Best Things to Do in Dubrovnik, Croatia
“Dubrovnik is so beautiful, but really very busy!” I heard it from everyone when I told them I was going there. After all the friendly warnings, I expected that Dubrovnik was not only the Nirvana, but also the Efteling on an average Saturday in the high season. And both were true. The first, fortunately, more than the second.
Dubrovnik has many beautiful sights and there are plenty of nice places to discover. The coastal town is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. Here are my tips for the best things to do in Dubrovnik from where to go, what to eat, and where to stay!
A Brief History of Dubrovnik
As a history fanatic, I thought it was fantastic to be shown around the city. Dubrovnik has a very interesting history. The city was founded in the 7th century under the name “Lausa.”
When it came into the hands of Venetian rule in the 13th century, the city was christened “Ragusa.” Only in 1919, after the fall of the Habsburg empire, did the city begin to be called “Dubrovnik” (for the sake of clarity of this story, I simply call the city Dubrovnik all the time).
After the period of Venetian rule, it came under Hungarian rule. They allowed Dubrovnik to become its own city state. Of course, on the condition that they paid taxes properly.
The result was that in the 15th and 16th centuries, Dubrovnik became a rich trading state that profited greatly from the port and its location between Europe and Turkey.
All this went well until 1667 when the Mediterranean trade experienced a crisis and in addition a major earthquake destroyed the city.
Although the city was somewhat upright, it never became the rich state it was again. When Dubrovnik came into the hands of Napoleon, it was officially over with the fun because he abolished the republic. After the First World War the city fell under Yugoslavia.
After the Croatian War of Independence, Dubrovnik officially became an enclave of Croatia. Why an enclave? Because a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina lies between Dubrovnik and the rest of Croatia , namely the seaside resort of Neum.
How to Get to Dubrovnik
The easiest way to get to Dubrovnik is by taking the plane. Both Rotterdam and Amsterdam have direct flights. Transavia flies you to Dubrovnik from Rotterdam in more than 2 hours, where easyJet does that from Amsterdam. You can score return tickets from €120 for these companies.
I would certainly recommend you to make a trip through Croatia . I always rent my cars at Sunnycars, because you will not get any unexpected costs or unnecessary insurance there. Very nice.
Top Things to Do in Dubrovnik
Visit the City Center
Credit where credit is due: Dubrovnik has a beautiful city center. Everything that matters in Dubrovnik is within the city walls. Through a beautiful gate you walk into the old center, into a Game of Thrones kingdom. Really, if you watch the series, you immediately understand why this city is used as a Kings Landing.
You enter the city via the main promenade called Placa . This is the street that you should avoid most if you want to experience something that is somewhat authentic. The street is beautiful, but everything is enormously overpriced and it is usually very busy.
In the side streets you can really see how cute the city is, and that it is not only grandeur. Well, of course it is: you kind of stumble over the impressive churches and other buildings.
The architecture is surreal beautiful. I really love the Venetian style and Dubrovnik full of it. Not bad considering the history. Dubrovnik looks very rich, developed and beautiful. It is truly one of the most fairy-tale cities I have seen.
Explore the Old City Walls
You can take a nice walk in just about every city. Maybe even one along the water. Or one with a view of the city. But there are few cities that combine all of that. Walking on a city wall with a view of the beautiful old town? Looking at the glittering sea, and islands a little further away? In Dubrovnik that is all possible on the characteristic city walls.
The city walls of Dubrovnik were built in the heyday of the city to better protect Dubrovnik. They have also experienced the necessary wars and battles, the most recent of which was the Croatian war of independence in 1991. The city wall was then severely damaged.
When you walk across the wall, make sure you go at the end of the day. Then you have a beautiful sunset; it is less hot than during the day, and moreover a little less crowded.
I think kayaking is super fun and I like to do that when I’m traveling. I find nothing more fun than discovering a city actively and sportingly, and that is even more fun from the water.
So when I got the chance to kayak in Dubrovnik to the nearby island of Lokrum, I grabbed it with both hands. It wasn’t so far to paddle: maybe half an hour, but the sea was rough in some places. Nevertheless, it was completely worth the trip.
Lokrum is a beautiful, idyllic island. You will find a crater lake approximately in the middle of the island. Walk down a staircase where you will find a lake (but with sea water). And as if that wasn’t cool enough, peacocks are still walking around. There you swim, in your crater lake, while you see peacocks walking around you (!!). Then you really will feel like the coolest person on earth.
Because Dubrovnik is on the water, there are also a number of beaches. The best known and most popular beach in Dubrovnik is Banje. From the historic city center you can easily walk onto the fine pebble beach.
