Dubrovnik is a wonderfully picturesque town, nowadays more popular than ever due to its association with the fictitious King’s Landing. It becomes seriously overcrowded in the peak of the summer season, but even then retains its undeniable charms.
The walled Old City of Dubrovnik ♥♥♥ is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is basically two main streets running parallel to each other, with a dozen of narrow alleys running perpendicular to them and then climbing to heights in north and south via staircases. Those northern and southern city areas are least touristy but also least easy to navigate.
The wide principal street, Stradun ♥♥, connects the westward Pile Gate ♥ with the old port. Onofrio Fountain ♥ by the Pile Gate is a popular meeting place – and an important refreshment station, since the water coming from its dozen faucets is drinkable. It is very hot and humid in Dubrovnik in the summer – you will need to carry a lot of water with you while walking around.
At the eastern edge of Stradun stand a couple of grand palaces, the clocktower, and one of the most impressive churches in town, St Blaise. Tucked around a corner here is the Small Onofrio Fountain ♥, another chance to fill up your water bottles. Both of the Onofrio fountains seem to be turned off at night (I am not sure of the exact cut-off time).
St Blaise ♥♥ sports beautiful modernist window mosaics and a great golden altar with an organ above it, but it appeared to be only open for services during the day and closed at other times. However uncomfortable you may be stepping into a church during a mass, it is definitely a visual treat.
The nearby cathedral ♥ is at best the third most impressive church in town, not without some charms but also not truly exceptional. The most impressive of them all is St Ignatius ♥♥♥ church, with a fantastic marble and gold and frescoes altar; there is also an unusual grotto-like chapel. The stairs ♥ that you will likely take to reach St Ignatius are the iconic King’s Landing stairs from the Game of Thrones, so there will always be tons of people taking pictures there.
We also stepped into Orthodox Church of the Annunciation ♥. Orthodox churches always have a different look from the Catholic ones, this one with a golden altar that takes an appearance of a wall of gold. For cat lovers, the front yard of the church may be the bigger attraction. There are close to a dozen cats that are resting in the shade or sleeping on the stones at all times. Apparently, the city officially takes care of them.
Rector Palace’s ♥ interior spaces are not too opulent, but there are several impressive ceilings. The exhibitions consist of paintings, furniture, vases, palanquins, coins, arms, and art objects – not overwhelming, not exceptional, but nice to browse. Another palace at the eastern edge of Stradun, the 16th-century Sponza, was closed for a private event during the time we could have stepped in.
The Franciscan Monastery ♥♥ cloister is gorgeous: architecture, frescoes, decorations, and the central garden are all exquisite. The pharmacy museum on the premises has more religious artifacts than pharmacological ones. The working old pharmacy carries the ambiance and the smell – and you can get your prescriptions filled.
The walls ♥♥ circuit is not short for this type of an attraction – over 2 kilometers, with plenty up and down stairs – but there are multiple entry/exit points that allow someone to only walk on a portion of the wall. There is very limited shade, although there are a few refreshment establishments that provide some respite. With the number of people on the walls at the same time, moving along is sometimes a slow walk. The best views are from the western and northern sides, which happen to be the starting and finishing parts if you ascend at the Pile Gate; on other sides, there are more views of the sea than the rooftops. We took over 1.5 hours to complete the full circuit, and were walking a fine line to a heatstroke by the end of it. The walls are an important part of the Dubrovnik visit, but they have to be approached carefully.
A separate part of the city fortifications, Fort Lovrijenac, did not make the final cut of our itinerary in the city. Access to it is granted on the same ticket as the walls.
Cable car ♥♥ to Mount Srd is one of the best of its kind, especially if you manage to stand by the windows looking down. Late at night the line to go down back to the town may be pretty long, but the time waiting was no more than 15 minutes. If you buy tickets to the cable car online ahead of time, make sure that you print them; we observed the person at the ticket desk being entirely unaccommodating in respect to the electronic confirmations on a mobile phone.
Views from the platforms at the top of the mountain ♥ are great but probably not worth the cost of the cable car all by themselves. There are a few other activities and points of interest at the top, but many people come just for the views and for drinks and food at the restaurant next to the upper terminal of the cable car.
We did not fit a trip to the nearest to Dubrovnik island of Lokrum, which is a component of the UNESCO site. We did go to Elaphiti islands instead (see below).
If you are in Dubrovnik with children, there is a playground in the former moat by the Pile Gate for them to take a break from sightseeing.
