One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights

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.

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights

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.

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
A bird’s eye view of Dubrovnik!

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.

Dubrovnik - Pile Gate
Pile Gate, the main entrance to Dubrovnik.
One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
The Stradun, complete with tourists!

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.

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
Dubrovnik rooftops.

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.

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
Upon closer inspection, most roofs are made up of different color tiles!

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).

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
Fort Lovrijenac protecting Dubrovnik.

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!

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
*Insert heart-eye emoji here*

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.

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
The cable car leading up to Mt. Srd.

But I think the views from the top of the mountain are so much better than those looking at it.

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
The Elafiti Islands in the distance. It was quite the hazy evening when we went to the top of Mt. Srd.

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.

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights

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.

 

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
I don’t think I’ve had a more perfect view for a drink!
One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
Looking up at Buza Cafe from the jumping rocks.

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.

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
The courtyard in the Franciscan Monastery.

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!

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
I loved hanging out at the port.
One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights- Old Town Port
Old City Port.

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.

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
Trust me, you’ll be happy you climbed all these stairs. Think of how good your bum will look!

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!

Suz

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45 Comments

  1. Susan, absolutely loving this. Ive been following you on IG and on FB and I feel as if Im there with you guys, haha. Croatia has always been an underrated country in my opinion. I was told Dubrovnik is a lot nicer than Zagreb and was actually going there on this Eurotrip (which will take place in early 2017). Absolutely loving the pictures, the city looks phenomenal. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh my gosh, Ehsanul!! DO NOT SKIP ZAGREB! It was by FAR my favorite city in Croatia, and I think everyone should go there! True, it’s inland and not anywhere close to the coast, but it’s such an amazing city. And the mountains are beautiful. You HAVE to consider going!

  2. Dubrovnik looks straight out of a picture postcard. The place is elegant and charming. It would be great to stroll through the cobbled street taking in the sights and immersing oneself in the local life.

    1. Elegant and charming are two words I would use to describe Dubrovnik, for sure! Strolling through the streets was my favorite activity 🙂

  3. I love Dubrovnik, even the cruise ship crowds didn’t spoil it for me, & I visited in the peak of summer! You certainly made the most of your time, I didn’t see or do nearly as much. Thanks for bring back some wonderful memories for me, gorgeous photos, I might visit again next year, planning a extended vacation in Europe

    1. Sheena you’re a star! Please tell me how you did it? I break out in hives even thinking about summer crowds in Dubrovnik. I’m glad I was able to bring up some fun memories for you 🙂

  4. In the past Dubrovnik would not have been on my list of places but now it defo is. Just last week I read an incredible post filled with beautiful images and things to see and do and after reading your post I defo want to visit. Love that UNESCO funded for city to be rebuilt

  5. Croatia is truly so beautiful and I have wanted to visit it for a long time. When the tourism started to pick up there, I was still living in Finland and I was planning to go. However, my life was about to change and I moved to California, and never was able to visit Croatia. I have heard, that it is now very crowded and full of tourists like you mentioned, especially on high season. But I still want to visit someday. Hopefully soon! The picture of the cable car is stunning by the way!

    1. Thank you, Paula!! I hope you get the chance to visit someday. Although I totally understand how FAR it is from the US. Just a bit of a trek!

  6. The other half of the team went to Croatia and loved Dubrovnik although he says it was too crowded. I must say I would love to go off season I can’t stand that many tourist I’d be annoyed and won’t enjoy the city. Great pic of the back streets there!

    1. Hey Sara! I really, really, really try not to hate travelling in the high season. Sometimes it’s the best/only time to visit a place. But I cannot imagine heading to Dubrovnik in the summer.

  7. This is definitely on city on my travel bucket list. I love the history and culture. But it is undeniable that the city is just beautiful -your photos had done a great job of capturing that beauty!

    Abigail of GlobalGirlTravels.com

  8. Susan I love you introduction!! That just made me keep on reading by itself, good work 🙂 (oh God, season 3, really? wait for what’s about to come!)
    You have a hand to combine good to knows with your stories, I immensely enjoy your writing. Croatia was never that present on my mind… well, thanks for that even longer bucket list now.

    1. No lie, I wrote that introduction weeks ago while we were still in Dubrovnik. I was like, PERFECTO YES. And then it took me weeks to finish the post, oh well. Thank you for your kind words 🙂 Croatia wasn’t present on our minds until we decided we needed a few weeks of “summer” and stumbled upon Croatia randomly via Pinterest. I’m so glad we did, I LOVED Croatia, especially Split and Zagreb!

  9. I am a Game of Thrones fan too and I have always wanted to visit Croatia. Loved your post! Great pictures and nice humour included. The city looks awesome as well. I would love to go to the mountains and walk around on the small streets 🙂

    1. Hey Paulina! Excellent question. I plan on writing a post for next week about all the things about Dubrovnik that I wasn’t prepared for, one of them being the cost. I found it incredibly expensive to be honest, but we also didn’t book the best accommodations and had to eat out every meal. You can definitely do it cheaper than we did if you plan your meals better; I do advise you that it is more expensive than you might think. However a weekend would be a great amount of time! I think 2-3 days would give you plenty of time to see all the major points of attraction!

    1. Hi Hayley! Thanks for visiting! Dubrovnik is definitely a great place to visit, so if you make it to Croatia I highly recommend getting all the way down there.

  10. Hey, this place seems like a great resort and with lots of sightseeing too! That is a great combination and it is very close to Greece, where our base is. Great architecture!

    1. Thanks for visiting, Chris!! The architecture was definitely my favorite part of the whole city. And I imagine it would be super easy to get there from Greece, so lucky you!

  11. Dubrovnik is stunning, and so much better off-season (though not for swimming since the water is too cold unless in July/August). I can’t believe some people are only looking at Croatia as a place to visit now because of Game of Thrones (which I’ve never watched). It has been a top destination for Europeans for many decades-the Balkan war however stopped tourism for some years and affected this country greatly. Now part of the EU the funding was available to turn it back into the tourism friendly country it always was, but with even more advanced infrastructure (and excellent roads)

    1. Hi Brooke. I think it’s really amazing how people from different parts of the world are exposed to new areas and those areas really take off. For instance, when talking to members of my own family in older generations no one really thought of going to Croatia for vacation. Originally hailing from East Coast USA, it really isn’t a big draw when most people stop at major European cities such as London, Paris, Berlin. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it’s not as easy for Americans as it is for Europeans! But how I wish it were.

  12. So beautiful! I love how detailed your recap was and how I learned a bit of history. In 1991 I was 1 so I had no concept of there being a war there at all. Dubrovnik has been on my list for many years now so I hope I’m able to see it in person soon! I’ll try to avoid the high tourist season, though – no one wants to be on a super crowded vacation!

    -M

    Violet Roots || Instagram

    1. Hi Monika! I definitely don’t remember the war, but watching the Youtube videos and hearing about it from locals was chilling. I hope you get the chance to visit (in low season) soon! Thanks for checking out my blog 🙂

  13. Ahhh I wanted to go to Dubrovnik so bad, but we didn’t get the chance! It reminds me a lot of the Amalfi Coast mixed with Greece (if that makes sense!) … in a few summers we will go and I’ll have to revisit this post for tips!

    1. Thank you, Victoria! An exchange semester sounds like a lot of fun – I hope you get to explore as much of Europe as you can!

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