Croatia

What You Need to Know Before Visiting Dubrovnik

February 4, 2021
by Carolyn
Dubrovnik skyline

Have you ever found a destination that just feels like home? The first place this happened to me was London, still considered my favourite city, and one I got to call home for a year while living there.

The second place this happened took a little longer: for the one month I spent visiting Dubrovnik, it grew on me tremendously.

The foreign sounds of Croatian being spoken became familiar. The food became comforting. The relaxed but productive pace of life was invigorating. Dubrovnik, Croatia became another home – fitting since my ancestry is Croatian.

If you are researching or planning a trip to Dubrovnik, or are looking for an itinerary of places to visit in Croatia, read on! This guide includes everything you need to know to have a great trip to Dubrovnik.

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When to visit Dubrovnik

The best time of year to visit Dubrovnik is September and October. The temperatures have begun to fall from their summer peak, but the water is still warm enough to swim in. You also may see rainstorms during this time, but for the most part, the weather will be good and sunny.

Additionally, late September and October are shoulder seasons for cruise ships visiting Dubrovnik, so you’ll see significantly fewer crowds than during the summer months.


Where to Stay in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik’s pretty red-roofed buildings nestle against the water’s edge.

Within Dubrovnik, there are three good areas to stay in. Each offers different features, including proximity to the top sights (and crowds) in Dubrovnik and how much you’ll feel immersed in local culture while staying there.

You can browse all accommodation in Dubrovnik here and read on for more info about each of three best areas to stay.


Old Town Dubrovnik

As the name suggests, Old Town is the heart of it all. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this is where everyone comes to see the ‘real’ Dubrovnik. It is an ideal location with close access to everything (except groceries, but tons of restaurants nearby) however you’ll see a significantly higher cost per night, and lots more foot traffic around your accommodation.


Ploce

Ploce is the neighborhood just east of Old Town, on the foothills of Mt. Srđ. Some apartments will have sweeping views of the Adriatic, Old Town Harbor, and Old Town itself. It is a good location because of its proximity to the Old Town, without the crowds. Costs are moderate here, and you’ll have to climb some hills to get to/from your accommodation.


Boninovo

Boninovo is the waterfront neighborhood north of the Old Town, stretching toward the new harbor. It’s far from the crowds of Old Town, and significantly cheaper, though you’ll face a 20-minute walk to get to the Old Town to go sightseeing. This is a great area to base yourself if you’re planning a longer trip to Dubrovnik.


What to Eat and Drink in Dubrovnik

Smoked meats are popular in Croatia.

Is it possible to be succinct in talking about food and drink in any city? Here are four foods I’d recommend you hunt down:

  1. Wild Berry & Vanilla Danish – A perfect little ‘breakfast’ treat if you’re exploring the Old Town, bakeries sell these delicious pastries for about $1.
  2. Regional/Local Cuisine – Dubrovnik has a lot of ethnic cuisine options (not all of them are great!), but you should search out a restaurant making something local. Taj Mahal Bosnian Restaurant in the Old Town is a perfect hole-in-the-wall. Don’t be surprised if it inspires you to take a trip to Bosnia too!
  3. Smoked Meat & Cheese – Like most Mediterranean/Adriatic countries, there’s little better than a plate of meat and cheese with olives and local wine from the Peljesac peninsula.
  4. Italian Food – The influence of Italian heritage is strong in Croatia (despite or perhaps why my Croatian grandmother hates Italians), so you can find delicious traditional Italian food pretty much everywhere.

What to Do in Dubrovnik

There’s so much to do in Dubrovnik and if you spend several weeks there (as I did), you might continue finding more to do. Here are some of the top things to do in Dubrovnik, and below I share my favourite experiences. 


Take a dip in the Adriatic Sea

After a day of sightseeing, nothing beats a dip in the Adriatic.

Dubrovnik has plenty of beautiful beaches you can enjoy, and the Adriatic is a perfect temperature through the summer and autumn months. There are several public beaches you can walk to, and several waterfront hotels have their own beaches too.


Admire the view from Mt. Srđ

You can either hike or take the tram up to look down on the city and surrounding countryside. Depending on when you visit, you can potentially time this to enjoy sunrise and watch the sun come up to light the city of Dubrovnik below you.


Explore the Old Town

This is the major draw for people visiting Dubrovnik, and for good reason. There are numerous churches, beautiful stairwells, shops, restaurants, and loads of cats to play with.


Explore the New Town

It’s not officially known as the “New Town,” but the area surrounding the New Harbor is beautiful and worth exploring too.

This is where most cruise ships dock, but hardly anyone stays in the region to explore it. You can walk there; you’ll pass through quiet residential areas and get a sense for local life in Dubrovnik.


Enjoy a sunset drink at a Cliff Bar 

The view from the cliff bars outside the Old Town walls are spectacular.

A rite of passage for all Dubrovnik visitors, grab a table (and guard it with your life) at one of two Buza Bar locations on the rocky edge outside the Old Town walls. You can watch boats passing on their sunset cruises, and see the sun go down across the Adriatic.


Explore Dubrovnik on foot

Dubrovnik is a pretty pedestrian-friendly city; most roads have sidewalks. Explore your neighborhood, wander down (well-lighted) alleys (during the daytime), stop and explore the cemeteries (and keep your eye out for my family name ‘Stimac!’). It’s a city worth exploring at whim if you have the time.


Walk the Old Town Walls

Dubrovnik from above
Dubrovnik from above. Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay

Speaking of walks, if there’s one you must do, it’s the Old Town walls. Rise super early to beat the crowds and enjoy stunning views of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Old Town as well as the surrounding city. (~$16 per person.)


Explore Beyond Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a great base for exploring other parts of southern Dubrovnik – and even Montenegro or Bosnia & Herzegovina! Here are some tips:

  • Visit Lokrum Island. If you’re in Dubrovnik, you can’t miss spotting Lokrum out in the harbor. This island is a perfect day trip.
  • Visit Cavtat. The town of Cavtat is 45-minutes south of Dubrovnik by boat, and worth exploring too. It’s much quieter and less trodden by tourists, and there are some quiet beaches and delicious restaurants to enjoy.
  • Explore Bosnia & Herzegovina or Montenegro. It’s easy to take a weekend trip to either of Croatia’s southern neighbors from Dubrovnik. There are buses that make daily routes, perfect for taking 48-hours in a new country for a change of scenery.


There you have it: all my knowledge gained from my month living in Dubrovnik. 


About the Author

Valerie Stimac Bailey of Valerie & Valise grew up in Alaska, so it’s no surprise she loves sharing stories from there and the rest of the American West. On her blog, you can find resources to have unforgettable experiences throughout the western U.S. including California, Hawaii, and yes, The Last Frontier.