On our stay in Dubrovnik, we only went to one beach within city boundaries, St Jacob ♥♥. The rocky floor falls-off very quickly; the water edge is pebbly, but there are sand areas further back from the shore. All amenities on site, including the ever-present umbrellas and lounge chairs for hire. Brilliant water, but quite a lot of small debris may ebb up when there is a cruise ship anchored off the coast. Steep staircase (~200 steps) to reach the beach from the road above; the road itself is very narrow and may test your driving abilities; parking by the eponymous church above the beach is incredibly expensive (Kn50 per hour), although I did not see many people paying on Saturday (the sign says paid parking is in force daily).
Places to Eat
As any reasonably big tourist town, Dubrovnik has tons of options for eating out. TripAdvisor is always a good starting place to research your meals, but here are a few of our experiences, all in the summer of 2019, all as a party of 3 adults and 1 child. The monetary outlays listed below are before tips (we generally tipped Kn100 after a meal).
Additional note on logistics: in high season, many restaurants do not take reservations for after 7pm – they apparently expect to be full without reservations and do not want to hold tables. Mildly inconvenient if you do not want an early dinner and want to get into a specific restaurant.
Restaurant Dubravka ♥♥ sits rights outside the Pile Gate, with views of the Old City walls. It was recommended by our apartment host. The place is pretty large, with an open terrace and a covered terrace in addition to the inside dining room. We sat on the covered terrace. Nice team service. Excellent fish soup, a lot of other good choices on the large menu. Our damage: Kn900, with a bottle of house wine.
Konoba Sebastian ♥♥ on Prijeko, one of the restaurant-heavy auxiliary streets in the Old City, was a random choice. Very nice and friendly service, and very good food. We ordered a bit more than usual for lunch, liked all of it (especially grilled aubergines and bruschetta “Sebastian” for appetizers, and pasta with beef and wild mushrooms for the main dish), and were bowled over by panna cotta with frutti di bosco for dessert. Our damage: Kn900, with a bottle of wine.
Panorama ♥♥ is the super-popular restaurant at the top of Mount Srd, next to the cable car terminal. You pay premium for the location, but the food is excellent on its own merit, and the service is impeccable, nearly fawning. The downside is that you only get a partial view of the town below if you do not sit in the front row – and those best seats in the house are apparently reserved more than a month in advance (we reserved with only 3 weeks to go). Because Dubravka and Panorama are “sister” establishments, you get a 10% discount at whichever one you eat second, so we used ours here. We loved the beefsteak and the “Chef’s Recommendation” sirloin for the main plates, and the Dalmatian seafood platter for starters was also great. Really good apple pie for dessert. Our damage: Kn1445, with a bottle of wine, before discount.
Spaghetteria Toni ♥ is at the heart of the Old City. Definitely Italian cuisine, nice pasta dishes all around, and a lot more on the menu. Our damage: Kn600, with a bottle of wine.
We also had one negative experience, which actually highlights the importance of TripAdvisor research ahead of time. This place is well marked on TripAdvisor as one to avoid, but we occasionally like to make arbitrary choices for meals under the motto of “how bad can it be?!” The meal itself was actually not bad, but we made a huge mistake of trusting the waitress with the wine: we asked for a light local white, which in our experience meant a bottle costing Kn200 at most; the bill showed the bottle at Kn660. When we complained, the answer was that “you chose the wine” and “you should have checked the wine list”. Our fault, definitely, but we do not remember having been taken advantage of like this before. Walking by the previous night, we got their flier with “free” offering of dessert and a welcome drink – that should have been a sign, which we ignored. If a nice young lady offers you a flier with Bistro and Wine Bar on it (the official name of the place has the word “Stradun” preceding “Bistro”), walk away.
On multi-night stays these days we always go for an apartment via AirBnB. In summer of 2019, we rented Apartment Silente ♥♥♥ (link, that’s the AirBnb listing name, on maps the place is shown as Family House Nožica). The building belongs to and houses a number of family members, and one apartment is for guests. The suite includes 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, all amenities, A/C in every room, a garage parking spot, an outside terrace with sea views (which can be very pleasant at breakfast time). Very clean and welcoming, the hosts are wonderful people. The way to the Old Town (Pile Gate) is via a staircase street and then a sloping pedestrian street, probably 7 minutes going down, but closer to 15 minutes going up; while fairly straight-forward, probably not for those in an indifferent physical shape.