There is a reason why Dubrovnik is nicknamed the Pearl of the Adriatic. The stunning coves, caves, beaches, crystal clear Adriatic sea, old town surrounded by white stone fortified walls built in the 13-14th century give Dubrovnik such a prestigious title. Dubrovnik is unlike any other city in Croatia and is full of old world charm. As soon as we landed in Dubrovnik we were instantly drawn to its beauty. The car ride from the airport to our hotel alone was incredible, and I knew in that exact moment that I was going to fall in love with Dubrovnik. I know I might be biased about Croatia and the rest of the Balkans, but Dubrovnik is a must visit at least once in everyone’s life (even though I recommend going more than once- its hard to get enough!). In this post I will walk you through our hotel stay and what are some must see sights and the best restaurants in Dubrovnik.
We stayed at the Dubrovnik Palace hotel located about 10 minutes from the old town of Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik Palace is considered more of a resort because of their amazing spa services. The hotel has three pools for guest use, with the main pool offering a pool bar. But none of that was truly important to us. What drew us in was the incredible view from the hotel. Each room has a sea view of the Adriatic, a small rocky island with a lighthouse, and the Elafiti islands in the distance. We were definitely paying for the view, but it was very relaxing to sit on our balcony in the mornings or in the evenings and enjoy the stunning scenery around us. The hotel also includes a beach on rocky cliffs which was not crowded and nice for a dip. I cannot stress enough how amazing the service was at Dubrovnik Palace, the staff members did everything in their power to make us feel welcome and were extremely helpful with any questions we had.
Aside from a wonderful hotel stay, the bus station is right in front of the hotel. The hotel even sells bus tickets (for cheaper than buying on the bus) to get you to the old town. The bus was super easy to use since the bus that stops at the hotel takes you all the way to Pile gate. Simplicity at its finest with no worries on how to get to and from old town!
What to See and Do:
Dubrovnik Walls: These white stone walls were built in the 13-14th century to protect the city of Dubrovnik from invaders. The impressive architecture of these walls stretching out onto the cliffs to the Adriatic Sea is almost like something out a dream. We were very impressed at how well preserved these walls were as well. The walls are 1,940 meters in length (6,350 feet). It takes about an hour and a half to walk the full length of the walls. I highly recommend walking the walls as soon as they open. They open at 8 AM and the tickets are about 150 Kuna a per person ($21 USD per person). If you wait to walk the walls in the afternoon it will be severely crowded and hot! We were able to walk the walls in peace and get many good photos without photo bombers. In my opinion, the walls give you the most beautiful views of the old town and Adriatic.
Old Town: The old town is adorned with stunning white stone Venetian style buildings. There are two gates that allow you to enter the old town. The Pile gate, which is the main gate located on the West side of the old town. The Ploce gate, which is located on the East side and also has a wooden and stone draw bridge that leads you into the old town. The Dubrovnik Cathedral is a must see and an icon of the old town. Legend says that King Richard the Lion Heart from England had an impact in the establishment of the Cathedral. Aside from the Cathedral is the famous Stradun street, which is the street as soon as you pass through the Pile gate. There are many cafes, restaurants, shops, and ice cream places lining the street. The Onophrian fountain, located in the beginning of the Stradun street offers ice cold drinking water for those hot summer days. There are also many beautiful alleys in Dubrovnik that reek charm, we spent some time taking photos in these alley ways and avoiding the crowds. I could spend all day describing the old town but than this blog post would be 20 pages long. So in short, get to old town early in the morning that way you will have the place to yourself. We got to old town around 7:30 and walked the entire old town with ease and got the best photos! We were able to truly enjoy the charm of the old town without crowds of tourists.
The harbor right outside the old town is adorned with boats big and small. It almost seemed like the little boats were floating because the water is just so clear. There are several restaurants on the harbor, which are perfect for a sunset meal. The harbor is where all the boat tours take off from and the ferry to Lokrum island is located. You can follow the harbor all the way around to St. Johns Fortress. St. Johns Fortress houses the Maritime museum and Aquarium.
