about this beautiful city in south Croatia called Dubrovnik. I had never heard about it before but as soon as she showed it to me, I decided that I needed to go there one day. For the next four years, I kept looking for cheap flights from a variety of different places within Europe. And despite the fact that Europe is a relatively small continent compared to other places, it was nearly impossible to find a budget flight to Dubrovnik.
Then, one day, my dad told me that he was looking at a cruise that would hit up Dubrovnik. Since I knew he would be paying, I jumped at the opportunity to go there on someone else’s dime. Thanks dad!
Dubrovnik is becoming a very popular tourist destination. Part of this is thanks to Game of Thrones, which had Dubrovnik as a setting for Kings Landing. I’ve only seen 3 episodes of this show but after visiting Dubrovnik I kind of want to start watching it. For us non-Game of Thrones fans, it is still a beautiful city on the Dalmatian Coast that draws hundreds of thousands of people.
The part of Dubrovnik that is the old town is relatively small. If you only have one day to see the city, then you’re probably going to spend most of your time here. The best thing about it being so small is that
As you walk through the main Pile Gate, this massive round water fountain is one of the first things you will see. It’s a popular meeting place in the city, especially for walking tours. The water taps are in working condition, as they have been for 500 years. It might look old but the water is still good to drink, so be sure to fill up your water here before you hit the streets!
The entrance to Dubrovnik’s walls are directly across from this fountain. Entering the city through this gate sets you up perfectly to get to the walls first.
WALK THE WALLS
If you only have one day in Dubrovnik, head straight for the walls. You’re going to encounter crowds no matter what time of day or season you’re there, but you’ll have the fewest people there first thing in the morning. This is the number one attraction in Dubrovnik and it gets packed if you aren’t there first-thing in the morning.
Dubrovnik’s Walls are not for the mobility-impaired. As incredible as it would be to have elevators on these centuries-old walls… it’s not the case. Even I, a healthy and athletic 23 year-old, got tired walking up and down the staircases on the walls. I happened to be there in October and the weather was still pretty warm, which didn’t make the climbing in the humidity and heat any easier. Be sure to wear sturdy walking shoes because, after all, these walls are about 500 years old!
The length of your walk depends on how quickly you walk and how much time you want to spend just admiring the views. I suggest budgeting about 1.5-2 hours for the walk. But don’t forget, once you enter the walls and use your ticket, you can’t leave and re-enter. Some entrepreneur thankfully got the wise idea to put a little cafe and restrooms along the wall, so you’ll be able to get something to drink and you’ll have somewhere to pee during your journey. The bathroom costs a menial amount, I think 5-10 Croatian Kuna, but when you gotta go, you gotta go!
WANDER AROUND AND GET LOST
As is the case with most quaint little cities, the best way to explore it is to just wander through the ancient streets. Anticipate that most of the streets will be overrun with tourists… so try and dip into a back street to avoid the crowds. Despite there being LITERALLY THOUSANDS of people descending upon Dubrovnik on the day I was there, I was still able to find little pieces of the city to myself. Many tourists won’t stray beyond the tourist areas. Use that statistic to your advantage and EXPLORE! Just keep in mind that actual people still live in Dubrovnik and don’t be that obnoxious tourist.
FUNICULAR CABLE CAR
The walled city of Dubrovnik is surprisingly small. It can be difficult to see just how small and compact it is which is why I suggest taking a cable car ride to get a birds-eye view over the city. It only costs 90 Kuna for a one-way ticket and 170 Kuna for a round-trip ticket. Here is the link to the website with opening hours and additional information that may change frequently due to COVID-19. They do accept credit cards, so that’s a great option for travelers who don’t have a lot of Kuna!
A lot of people have suggested taking the cable car at sunset or just a little bit before. There’s a panoramic restaurant at the top, aptly called Restaurant Panorama, where you can have dinner and enjoy the beautiful view. If you need to walk off your food after eating, then there’s also a path where you can hike back down the mountain. It’s better to go down when gravity is on your side!
This is the best place to go if you want stunning views over the walled city of Dubrovnik. The only downside is that you have to climb a lot of stairs to get to the top. Trust me, it’s completely worth it. Apparently some Game of Thrones scenes were filmed here too and it’s an incredible historical place!
