"Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik"
- George Bernard Shaw
A city both beautiful and full of history, in 1979 Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites....and after visiting the city it's easy to see why! Perfect for a relaxing break but yet plenty of day trips, history, and islands to keep you busy too. It's quite a romantic city and therefore not a city you would tend to visit for a week of partying! Game of Thrones fans will recognize many of the sights around the city - I was surprised to find that the sights were just as majestic in real life compared to the show! For more information on the scenes filmed here and GOT tours available in the city click here.
With so much to do in Dubrovnik and its surrounding area, I have split this into several posts. This post focuses on Dubrovnik city while the next posts will focus on short trips that we took while there (such as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Elaphiti Islands, Lokrum Island, and Hvar island).
Where We Stayed
We were lucky and found a great deal on booking.com for Apartment Carmen and Tosca. The apartment was lovely and it had a nice outdoor area to relax in too. The host was really friendly....and had a cute dog! 🐶 It was conveniently located only a few minute's walk from the Old Town area (the city center). There were quite a lot of steps up to the apartment, however, a lot of the area around the Old Town is located at the foot of the mountains so this is not unusual!
The Old Town is the center of Dubrovnik and it is where most tourists flock to. It's surrounded and protected by impressive walls and forts; though modified throughout time they have been considered to be amongst the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages! With the Old Towns multitude of pretty pedestrianized streets, I can imagine how crowded it can get during peak season. We visited in mid-September (when peak season had just ended) and yet it was still difficult to navigate through the crowds in the Old Town area at times. The main entrance to the Old Town is at Pile City Gate. Upon entering here, you are greeted by the beautiful medieval buildings and romantic paved streets; I almost felt like I had been taken back in time! Everywhere you walk in the Old Town you will find impressive medieval architecture and a city rich in history. The city was wonderfully restored in the 1990s / early 2000s after it had been the subject of much damage from shelling following the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991.
If you enter through the Pile Gate entry, you will find the beautiful Large Onofrio's Fountain (originally built in 1438) immediately on your right. The main street, Stradun Street, lies ahead of you and it leads your eye line towards the magnificent Clock Tower standing tall at the end of the street. Sponza Palace is found next to the Clock Tower at Luža Square. Orlando's Column stands in the center of this square with Rector's Palace and St. Blaise Church located just by here too. There is a fee into Rector's Palace, however, if you walk up to the door you can peep inside for a glimpse! Fans of Game Of Thrones may recognize this area of the Palace :) Dominican Monastery is not too far from the Clock Tower and it is another magnificent building and popular spot to visit.
There are many beautiful Churches and Cathedrals found in The Old Town. One of the most popular is that of the Baroque style Church of Saint Blaise; named after Saint Blaise who is honored as the patron saint of Dubrovnik. This Church is located at Luža Square (at the end of Stradun Street).
The Franciscan Church, Monastery and Pharmacy is another popular tourist spot. It is located just after entering through Pile Gate (on Stradun Street). It was founded in 1317 as an in-house pharmacy for Franciscan friars. In here you will see some historical pharmaceutical tools, containers, and grinders. It is considered the oldest pharmacy in Europe and is still used as a working chemist for locals. I found that there was not too much to see in here, however, the courtyard was quite pretty and considering the small entry fee (the church is free) it provided a nice relaxing resting place from the crowds outside. Also located close by Luža Square is the impressive Dubrovnik Cathedral (Assumption Cathedral). This is a beautiful Baroque building whose dome-shaped rooftop is a prominent feature of the Old Town skyline.
Just two blocks from Stradun is another restored church; that of the Church of Holy Annunciation. It is a Serbian Orthodox Church and is also free to enter. It has an extensive library in the church premises though the church is not too big. While wandering the Old Town you are also likely to see the statuesque Church of Saint Ignatius. This Church is close by Gundulic Square and is also of the Baroque style. The church Belfry houses the oldest bell in Dubrovnik - it was cast in 1355 by Viventius and his son Viator.
