Dubrovnik took my breath away the first time I saw it – on a travel show on television back when I was at university. I knew I had to go and it has been on my bucket list ever since. Could it live up to my expectations?
Dubrovnik’s Old Town is impressive and breathtakingly beautiful. From the old city walls to the gorgeous town to the beautiful waterfront setting, it is unique and stunning.
It is definitely somewhere you should visit sometime during your lifetime and when you get there, here’s my list of what to do in Dubrovnik, how to get into town from the airport, where to stay and information about visiting Dubrovnik with kids.
I started off with the top ten things to do in Dubrovnik but I had to add one more! If you are on a limited time frame, you could do all of this in a busy day, but I don’t recommend it. Here’s our list of the best things to see in Dubrovnik…
The best views from Dubrovnik are from Mt Srd lookout and it is one of the must see Dubrovnik attractions. I think it is a great place to start – it made me even more excited to get into the Old Town! The only question that remains is how to get up there!
There is a cable car that can whisk you up to the top. However, it is expensive, especially when you have a whole family to buy for. It is also popular – we were staying near it and there always seemed to be a long line. For a 4 minute ride, the price did not seem worth it especially as we have done many similar things over the last few months.
Since we had a hire car, we went with the drive up option. My main advice after doing that is DON’T DO IT! It’s a one lane road with traffic going both ways and unless you are a very confident driver, are happy going off road and don’t have a hire car (big risk of scratching it underneath), then I don’t recommend it.
I was a total wreck by the time I got to the top and barely looked at the views as I was so distraught about the fact I had to drive down again. Travelling with kids is a piece of cake, even when they are being total terrors, compared to that drive!
From the top, you look down on the Old Town and it is beautiful and it is definitely worth coming up here. Just cough up for the cable car unless you are confident about the drive.
If you do have a car, I also recommend going to another lookout which is on the same road as the one where you turn off to go up Mt Srd, Jadranska Cesta. You just need to drive a bit further than the turn off away from Dubrovnik and you will see a place to pull over. There are fabulous views from here which are quite different to the ones from above.
If you are looking for other great photography spots, check out this guide.
Walking the city walls is another of the essential things to see and do in Dubrovnik. I think doing this and seeing the city from all different angles really shows how impressive the Old Town is.
It’s about two kilometres long and they encircle the entire old town which means you get to see it all from up there! They are up to 25m high and this does vary so there are plenty of stairs. There are also towers, fortifications and a large fortress. It’s lots of fun.
It’s also hot, so if you visit at a hot time of year (like us) then I recommend going early or late. You can only walk the walls counter clockwise.
You are most probably going to find yourself at one of these gates when you enter the Old Town – they are the main entrances. They are also where you will find the ticket offices to climb the walls.
They are both very grand and I think both are worthwhile attractions in Dubrovnik.
Built in 1438, this part of an old water supply system makes for quite a sight just inside from the Pile Gate.
One of the best free things to do in Dubrovnik is simply to walk down the Placa (also known as Stradun), the main thoroughfare in the Old Town which nearly runs directly between the two gates. It’s full of action, attractions, restaurants, ice cream shops and everything else you could need. It’s also full of tourists so make sure you also escape this area and dive into the alley ways as well.
At the end of Placa is Luza Square and the Orlando Column. These places to see in Dubrovnik used to be the spot where festivals took place and public announcements were made. It’s now a nice place to sit back and have a drink while soaking it all in.
This photographic exhibition is a must see if you are interested in learning more about what took place in Dubrovnik during the war in Yugoslavia. The photos powerfully tell the story and you are given a book in your language of choice which gives an overall history as well as the story behind each photo.
It is hard to fathom everything that has taken place in this Old Town.
There is also a temporary exhibition. It was on the conflict in the Central African Republic when I was there which was quite honestly beyond terrible.
40 kunas per adult. Kids free, but I would only recommend for older kids who can handle the content.
Another of the places to go in Dubrovnik is the Franciscan Monastery and Museum. It is a mid 14th century cloister and home to Europe’s third oldest functioning pharmacy – it’s been in operation since the 14th century!
There is also a tiny museum and they have preserved bullet holes in the walls from the war. Otherwise, there is not much there and it is hard to get much out of it as there is a lack of signage. If you are running short of time, I would skip this attraction.
There is also a pretty church which is free to enter.
Entry is 30 kuna for adults.
There are quite a few churches in the Old Town and when you are looking for things to do and see in Dubrovnik, I suggest visiting at least one.
