15 Things to Do in Dubrovnik
September 24, 2013
When I told people that I was planning to visit Dubrovnik, Croatia as a stopover on my way to South Korea last year the most common reaction I got was “Why?” I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the beaches or the history of the old town or the city’s connection to Game of Thrones that first intrigued me. It was an episode of House Hunters: International. I saw an episode set there and thought that it looked like a beautiful city but maybe a bit hard or expensive to get to. So when I had the chance to stopover pretty much anywhere in Europe, my first thought was “Dubrovnik!” Now that I’ve been, I think it should be foremost on your mind when thinking about a European vacation as well.
To help with your own planning I’ve highlighted my 15 top things to do in Dubrovnik. The weather was beautiful during my visit so you’ll notice a distinct lack of monasteries and churches on my list. I just couldn’t bear to be indoors while the sun was shining.
1. Walk the city walls
Ask anyone what you should do in Dubrovnik and this will be the first thing they say. It may be touristy and sometimes crowded, but trust me, it’s popular for good reason. I couldn’t get enough of looking out at the sea on one side and the red roofs of the old town on the other. Admission is 90kn and you should give yourself at least an hour to make the almost 2km loop. Go as soon as they open to avoid the majority of the crowds.
2. Swim off the city walls
During your walk along the walls you’ll probably notice a few people in the water. You should join those people. There are a few places where there are pool ladders so you can climb in an out of the water. If you’re brave, you can cannonball off one of the bigger rocks that juts out. You’ll get a view of the city that not everyone has. There are no shallow areas here so this is probably best for stronger swimmers.
3. Have a drink at a cliff bar
There are two small bars perched on the cliffs outside the city walls where you can have a drink and relax at the end of the days. They are literally hole-in-the-wall bars and you would easily miss the entrance if you weren’t looking for it. There are no bathrooms and prices are higher than elsewhere so you’ll probably only want to stay for a drink or two.
4. Visit a beach
The easiest Dubrovnik beach to get to is Banje Beach east of the Ploče Gate. Fine white sand it is not but the water is so crystal clear it makes up for it. You can bring a towel and hang out for free on the public side or pay for a lounger and umbrella on the beach club side. If you want to be at one with nature Dubrovnik also has a few nude/naturist beaches to choose from such as Plat, Cava Beach or Lokrum Beach.
5. Take a Cable Car Up Mount Srđ
The top of Mount Srđ is one of the places where you snap that iconic postcard picture of the old town. You could hike up the mountain on foot or you can do what I did and pay 94kn for a return trip on the cable car. Go just before dusk to watch the sunset.
6. See a show
If you’re visiting during the summer do your best to catch a performance of Folklor Lindo. They perform traditional dances and songs in an outdoor theatre near Banje Beach. Tickets were 100kn when I went and worth every penny lipa.
7. Go on a Boat tour
A boat trip out of Dubrovnik can take you a few different places. You can do a quick swing around Lokrum Island. You can tour the nearby Elaphiti Islands. You can party on a pirate ship or watch fish on a glass bottomed boat. No matter which you choose, you really can’t go wrong.
8. Kayak around Lokrum Island
If just sitting in a boat isn’t adventurous enough, you could always take a sea kayak tour. I did a trip out around Lokrum Island. It’s an 8km loop and passes one of the city’s nudist beaches (avert your eyes if that bothers you). We also made a stop at one cave to do some snorkelling and have lunch before paddling back along the city walls. Obviously, by now you can tell that I liked looking at the city walls from the other side.
9. Get out of the city
I guess this is more of Dubrovnik-as-a-base thing, but the city makes a great jumping off point for several day trips. You could head to Korčula and the Pelješac peninsula for some wine tasting, Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina to watch young men jump off the old bridge into the Neretva River, or Kotor in Montenegro to go rafting. All of these, and more, are possible as day trips from Dubrovnik.
10. Go wine tasting
The Pelješac peninsula is good grape growing country and as a result you can get some surprisingly good Croatian wine in Dubrovnik. A few bars in the Old Town offer tasting options or you can stop right at the vineyards on your way to or from Korčula. Try the Dingač.
11. Listen to jazz
If you stroll through the old town at night you’ll probably run into at least one band playing. The Troubador is a go-to spot but I also stumbled on some good music at a restaurant near the Pile Gate and again near Orlando’s Column.
12. Shop for figs and candied orange peel in the market
I completely stumbled upon this market one morning while exploring the old town. The most common items for sale were lavender pouches, candied orange peel and dried figs. I miscalculated my kuna and ended up with enough figs to feed an army but they were tasty. The vendors all offer samples and may be open to haggling since there are so many of them selling similar products.
13. Relive history
The first thing a lot of people I know think of when I mention Croatia is the war in the early 90s. Even though there’s very little trace of it in Dubrovnik these days (unless you pay attention to the different coloured roof tiles), that doesn’t mean that you should ignore recent history. War Photo Limited is an exhibition center of war and conflict photography in the Old Town that tries to lift any romantic veil from war and show how it really is. It’s uncomfortable but it’s one important stop I think everyone who visits Dubrovnik should make.
14. Watch the ceremonial guards
Each evening four ceremonial guards march down the Stradun accompanied by a drummer. They keep guard over the two main city gates in full period costume until 9:30pm and then repeat the march back down the Stradun. It’s a big crowd favourite and for a moment you can pretend you’re back in the Republic of Ragusa.
15. Stroll the Stradun
I can’t count how many times I just walked up and down the main drag, called the Stradun or the Placa, people watching and eating ice cream. The wide limestone walkway is smooth as ice and actually shimmers in the sunlight. I kid you not. Just be careful when it rains so you don’t end up slipping and sliding onto your tukhus.
There are even more things to do in Dubrovnik than I’ve listed here. I didn’t check out the Rector’s Palace or any of the churches or monasteries. I didn’t go to a classical concert or the aquarium and I missed out on the 3D multimedia exhibition. You can see now why I think that everyone should consider making a stop to visit the Pearl of the Adriatic at least once. You won’t regret it.