I had so many recommendations for Buza Bar! It is located not too far from the Church of Saint Ignatius. You could easily miss the bar as it is somewhat hidden - you need to walk out through the Old Town walls to the side of a cliff to find it! Here, it trickles along several levels of the cliff over the ocean; you may see people jumping into the ocean and sunbathing on the rocks by the bar. Even though peak season was over, it was still pretty crowded when we visited the bar so I can only imagine how difficult it can be to get seats here during peak season! The ocean view is spectacular and you could definitely enjoy sipping a drink here while watching the sunset over the sea and Lokrum Island!
One of my favorite bars was the Hard Jazz Caffe. It is located not too far from Rector's Palace and the Old Market. Here, you can sit outside in the warm evening air and enjoy a cocktail while listening to some live jazz. The nightlife was pretty quiet around the Old Town, however, one bar which we always found to have a good atmosphere, many people and live music was that of the Irish bar The Gaffe.
A cool and colorful bar located just a few minute's walk from The Old Town is the Art Cafe. It's a nice bar for a drink during the day too. We didn't go clubbing but were informed by several locals that two of the only clubs to visit were that of Culture Club Revelin, or, Skybar (both located just by the Old Town area). Club Revelin seems to be the more popular spot!
DINING & SWEETS
There's a large selection of restaurants located in the Old Town; prices can vary slightly though many serve similar dishes....as many of them are close by each other it is easy to wander around and price them first if you so wish. Their menus tend to have a lot of meat, fish and Italian influenced dishes (such as risotto, pasta, and pizza). If you like fish then a simple fish restaurant with beautiful views over the Old Port is that of Lokanda Peskarija. We had a glass of wine here and it was such a relaxing place to sit and watch the boats dock. Another nice spot for a glass of wine is that of Bistro Revelin - in fact, we liked it so much here that we returned the following day as it has great views overlooking the Old Port....the wine was very good too! One of the pizzerias we ate in was Pizzeria Castro (located close to the famous Spanish Steps). The pizza was really good and its location very central.
Vegetarian food was quite difficult to come by, however, staff in another restaurant were nice enough to recommended we visit Nishta (vegan restaurant). It was located up quite a few steps, off the main street, and on a narrow side street. Unfortunately, it was shut the following evening when we visited, however, they squashed us in the next evening even though they were booked out! It had a lovely fresh menu and made a nice change from all of the risotto and pizza I had been eating! The restaurant was very busy and a bit crammed inside, however, the staff had been kind enough to fit us in so we didn't mind. A lot of the restaurants around the Old Town center have shared seating areas.
Loads of really good ice cream stands can be found around the Old Town and we also couldn't resist visiting a Captain Candy sweet store as we kept seeing them scattered around the city! They have a large selection of candy for any sweet lovers.
Just outside the western wall of the Old Town, upon a 37-meter high sheer rock overlooking the sea, you will find the impressive Fort Lovrijenac. It is also known as “Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar”. There are many steps (roughly 200) up to the Fortress, however, the climb is worth the view!
From the Fort, you can clearly see the outline of the walls surrounding the Old Town and the beautiful color of the Adriatic ocean lying below you. You can walk up to the Fortress for free, however, there is a cost to enter - if you are also doing the city Wall Walk (more to follow on this below) then it is better to pay for it as Fort Lovrijenac is included under that ticket. This is another location that Game of Throne fans will recognize!
SURROUNDING THE OLD TOWN
Sitting just by Pile Square (close to the Pile Gate entrance to the Old Town) is the colorful Hilton Imperial Hotel. It's in a great location and a fabulous hotel if you are willing to treat yourself and splash out on accommodation. Another lovely building just beside the Imperial is One and Only Restaurant; it has a nice terrace overlooking the ancient walls of the city. Pile square is the meeting place for many tours.
OLD HARBOUR & PLOCE GATE
At the end of Stradun Street, you can walk through the walls to the Old Port Harbour. As mentioned earlier, this is a lovely area to wander and relax by the sea with a glass of wine while watching the boats dock. You can catch a boat to Lokrum island (see more on this in my next post) from the Port during high season. It only takes about 15 minutes to reach the island by boat and the fare is roughly €20; departure times are frequent too (about every half hour). There's plenty of places to have food and drink along the Harbour. The Fort of St. Ivana is located at the old Harbour and you can walk down by it and along Porporela pier to the lighthouse enjoying the views of the sea along the way. Dubrovnik Aquarium is situated just by here too.
