We just returned from Go Ahead’s tour of Croatia and Slovenia and were happily reminded that there are things to see and do in Dubrovnik for almost anyone. This was Blonde’s third trip and our second together to this ancient, romantic, busy, UNESCO city on the sunny Adriatic coast.
Entering the city’s gates on your own can be confusing at first so we were glad to be coddled by both our Go Ahead Tours’ guide Tamara (for whom we still share a girl crush) as well as a local guide. Tamara went into the tourist info center and got us all free city maps which were helpful later when we were on our own.
During our time with the guide as well as on our own we came up with some suggestions for travelers with a variety of interests (nice clean wholesome ones – interests, not travelers).
Dubrovnik for history lovers
We started our tour in the Franciscan Monastery near the city’s north gate. The Franciscan order was established by St. Francis of Assisi. The arrival of the Franciscans in Dubrovnik is connected with two of his visits to the town – one during his journey to the Holy Land and the other, on the return from his second visit to the Holy Land in 1220 (perhaps en route to Venice).
The monastery was inside the city walls but very close to the entrance so if the city got attacked the monks could courageously rush to the defense of the city. Admittedly that isn’t the type of activity we picture monks doing but, despite rumors to the contrary, we weren’t around in the 11th century.
In the same complex where that monastery (there’s also another one in Dubrovnik) stands is a still operating pharmacy which has been in business since 1317. Take a minute and stop in to try some of the creams they make from homegrown and local products.
The original Dubrovnik Cathedral was, according to legend, financed by Richard the Lionheart. He was returning from the Crusades in 1192 when he was shipwrecked in a storm and cast aground on Lokrum Island in front of Dubrovnik. In gratitude, he offered to build a church on the spot where his life was saved. But the leaders of Dubrovnik convinced him to build the church in the city instead (probably would get better attendance on Sundays).
However, that cathedral crumbled to dust when Dubrovnik was hit with a devastating earthquake in 1667. When the cathedral was being reconstructed in 1981 a foundation from a 7th-century cathedral was discovered. That proved that Dubrovnik was older than had been previously known and cast a bit of doubt on the Richard the Lionheart legend. Hence it being a legend….
Dubrovnik for lovers of views and exercise
You don’t get full bragging rights about visiting Dubrovnik unless, if you’re able, you walk the city walls. They involve a lot of steps both up and down and the full circumference is 1.2 miles. If you can get yourself up there do so. It is not only a good walk above the crowds below but it’s the best place to see the whole city and get envy-worthy pictures.
You can go up to the wall at 3 different entrances. You have to pay 120 Croatian kunas in cash. That’s about $18 USD. It isn’t cheap but they know someone else won’t be offering it to you for less. Keep track of your ticket as at each possible entrance point you need to show it again.
Dubrovnik for those who like a place for a quirky drink or dinner
There’s no shortage of places to eat and drink in Dubrovnik but the most fun can be found trying some of the out-of-the-way places. Buza Bar isn’t as much of a secret as it once was but, as a cliff bar you enter from the city wall, it’s still well worth checking out. And if it’s hot out you can go for a swim in the Adriatic Sea as part of your visit.
We were bumbling around Old Town in the evening and thought that this rooftop restaurant might be a good choice. It’s tiny but has great city views if you’re willing to walk up the 96 steps to get there. This was the best food we had in Croatia but the portions were so minuscule that even with dessert we needed a snack later. At $58 USD each it wasn’t a bargain but it was a very civilized experience.
Dubrovnik for nature lovers
OK, this actually involves leaving Dubrovnik but the harbor where you get the boat is connected to the Old Town. Lokrum is a nature preserve which can be reached in less than 15 minutes on the ferry. With its pines and peacocks (really) it offers a short break in nature or somewhere you can go to picnic (BYO) and swim for hours. Rumor (as well as our own eyes) suggests nude swimming is OK from Lokrum. So, if you forgot your suit and your modesty you’re good to go. No need to send us pictures. Really.
Dubrovnik for fans of Game of Thrones
We freely confess to never having seen the show but being in Dubrovnik piqued our interest in it. From poking around on the internets we learned that Dubrovnik was used as the setting for King’s Landing, the capital of the realm’s seven kingdoms. We’re sure fans know a lot more than that. There are a number of day trip walking tours of the sites where the filming was done.
And then there’s the people-watching
Over the years the travelers to Dubrovnik have increased and now seem to be from all over the world. We were fascinated by tall, beautiful young women wearing skimpy long dresses and stilettos as well as by the usual variations of humanity. You could spend an alarming amount of time just sitting at a cafe and staring in a discreet fashion. Because this is Croatia the waiters will let you sit there for quite a while so have fun.
When you’re done for the day it’s easy to get prompt, clean city buses back to the popular hotel areas. We rode back once with Go Ahead Tours and once on our own (you can buy the ticket on the bus or at a tobacco store).
There’s truly something to do for nearly everyone in Dubrovnik so consider putting it on your travel schedule for this fall or next year. The Go Ahead tour is very reasonably priced and when you look up their rave customer reviews you may want to take their tour to explore this city and the region.
We’ve spoken to many travelers and have never once heard someone who has been to Dubrovnik who didn’t love it – including us.
Disclosure: We were the guests of Go Ahead Tours yet somehow the things we wrote are still true. If you book tours after reading this we won’t receive any compensation – just letting you know. If you go and get Tamara as your guide give her our best regards (even if she doesn’t remember us).