The Croatian city of Dubrovnik on the Adriatic Sea in Dalmatia is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea. The romantic old city lies within an uninterrupted ramparts that run for approximately 1,940 metres and joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979. It’s not hard to see why!
I loved Dubrovnik on our visit in September 2015. My first impressions were that it was a romantic Old Town with great history, and they weren’t wrong.
There are several city entrances located below magnificent forts overlooking the gates. The old town Pile City Gate is the main city entrance and leads out to the current city centre. The gates are overlooked by the two forts: Minčeta from the north and Bokar from the south. The Onofrio Fountain stands just inside the Pile City Gate and is the meeting point from which many walking tours begin, and close to the main entrance of the city walls walk.
Dubrovnik’s old town is a place where you could lose yourself in the maze of narrow city streets and numerous museums and galleries. One of the most beautiful and interesting monuments in the Old City is the Franciscan Monastery, which was built in the late medieval period. It is one of the finest and most harmonious examples of Gothic and Romanesque architecture in the city.
Stradun, the main street, runs from the Pile City Gate to a lovely square surrounded by the City Cathedral, the Church of St. Blaise, the Sponza Palace (the city archive), the Rector’s Palace, the bell towers and the Orlando’s Column.
Walking the city walls
The best way to see the city is to join the throng of tourists atop the city walls.
The white stone Dubrovnik City walls are a world renowned iconic symbol and the main reason why Dubrovnik is sometimes referred to as the Pearl of the Adriatic. The history of the fortifications goes back to the early middle Ages, but numerous additions and modifications have been made in the centuries since.
The walls were never breached by a hostile army and have been considered to be amongst the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages. The moat that ran around the outside section of the city walls which were armed by more than 120 cannons, made superb city defence. Today’s intact city walls, constructed mainly during the 12th–17th centuries are amongst the largest and most complete in Europe.
Try to avoid the hottest part of the day by going early in the day, or late in the afternoon, and take a bottle of water with you to avoid paying tourist prices at the kiosks located on top of the walls.
(City walls entry fee: You can buy tickets for 100kn (kuna) / £10 from ticket booths, or sometimes cheaper online or outside of the old town)
Dubrovnik for foodies
The inviting aromas of the delicious Mediterranean and European cuisine are spread throughout the city streets from numerous restaurants and taverns enticing you to take a break from sightseeing to try some of the local specialties.
We enjoyed a cocktail and delicious locally sourced dinner at Gatsbys. Be sure to make a booking, and be prepared to pay London prices for your meal (570kn).
Proto was recommended for its great local seafood, but we were unable to get a table for two people at late notice. Ensure you book in advance!
Dubrovnik after dark
From the top of the city walls you can spot two not-so-secret bars “hidden” on the outside of the city walls on the rocks. If you can get a seat, the drinks are expensive for normal Croatian standards, but a great location to see a beautiful sunset.
After dark, the Old City doesn’t lose its vividness. Throughout summer, numerous musical and theatre performances feature on the city squares and the youth come out to enjoy the bars hidden in narrow passageways.
There is an alleyway off Stradun with two fast food joints – Burger Tiger and the pasta shop next door – serving beers, and really good (and decently priced) burgers, pizza and pasta until 2am every night. The burgers at Burger Tiger were better than the recommended Presa we went to for lunch.
Accommodation to fit everyone’s budget and taste
In the heart of the old town: We stayed for one night in a beautiful and surprisingly large studio apartment. It had a perfect mix of modern amenities and style in an ancient building. We had a living area, a kitchen and a stunning view over the rooftops of the old town that surrounded us.
(Apartments More, Petilovrijenci 1, Old Town, Dubrovnik. 1470.90kn / £141 per night)
Outside the old town and with a budget: Our friends booked a last minute Airbnb for five people to share. They got a 3 bedroom (2 kings and 1 single) apartment with kitchen and balcony overlooking the old harbour and old town.
(An Airbnb booking to sleep 5 people. £100 per night)
On a budget: We stayed for two nights at Kamp Pod Maslinom in Orašac, a small village just 11km north of Dubrovnik. The campsite had great amenities, including a small kitchenette with a fridge. The secluded beach was at the end of the road, and perfect for a quiet, relaxed getaway. The local bus to Dubrovnik ran every 30 minutes and cost 15kn / £1.44.
(Kamp Pod Maslinom, Orašac, Croatia. Cost per person with 1 tent, car and electricity: 142kn / £13.60. We paid 274kn / £26.30 for a couple, a large tent, the van and electricity.)
Looking for more travel inspiration or destination guides?
Check out my recommendations on what to do in: Amsterdam, Bali, Berlin, Brisbane, Budapest, Cambridge, Canberra, Cappadocia, Chamonix, Copenhagen, Dubrovnik, Istanbul, Kotor, Kyoto, London, Lyon, Madrid, New York City, Paris, Riga, Scotland, Tokyo, and Washington D.C.