Guide to DUBROVNIK, the Lustrous Pearl of Dalmatia

Guide to Dubrovnik, the Lustrous Pearl of Dalmatia. It was the grand finale of my bus road trip along the Adriatic coast.

View of the Old Town of Dubrovnik
Best of Dubrovnik: Architecture, mountains, and the deep blue sea.

Despite the large crowds and the flaws that come with tourist sellout that overshadowed my stay a bit.

To Be Or Not To Be

Remember what I wrote about Rijeka? How much I enjoyed taking part in everyday life there? “Just being” – no sight-chasing, no FOMO – just being?
Well, Dubrovnik was quite the opposite.

DUBROVNIK, Dalmatia's Lustrous Pearl
The iconic view of Dubrovnik – it’s all about the roofs.

No one will dispute that Dubrovnik is gorgeous. And for what reason ever, it is gorgeous everywhere. While cities like Zagreb or Zadar have this beautiful city center and the rest is pretty….unpretty, to say the least, Dubrovnik is delightful and charming everywhere.

However, apart from mount Srd and Locrum island, all the iconic attractions are located within the old town; which makes it sort of an outdoor museum rather than a city center.

Therefore, as I entered the historic center the first evening – totally unprepared – the sight even moved me to tears.

View of the port and historic old town of DUBROVNIK
View of the port and the historic old town.

Surprise Me

As I wanted to get away from the masses of visitors for a while, I just took a random bus and went crosstown without knowing where exactly I was going.

This works perfectly in Dubrovnik since most of the bus lines are going in circles. So, if you take a bus at a certain stop and you do not get off, after the driver’s short cigarette pause at a designated final destination, the driver just hops back on board and takes you back. However, possibly, on a different road since on many roads here there is one-way traffic. A perfect and dirt cheap sightseeing tour. Only that there were no designated sights.

Actually, I glad that at least I wasn’t staying in the historic old town; which I wouldn’t recommend, anyway. Of course, there are zillions of restaurants and bars and pubs. Therefore, I assume it will be quite noisy at night.

Alley in DUBROVNIK, Dalmatia's Lustrous Pearl
You sure have to do a lot of climbing.

Then, what makes the old town very picturesque are the stairs. You are constantly climbing. Up and down. I imagine it must be terrible doing so with all your luggage and your phone in hand, looking for the narrow alley’s name where your Apartman is located.

Because here, locals are by far not as nice and helpful and caring as anywhere else I’ve been in Croatia. So don’t count on them to pick you up and take you to your overpriced room.

Home Away From Home

To be fair, my host Jelka* was an extremely nice and caring lady. Although she did not pick me up at the bus terminal as almost every other host did – duh…she doesn’t even have a car – she was very friendly and warm-hearted and called me moje Renata, which means my Renata. The first evening she offered me fish. I had already eaten, so totally my loss. I bet her fish would have been far better.

Info, Facts, and Figures

Nevertheless, I assume that in Dubrovnik, no visitor will ‘just be’. Everyone will rush to the historic old town and that, indeed, is a jewel. Just entering the area surrounded by the world-famous walls is simply breathtaking. I was overwhelmed and almost moved to tears.

DUBROVNIK, Dalmatia's Lustrous Pearl at night
Dubrovnik’s Old Town after dark.

This shall pass at about 9:30 a. m. as visitors in incredible numbers conquer the premises. Henceforth, the majestic fortress becomes an entertainment park.

Bad Case of Over-Tourism

Ivan Gundulić, a famous Croatian poet at the turn of the 17th century, created the beautiful credo Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro – Liberty is not well sold for all the gold.

Dubrovnik Dalmatia's Lustrous Pearl in the early morning
I’m not sure about this gold-thingy: At least in the morning sun, the streets of the old town look as if they were paved with gold.

Well, I have the strong feeling that this ship has sailed long ago for the 43,000 good people of Dubrovnik.

Every year, approximately 3 million visitors are conquering the city, concentrated at the historic old town.

That means, that every Dubrovniker – from the baby to the grandma – has to welcome 20 visitors, if he likes it or not.
Just like in Venice, the traveller is killing what he loves.

Laundry
So this picture proves that there are real people living in the old town of Dubrovnik – doing real laundry.

Here too, the cruise passengers are the biggest problem since the float the city in masses all at the same time.

Far more destructive, though, was the Croatian independence war that lasted from 1991 till 1994. During that time, Dubrovnik was under siege by the forces of Serbia and Montenegro.

