A couple of weeks ago, before the entire world went into crisis mode (!!), I had the opportunity to visit Dubrovnik. This stunning sand-coloured Croatian town is located at the very southern tip of the country, right by the Adriatic Sea. I guess if you never heard of it, it’s because you’re not a fan of “Game of Thrones” (😉).
From May until September, Dubrovnik is usually packed with hordes of tourists. Hence, I want to share with you why going early March is the best way to discover a more genuine version of this town, and in just 3 days.
When I’m in a new city, one of my favourite ways to get to know it is to take a guided tour with a local tour guide. That way you get some nice historical facts as well as anecdotes. Often you also get to discover places only the locals know about. Book your tour as early as possible in the morning to beat the crowd and enjoy the beautiful morning light over Dubrovnik (if it’s a sunny day that is).
ANECDOTE: My guide showed me the ancient secret doorway to Dubrovnik’s oldest orphanage dating back to 1434. To avoid the shame of directly handing their children over to the orphanage, a small entrance space was created in which parents would place their children. The plate would swing inside carrying the baby. The doorway is in a small street and not referenced in any travel guide. Without him, I wouldn’t have even noticed it.
Dubrovnik’s landmark is its Old Town, surrounded by the city’s iconic walls. On your first day, start your visit at the east gate (Ploce gate), overlooking Dubrovnik’s old harbour. By walking down the winding paved streets leading to Stradun (Main Street), you arrive on the main square. Most of the touristic attractions are located on this square: The Rector’s palace, Sponza palace, the Onofrio fountain and the cathedral.
Once you’re done exploring these ancient landmarks, hit the road towards the spectacular Franjo Tudjman Bridge. Although completed in 2002, seeing it, allows you to experience a more actual side of Dubrovnik.
Finally, take the coastal road up to Mount Srd and its stunning view overlooking Dubrovnik. You can also use the cable car to reach the top of the hill. However, by taking the road you get to some secret parts only known by locals and offering breath-taking points of view.
After a quick lunch break, buy a ticket to explore Dubrovnik’s ancient city walls. By walking these walls, you experience Dubrovnik’s at its prettiest: on one side all the red and orange shades of the roof’s tiles and on the other, the fifty shades of blue of the Adriatic Sea.
ANECDOTE: The ticket to the city walls costs 200 HRK and with it you can also visit Fort Lovrijenac. The ticket is valid for 3 days so you don’t need to rush. If you don’t want to visit the walls, you can buy a 50 HRK entrance fee only to explore Lovrijenac.
To end this very packed day, have a simple, delicious Croatian meal and some local wine at Dalmatino restaurant.
On my second day, the weather was very stormy; “Walking Dead” meets “Game of Thrones” like!
Begin your day by scouting the eastern part of Dubrovnik, starting after Ploce Gate. This part of the city is more exclusive, with mansions built in the 1920s/1930s as well as fancy beach clubs. It’s also the town’s art district, with different museums and boutiques, including the sand-stone Lazzarettos. These buildings were a quarantine station. They’re now art spaces, discos and shopping arcades.
Once you’ve entered the Old Town, just after Ploce Gate, explore one of my favourite places: the Dominican Monastery. I loved the its secluded, peaceful and romantic vibe.
The atmosphere of this second day was also perfect to have a full on “Game of Thrones” themed day! Meandering through the many little back streets of the Old Town, you dive into the TV show’s atmosphere. My explorations led me first to Fort Lovrijenac, which was the “Red Keep”. At the feet of the Fort, there is Dubrovnik’s West Harbour. This quaint fishing village is home to two others GOT filming locations. I then ended my explorations by going to St.Ignatius church. On the left side of this mystical church, you’ll find the famous steps where Queen Cersei ended her “Walk of shame”.
Once you’re done exploring, treat yourself to a Croatian wine tasting and souvenirs shopping at D’vino. The owner is super passionate and will walk you through all the nuances of Croatian winemaking.
Use your last day to perfect your exploration of Dubrovnik’s Old Town and culture. What really hits you when you visit its Old Town, are the many foreign influences that shaped it, architecturally and culturally: Ottomans, Venetians, Romans and Slavic.
Start your day by visiting the town’s tiny synagogue and Jewish museum. The atmosphere of this place is both solemn and soothing. Because the Jewish community has less than 100 people and no Rabbi, the synagogue lost its religious function. By visiting this museum you support the community and enable the museum to stay open.
Following the synagogue, go to the local farmer’s market, before heading to the old fishing harbour. In the old days, this harbour was the commercial epicentre of the city. You can still see the arches where merchants sold their goods.
The last landmarks you can check, are the cathedral and the only Russian Orthodox church in the city. Interestingly, the former one’s façade is covered with small to medium sized holes made by automatic weapons during the 1990s war. Other than that, these two religious buildings have nothing special to them.
Finally, end your day by having a very yummy plate of truffles pasta – aka Italy’s influence on Croatian cuisine – at one of Dubrovnik’s fancier restaurant.
If you still have tome before leaving Dubrovnik, you venture into Lapad. This more recent area is about a 30-minute walk outside of the city, towards the west. I’m not going to further mention this neighbourhood as I found it characterless and uber-touristy.
I guess, there’s no bad time to visit Dubrovnik. Picking up your ideal time will depend on what you want most. If you’re looking to experience more of the authentic Dubrovnik without all the tourists, then going in the off season, from November to March, is the best option.
Have you been to Dubrovnik? What’s your favourite season to visit? Would love to hear about it!