Stunning sea views? Check. Charming old town? Check. Great food and culture? Check.
Somehow Dubrovnik manages to encompass everything you could wish for in a city break, so it’s no surprise that this buzzing seaside city in Croatia has become one of Europe’s most popular destinations.
Dubrovnik is the perfect location for a weekend away, or as the starting point for a longer adventure around the beautiful Balkans region. We had just 24 hours in Dubrovnik, before moving on to Bosnia and Herzogovina, but managed to cram plenty of sightseeing into that time. Here’s some of the things you won’t want to miss!
Where to stay:
If you only have a day or two to explore Dubrovnik, I’d recommend staying as centrally as possible, so that you can easily access the city’s main attractions. However, staying within the Old Town itself comes with a hefty price tag, so try searching for accommodation just outside the city walls. We loved our cute little Airbnb (Villa San), right next to Pile Gate, just steps away from the Old Town but about half the price!
What to see and do in Dubrovnik:
Walk the city walls
Start your day bright and early with a visit to the ancient City Walls, which circle the Old Town. The walls are open to visitors from 8am in the summer and 9am in winter, so I’d recommend getting there first thing to beat the crowds.
Tickets will set you back by an eye-watering 200 Croatian kuna (around 27 Euros) but this is one of the best ways to experience the city, if you’re short on time. Plus the price includes entry to the beautiful Fort Lovrijenac (see below).
The ancient walls stretch over 2000m long and are dotted with historic towers and forts. As you make your way around, you’ll be greeted with picturesque views of the terracotta roofs and quaint, cobblestone streets down below, as well as the shimmering Adriatic Sea stretched out before you.
Allow around 1-1.5 hours to circle the walls in their entirety, or you can book on to a 2-hour guided tour if you want to learn more about the history of Dubrovnik.
Step back in time at Fort Lovrijenac
Admission to Fort Lovrijenac is included within your Walls of Dubrovnik ticket and is well worth a visit (alternatively, you can pay 30 Croatian kuna at the entrance, if you decide to give the walls a miss). This ancient fortress sits on top of a cliff, overlooking the sea, and is one of the most striking buildings in Dubrovnik.
The views from the Fort are sensational. From its terraces, you can see the walled city in all its glory and marvel at the forested island of Lokrum, just across the way. Some of the best views can be enjoyed from the steps up to the fort, where you can peer down on the beautiful West Harbour and spot the colourful boats and kayaks on the water.
Explore the old town
While the city walls promise spectacular views of the Old Town from above, there’s nothing quite like getting lost down the cobblestone streets themselves.
Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a maze of traditional shuttered buildings, ancient churches and picture-perfect alleyways with colourful laundry strung against the walls – in other words, a photographer’s dream!
It’s also a hive of cafes, shops, bars and restaurants – my personal favourite was Nishta, a charming vegan and vegetarian restaurant with a daily changing menu. Or follow the scent of one of the many fabulous bakeries in the city and grab yourself a traditional “burek” – a flaky pastry filled with cheese or meat and a staple of Balkans cuisine.
Just brace yourselves for some serious crowds in the Old Town – it was the one and only thing that let this city down for me (granted, I was one of them!) I’d recommend timing your visit for early morning or late afternoon to avoid the masses.
Gundulic Square Market
To experience a more local side to Dubrovnik, head to the morning market at Gundulić Square, located right in the heart of the Old Town. This open-air market is open daily until 1pm and is the perfect place to pick up local souvenirs and goods, from fresh fruit and vegetables to home-made Grappa, lavender oil, and artisan gifts.
Visit West Harbour
Dubrovnik’s seaside location means it’s full of pretty harbours but if you visit just one, head down to West Harbour, to see the iconic stone pier and crystal clear waters. Game of Thrones fans will recognise this as one of the most famous filming locations in the show – it looks a little different minus the dragons and ships, but it’s still a treat to sit back and enjoy views of the colourful boats bobbing on the turquoise waters.
Hike up Mount Srd
The city of Dubrovnik is nestled at the bottom of Mount Srd – a popular vista point with unbeatable birds-eye views of the idyllic Dalmatian coastline.
There are several ways to travel up Mount Srd – the most popular is the Dubrovnik cable car, which whizzes tourists up and down the mountain in less than 10 minutes, at a cost of 170 Croatian kuna (around 23 Euros) return. Taxis will also ferry tourists to the peak for an agreed fare. But I’d recommend saving your pennies and taking the scenic route, by foot.
The hike up Mount Srd takes around 45 minutes to an hour (and only about 30 minutes back down) and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with breath-taking views around every corner. The trailhead starts from the main road ‘Jadranska Cesta‘, just next to the bus-stop. The first part of the trail is shaded by woodland but most of the path is fully exposed, so be sure to bring plenty of water and a hat!
There’s a gorgeous restaurant at the top of the mountain called Panorama but make sure you pre-book, if you want to get a seat. We couldn’t get a table, for love nor money, which was a disappointing blow after hiking and daydreaming about ice-cream for an hour!
At the top of the mountain, you’ll also find the historic ruins of Fort Imperial, which was protected during the Croatian War of Independence and has become an important symbol for the city. Today, it houses a small museum dedicated to the Homeland War, which costs 30 Croatian kuna (4 Euros) to visit.
Enjoy a sun-downer with a sea-view
Dubrovnik’s idyllic seaside setting makes it perfect for a sunset drink or two and there are few places better to enjoy a sun-downer than the city’s iconic cliffside bars – Buza Bars I and II.
We sampled both in our 24 hours in the city (all in the name of research, of course…!) and each has its own unique charm. Buza II is the more laid back of the two, with simple seating and a menu consisting of local beer, wine and not much else. But it’s all about the views here; picture-perfect blue waters and blue skies, as far as the eye can see.
Buza Bar I is tucked away in the Old Town and can only be accessed through a hole in the wall. On the other side, you’ll be greeted with more stunning sea views, music and an extensive cocktail menu. You can even go for a quick dip off the cliffs in one of the many swimming spots. Get there before sunset to see the kayakers making their way back to shore and watch the sky transform before your eyes (spoiler alert: Dubrovnik does a blimmin’ good sunset).
And if you have a bit longer in Dubrovnik…
Go sea kayaking
We didn’t have time to try our hand at sea kayaking but had major FOMO watching the colourful kayaks making their way out to sea! Guided and sunset tours are available – check with local operators for times and pricing.
Visit the island of Lokrum
Just a hop, skip and 10-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik’s old port, is Lokrum – a mystical, forested island where you’ll find beautiful botanical gardens, ancient ruins and even native peacocks strutting about. We didn’t have time to explore but this is definitely #1 on my hit-list, when we return to Dubrovnik!
Take a day trip to Bosnia and Herzogovina
Less than an hour’s drive from Dubrovnik is one of Bosnia and Herzogovina’s prettiest cities. Trebinje makes the perfect day trip from Dubrovnik, with its own quaint (and practically tourist-free!) Old Town, beautiful monasteries and relaxing riverside walks.