Practice all kinds of water sports. There are also various restaurants and beach pavilions, and there is no shortage of beach chairs and parasols.
Moreover, Banje is also a nice place if you want to experience Dubrovnik in the evenings. Certainly in the high season, the pavilions turn into cozy nightlife venues in the evenings. During the high season it can be busy on the beach, precisely because it is so easy to reach from the city. However, if you leave on time you can find a great place!
Cable car to the top of Srđ
At Dubrovnik lies the mountain Srđ (good luck pronouncing). The mountain is best known for the cable car that takes you to the top, but there is more to be found. Fort Imperial, built during the Napoleonic wars, is there, for example.
Yet most people take the cable car mainly for the view. I also thought the view was beautiful. In the distance you see beautiful mountains and islands in the sea. Very photogenic. Still, I didn’t find much else to do on the mountain. Therefore a critical note: the price of 170 Kuna is on the high side. Check here for the most recent prices and opening times.
If you visit Dubrovnik with a (rental) car, there is a way to save those costs for the cable car. After all, the view is really worth it. The tip? You can drive up the Srđ mountain yourself. There are a few tight turns, but you are certainly not the only one to reach the top via that road. So it’s a really nice (and safe, I wouldn’t endanger you) option.
Earlier I mentioned the Placa, also called Stradun. It is the main street of the city and that means top prizes and a fairly high tourist level.
Yet it is in the list of sights in Dubrovnik. The Stradun is indeed a very beautiful street to see and you can walk through it for free. It immediately gives off such a city feeling when you walk into the center.
Moreover, main streets like Stradun are great fun when you look around you. Not only to the buildings that form the street, but also to the people. Who gets tempted into an overpriced purchase, how many people with socks in sandals and an expensive camera around their neck you count and which languages do you hear all pass by. A lifelike “Where’s Waldo,” but slightly different.
Rector’s Palace was originally a defensive building from the Middle Ages. After a fierce fire in 1435, the city decided to build a palace on the site of the burned-down defensive structure: Rector’s Palace. It is an impressive building in which you get a good picture of life at that time. However, the palace is not just a palace. The palace is now home to the cultural-historical museum of Dubrovnik. You will find all kinds of objects that tell more about the history of the 15th to the 20th century.
The Port of Dubrovnik (Gruž)
With such a favorable location on the water, the port plays an important role in a city like Dubrovnik. Every day you see ferries and sail to the Croatian island of Mljet where you can discover this national park at your leisure for a whole day. Cargo and passenger ships also pass by, which means that it is often busy in the port.
Every day you will find the market in Gruž near the harbor. Score fresh products with which you can make a delicious salad in the evening. There are many apartments in Dubrovnik where you have access to a kitchenette (you will find a number below). In addition, just like in the main street, Gradun, you can watch people in the harbor particularly well.
The Best Restaurants in Dubrovnik
- Gradska Kavana (Restaurant Arsenal): No hysterical tourist crowds but simply cozy food among locals. You can find it at Gradska Kavana on the port of Dubrovnik. The menu has something for everyone, the service is friendly, the food tasty and the view beautiful. You don’t need more.
- Ala Mizerija: This bistro is built on the rocks and overlooks the sea. A wonderful place to start the day with your cup of coffee and to determine which places you will discover that day. Or to have a drink in the bar at the end of the day.
- Proto: Fish lovers should not skip Proto. And you are also in a harbor, so the fish is very good here! You can find the restaurant in the center of Dubrovnik.
Where to Stay in Dubrovnik
- Booba Rooms: The 3-star Booba Rooms are located in the old town of Dubrovnik. You book a studio here, which gives you access to a kitchenette with your own fridge. Useful! There is also a terrace adjacent to all rooms, so you can sit outside.
- Apartments Grgich: The studios of the 3-star Apartments Grgich are fully equipped with a fridge, microwave and a beautiful sea view. You stay just outside the city walls of Dubrovnik, so that you are in the center, but you can also look for peace in your studio.
- Villa St. Vitus: A spacious stay, an attractively furnished apartment complex and the beach 500 meters away. The three-star Villa St. Vitus complex has it all. The choice is yours whether you opt for a room with a view of the city or also prefer a private patio.
All in all, Dubrovnik was a really beautiful city, and I would definitely recommend it. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and it fits, as you have already read, without glance or blush in the list of Paris , Venice , Rome and Barcelona . What are you waiting for?
What’s on your list of the best things to do in Dubrovnik?
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
- I always recommend checking Get Your Guide for the best tours in Europe and Tiqets for specific attraction deals.