If you’re following me on Instagram or Facebook (or you love me and read my blog posts all the way to the very end) you know that we have been in Croatia for the last month. Can I just say how much I love this country? It’s gorgeous and charming and all of the people we’ve met have been so welcoming. But I have to be honest with you: before we landed in Dubrovnik the only things I knew about Croatia came from Cersei Lannister.
I kid, I kid. I actually didn’t know anything about Croatia before we landed. For real, we were only up to season three of Game of Thrones!
We spent a week in Dubrovnik, which realistically was far too long, which is another story. A short recap: we both got sick, blew our budget, and were really feeling burnt out. At and at one point were ready to just leave the city early. But looking back on it now, our time in Dubrovnik was really special.
Welcome to Dubrovnik.
We left the United Kingdom on a cold and dreary morning, ready to spend “summer” on the Dalmatian Coast. In case you didn’t know (because I didn’t), Croatia is a located across the Adriatic Sea across from Italy and has some pretty spectacular weather on the coast. I was super excited to break out my sandals and tee shirts. After all, Scotland isn’t known for it’s tropical summers.
Perched right on the Adriatic Sea in southern Croatia, Dubrovnik deserves it’s nickname “Pearl of the Adriatic”. The white walls and bright orange roofs sit against a backdrop of some of the most beautiful natural beauty I’ve ever seen. The crystal clear blue waters of the Adriatic sea lap at the walls of Old Town while rugged mountains create the perfect backdrop.
Dubrovnik is a living, breathing museum.
The best part of Dubrovnik is that you’re literally walking through history as you stroll the streets of the city. And what a unique and fascinating, sometimes tragic, history that is.
Although there are multiple entrances to the city, the most famous is the Pile Gate, which takes you directly to the main street of Stradun. The Stradun used to be a channel that separated two different cities that lived in harmony – Ragusium and Dubrovnik. Ragusium was a city built on the island Laus by the refugees of Epidaurum, an ancient Roman colony that had been sacked by barbarians. Settlers founded Dubrovnik in the 7th century and the two cities learned to live in harmony. By the 11th century they had filled in the channel, connecting the two cities and creating the large main street of Dubrovnik, Stradun.
Surviving rules from such empires as the Byzantine, Venice and Austo-Hungarian, Dubrovnik has always found a way to flourish.
Dubrovnik’s role in Croatia’s War for Independence
How old were you in 1991? I was almost five years old and to be honest I don’t remember much of anything from those days. Photos show a happy little girl with a lot of hair ribbons.
But in Croatia, war was beginning to rage. War had been brewing for years, since Croatia entered Yugoslavia. Croats were treated like second-class citizens in an occupied country; violence and terrorism were enforced by a Serbian state government. I urge you to read more about the War for Independence and year leading up to it in this incredible article by Ina Vukic.
The War for Independence commenced in 1991 and Dubrovnik was heavily bombed in December by the Yugoslav People’s Army. Between 82 and 88 Croatian civilians and 194 Croatian military personnel died in the attack. At the time Dubrovnik was already listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, so the bombardment of the city provoked strong condemnation internationally. But Dubrovnik held on during the attack, and the enemy forces drew back in 1992. A total of 11,425 buildings were damaged, but thanks to it’s UNESCO status funding was secured and the city was rebuilt.
I swear that’s the last of the heavy history for this post. I just wanted to touch on it because it was really moving to learn about it while we were there, from locals who either fought themselves or had parents who fought in the battle. You can still see evidence of the bombing if you look at the shoreline from Lokrum Island; there are large pockets of shoreline that have just disappeared from where the bombs hit.
Visiting Dubrovnik today.
Today Dubrovnik is a bustling tourist town and a well-loved stop on the cruise ship market. Although we were there in October, there were still days where we walked into the city along with passengers from up to four cruise ships! We were told many times to be thankful it wasn’t the high tourist season; often times in the summer months you are walking shoulder to shoulder with fellow travellers.
There are a lot of really dreamy back streets and alleys to walk along. With plenty of delicious restaurants you certainly won’t go hungry, but I warn you to leave room for gelato. At a couple bucks a cone, you’ll want to try all the flavors. There are a lot of tour companies running daily walking tours through the city. You can also head to the port and find a kayak company that will take you out and show you a different side to Dubrovnik. There really are a ton of amazing things to do.
So what moments would I consider a must for your trip to Dubrovnik?
See those gorgeous red-orange views up close.
