We spent three nights in Dubrovnik at the end of September/early October as the season was winding down on the Adriatic coast, though tourism was alive and well in Croatia’s most famous outpost. This time around we were armed with experience from our past trip to Croatia in 2017 when we spent one week in Hvar, two days in Split, plus an additional two weeks exploring from the southern Coast up to Istria. Dubrovnik was still a shining jewel in my mind; a city that wows at first glance with its fortified city walls, gleaming white streets and Adriatic views. As with any European city with centuries of history, there are plenty of things ‘to do’ when it comes to sightseeing and tiny niche museums, but Dubrovnik really has some key elements that make it a draw for visitors. If you’re a Game of Thrones lover you’ll of course be spoiled with options for tours and experiences that focus on GOT. For those that fall in the other camp, I’m sharing 9 things to do in Dubrovnik for inspiration for your upcoming trip, from taking in the stunning vistas to delving into local vino and Balkan cuisine.
Climb the City Walls
1Some cities offer a wealth of things to do but much of Dubrovnik’s draw is the stunning Old Town itself which oozes charm and offers picturesque views of the seaside. There’s no better way to do this than walking the city walls, where Dubrovnik’s incredible location is highlighted at every turn. Choose days when you don’t have loads of cruise ships to contend with if possible, or head up early in the summer months to avoid the mid-day heat. Give yourself at least an hour and a half to enjoy the views at a leisurely pace.
Note: It costs 250kn to enter the city walls; a one-day Dubrovnik Pass is available at the same rate if you’re keen on adding other experiences in during your time in Dubrovnik.
Sip Croatian Wines
2Italy and France get a lot of love when it comes to European wines but wine lovers will know that there are lots of other destinations producing amazing under-the-radar vino. Croatia is one of those places. Zinfandel is a clone of Plavac Mali, the main red varietal that you’ll find in Croatia, so California wine lovers will find plenty to love. Wine tasting on the Peljesac Peninsula provides ample opportunity for sipping from a variety of wineries (Milos is one of the most famous and historic producers) but in Dubrovnik itself you’ll find wonderful Croatian wines on all the menus. For a more in-depth wine experience, check out D’Vino in the Old Town where you can try a flight or a huge range of wines by the glass.
Make your Way to Lokrum Island
3If you have three days in Dubrovnik (or more) in the summer months, consider a day trip to Lokrum for an island-y getaway a quick ride from the Old Town. There’s a public ferry that runs this route 25 times per day in high season with a quick passage of 15 minutes or so, making it a breeze (and very affordable at 150kn per person). Alternatively, at the harbor you’ll find a number of suppliers offering book private boats if you prefer a boat day that also stops at Lokrum as part of a larger itinerary. Lokrum is a nature reserve but dining options are available on the island for those wanting to spend the day soaking up the sun.
Shop for Croatian Specialties
4While the city has its fair share of typical tourist shops doling out kitschy souvenirs, there are also a range of more upscale shops selling artisanal Croatian pieces (you’ll find even more upscale boutiques in Hvar, where shops largely feel thoughtful and less touristy). For jewelry lovers, Dubrovnik has a number of great jewelry shops selling beautiful Croatian pieces. The main street is home to quite a few upscale jewelry shops but there are many others that sit off the main drag. Food lovers, don’t miss taking home truffles or olive oils, both Croatian specialties, or pick up a cook book for some recipes to whip up at home. While truffles largely hail from the Istrian Peninsula, many stores offer truffle products from major producers like Karlic Tartufi (the same folks we went truffle hunting in Istria with in 2017). In Croatia, lavender grows all along the coast and inland and you’ll find lavender in many forms for sale in shops around town: oils, dried lavender sachets, and lavender-infused liqueurs, honey, and spirits. The petite packaging and light weight make them the perfect souvenirs to take home.
Head Up to Mount Srd
5Beyond climbing the city walls, the best views of Dubrovnik and the surrounding area are experienced from the top of Mount Srd. The funicular was built in the late 1960s to transport visitors to the top (about €15pp each way) and delivers you to Srd Hill where you’ll get to visit the War Museum or grab lunch at the top. For a more cost-effective method, consider a taxi to the top instead or go the more active route by hiking one way.
Enjoy a Drink with a View
6When it comes to cocktails with a vista, Dubrovnik has a couple of hot spots worth putting on your list for afternoon or sunset drinks. Buža Bar, arguably the most famous, offers cliffside cocktails and dining. Bard Bar, not far, with a similarly perched positioning was our favorite for an afternoon of soaking up the last summer rays with a drink and a view. Reaching Bard Bar feels like some sort of magic; no signs or real designation, just a simple opening leading from the Old Town to the edge of the world, with tables and perches strewn about. Cocktails at these spots are a bit pricier so expect €12 – 16 for cocktails and €5- 7 for soft drinks.
Go on a Walking Tour of the City
7With brief time in a new city, I always glimpse the best walking tours or food tours in the area to get my bearings and have a better feel for a city’s layout and hotspots. In Dubrovnik, at least a third of tours revolve around Game of Thrones points of interest and sites from the series, but there also plenty of non-GOT tours as well. Check out the Discover Dubrovnik Walk for a 90-minute brief overview of history and highlights or opt for a private tour if you’re more focused on particular aspects of the city.
Nosh on Croatian Cuisine
8Coastal Croatia offers incredible dining with octopus, calamari, fresh grilled fish, and some lamb dominating menus. There are specialties to dig into, like preparations ‘under the bell’, where dishes are half-baked and half-cooked in their own juices using a traditional cooking method (these often have to be pre-ordered). If you’re looking to mix it up from traditional Croatian fare, in Dubrovnik though you’ll also have the chance to try Bosnian cuisine at Taj Mahal (still unsure where the origins of this name come from) where you’ll a find meat-heavy menu with flaky pies and cheeses native to Bosnia.
Try a Buggy Tour of Dubrovnik Beyond the Walls
9If you followed our adventures in Greece, you know I’m a fan of ATVs (we rented one on every island we visited during our one month in the Cyclades in 2020) so exploring in a more interactive way is totally up my alley. In Dubrovnik, buggy safaris head out on a 4-seater Polaris on a panaorama + off-roading 2-hour tour in Dubrovnik. Tours generally ride up to Mount Srdj and tour the landscapes of valleys, hills, and fields along the way. At the top, you’ll see ex-minefields and war remnants, plus get to see Dubrovnik and the surrounding area from elevation.
Visit the Peljesac Peninsula
10While not exactly in Dubrovnik, a visit to the Peljesac Peninsula is a great add-on to time in Dubrovnik and can also be a great addition to a transfer to or from the Dalmatian Islands given its location. During our recent visit, we opted to go wine tasting on the Peljsac Peninsula plus do some oyster tasting on our way from Hvar to Dubrovnik (with a stop in Korcula en route) and it was an absolute highlight for us. Feel free to reach out to me at Compass & Vine if Croatia is on your wishlist — I’ve been working with a great Croatia-based partner for VIP experiences in Croatia and this was one of them. ✧