Hailed as one of Europe’s most popular destinations, Dubrovnik has stood out in recent years thanks to its distinctive Old Town surrounded by ancient walls that overlook the Adriatic sea. While certain parts of Croatia remain undiscovered to tourists and seasoned travellers alike, Dubrovnik has flourished since the end of the war. This is due to its ideal placement that boasts some of the most photogenic sceneries in Europe and the fact that several Game of Thrones scenes are filmed here. Are you planning a trip to to the Dalmatian city? Here’s my quick guide, leaving you the freedom to craft your own 72 hours in Dubrovnik to your liking:
What to see & do
Skip the cable car ride and head straight for the City Walls. Completed in the 17th century, Dubrovnik’s ramparts and forts that surround the Old Town have been able to withstand centuries’ worth of earthquakes and wars. I’m not usually a fan of following the crowd, but this walk is definitely worth the time and money – it’s a must. You’ll see masses of orange terracotta rooftops that contrast the blue Adriatic sea throughout the entire way – this is the best time to take your camera out and snap a real life postcard shot of the city. The perfect time to embark on this tour is during late afternoons right before closing time, making the walk less crowded and easier to complete on hot summer days as the sun begins to set.
Tip: Closing hours change depending on the season. It will take you about two hours to complete the walk so plan accordingly!
Located 10 minutes away from Dubrovnik’s Old Town, Lapad is where you’ll find the locals. Everyone goes to Banje beach – meaning it’s usually crowded with tourists – so head to Lapad Bay for the day. Once you arrive at Lapad Beach, don’t stop here – keep walking along the bay’s shore until you reach secluded strips of rock formations with sea access for your own personal slice of heaven for free. Just throw your towel down and enjoy.
Tip: Don’t go too far if walking on big rocks is not your forte – the further you get from the main beach, the fewer steps you’ll find, as they’re replaced with large stones.
GOT fans, you’ll want to visit Lokrum island as it’s where the Iron Throne is! Located about 15 minutes away from Dubrovnik’s port by boat, Lokrum is a pleasant escape from the city due to a law that doesn’t allow cars or overnight stays (in fact, its only inhabitants are peacocks and rabbits that roam free). Once here, enjoy the Nature Reserve’s open-air botanical garden and its rocky beach with access to the crystal blue Adriatic. Then, head to this island’s version of the Dead Sea – or Mrtvo More – to bathe in its small, salt-filled lake that’s only 33 feet (10 meters) deep.
Tips: The only legitimate ferries that travel to Lokrum island are the ZRINSKI and the SKALA and both cost 100 Kuna (never more). Also, Lokrum’s nude beach is labeled FKK, which is short for Freikörperkultur, a German nudist movement that translates to Free Body Culture).
Where to eat & drink
Like any big city, Dubrovnik’s Old Town is filled with tourist traps when it comes to dinner options. Skip the row of eateries that line Dubrovnik’s main street, the Stradun, and get ready to climb some steps. Nestled atop of Ulica Antuninska street is Lady Pi-Pi – you’ll understand where it gets its name once you see the statue in front! This open-air restaurant is adorned with a concealed garden terrace that provides spectacular views of the city. With its large open fire in plain sight, the eatery serves up meat and fish straight from the charcoal grill. My partner and I opted for a mixed meat grill platter for two (cevapi – a Balkan minced meat sausage, pork, sausage, chicken, homemade fries, and grilled vegetables) and a bottle of their house red wine. The service is curt but it’s all about the views and food here!
Tip: Lady Pi-Pi closes up if it’s raining and at times, they stop accepting their lineup of patrons as early as one hour before closing time (10pm). Get there early and be ready to wait in line (they don’t accept reservations).
If you’re looking to splurge on at least one meal in Dubrovnik, choose Restaurant 360° (Jay-Z and Beyoncé have eaten here, if you need more convincing). Requiring a reservation several days in advance, you’ll spot this restaurant’s elevated, outdoor terrace from the port. Because of unpredictable weather, I decided to push my reservation one day later to ensure that I got one of their gorgeous tables along the fort that overlooks the water – and I got lucky as there was no rain the next evening. Along with their excellent service, my meal was a 5-star experience.