Boninovo cemetery
Boninovo cemetery in Dubrovnik: Graves of Croatian soldiers who died in the Croatian war between 1991 and 1994.

Today, most of the material damage has been rectified and Dubrovnik is the most popular tourist destination in that region. Especially after HBO introduced the city even to those who usually are not so much into UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But Game of Thrones does the trick – and the situation not better.

Visiting the Walled Historic Old Town

Everything is happening at the historic city center, of course, way up high on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

If this wall could talk, it probably would be an even more thrilling tale than the popular series. After all, it’s been there since the 16th century. Actually, it’s the wall that gives the visit an even more surreal, theater-like sensation. Hence, at the same time a claustrophobic one.

The wall of Dubrovnik Dalmatia's Lustrous Pearl
The fantastically well-preserved wall.

The wall is between 4 to 6 meters thick and runs about 2 kilometers around the historic center. A system of turrets and towers was installed to protect the city and its inhabitants.

Prepare Yourself

There are three gates to access the old town. Whereby the Pile Gate to the west is the most important and busiest one. It opens to the Brsalje Square where also the tourist office is located. There, you can get valuable info and a free map.

City of Dubrovnik Tourist Board 
Brsalje ulica 5
20000 Dubrovnik
Phone: + 385 – 20 – 323 887

The Ploče gate
The Ploče gate in the east. The visit to the wall is also included in the Dubrovnik card.

Ask them about the Dubrovnik card. It comes in three versions – for one, three, and seven days and costs between 225 and 315 HRK. There are nine attractions included – like the wall and some museums – and some free rides on public transport.

Looking from Fort Minčeta at Fort Bokar to the left and Fort Lovrijenac to the right
Looking from Fort Minčeta at Fort Bokar to the left and Fort Lovrijenac to the right.

Since this is a bit complex – truth be told confusing – please check their website for further information. Anyway, if you buy the card there, you get an extra 10 percent off.

On The Walls

To walk the walls, I urge you to be there as soon as they open at 8 a. m. I visited in September and even then it was very warm – also at 8 a. m. I don’t even want to imagine how it must be in July or August at noon.

Another relevant aspect of being an early bird is the crowds. Most people, especially the day tripper and cruisers get to the old town around ten. So if you have the chance to be first, be first.

Onofrio's Fountain
A refreshing drink – for free!

The main entrance to the wall is right next to the Pile Gate and so it the Onofrio’s Fountain, built in 1438. The water coming from 16 spouts used to be the main source of water until the end of the 19th. It is still drinkable!

Within The Walls

Across the Placa, the main artery, is the St. Saviour Church – beautifully decorated like many buildings in this old part. Next to this Renaissance building is the Franciscan Church and Monastery.

St. Saviour Church in Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
La Pietà – so painful yet so alluring.

At the eastern end of the Placa are restaurants where after your wall-tour an overpriced breakfast is awaiting you.

More interestingly, this is one of old Dubrovnik’s architectonic hot spots with Orlando’s Column in front of the baroque St. Blaise Church, built in the 18th century and housing an impressive Treasury.

Orlando and Blaise in Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
Orlando and Blaise – Dubrovnik’s power couple.

The Orlando Column was erected in 1418 and has been a symbol of loyalty to a handful of various Emperors. These statues are classic symbols for city autonomy. Just remember my post on Bremen and Riga with their Roland statues – actually, these guys could be twins.

Across the square is a Renaissance highlight, the Sponza Palace from the 16th century. It serves as Dubrovnik’s National Archive.

Sponza Palace and Clock Tower in  Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
Sponza Palace and Clock Tower.

On the square’s west side, the clock on the Bell Tower, built in 1444, tells you what time it is and also the phases of the moon.
The adjacent complex consists of the City Hall, the Marin Držić Theater, and the Cultural History Museum at the artistically elaborated Gothic-Renaissance Rector’s Palace.

Marin Držić with his shiny nose and knees in Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
Marin Držić with his shiny nose and knees.

Poor Marin Držić, whose house can be visited on the Široka ulica 7, the broad street, is sitting in front of the theater and everybody is rubbing his nose and his knees; poor Marin Držić.

The Icons of the Old Town

After a visit to the Cultural History Museum – which is a must not only because of the exhibition, but also for the building itself – you walk towards the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dubrovnik.