I did my due diligence and researched this fort and apparently it is known as the “Red Keep” in Game of Thrones, in case that means more to you than it does to me.
WALK ALONG THE STRADUN
The Stradun is the main street that cuts through Old Town Dubrovnik. The stones have been polished over the years and shine in the sun. One of the scenes from Star Wars Episode IX was filmed here because apparently Hollywood can’t get enough of this beautiful city. Honestly I can see why.
SPEND TIME BY THE SEA
Dubrovnik is perched perfectly along the Dalmatian coast and it’d be a shame if you visited and didn’t get to appreciate the beautiful sea. One of the most popular places to sit by the water is Gruz Harbor. Gruz Harbor is at the opposite end of the Stradun and has a variety of restaurants and places to eat and watch life go by. Unfortunately, it’s popularity means that it is highly touristy. Some people prefer to stay in touristy areas when visiting foreign countries. I am not one of those people. So instead of paying way too much for a mediocre meal at a restaurant, my parents and I got some mojitos and sat on the edge of the harbor with our feet in the water. Much cheaper and a much more unique experience!
For those of you who plan on taking a boat to neighboring islands, this might be the location where you meet your tour and get on the boat. It’s the main maritime entrance to the city and there are constantly boats buzzing in and out of the harbor.
Dubrovnik’s Rector’s Palace once served as the political seat for the region. The same man who built this also built Onofrio’s fountain that I mentioned above. Unsurprisingly, his name was Onofrio. This palace is built in the Gothic style and today serves as the site for the History Department of the Museum of Dubrovnik. Rector’s Palace is at the very end of the Stradun and you can’t miss it while en route to the harbor.
JESUIT STAIRS (AKA SHAME SHAME FROM GOT)
These beautiful steps are an important part of history – Cersi’s walk of “Shame” in Game of Thrones. I honestly hate how many references to GOT I am making in this, but if it weren’t for the show, I wouldn’t have given these steps much of a second thought.
When doing my research, I learned that these stairs are actually much more exciting than I originally thought. These steps were modeled after the Spanish Steps in Rome but on a smaller scale. Gundulic Square at the bottom of the steps has an open-air market every morning if you can get up before noon. I unfortunately didn’t know about this when I was in Dubrovnik but it’s a great place to get fresh produce and homemade items!
This church is really old and it stands on the ruins of an even older church from the 1100s. Unfortunately the original church was destroyed in 1667 by an earthquake and this one was built in its place in 1713. Yes, this church is older than the United States of America. The interior and exterior are both beautiful and the steps are a great place to sit and rest your feet after walking all over the city.
Story time: when I went into this church, the city was overrun by roughly 6,000 cruise ship passengers. One such passenger went into this church, a holy site, and began loudly arguing on her phone. I was shocked at her behavior, not only because I’m a Christian but also because that’s rude as hell to be on the phone in a religious site, let alone be screaming into it. So I told her in a not-so-holy-manner that she needed to be quiet because she was literally in a church and she got huffy and left, but then kept yelling outside. Whatever. The moral of the story is that regardless of what your religion is, don’t be rude when going inside of a religious building, and that goes for wherever you are in the world.
GO TO BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Okay this is probably not on most people’s agendas BUT my family and I are not like most people. When we arrived in Dubrovnik I realized that the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina was literally just two miles away from Dubrovnik. So as soon as we got off of the cruise ship we paid a taxi to take us into Bosnia and Herzegovina to the nearest city and then back to Dubrovnik.
Was it just an excuse to technically cross another country off of our list? Yes. But we didn’t know if we’d ever have the opportunity to return to the country so we leapt at the chance. Taking a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina is a great option if you’re spending more than one day in Dubrovnik. If you have a lot of time in Dubrovnik, you can even head the other direction and go visit Montenegro, another country located close by!
All of these things can very easily be done in one day. Dubrovnik is a beautiful and relaxing city and you could easily spend a few days just taking in the atmosphere. But since Dubrovnik is becoming a more popular cruise ship destination (pre-COVID), this is to help you if you are a cruise ship passenger or if Dubrovnik is just a stop on your European tour!