Step into Dubrovnik’s medieval city and you will have stepped into another world. Enclosed within massive stone walls and surrounded by the turquoise Adriatic sea, its light coloured walls, narrow alleys, unexpected turns and ancient structures scream medieval. Its a beautiful, beautiful city.
However, it took me a while to see that beauty over all the overcrowding. Travelling in the month of May I had hoped to find some peace but Dubrovnik turned out to be anything but peaceful. With tons of people milling around and agencies trying to sell all activities at once, it took a while but the charm of Dubrovnik eventually got to me. It would when your days stretch lazily into exploring different parts of the city, parts which are actually quiet (yes, quiet), taking breaks at shaded cafes and recognizing scattered bits of Westeros within the streets.
Read on further for some of the best things to do in Dubrovnik. Also, before even reaching Dubrovnik keep an eye out for the first glimpse of the city when coming in from the airport – it suddenly appears out of nowhere sitting pretty at the edge of the sea. It is indeed my favourite image from the entire stay.
Walk, walk, walk – best thing to do in Dubrovnik!
Cannot stress enough on how absolutely gorgeous the city’s medieval walls and shiny streets are. Especially Stradun, the main street of the city, shines so bright, it gave off glares in my day as well as night pictures (On a side note, it is quite amazing that a city with millions of visitors manages to stay spotlessly clean). All buildings and houses in Dubrovnik are constructed with stone and have orange rooftops, thus giving that distinct look to the city.
Although most buildings in the city are impressive, some noteworthy ones are Rector’s palace, Church of St. Ignatius, Onofrio’s Fountain, Dubrovnik’s cathedral, Sponza palace, Franciscan Monastery. It was one of those times when we didn’t bother much with going inside and preferred to use the time to see as much of the city as possible, and as many times as possible.
With no vehicles, Dubrovnik is a walk friendly city and very easy to navigate with its near grid layout. The only way to lose yourself here is in the old world charm of its walls, alleys, churches, palaces and shaded squares.
Walk on the City Walls
Dubrovnik’s city walls are medieval fortifications constructed to protect the city from outside threats. It is quite unbelievable to see that these stone walls completely encircling the old city within are still fully intact considering they run for about two kilometers. A walk along the walls is the perfect way to view the city from higher ground and get uninterrupted views of the sea, Dubrovnik’s signature orange tiled rooftops, daily life going on inside homes and the new Dubrovnik city sprawling beyond.
It’s best to visit either in early morning or late afternoon to avoid cruise times since this is the one activity that all cruise visitors aim to do in their limited time. We went late-ish afternoon when, apart from less crowds, the sun at that hour lit up those orange tiles against the backdrop of a shimmering Adriatic. You could see then why Dubrovnik is called the crown jewel of the Adriatic – it just shines so.
Also, during your walk, don’t forget to spot Fort Lovrijenac and Minčeta tower which are two important locations of Game of Thrones’ King’s Landing.
Have a drink at Buza bars
Buza bar literally means hole in the wall. You walk in through a hole in Dubrovnik’s city walls, find a spot on the cliffs surrounding the walls and sit out with a drink and the Adriatic stretching out in front for miles. After a long day of walking, it’s a lovely way to spend an evening and rest those sore feet. And what can I say about the views.
Seating is provided but as it is usually crowded (like everywhere in the city!), there is an option to go down the cliff side and sit out on the cliffs. I just googled for Buza bar and found two – Buza bar and Bard Mala Buza bar. We visited both and personally I preferred the latter as I found the views to be better but it doesn’t really make that much difference. The bars are not the easiest to locate so keep an eye out for a small opening in the city walls even though it may seem too small to enter.
King’s Landing in Dubrovnik
The world of Westeros had been pulling me to Dubrovnik for some time now, and oh, that joy of spotting a familiar location! There are plenty of spots scattered within the city walls (and beyond) which are a reminder to the fabulously crafted King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. Husband, who till then hadn’t seen the show (and binge watched once back), couldn’t really understand my wide grins as I recognized Red Keep, Blackwater Bay, Sept of Baelor, Joffrey’s name day location and others.
There are a number of Game of Thrones guided tours which take people to filming locations with placards depicting the scenes shot at the locations. While it’s probably great to learn about some inside trivia, if you like me prefer to do your own thing then ditch the tours as it is quite easy to see most of the locations on your own at your own pace, and this post will tell you where you can find these awesome locations.
Fort Lovrijenac lies outside the city walls and is accessible via Pile gate. It is a bit of a climb to reach here, but is the perfect vantage point to take in the medieval city from outside. Another reason to visit is that quite a few Game of Thrones’ scenes have been shot here.
Dubrovnik away from crowds
Not many websites will tell you this but if there is one thing you take away from here on things to do in Dubrovnik, it is this.
It’s unbelievable how the city goes silent once you leave the main square and venture out further in the back lanes. I did not really think I could find peace but I did. If you want to do the same, read on.
To the north of Stradun, there are a number of parallel, uphill stairway alleys all lined with restaurants and bars. Climbing on further, the restaurants are soon left behind and signs of daily life start to appear – clothes hanging out to dry, flower pots decorating homes, residents moving in and out of their homes. These alleys are beautiful and worth exploring, although it requires a lot of climbing up and down to do that.
The other quiet part of the city is near the south side where the Buza bars are located. Here eating joints and people disappear and you lose yourself within medieval paths and turns. Some of these streets are ul Kastela and ul Margarite.
As you walk about exploring these north and south sections, you can also see city walls peeking through the alleys with people walking about on them, giving two very different perspectives of the city.
Dubrovnik at night
Make sure to step out in night and explore the same streets under the lights. The madness of the day dies down, and it finally gets quiet. Dinner in one the many restaurants lining the narrow streets, and a stroll along moonlit old Dubrovnik port is a great way to end the day.
Bird’s eye view of the medieval city
Mount Srd overlooks Dubrovnik and is a great location to get sweeping views of the medieval city, views that stay during the entire cable car ride up to Mount Srd. We went there during evening when plenty of people were gathering for sunset. In my opinion, it’s not the best location for a sunset as the views are obstructed, but at that hour the sights below were quite amazing – the city glowing a fierce orange, its quadilateral shape jutting out into the sea with a multitude of islands scattered in the distance.
Tips for visiting:
- If you are short on time and don’t have the bandwidth to explore a lot, make sure you visit Dubrovnik’s city walls – they are indeed spectacular.
- Avoid the city streets during cruise times between 11 am and 3pm when hordes descend on the city. While it may not be possible to do absolutely nothing, definitely avoid the city walls as it will spoil this fantastic experience.
- While there are great views all along the city walls, the stretch of wall near Minčeta tower is particularly great for views of the city as this bit is higher than other parts of the walls.
- There are tons of steps to navigate on the walls and in the back lanes of the city. Also, if you are living outside the city walls, there might be more steps to climb depending on your location. We lived barely a ten minute walk away but had to climb 100+ steps one way to our apartment.