You can enter for free and admire the works of some great Renaissance painters, but you need a ticket for the treasury.

triptych of Ascension of Mary by Tizian in Dubrovnik Croatia
Many treasures, i. a. the triptych of Ascension of Mary by Tizian – and his elves aka his workshop.

Continue your visit to the west, you’ll get to the Gundulić square – remember? Gundulić is the one that wouldn’t trade liberty for gold. Now he’s standing in the center of a square where every day many of his compatriots are selling regional products like honey, oil, lavender, dried fruits, nuts, and more to tourists. And even if you’re not shopping for souvenirs, you’ll probably shop here since at this square is one of two – very small – supermarkets where you can stock up on water.

Statue of Gundulić in Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
Good old Gundulić watching over the business.

And water you’ll need since now you’ll do the reversed walk of shame.
What?
The walk of shame – a pretty drastic scene from Game of Thrones that even I have seen on youtube: Some woman, obviously a sinner, has to walk down this street that you are now walking uphill. She’s naked – and I assume you’re not.

Walk of Shame Stairs in Dubrovnik Croatia
The legendary stairs – but this woman is fully dressed.

Up the stairs, there is the Poljana Ruđera Boškovića square with more souvenir stalls – more handicraft, less food – and the St. Ignatius Church.

The Stairs of Fame – The Walk of Shame

Coming back down the stairs – of shame – turn left into a narrow alley called Strossmayerova and walking it all the way down to the Ethnographic Museum, make sure to turn your head left and right – not for the traffic but because all the views in these narrow alleys are so picturesque and a major part of Dubrovnik’s charm.

View of Dubrovnik from the Museum's window.
View from the Museum’s window.

A visit to the Ethnographic Museum is nice for the exhibition, but actually mainly for the views from the windows in the hallways; but the exhibition is nice, too, with lots of rural appliances and traditional costumes.

For the last part of the tour, walk down the street Od Domina that leads into Široka – where you can drop in at Držić’s house, but actually, it’s not that great if you haven’t been a big fan before; and I must admit that I haven’t even heard of him before I visited Dubrovnik.

Once you get back to the Place, walk all the way to the Clock Tower, but now you pass underneath and find yourself in a street with a couple of churches such as St. Nicholas, St. Sebastian, and Rosario as well the chapels of Annunciation and of St. Luke.

A lady wearing traditional attire selling regional handicraft in Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
A lady wearing traditional attire selling regional handicraft.

From here you have access to the Old Port from where you can book all sorts of tours or just sit on the terrace of one of the many restaurants and be happy that you’ve made – you’ve visited one of the most spectacular cities in the world, I’d say.

Other Points of Interest

Mountain

What’s really not to be missed is a ride by the funicular up to the top of the Srđ mountain. The cable car shuttles between the stop one block up from the northern gate. Here, too, it’s smart to get up early – for the light and the crowds.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
Going up.

On the top is the Fort Imperijal from the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century, today housing a war museum.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
On top of things: Early morning on Mount Srd. Behind me Locrum island to the left and the historic old town to the right.

More impressive are the views – of the old town, Lokrum island, and the entire bay.

Beach

Just like basically every city along the coast, Dubrovnik has also beaches. And just like basically all these city beaches, there are not that great and quite overcrowded.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
Like everywhere in Croatia: Not so great beach….

However, the better beaches are not those close to the old town but those in the neighborhood of Babin Kuk and Lapad. 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
….but incredible waters.

I personally would divide my visit to Croatia into a sightseeing part and a relaxing beach part. And the latter would take place e. g. on one of the islands and not on a city beach. 

If, of course, you have only a very limited amount of time, the beaches at the Lapad bay are an option.

Island

As if there’s not enough to see in Dubrovnik, there is, in addition, the island of Lokrum. The isle has a size of less than one square kilometer / 0.31 square mile and is located about 600 meters / 2000 feet from the city of Dubrovnik, therefore, about 20 bucks for a roundtrip seems a bit pricey.

I don’t know how it is if you spend more than just a couple of days in Dubrovnik, if then you feel like getting away from it all fleeing to an island – but even if so, I’m sure there are more beautiful and inspiring places than Lokrum.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
The former Benedictine Monastery.

However, former Austrian archduke Maximilian would probably strongly disagree since he had a holiday home on the island. There is still a monastery and a botanical garden from his era.

Actually, from much earlier times since the Benedictine Monastery was first referenced in 1023. In the 15th century, the Benedictine Monks were forced to leave the island.

Today, a part of the building houses a restaurant and another has been converted into a museum.