Fort Lovrijenac: This fort is built outside of the Dubrovnik walls 37 meters (121 feet) above sea level over looking the Adriatic. This fortress has withstood numerous attacks by invaders all over the world, but in particular from the Venetians. This fort is open for guided tours or on your own. We decided to just walk around the fortress on our own. Now this is super important because we did not know this when we arrived at the fortress: The ticket that you buy to walk the Dubrovnik Walls includes Fort Lovrijenac, so do not throw away your ticket! No one told us this so we had to buy a separate ticket for the fortress. Fort Lovrijenac showcases beautiful views of the sea, Lokrum Island, and the West side of the Dubrovnik walls.
Cable Car Ride to Mt. Srd: This is probably one of my most favorite memories of our time in Dubrovnik, aside from the Walls. The views on top of Mt. Srd are breathtaking! The money for the cable car ride is so worth going to the top. You will not get any other view of Dubrovnik like this, it truly was incredible. The tickets for the cable car ride are about 200 Kuna per person ($30 USD). Once you are on top of Mt. Srd you can stay as long as you like, I think the last cable car runs at 10 PM. We decided to go up at Sunset and stayed until about 9 PM. The sunset on Mt. Srd was magical! Dubrovnik below glistening in the golden sunlight with the Elafiti Islands to the right. There is also a restaurant at the top called Panorama. We decided we do not always get to come to Dubrovnik and splurged on dinner that night. The meal that we had was fantastic and the view was even better. It almost felt like a dream, I wanted someone to pinch me the entire time!
Day Trip to Lokrum Island: Lokrum is directly across from the old town of Dubrovnik. It is also easily accessible by a ferry that departs every one hour from the harbor. The tickets for the ferry are 60 Kuna ($8 USD) a person round trip. The island has gorgeous gardens, nature, and peacocks and rabbits freely frolicking around. There is also an old Monastery on the Island that explains the history and legends of Lokrum. The legend says that anyone who uses Lokrum for pleasure will be cursed for the rest of their life. Well I guess millions of people are cursed than haha.
Uvala Lapad: Lapad is about 20 minutes from the old town. It is a stretch of beach, restaurants, and cafes. Lapad is not as touristy as the old town but is also a nice place to relax for the afternoon. There is a lovely sandy beach with some attractions for children. When we were in Dubrovnik the beach itself was closed because the strip was being remodeled and expanded.
Arboretum Trsteno: The Arboretum is located about 15 miles (24 km) from Dubrovnik. This Arboretum is one of the oldest and most beautiful in the whole region. Also if you are a Game of Thrones fan, some scenes were filmed here! It is such a peaceful place with much much less tourists, mostly because people do not know its there. It is a nice place to get away from the crowds of old town.
Recommended Restaurants and Bars in Dubrovnik:
Dubravka restaurant right outside the old town by the Pile Gate: We went there twice and each time absolutely loved our meal. The service is great and the view is beautiful, especially at sunset.
Taj Mahal Bosnian Cuisine: This gem of a restaurant is not off the main Stradun street but tucked away in an alley. There are signs from the Stradun street and it is super easy to find. To me Bosnian cuisine is not much different from Croatian but I have eaten it my whole life. Taj Mahal has amazing Balkan favorites that honestly tasted like my mother’s cooking! After our meal we had Bosnian coffee (which resembles Turkish coffee). The service is superb and I would go back in a heart beat
Panorama Restaurant and Bar: This is the restaurant that is on top of Mt. Srd. The views are just like the restaurant name, panoramic views of Dubrovnik old town, Lokrum island, the Adriatic sea, and the Elafiti islands in the West. My husband and I both ordered the chicken dish, which according to our waiter is an old recipe handed down by the owner’s grandmother. The meal was absolutely delicious and the view was not bad either.
The Revelin Restaurant: This restaurant is situated in the old town close to the Ploce gate. The view from the restaurant is gorgeous and includes the harbor and some of the old town. My husband had the ribs and I had the duck, both meals were so delicious! The chef is a world renowned culinary artist and the service was also amazing!