Here’s a breakdown of the meal: We began with a bread basket accompanied by two flavoured butters: truffle & garlic with sundried tomatoes. This was quickly followed by a complimentary amuse bouche (a carrot and cucumber macaron made to be eaten with your fingers in one bite in order to get the full explosion of flavours – our waiter’s instructions were quite precise). I then moved onto my beetroot risotto dish drizzled with cheese sauce. It was made using Carnaroli rice – which aficionados will recognize, it as it’s the Rolls-Royce of risotto brands. Needless to say, it’s perfect. My partner chooses the agnolotti starter. The pasta was filled with rabbit, pork, and veal served in a veal and carrot sauce. For our mains, we both opted for the black pork neck with a sweet potato purée, apple and rhubarb chutney, porcini mushrooms, and caramelized onions (pictured). We washed it all down with a stellar Plavac red wine. We didn’t opt for dessert but were served a complimentary platter of mini chocolates and cakes.
Can’t score a last-minute reservation? Opt for Proto as your second choice. I didn’t get to try it but it has stellar reviews (it boasts the best seafood in town).
Atlantic Kitchen is a quaint spot in Lapad with no fuss, reasonably-priced fare. Perfect after a long beach day or for a quick lunch, I sampled their fried calamari, pan-fried scallops & chorizo appetizer, and seafood spaghetti topped with mussels, squid, langoustine, prawns, all in a house tomato, garlic, and white wine sauce.
D’vino wine bar is a must if you want to immerse yourself in the world of local Croatian wines. Owned by a part Croatian, part Australian wine lover, it was the city’s first wine bar. Nestled on a narrow street called Palmotićeva, away from the hustle and bustle on the Stradun, take a seat at one of their outdoor tables and watch travellers squeeze through this tiny street in hopes of finding the bar. Since I knew nothing about Croatian wine, I asked our server for a fruity recommendation in a red. She suggested the “Introduction to Plavac Mali” trio (pictured), which is where I discover my love for wines made from the Plavac Mali grape. The first (Plavac) is light and fruity, as promised, the second (Postup) is my favourite out of the three with its full-bodied, smooth feel, and the last (Dingac) is too heavy and dry for my liking. I pair my wine tasting with one of their meat and cheese platters.
Perfect for congratulating yourself on finishing the City Walls walk (which was my case), have a drink while watching the sunset at Cafe Bar Buza. Serving only wine, beer, and cold drinks, this bar is perched on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic sea and has some of the best views in Dubrovnik (you can see the island of Lokrum from here). Translated to “hole” in the local dialect, Buza is just that – a hole-in-the-wall.
Another option for happy hour is Cave Bar More, a naturally-formed cave that spans three stories. Located in Lapad, story has it that construction workers found the natural cave while plowing the ground to build Hotel More. The interior is spectacular at night – be sure to look down at their exposed water-filled glass floor. With an extensive cocktail list, there’s something for everyone here. During the day, enjoy their outdoor patio overlooking the water equipped with rentable long chairs and access to Lapad Bay via a ladder.
Where to shop
Explore the Old Town by getting lost in its winding marbled streets and go shopping. With all the tourist shops that line the Stradun, take a left on Zlatarska street and discover the two following local gems: Modni Kantun, a small, hole-in-the-wall boutique that sells pieces by local Croatian designers, is where you’ll find one of a kind clothes and handmade jewellery. Along the same lines, Tilda, which is conveniently located next door, sells hand-crafted gifts and accessories. With its quintessential blue and white sailor-themed branding, you can spot Aqua Maritime shops (there are several) from a mile away! Once inside, it’s hard to resist their maritime-inspired beach collection.
Specializing in fine foods and kitchen accessories, Uje is where you’ll discover – and sample – Croatian olive oil, jams, spreads, honey, and spices. If you’re looking to bring home a taste of Croatia, pick up their popular Brachia olive oil, lavender-scented sea salt, or handmade Croatian chocolates. Each store has a sampling station, where you’ll get to try their olive oils, jams, and more. Their dried fig spread was my favourite. I happily got to enjoy Uje once more before heading home as Croatia Airlines gives out a snack box to each passenger (we got crackers, olives, and cheese!). Lastly, Franja Coffee & Teahouse boasts locally-produced teas, coffees, wines, and lots of foodie souvenirs ready to take home.
Have you been to Dubrovnik? What are your absolute musts? Let me know below!