Most of the visitors are mainly crazy about the replica of The Iron Throne. To me, it was like monkey see, monkey do since I haven’t seen one single episode of Game of Thrones – neither before nor after my visit.

The island is covered in sumptuous Mediterranean plants such as laurel, oak, pines, cypress, olives, agaves, cacti, magnolia, and palms.

There is a beach area and also a small salt lake called Mrtvo More, i. e. Dead Sea. 

Practical Information

Getting There

I hope you’re not coming on one of those destructive cruise ships.

However, the harbor as well as the bus terminal are in the Gruž neighborhood all the way west. From there, I’d walked to my accommodation which was about 20 minutes but slightly uphill and completely idiotic: If you are too cheap for a cab, which I am most of the time, you can just hop on bus # 5.

Anyway, all the city buses got to the Brsalje square right in front of the main gate of the historic center.

Because of the mountains surrounding Dubrovnik, there is no train service, but, of course, there is an airport about 20 km / 12.5 miles east of the city. A shuttle bus shuttles you for 40 HRK, stopping at the old port and the harbor of Gruž. Their service is in sync with the incoming and outgoing flights – and they have an excellent website you might want to check. You can purchase your ticket online or at their booth close to the cable car station – but don’t expect more info than you find here from the young lady sitting there. Like I said, check their site, it’s very clear and informative.

Getting Around

Getting around is very easy since there are maps at every bus stop showing exactly where which bus is going – in different bright colors so even a total moron shouldn’t get lost.I took it just for a joy ride and to see also some newer stones after having spent two days at the old structures of the historic town. Well, don’t expect much, it’s not really worth it.

However, if you need to do some bigger shopping, there are big supermarkets and drugstores along the street Vukovarska halfway between the old city and Babin Kuk.

Best Place to Sleep

Difficult to say and depending on what you like.
I personally was gladly leaving the historic old town after a day in the crowds.

I stayed at Rooms Jelka* only a 10 minutes walk from the main gate on the Andrije Hebranga street in the Gruž neighborhood – which also made accommodation a bit cheaper, I guess.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
It’s nice to come back to such an idyllic spot after a long day of a touristy craze.

Here, too, the host, Ms Jelka*, is cute as a button, but you have less privacy since the two rooms she’s renting out are right in her apartment.
However, it’s squeaky clean and I even had a big balcony with a view of the peninsula of Dubrovnik.

Get more details and inquire about Jelka’s availability and rates here. On this map, you can check out other accommodation in Dubrovnik:*

Booking.com

Best Place to Eat

It won’t surprise you that the restaurants in the historic part of Dubrovnik are not exactly a bargain. However, if you don’t want to burn a hole in your wallet, it’s better to have lunch there than dinner.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Dubrovnik Croatia Dalmatia
Seafood is, obviously, always fresh in Croatia and they sure know how to prepare it.

A nice, relaxed place with good food at reasonable prices is

Konoba Koloseum
Ulica uz Jezuite 6
20000 Dubrovnik
Phone: + 385 – 95 – 535 4150

Open daily from 11 a. m. to 11 p. m.

Dubrovnik was the last and actually only one of many beautiful places I’ve visited in Croatia. So to read about the others, go to the main post and take your pick!
There you’ll also find much general info on Croatia.

To obtain general comprehensive travel info, go my post World’s Most Complete Travel Information – an indispensable globetrotter-classic.

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* This is an affiliate link. If you book through this page, not only do you get the best deal. I also get a small commission that helps me run this blog. Thank you so much for supporting me!
Disclaimer: Dubrovnik Tourist Board supported my research by supplying me with a Dubrovnik card, arranged a free visit to Lokrum island, a roundtrip to Srd mountain, and access to some attractions and exhibitions.

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50 Replies to “Guide to DUBROVNIK, the Lustrous Pearl of Dalmatia”

  1. Excellent post. I’ve never considered Dubrovnik for a holiday but when I do (and it will be when, not if) your post has everything I need to know. Thanks for sharing, I love posts like this.

  2. hi
    Dubrovnik seems to be a lovely architectural based destination. I love the suggestions of visiting St. Saviour Church, Sponza Palace and Ethnographic Museum to name a few.

  3. What a beautiful place Dubrovnik is! I’d love to visit Croatia. I feel like it gets overlooked for other countries that are more well known.

