Hello dear readers! If you’re a regular here, you know Miloš and I have traveled extensively all around his home country of Croatia. We’ve been almost everywhere. BUT – I had still never been to Dubrovnik! (Yes, I know!) The primary reason for not getting to this wonderful city sooner was simply logistical. It’s pretty much the farthest away place IN Croatia, from where we live in Croatia. (An almost six hour drive if you take the highway AND don’t stop for breaks.)
However, it was finally time to see this amazing city, so we planned a visit for the last weekend of March, as we had to get our personal traveling in before our own working tour seasons began. (We also visited Trogir on our way down to Dubrovnik. Blog about that coming soon!)
Let me say right off the bat – Dubrovnik is a MUST SEE city. It most certainly lived up to its fantastic reputation. If you are a fan of history, architecture, the sea, good food, and cats – this is your place!
But first – a map! (You know I love maps! And on this one, I’ve highlighted our driving route.) As you can see, Dubrovnik lies along the Adriatic Sea, all the way near the southern-most part of Croatia. This southern coastal region of Croatia is called Dalmatia. (Yup – just like the dogs! That’s where they get their name.)
This historic city was founded in the 7th century, when the first wave of Croats migrated to Dalmatia. Some also speculate the town may have been founded by Greek refugees or sailors. Originally named Ragusa, Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Excavations also include evidence of a pre-Christian era settlement. The city was a strong maritime port during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It suffered damage during a terrible earthquake in 1667, but was still able to preserve its Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque historic buildings. The city again suffered extensive damage in the 1990s during the Croatian War for Independence. Today’s Dubrovnik is one of the Mediterranean’s most popular tourist destinations; its inherent charm is the ability to make visitors feel as if they are being transported back in time.
If you choose to drive to Dubrovnik from most places in Croatia, you will have to pass through a 10 kilometer stretch of land that is controlled by Bosnia and Herzegovina. Borders at both sides have passport controls. We had no hold ups getting through, but I travel inside Europe with my Hungarian passport. It may take a little longer with a non-EU passport. I also suspect there could be traffic issues during the busy summer months.
We stayed for two nights, but should have made it three. It just wasn’t enough time. From the first moment we saw the city, we were blown away by its sheer majesty. Just entering through the Pile Gate into the old city made me feel like we were entering some kind of fantasy world.
We stayed right in the middle of the old city at the Villa Sigurata, where we were made to feel right at home. Our room was comfortable, clean, and had everything we needed. I definitely give it my highest recommendation!
Here are a few highlights we experienced during our time in Dubrovnik:
Walking along the Stradun
Stradun is the main promenade that runs along the entire inside length of the old city. This wide thoroughfare is full of shops and restaurants, as well as historic churches, monasteries, and residences. You can see the Onofrio Fountain, the Fransiscan Monestary, Europe’s oldest pharmacy (since 1391), the Orlando Column, the Church of St. Blaise, and the Rector’s Palace.
Old City Walls
Despite it being a pricier option (150 kuna per person/approx. 20 euro), walking the Old City Walls is an absolute must-do experience in Dubrovnik. The walls encircle the entire city, complete with lookouts, forts, and cannons. The views that await you are simply breath-taking. Be ready to walk and climb lots of stairs. Give yourself a good solid two hours to get all the way around, more if you want to take your time. Your ticket is good for one circle around the wall, and also allows you into the Lovrijenac Fortress, across from the old city. (We climbed up to the fortress, but it had already closed for the day, so we didn’t make it inside. This one is featured in Game of Thrones as the Red Keep in King’s Landing.)
Today’s city walls were mostly constructed between the 12th and 17th centuries, although construction on the original walls started in the 8th century. They measure almost 2 kilometers in length, all the way around. They reach a maximum height of 25 meters, and the main walls on the land side are 4 to 6 meters thick. Highlights along the wall are the Minčeta Tower, rising above the city on the land side, and Fort Bokar, which juts into the sea, guarding the area of the Pile Gate.
As I mentioned above, we didn’t get the opportunity to go inside the fortress, but we did hike up there and took in the amazing views. Then we went down the stairs that lead to the pier between the two fortresses.
Pile Gate (pronounced “pee-leh”)
The Pile Gate is nearly 500 years old – it lets you enter the old city over an ancient draw bridge that used to be lifted every evening. It’s covered with a Renaissance arch, where St. Blaise (the city’s patron saint) looks down upon everyone coming and going from the city. Our accommodations were located close to this entrance.
Just walking through the city itself is an activity that can’t be beat. The streets are set up mostly in a grid pattern, and are pedestrian-only. The streets running perpendicular to the Stradun are only level for a block or two, then continue up many many stairs.
Dubrovnik Old Port
Located at the eastern side of the city, the old port was once an important part of Dubrovnik’s maritime history. It’s a busy area of restaurants and local boats. The ship that runs to the island of Lokrum departs from here.
We also had a couple really amazing dining/drinking experiences that I just HAVE to share with you.
Our first evening in Dubrovnik, we had reservations at Nautika, located right outside the Pile Gate. The restaurant is located inside the former Dubrovnik School of Maritime Studies, which dates back to 1881. One of the highlights of this wonderful restaurant is its outdoor terrace, where diners can look out onto one of the world’s most amazing views. Nautika’s location is on the seaside, between the Lovrijenac Fortress and Fort Bokar. I don’t think I’ve ever dined with a more spectacular view in my entire life.
The food and service are at the top end of the spectrum. Every dish was meticulously created to be something truly special. The staff takes care of your every need, ensuring your visit is unforgettable.
The prices are rather high, but it’s worth every penny. I highly encourage you to make a reservation – request the outdoor terrace.
We will be back for sure!
We happened upon this bar by accident on our first day, but we were sure to return for another visit the next day! This hidden gem is actually built out onto the rocks outside the city walls, overlooking the sea. They only serve cold drinks, as per the signs leading you there. The view is amazing – especially at sunset. Go to enjoy some relaxing time in the sea breeze.
To find this bar, go up the Game of Thrones staircase, then cut across left up top until you see the sign directing you to the “Cold drinks with the most beautiful view.” Continue walking along that path for a bit until you get to the “hole in the wall” entrance to the bar.
Okay, I mentioned it briefly earlier, but Dubrovnik is FULL of cats! There were cats everywhere. I never saw so many stray cats. I guess since the old city is pedestrian-only, they don’t have to worry so much about cars. And if you know me, you know I LOVE cats! Of course I took lots of cat pics. Here are some of them!
A few thoughts about Dubrovnik:
-It’s an expensive city. (Popular tourist destinations usually are.) Don’t cheap out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience just because it’s a few more dollars than you expected to spend. Budget yourself a little higher in this city.
-Crowds can get super crazy in the high season. If you can travel during shoulder season, you’ll be able to experience this wonderful place without the insane crowd levels.
– If you’re staying long enough, you can take some nice day trips from Dubrovnik. I would recommend getting out to some of the islands. (I’m so eager to go to Korčula!)
-Stay at least three nights to be able to see and do more.
We loved our visit and can’t wait to return!
Here are some more miscellaneous photos from our trip to Dubrovnik!