Ahhh, beautiful, beautiful Dubrovnik. Undoubtedly the jewel of the Adriatic, an almost perfectly intact medieval city, the azure waters of the sea lap at the walls of the old town, beneath bars that sit precariously on the rocky coastline. Once an independent territory (it holds the honour of being the first city-state in the world to abolish slavery), Dubrovnik holds a special place in both ancient and recent history. It also holds a special place in my heart. I loved my time here, learning about the history, enjoying the gorgeous scenery, and having fun with friends Maude and Lee.
During the day the area within the walls is teeming with people, thousands of whom are there just for the day after disembarking from their giant cruise ships at the Dubrovnik port. I found early morning or late afternoon/evening to be the best time to visit, when the vast majority of the crowds have returned to their ships and you can enjoy the area with a bit more peace. Here are my favourite things to do in this amazing town.
1 Walk the city walls
Usually number one on any list of things to do in Dubrovnik and for good reason. The almost 2 kms of walls surround the city unbroken and provide views in all directions, from out across the sea, up Mount Srd to Fort Imperial, and over the terracotta roof tiles of the city. A different view confronts you every few steps, so allow plenty of time to complete the loop, which can only be completed anti-clockwise.
2 Get lost in the old town
The streets in the old town are vehicle free and are mostly narrow alleyways, running in all directions and filled with restaurants, cafes and quaint shops. Heading north, the town rises steeply up narrow staircases in a fairly uniform pattern, while south towards the sea the streets become more winding and sometimes don’t lead anywhere! It’s a great place to just wander and discover, get lost and find yourself again, which I did many times.
3 Kayak around the city walls and Lokrum Island
Kayaking tours leave several times throughout the day from near the Inner Pile Gate (the main entrance to the old town). There are a multitude of tour agencies set up here who can organise this and other tours of the city. The kayaking took us along the walls of the old town to a cave further along the mainland, where we could get out and swim. From here we kayaked around Lokrum Island, located about 600 metres from Dubrovnik. Watch out for the nudist beach!
4 Game of Thrones Walking Tour
TV addicts can replicate Cersei’s Walk of Shame from Game of Thrones (please keep your clothing on!) and stand on the Red Keep, or be photographed on the Iron Throne in the (stupendously overpriced) official Game of Thrones shop. If you are a fan of the show I highly recommend one of the walking tours, I loved it! If not a fan of the show there are other walking tours available focusing on the history of Dubrovnik, though a lot of this is covered in the GoT tour too.
5 War Photo Limited
I worthy museum to visit, even for those who don’t like museums. It’s a photography museum whose main permanent exhibition is a collection of photograph’s from the siege of Dubrovnik. It’s unnerving, seeing images of the streets I’d been walking the last four days, being shown in a totally different light, that of war and destruction. The old town port, where I sat and ate an ice-cream, an inferno. The street that I associated with Cersei’s walk of shame in GoT, totally empty except for the pigeons, as residents took shelter from the artillery bombardment.
6 The cable car to Fort Imperial
You can climb Mount Srd to the fort if you wish (not me!) or take the cable car (yes please!) directly to the fort. The views back down over Dubrovnik and the sea are sensational.
The Museum of the Croatian War of Independence is located inside and gives a detailed account of the siege and the importance of the fort. Had the Croatians lost the fort then Dubrovnik would have been taken. But they held strong. Once inside the fort you can climb up the centre stairs which lead you to the rooftop of the fort and 360 views. It seems not many people know about this. I was there for sunset and there was only one other person on the roof with me. A perfectly serene and peaceful sunset spot, with glorious views.
7 Swim off the old town walls
There are paths leading around a portion of the old city walls where ladders have been attached to the rocks to allow swimming during a hot summers day. It’s a great way to escape the maddening crowds and sweltering heat and to relax a while after so much walking.
8 Drink radler
My new favourite bottled beer, mixed with lemon soda (though I found an even better one in Zagreb mixed with grapefruit….delish!) A great lite drink to cool down over lunch during the heat of the day.
9 Have a drink at one of the cliffside bars
There are several bars on the outside of the city walls sitting precariously on the rocks, where you can enjoy a cold beverage while staring out to sea, and even swim or dive off the rocks.
Getting to Dubrovnik is relatively easy as it’s serviced by buses, ferries and planes. I arrived by ferry from Hvar, which took about 3 hours and was particularly rough, causing sea sickness in a few passengers (why did they all have to be near me…..ewww!)