Croatia has been on my travel wish list for some time, from the draw of the Mediterranean coast, gorgeous scenery, and you can’t turn down seeing some of the amazing filming locations for Game of Thrones.
Our first stop on our recent trip was the iconic city of Dubrovnik, a city which George Bernard Shaw once said of: “those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik”.
There’s a reason this place has come to be known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”. I’ve been to some beautiful places, but Dubrovnik took my breath away. The stunning Old Town is like stepping into a different world, something I’ve only experienced in Venice, but I fell in love with Dubrovnik even more.
I’d recommend spending at least three days in Dubrovnik to be able to enjoy everything this beautiful coastal town has to offer.
Walk the Walls
Dubrovnik is one of the best examples of a medieval walled city still in existence. Added in the 13th century, the walls completely surround the Old Town, at an average of 24 metres high.
Start at the main entrance by Pile Gate, making your way around counter-clockwise, making sure to stop off at the various towers for some amazing photo opportunities.
The view from the top of Minčeta Tower is especially spectacular.
The one downside is that they do get very busy, as does the rest of the Old Town, but it was definitely tolerable in late September (we actually encountered worse crowds in Split). If you can, avoid peak months to make the trip more enjoyable.
Take plenty of water for your trek around the walls (you’ll find some good refill fountains in the streets below); it gets hot up there on a sunny day, and although there’s plenty of refreshments along the way, they can be overpriced. You can explore the walls on your own or as part of a walking tour.
Wander the Old Town Streets
Dubrovnik’s old-world marble streets are perfect for an afternoon getting lost among its baroque architecture, charming alleyways, and sunlit squares.
Stop to enjoy a gelato or a cocktail at one of its many cafes or bars, shop around its many stores, and exploring its museums and churches.
Take a Boat to Lokrum
A short, 15-minute boat ride from the old town lies the slightly wild and quite magical island of Lokrum.
The weather wasn’t great on the day we went, but it meant the island was quiet, giving it an almost surreal atmosphere.
The entire island is seemingly overrun by hundreds of peacocks and rabbits, who appear to be the only ones to call this place home.
In addition to the local fauna, you’ll find nature trails, swimming spots, a Benedictine monastery, bars, cafes, and a botanical garden.
The Lokrum Visitor Center, located just around the corner from the Botanical Gardens, featured a special exhibition on the filming of Game of Thrones (Lokrum was used as Qarth in Season 2) which is a must-see for fans, with a chance to sit on the Iron Throne.
End your journey with a swim in the Dead Sea, a saltwater pool surrounded by rocky cliff. As we dried off a few of the bolder peacocks came to say hello.
When visiting the island, make sure to wear appropriate clothing like hiking shoes; most of the trails are rocky and uneven. We decided to visit at the last minute, and let me tell you that hiking about in my flip flops and white maxi dress was not easy, and the muddy hem was not a classy look!
Dine with the Ultimate View
There’s some amazing food in Dubrovnik and you have a few choices in particular for enjoying some truly spectacular views while dining on some top-notch food.
Anyone that knows the type of tourists Matt and I are know we love seeking out small eateries and fab street food, but even we couldn’t resist the gorgeous, romantic Nautika, sat overlooking the sea, the walls, and Fort Lovrijenac.
Everything from the view to the wine to the food, the fact they had a different olive oil for each course, to the fluffy blankets they wrap around you when the sun goes down was perfection. But of course, it has prices to match, so great if you want a special treat on your holiday.
On a more middling budget, the impressive Panorama, run by the same people, sits high above the city, reachable by cable car, which brings us to our next must-do:
Reach New Heights
Dubrovnik’s cable car takes you high above the old town to enjoy some incredible views of the Old Town and beyond.
Apart from Panorama, there’s a museum examining the war less than 30 years ago that shook the country, although not considerably more to do. But it is a fun ride to the top, and Instagramming the view is worth the trip.
Go early, the queues were already forming before it even opened at 9 am.
Climb Fort Lovrijenac
There’s plenty of Game of Thrones filming locations to check out in Dubrovnik, and we’ll be looking more at those in more detail in a later blog. But whether you are a fan or not, climbing to the top of the ‘Red Keep’, or Fort Lovrijenac as it is actually called gives you yet another spectacular view of the city.
The freestanding fort is often referred to as Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar, is perched 37 metres over the sea, dating from around the 11th century.
Keep an eye out for the famous inscription above the entrance: “Non Bene Pro Toto Libertas Venditur Auro”, which translates to “Freedom is not sold for all the gold in the world”.
Explore the Adriatic by Kayak
You’ve viewed it from on top of a mountain, you’ve circumnavigated its walls, now see it from the sea. Kayak rentals and tours are available from a number of places throughout the city.
Paddle through the crystal clear Adriatic, past the walls and towers, all the way to Lokrum.
Three days is enough to experience all of these and more in Dubrovnik, but I could have easily spent longer here. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the crowds, so early spring or early autumn may be the perfect times to visit.