Dubrovnik’s defensive stone walls have protected the city since before the 7th century. Running an impressive 1,940 metres (6,360 ft) in length, the walls close in most of the old city.
Walking the walls in their entirety is a no-brainer. What everyone says is true: this activity will be hot and it will be full-on cardio. But it will also provide you with the best views over the red-orange roofs of the city. There’s a reason this is the number one activity in Dubrovnik. Pack your water, sunglasses and be sure to stop for a drink along the walk.
Entrance to the city walls will run you 120,00KN for adults.
Climb all the stairs to get to the top of Fort Lovrijenac (and then do a victory dance).
When we first got to Dubrovnik, we literally shed our bags and three layers of clothing – goodbye, Scotland!! – and went straight to wherever we could find some water to stop and look at. My eyes were immediately drawn to a super imposing structure on a cliff outside of the city: Fort Lovrijenac.
This fort, built in the early 11th century, guards both the port and western entrances to Dubrovnik. It was actually built in only three months to ensure the Venetians couldn’t build in the same spot; it was constantly updated and improved after construction, but it did help Dubrovnik shed Venetian rule.
Unlike the walls where you have some straightaways to catch your breath, to get to Fort Lovrijenac it’s a million stairs at once. But the view over Dubrovnik is so worth it!
The fort is 30KN but free with your City Walls Ticket.
Get to the top of Mt. Srđ at sunset for a picture perfect view.
It might be the the natural Seattleite in me, but the first thing I noticed about Dubrovnik was the mountain rising right behind old town. I was looking at Mt. Srđ, which stands tall behind the city at 412 meters.
But I think the views from the top of the mountain are so much better than those looking at it.
Just be sure when you get to the top you leave the viewing center and the crowds of people. After exiting the center take a left and walk down the road just a little bit and you’ll find yourself some rocks to capture some beautiful photos of Dubrovnik without all the crowds and cables.
And bonus: there are more beautiful mountains right behind Mt. Srđ, which I didn’t realize!
An adult round trip ticket to the top is 120,00KN.
Enjoy a drink at Buza Bar and watch the cliff jumpers.
Dubrovnik actually has two different cliff bars, Cafe Buza and Buza II. There are signs that you can follow to find each of them, located on back streets. The drinks are a little pricey and if a cruise ship is in town it could be crowded. But oh man, the views make up for it.
Make sure you leave yourself an afternoon to just sit and enjoy the atmosphere. Just sitting with my feet up and enjoying the cool sea breezes and refreshing beers was the best afternoon I’ve had in a long time.
Go ahead and see all those museums, but make sure you leave time to catch your breath.
Dubrovnik has a lot of museums. We were able to visit all of the ones that sounded interesting to us in one day. However it was a lot of reading and a lot of walking, which can be tiring after a while, am I right? We definitely needed a break!
The Franciscan Monastery happened to have this lovely little courtyard, perfect to take a breather and reflect on all of the things we saw that day.
Our favorite museums included: Rector’s Palace, The Rupe Museum and the Franciscan Monastery.
If you’re interested in seeing more museums, check out the Dubrovnik Card here.
Spend some time soaking in the atmosphere at the City Port.
Introduce yourself to Croatian wine while sitting at one of the cafes right along the water. Watch the boats come and go from the harbor. Try to guess their names (or make them up)! Whoever loses has to pay for lunch, which will have to include some of the best seafood you’ve ever had. Just let yourself be in the moment. You’re in Croatia, after all!
Get lost in any number of Dubrovnik’s back streets (or try to, anyway).
Honestly, Dubrovnik isn’t that big, so the chances of you getting lost are pretty slim. I had a pretty good grasp of where we were at and how to get back to our guest house after one decent afternoon of exploring.
But leave the Stradun. Leave the port. Don’t be scared by all the stairs you have to walk. And don’t just take photos of them, either!! Walk to the back streets. Walk down them. They’re so dreamy and quiet and perfectly Dubrovnik, in my mind. There will be so. many. people. walking around while you visit. Leave them behind and get to know the rest of the city.
Dubrovnik is a really great city, and there are multiple reasons why it’s such a popular place to visit. I’m so glad that we chose to start our month in Croatia there. But if I could go back and do it again, I think I would max out our visit at a few days.
Has that ever happened to you? Where you gave yourself too much time to visit a place? I never thought it would happen, but life has a funny way of surprising you when you least expect it. I’d also love to hear what you enjoyed most on your visit to Dubrovnik, if you’ve been!
Happy weekend everyone!! I hope you all have something really great planned!