Croatia’s crown jewel along the Adriatic Sea has become a much-loved tourist hotspot in recent years. With its picturesque rooftops, medieval Old Town walls, stunning beaches and delightful regional cuisine, Dubrovnik is a must-see destination for history buffs, foodies, beach bums and Game of Thrones fans alike. Read on to learn more about a few of our favourite things to do, see and eat in this historic European city.
1. See the city from the Old Town walls
Plan to walk the Old Town walls when you first arrive in Dubrovnik in order to get a lay of the land and knock this must-see site off your bucket list. Encircling the city below, the elevated walkway along the 13th-century stone walls will give you a stunning aerial perspective of the Old Town’s winding streets below and provide endless photo opportunities with orange terracotta rooftops set against the stunning blue waters of the Adriatic.
The entire circuit should take roughly an hour to 90 minutes, depending on your level of fitness and penchant for snapping photos along the way. Try to plan your walk along the walls during off-peak hours—either early in the day or late in the afternoon/early evening—to avoid crowds and congestion along the route.
2. Climb to the top of Fort Lovrijenac
Tickets for the Old Town walls also include entry to nearby Fort Lovrijenac, an impressive fortress built atop a 37-metre-high rockface located just outside the western walls. It’s a steep climb up—almost 200 steps to the top where you’ll find 3 terraces dotted with canons and historic relics. The fort will be familiar to Game of Thrones fans (the location served as the Red Keep in King’s Landing) and the viewing areas provide an incredible vantage point from which to view the Old Town walls in all their glory.
3. Snack on traditional burek
The Greeks have gyros, the Polish have their pierogis and the Croats have burek. This traditional regional snack features flaky phyllo pastry baked with savoury fillings such as spiced ground beef, potatoes, or spinach and cheese. You’ll spot delicious burek available in grocery stores, cafes and corner shops in and around the Old Town, and it certainly wouldn’t be uncalled for to make this part of your daily diet while in Dubrovnik.
4. Catch some sun on Banje Beach
Banje Beach is conveniently situated just beyond the walls on the eastern edge of the Old Town and is an ideal spot for swimming and sunbathing during the warm-weather months. The pebbled beach can get crowded with towels and sunbathers during peak tourist seasons, so it’s worth it to splurge on an umbrella and sunbed for the day, and enjoy food and drink service from the onsite Banje Beach Club.
5. Shop with the locals at the Gundulićeva Poljana Market
Skip the tacky tourist traps and Game of Thrones-themed stores of the Old Town and shop for artisanal souvenirs at the Gundulićeva Poljana Market. This open-air daily market attracts local vendors whose colourful and fragrant stalls are stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, lavender soaps, artisanal oils, liquors, honey and more. Plan your visit in the morning as vendors usually pack up their goods around noon.
6. Enjoy a seaside drink at sunset
Nothing is more refreshing than a cool drink at Buza, this literal hole-in-the-wall bar embedded within the cliffs on the southern edge of the Old Town. Follow the signs for ‘COLD DRINKS WITH THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEW’ to locate the non-descript entrance to this popular waterfront bar. A hidden doorway reveals a multi-levelled outdoor bar with chairs and tables arranged on cliffside platforms clinging to the rockface. While the menu might be simple and slightly overpriced, locals and visitors agree there’s no better place in the city to enjoy a drink while watching the sunset. If you’re feeling brave, you can even jump from the bar’s rocky lower level right into the Adriatic below. Just remember: if you’re planning on consuming alcohol, remember to review your travel insurance policy.
7. Pick up some skincare at one of Europe’s oldest pharmacies
Tucked away within the solid stone walls of Dubrovnik’s historic Franciscan Monastery, the city’s beautifully-preserved pharmacy features an astonishing display of 14th-century laboratory equipment, medical books, pharmaceutical tools and apothecary accessories. Technically Europe’s third-oldest operational pharmacy, the historic establishment dates back to 1317 and is rumored to be the first of its kind open to the general public. Today, the storied spot is more museum than drug store, though you can still pick up skincare, soaps and other items made with local herbs.
8. Frolic with wild peacocks on the Island of Lokrum
A short ferry ride from the Old Town but a world away from its crowded streets, the legendary Island of Lokrum is home to wild bunnies, peacocks, stunning botanical gardens, olive groves and lush vegetation, and a picture-worthy abandoned Benedictine Monastery. Plan to spend the better part of the day here exploring the tropical island’s many walking trails and lush gardens and be sure to bring along a bathing suit so you can take a dip at one of the pebbled beaches or in a secluded swimming hole. Game of Thrones fans will be thrilled to discover an ornate Iron Throne replica inside the cultural centre on the island; unsurprisingly, it’s a very popular spot for a photo op.
9. Bite into traditional Bosnian cuisine
While Dubrovnik is home to many traditional eateries boasting fresh-caught seafood, pasta and Mediterranean favourites, you would be remiss if you didn’t sample some of the incredible regional cuisine from the East. Located amongst the winding streets of the Old Town, Taj Mahal is a picturesque jewel of a restaurant serving—despite its name—traditional Bosnian cuisine and comforting dishes of roasted veal, slow-cooked lamb, cabbage rolls and grilled kebabs.
10. People-watch along the Stradun
Running from the Pile Gate entrance to the west all the way to the Ploče Gate in the east, the Stradun is the main thoroughfare of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. The pedestrianized street is wide and luminous, paved with smooth white limestone that feels like polished marble underfoot. While the pricy cafés and restaurants that line this strip cater strictly to tourists, it’s worth stopping for an espresso on one of the street-side patios to enjoy the bustling ambiance and excellent people watching.