Not too far from the Old Port Harbor you can exit through the Eastern town walls at Ploce Gate (at the end of Stradun street) and walk along the beautiful Ploce bridge. This decorative bridge is another popular spot for taking photos as it provides a great viewing point back down over the harbor. Another Fortress, The Revelin Fortress, is located just by the bridge too. After walking Ploce Bridge you will find Bistro Revelin which was one of my favorite places to stop for a cool glass of wine and enjoy the stunning views back over the Old Port. We were lucky as on both of our visits here we were seated just by the edge which provided stunning views!
Not too much further from here, you will find Banje Beach. It is not totally a sand beach as it contains many pebbles, however, most beach areas in Dubrovnik contain pebbles. It is one of the only beaches found near the city center and, as it only has a small stretch, it can get very busy. Banje Beach Restaurant is located here too and you can thus enjoy a drink by the beach. Only another 5 minute walk from Banje Beach is where you will find The Museum of Modern Art. I'm a huge art lover but I was quite disappointed with my visit here; there were few paintings on display and I was not a big fan of the 'Oceans' exhibition that was running when we visited.
ANCIENT CITY WALLS WALK
The ancient city walls walk tour takes about two hours to complete (though there is an exit about halfway around it too) and it is an absolute must! The tour allows you to walk the perimeter of the Old Town, reaching up to 25 meters (80 feet) in height, with some spectacular views of the city from many angles above the city skyline. There is a certain level of health/fitness required as there are many steps to climb....even just to start the walk! Also, there are some tight areas to walk therefore those with a fear of heights may not love these sections! Definitely push on through these parts though as the views are worth it! It is also worth the fee (which includes entry to Fort Lovrijenac) for the wonderful views of the colorful terracotta rooftops, the beautiful architecture, the sea, Lokrum island and the forts that you see throughout the walk.
I was glad that we had started the walk quite early in the morning as it became rather crowded as the day progressed.....I would recommend a sunhat during the Summer as it can get very hot at this height and there is no shade to protect you at many sections along the walk. We spotted a poor older man suffering quite badly from the heat and trying to manage the steps back down ☹
CABLE CAR &
The cable car ride up Srđ mountain is another must-see! From here there are breathtaking views of the city....and for those interested in history they can also visit the Museum Dubrovnik in Homeland War which is located at the top of the mountain too. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy the evening we were here, however, the views were still spectacular! From the mountain top, you can observe how the forts and walls surround the Old Town. The distinctive terracotta colors of Dubrovnik are clearly seen throughout the city from here too.
If you are hoping to dine at the Panorama Restaurant (located at the top of the mountain where the cable car stops) then I would advise pre-booking before your trip as it is an extremely popular spot. We pre-booked and requested a table along the edge for the best views over the city and thankfully the staff was able to accommodate this for us! The Restaurant was not too expensive considering its location and popularity, however, the vegetarian option was very disappointing ☹ There were no main vegetarian dishes and when I asked if the Risotto starter could be prepared as the main dish they advised that it couldn’t! I had to order two starters instead of a main. However, except for this, the staff were lovely and it was such a nice relaxing meal and area to dine in. The staff did not rush us to leave once we had finished our meal and so we were able to sit for a while enjoying our glass of wine and watching the sunset over the city.
There is also an outside bar area in the restaurant. We were able to have a cocktail here and enjoy the beautiful views while waiting for our table. The bar area did start to get a bit crowded close to sunset so it would be advisable to arrive early if you wish to stay in the bar area for the evening and have a good viewing point.
Gruz is the main Port used for travel in Dubrovnik and it's located roughly 2km from the Old Town area. Here is where the large cruise ships and ferries dock and you can thus catch a boat/ferry to the likes of the Elaphiti Islands, Mlje, Hvar and Split from here. There is not much else to see in this area except for the impressive Franjo Tuđman Bridge. We had a great view of this bridge during our Elaphiti Island boat tour which we took from Gruz Port. After buying our ferry tickets we found a nice café, Bon Appetit Bistro, which had some live jazz musicians playing. It's a nice cafe to sit back and relax if you are waiting for your boat or ferry.
Thanks for reading,
*** Click here for photo blog of the trip!