Dubrovnik, these days immortalised as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones, is a beautiful walled port city in the south of Croatia. The old town as we know it now was completed in the 13th century and is largely unchanged from those days. Due to Game of Thrones tourism, Dubrovnik’s tourism industry has boomed in recent years, but even without Game of Thrones, visiting the town was one of my favourite experiences in Europe. This was due to the history (particularly the military history), the beautiful scenery, the (cheap) food and drink and the great weather!
Dubrovnik, being a key sea port for Croatia, has a colourful past, with the most well known military engagement being the Siege of Dubrovnik, in late 1991. In June 1991, Croatia declared independence from the state of Yugoslavia, and this turned into a full scale war in August 1991. During October to December 1991, the JNA (the Yugoslav People’s Army) bombed Dubrovnik very heavily, with the town cut off and with minimal military forces to defend itself. Estimates following the attack indicated 55% of the buildings had been destroyed. For more info there is a good summary on wikipedia.
What to do in Dubrovnik
Local Tourist Company Recommendation
My favourite local company is Ivana and Tihan at Dubrovnik Travel Corner. We found this lovely couple due to staying with one of their apartments through airbnb (if you are interested, their apartment is here). They were both super helpful, picked us up from the bus station and gave us great advice on what to do. They can organise tours for you both in and out of Dubrovnik and will give you honest, free advice without any expectation of purchasing. It is definitely worth asking Ivana and Tihan for their thoughts on the walking tours and other recommendations below as they will have more up to date information.
I highly recommend a walking tour of the old town in Dubrovnik, as there is a lot of history that can only be truly brought to life through an engaging guide. However, there are a LOT of hawkers trying to sell walking tours just outside the old town walls and it can be hard to differentiate them. One way is to use trip advisor, but sometimes the ratings can be a bit misleading, and it does depend on your particular guide.
It is definitely worth doing some research before on prices, walk around before signing up to one in particular. The walk around the city walls is also highly recommended, but it is quite a long walk, and in the middle of summer Dubrovnik can be very hot so come prepared with water if you don’t want to buy over priced drinks from the two shops on the wall!
Dubrovnik has a number of beaches around it. The closest (to the east of the old town) is Banje Beach, but this is very crowded and not that impressive. If you have more time, it is worth it to walk the extra kilo meter or so down to Sveti Jakov, a secluded beach with a great view of the walled old town, a bar and a restaurant. To the west, Lonely Planet recommended the beach below Hotel Bellevue, but we didn’t have time to check it out.
Island tripping – Lokum Island and Elafiti Islands
Another great option if you have time is to get over to the island of Lokum. On our two day trip we didn’t have time to do this but I really wanted to do some sea kayaking there, which you can book from one of the hawkers outside the old town. Again, do some research and attempt to barter as well, particularly if you have a big group keen. Another option to get to Lokum is by ferry, and then you can explore the island all day. You can also visit the Elafiti Islands through a day trip from Dubrovnik, but as always do your research!
A must do while in Dubrovnik is a visit up Mount Srđ, either by hiking up if you are game for it, or by taking the gondola. This is a must do during sunset, as my photo shows! There is also buggy safaris from the top of the mountain which looked amazing, and based on reviews on tripadvisor it is very popular.
Food and Drink
While in Dubrovnik, I highly recommend going to the Buza Bar which overlooks Lokum island and the Adriatic sea. While the drinks are a little more expensive, you can also go for a swim from here but be careful after a few brewskis as you have to climb up and down some steps cut into rocks, so its not the safest while under the influence!
After having a few drinks at the bar, if you are looking for a great meal then you can’t go wrong with restaurant Konoba Ribar – hidden away around the side of the old town to the east, the seafood platter for 2 was a great deal at 250 kuna (around £25).
Getting to Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik has an international airport that caters to most European cities, particularly in the summer. But during the peak months (July-August) the flight costs get significantly more expensive, particularly flying out on and in on the weekend. There are also inexpensive ferries to the islands further north from Dubrovnik, which is what I did on my visit to Dubrovnik. I flew in from London to Dubrovnik, took a ferry to Hvar and then visited Vis (my favourite island!) and then ferried to Split before flying out of there back to London. Check my blog soon with my adventures through Hvar, Vis and Split!