Like some place out of a fairytale or TV show; the fortified old town of Dubrovnik captures the imagination like few other cities. This truly spectacular peninsula has become one of the more famous tourist destinations in this part of the world over the last few decades, and has recently seen a huge surge in interest after featuring in Game Of Thrones as the main filming site for Kings Landing; the central city in the show. The old town has become almost entirely a tourist experience but even if tourist traps aren’t your thing, don’t worry, Dubrovnik still has a lot to offer.
We were there for two nights after a few days in the comparatively sleepy Korčula, looking for some excitement to end our time in Croatia.
From Korčula we caught a ferry with Kapetan Luka to Dubrovnik and it took about two hours, costing €16 (120kn) each. In the high season (June-August) ferries will run every day, but in the low season it pays to do some date specific research before you travel, or be flexible on your departure. Another ferry company servicing that route in the high season are G&V; their ferry stops at Korčula in July and August, a ride to Dubrovnik costs €12 (90kn), takes 2.5 hours and departs late afternoon. You buy your tickets for either service in person at the dock either on the day of, or the day before departure. Once you dock in Dubrovnik you can either find a bus or a taxi to get you to your accommodation. Our taxi cost €13.50 (100kn) to our apartment above the old town.
If Dubrovnik is your first port of call in Croatia you can fly there from just about anywhere for relatively little money. From London Luton you can get a one-way ticket with easyjet for €71, and flights from Gatwick with British Airways from €73. From London the flight time is around three hours. Note that Dubrovnik airport is about a 35 minute (€5.30) journey by bus from the old town itself.
The train network in Croatia doesn’t extend further south than Split, so if you want to travel overground via public transport to Dubrovnik you are left with one gruesome option: bus. Fortunately, the bus service in Croatia is frequent, cheap, and extensive, so you can reach Dubrovnik from almost anywhere with relative ease.
We had the pleasure of a return journey from Dubrovnik to Split in order to catch our flight home. We booked online with Bus Croatia, tickets were €16 (120kn) each and the journey was advertised as taking just under five hours. Once we arrived at the station, we were informed that our bus ‘might not run’ and we were to wait. Once our bus was confirmed as cancelled we were able to line up to exchange tickets for another bus leaving in an hour’s time, which would see us arriving in Split one hour before our flight departs. What would have otherwise been a beautiful and comfortable journey was 5.5 hours of nerve-racking bus torment, and we arrived in Split with 20 minutes until departure knowing the airport is a 20 minute taxi ride from the bus terminal. Fortunately, flying a budget airline meant our flight was delayed, so we made it with plenty of time to stand in line for an hour before boarding our flight home.
If this sounds like too much fun for you, you could try to book your journey with Autotrans buses, but it’s likely much the same.
Hint – If you need to take a bus to or from Dubrovnik, plan plenty of extra time. Your journey will be much more comfortable relaxing with beautiful scenery out the window, than being stressed because of the relaxed nature of the service itself.
Depending on where you are or how you are travelling, you will prioritise certain things for accommodation. Some places it might just be reliable hot water, others maybe location to attractions, but 90% of the time when we are choosing accommodation, we prioritise a balcony or terrace with a view over almost everything else. Dubrovnik was the perfect example of this and we struck gold.
We chose a small Airbnb apartment right at the top of the hill overlooking the old town for €89 per night. That might seem steep…but check out the giant terrace on the Airbnb listing. Waking up to that view each day, and relaxing there with some wine before heading out each night was an awesome experience. With the epic view also comes the literal downside when descending to the town, and also an epic climb back up to get home. Our budget wasn’t tight, as our trip was only a week long, so it was worth it.
For the epic views stay outside the walls up the hill. Stay inside the walls for the bustling old town experience, and go either north or south of the walls for the beaches. Everywhere is within walking distance or at most a short local bus ride.
Hostels have dorm rooms from €17 to €40 per bed per night, and private rooms from around €20 per person per night. Old Town Hostel and Villa Angelina are the highest rated hostels in the old town itself.
Bnb’s in Dubrovnik range from €40 to €100 per night for a double room, depending on whether you want a private room or the whole place to yourself.
Hotels line the shore along the coast both sides of the old town with your package resorts to the north and more luxury hotels to the south. Apartment complex bnb style rooms start from €40 per night and actual hotel rooms from €95 per night. South of the city walls the huge luxury hotels have extensive gardens and private beaches, costing only as much as your imagination.
Dubrovnik’s main attraction is obvious; the old city and the walls that surround it, the only problem with this is that everyone on earth seems to know about it. Now, I realise that I am a tourist and am myself contributing to the very thing I’m complaining about, but that doesn’t change the fact that Dubrovnik old town is one big tourist trap. It’s literally a maze inside giant walls, densely packed with shops and restaurants that cater almost exclusively to the thousands of tourists and cruise ship drones that pack the trap each day. We found it overwhelmingly at odds with our holiday relaxation ideas, which made it hard to spend any extended amount of time within the walls, so we found a way to avoid the worst of it and make the best of the rest.
Walk the city walls either first thing in the morning (8am) or late afternoon/early evening before they close (6:30-7pm). Not only do you get a less crowded experience and avoid the heat of the day, but the light makes for nicer photos. The walls are really cool and well worth the €16 (120kn) entry fee. The views are spectacular and there are numerous turrets and vantage points where you can almost imagine living in another age. To walk the whole 2km length takes around an hour depending on if you stop for drinks along the way, and it’s easy enough for anyone to do as long as you don’t mind a few stairs. We also checked out Fort Lovrijenac early in the day and talked to a guard who let us in for free, for some still unknown reason.
For dinner check out Lady Pi-Pi (don’t be put off by the name or related statue), a beautiful terrace restaurant just inside the old city walls. You might have to wait for a table, but the food is amazing and fairly priced. Appetizers, mains and a bottle of wine cost us about €48 for two people. Pizzeria Storia is also worth a look for amazing pizza and spaghetti, our meal there for two cost €33 with wine.
For drinks find the wonderfully titled Buza Bar and the nearby Cafe Buza. Buza Bar is a cliffside bar where you can drink, sunbathe and cliff-dive on the outside of the city walls, Cafe Buza is a slightly more upscale affair offering the same attractions but with more of an emphasis on service. Check out this great blog post on how to find them both. For the wine lovers, check out D’Vino Wine Bar, where you can buy extraordinary wines for extraordinary prices. For something cheaper and more local go to Oliver Twist Bar.
The main beaches in Dubrovnik are Lapad Beach and Banje Beach. Banje beach is the closest to the old city and although commonly packed with people it is a nice place for a swim with the incredible fortifications so close. Lapad Beach is further north, is larger than Banje and is closest to the package hotels and resorts. For the more adventurous, take a walk down to Sveti Jakov beach, about 30 minutes walk south of the old city. The beach is in a secluded cove underneath the abandoned Belvedere Hotel and offers spectacular views back towards the old city; a great spot to relax and swim. Once you’ve had enough of the beach take a stroll through the Belvedere grounds and look for clues of its use as a set in Game Of Thrones.
Hint – If you time it right you might be able to catch a play in the incredible Fort Lovrijenac that overlooks the city on the opposite peninsula.
Dubrovnik for two nights;
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