  4. been there when our cruise ship was docked… i walk around the city its quite amazing,with its beautiful people specially their ladies…their old style buildings,,but things are expnsive to buy…but i enjoyed it ,,,cup of cappucino and internet connection was really good

  5. Dubrovnik has been on my list ever since I visited Zagreb a few years ago. Your photos make it look so pretty and there definitely looks like there are a lot of things to do there!

  6. Wow you really packed the information into this post! Croatia looks like a truly beautiful country filled with culture. Their vegan scene is supposed to be blowing up right now too, so even more of a reason for me to visit! 💚

  7. I have already visited quite a few places on the Croatian coast, but I have not been to Dubrovnik yet. Thank you for the great story of your visit to Dubrovnik, with all the picturesque photos. And for all the information you shared with us. Great post!
    Nina

  8. I have not read much about Dubrovnik. Such a beautiful and gorgeous place, awesome. I am adding it to my bucket list.

  9. Thanks for a fantastic trip down memory lane. I went for a day trip here during an holiday when the country was still Yugoslavia. I was blown away by the beauty of this city, and it was upsetting to hear that some of it got destroyed. It’s such a beautiful city … your photos are great, but nothing beats actually seeing this city for yourself.

  10. We have been to Dubrovnik by cruises ship. But a longer trip to Croatia is definitely on our travel wish list. It was interesting to read your comment about the city centre being like an outdoor museum. A good way to think about it. And when we were there, it did definitely feel a bit like a big amusement park. I can understand your desire to stay out of the centre of town. I hope you got a bit of the town to enjoy after the day tourists departed.

  11. I feel bad because I know so little about Dubrovnik but what an amazing place. I love all the views you captured from the high points. That iconic view of Dubrovnik is absolutely amazing and you are right, the rooftops is a highlight for sure. I think just walking around the streets and seeing all the buildings and statues would be a great adventure!

  12. Wow….really enjoyed my read of this travel story & love all the beautiful captures. Wish I can travel to visit the Lustrous Pearl of Dalmatia in the future. cheers, siennylovesdrawing

  13. Wow~ The beautiful sun shine, the gorgeous sunset and historic building.Such a dream place to go to, and glad that you enjoyed it so much. The view from Fort Minčeta is simply stunning!

  14. It is indeed a beautiful place. Dubrovnik is simply wonderful. I liked it when I visited. Nice people, not so expensive, good food. We can live a history in Dubrovnik. The wonderful sea with a nice temperature. A city where the cats live in freedom and are not afraid of humans.

  15. I’ve been to Dubrovnik and would agree that it is a magical place to visit. Also such a good starting point for the Elaphiti Islands and beyond.

    1. It was my last stop, so for me, there was no ‘beyond’. However, I’ll definitely be back….also for all the ‘beyond’! Fell in love with Croatia 🙂

  16. I visited Dubrovnik as a bored teenager a million years ago and totally didn’t appreciate where I was. Would love to visit now but the over tourism kind of puts me off, but without the cruiseships, now might be a good time 🙂

  17. This post guts me a little bit as we were supposed to visit Dubrovnik in April. We were both so excited for the trip and are so disappointed it didn’t work out. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed going there vicariously through your post. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful experience and tiding me over until we can go in real life. Now, we know what to look forward to!

  18. This brought back lovely memories of a trip around Croatia I did with my sister several years ago. We loved it but I’m not sure it was quite as busy as you describe. Maybe we were there when a cruise ship wasn’t? I’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones either so am a bit ‘none-the-wiser’ about any references. I also remember many years ago being there with my husband & we found an amazing bar outside the wall overlooking the sea. It’s probably “the place to go” now but when we went there was hardly anyone there & we spent many happy hours watching the world go by on the sea.

  19. I have not yet been to Croatia, but it is very much in my bucket list. Dubrovnik seems to be an old European city with a lot of history, cobblestone streets, slopes and steps, and the beautiful blue sea at its edge! It would be fun to explore the historical area. Your photos are stunning! 🙂

  20. We have always heard how beautiful Croatia is, thank you for such a comprehensive post. I really appreciate that you have outlined the pros and cons. Too often we only get a one sided review so it’s nice to have an eyes wide open approach so we can plan accordingly.

  21. My folks went to Dubrovnik many many years ago and were completely entranced by it, but I’ve not been yet. This wonderfully descriptive post makes me want to visit and explore!

  22. This is an excellent and detailed guide to Dubrovnik, with some unusual ideas and top tips. Invaluable. Thank you for such a useful post about this beautiful city.

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