St Ignatius of Loyola is surprisingly stunning and is my favourite, especially as we found it accidentally. There is also the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin that is more simple but elegant. Unfortunately, it is also very busy – far busier than any of the others.
We also visited the Serbian Orthodox Church and Museum (no shorts allowed here) which is also ornate with lots of gold detailing, but different to the others. There is also a museum to the side of this church.
For the most fun things to do in Dubrovnik look no further than the Buza Bars – there are two sitting on the edge of cliffs at the side of the old city wall.
They can both be accessed through holes in the wall and are surprisingly easy to find. We preferred Buza Bar II as there was more shade.
The drinks are slightly more expensive than elsewhere in the Old Town (which is all more expensive than elsewhere in Croatia) and there is a limited range but it is worth it – look at those views! There are no toilets or food except peanuts.
You can swim from the Buza Bars but this is not something I would recommend for kids. There were people sunbathing as well.
If you are looking for cool things to do in Dubrovnik, this one is for you! This beach is very close to old town – just a few minutes walk from Ploce Gate. Half of the beach is private and owns to a beach club.
We visited Dubrovnik with kids – a 3 and a 5 year old. While we didn’t find any attractions in Dubrovnik for kids specifically, this is a good place to visit with kids.
The Old Town is great in that there are no cars so you don’t have that worry. There are a lot of people though so that has its own challenges.
We did everything above with our kids except War Photo Limited – we took turns going there. There is a lot of information to absorb at that attraction and young kids are going to be bored. The kids particularly enjoyed Banje Beach.
The city wall worked out well with kids as well, although Mr 3 did need some help on the stairs at times. I would not recommend taking a stroller up there, but we did push a stroller around most of the Old Town – just be aware that there are lots of steps in the northern part.
We had to return our car to the airport on arrival (very easy drive and easy to find hire car counters). We then caught an Atlas shuttle into Dubrovnik and one back again when we left.
The shuttles are timed for flights so it’s a bit annoying as you don’t know what time they run until the day beforehand. We were lucky at the airport and only had to wait ten minutes. It dropped us off at the Pile Gate.
On departure, we saw the time the day beforehand – you can catch it from the cable car and there are lots of stalls selling tickets here with the schedule. It is easy to do and considering taxis can’t go in the Old Town anyway and the traffic is shocking around the Old Town, you don’t waste any time taking the bus.
They charged us 40 kuna for adults and our kids were free (3 and 5). More information here.
Another option is to book a transfer with Octopus Transfers. I know the owners of this company personally and they can pick you up at airports, take you to festivals and Croatia’s national parks. Read more about them here.
If you want to stay in the Old Town in Dubrovnik, this is not cheap. We compromised and stayed in a great little apartment just a few minutes walk from an Old Town entry instead.
We stayed in a one bedroom apartment with the bedroom upstairs and a large living area (with sofa bed for the kids), dining area and kitchen downstairs. The best part was that there was also a courtyard and we were on the ground floor! Always a bonus in Europe where we have often been 4+ floors up. There was also great internet and our favourite facility – a washing machine!
If you are not a member of Airbnb yet, sign up using this link and we will both save US$20 off our next rental.Unfortunately, the apartment where we stayed is no longer available.
There are also many apartment options available on hotel booking sites. Here’s some good options:
Here’s some great options if you would prefer the services and facilities of a hotel or resort:
Dubrovnik was just as beautiful as I imagined. Unfortunately, it was also more crowded that I feared. It was my top bucket list destination in Croatia, yet it’s probably the place I liked least. Not that that I didn’t like it – the Old Town is stunning and definitely worth visiting. I just find it hard to get really into a place when I’m surrounded by other foreigners.
I like experiencing the vibe and the feel of a place, for want of a better term. And Dubrovnik evoked no real feeling. Just hot, annoying crowds.
The crowds also get tiring and I didn’t spend nearly as much time in the Old Town as I thought I would. We basically dashed in, did what we most wanted to and got out. We just didn’t have the energy to deal with it further.
In saying all that, I am definitely glad that we came, but I would just not return again unless it was low season. Crowds were not always a problem either. Awesome Dubrovnik attractions such as War Photo Limited were not crowded at all.
My biggest tip would be to get out and about early. There were not that many people around when we would set out at 9am. FYI we visited in late September.
So by all means, go to Dubrovnik, don’t let me turn you off. Just be prepared and try to go in Winter!
What are your must do things in Dubrovnik?