We spent almost a full week in the beautiful walled city of Dubrovnik during our two week trip to Croatia. This was plenty of time to fully explore the Old Town and the surrounding areas. We also enjoyed a few day trips from Dubrovnik to the nearby Croatian towns of Korcula and Ston as well as Kotor and Buvda in Montenegro. These are some of the best things to do in Dubrovnik:
Walk the City Walls
The Old Town of Dubrovnik is surrounded by approximately 2km of medieval stone walls that date back to the 12th century. It is possible to walk the walls the length around the Old Town, all while experiencing the best views of the city at every turn. There are several fortresses along the walls (Revelin, Minceta, Bokar, St. John and St. Lucas) which were important for defense and were refortified primarily in the 15th and 16th centuries due to perceived threats from the Ottoman Empire and the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Minceta fortress in the Northwest corner of the town offers some of the best views of the city from the highest point of the walls. Fort St. John currently holds the Dubrovnik Aquarium and Fort Revelin is apparently a night club.
We started our walk along the walls near Ploce Gate in the late afternoon. We found this to be the perfect time to start the walk as much of the tourist crowds had returned to their cruise ships and it had cooled off a bit from the heat of the day in August. As an added benefit, the sun was starting to set leaving a wonderful golden glow on the terracotta rooftops. One interesting fact about the distinctive red roof tiles in Dubrovnik is that you can see the difference between the older tiles and the new tiles that were replaced soon after the Siege of Dubrovnik in 1991 and 1992. It was during this siege as part of the Croatian War of Independence that approximately 68% of the buildings were hit by projectiles destroying much of the city and the famous red tile roofs.
Walking the city walls took us more than an hour with plenty of stops for pictures of the beautiful city and surrounding Adriatic Sea. From the vantage point of the walls it was also possible to see beautiful gardens, fountains, and nearby Lokrum Island. But most importantly, we were able to spot the elusive Buza Bars I and II, which are somewhat hidden oceanview bars located just on the other side of the walls and can only be reach through a literal hole in the wall.
Lovrijenac Fort (or St. Lawrence Fortress) is located just outside the walls of the Old Town of Dubrovnik. The fortress was reportedly built in the 11th century in only 3 months time by the town locals when they learned of a plan by the Venetians to conquer the city by building their own fort in the same location. If the locals had not completed the task before the Venetians, Dubrovnik likely would have fallen under Venetian rule. As an important defensive fort for the city, it once maintained 10 cannons, with the largest cannon called the “Lizard”. The Lizard was lost in the sea just off the Fortress during the Austrian occupation when the Austrians tried to transport it to Vienna.
When we explored the Lovrijenac Fort, it was completely deserted and there was not much to see inside. But it was worth making the trip for the incredible view of the harbour and the western walls of the Old Town of Dubrovnik. In more recent years, the fort has been used to stage the production of Hamlet as part of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival or for filming of movies and television shows such as Game of Thrones.
Onofrio’s Fountain is a distinctive domed fountain and the first feature you will see upon entering the city walls from the Pile Gate. It was built by Onofrio Della Cava, an Italian builder, in the 15th century. It is the larger of two of Onofrio’s fountains and is decorated with beautiful carved stone faces. It is a popular landmark and meeting place. The smaller Onofrio’s fountain is located at the opposite end of the main Stadun in the Old Town.
Hike or Cable Car to the top of Mt Srd
Mount Srd looms high above the Old Town of Dubrovnik offering incredible sweeping views of the walled city. A cable car provides an easy way up the mountain but it is also possible to hike to the top via a switchback trail that features markers for the Sign of the Cross. At the top, there is an observation deck, a restaurant and the Homeland War Museum which displays documents and artifacts from the Croatian War of Independence.
We chose to take a sweaty hike to the top of Mount Srd and took the cable car down. After our hike, we treated ourselves to a couple of lounge chairs at a beach club on Banje beach.
D’Vino Wine Bar
After a day exploring the narrow streets and alleys of the Old Town, the perfect way to spend the evening is over a class of Croatian wine at the D’Vino Wine Bar. They offer wine tastings from the most interesting wine regions in Croatia such as the Peljesac wine region located on a peninsula just north of Dubrovnik. On our first visit to D’Vino, the friendly staff were able to find us a small nook in the back of the cozy restaurant where they helped us pick out a few local wines. Here you can try the famous Croatian red wine, Dingac, made from Plavac Mali grapes. I would also recommend trying the dry white wine known as Posip. Our wine tasting was perfectly paired with some local meats and cheeses. D’Vino would also be a good place to try the Pag Island cheese which is a hard sheep milk cheese from the Croatian island of Pag.
Buza Bars I and II
Before arriving in Dubrovnik, we had heard that two of the best bars could be found just on the opposite side of the stone fortifications through a literal hole in the wall (Buza translates to “hole”). They could be a little hard to find but we were promised they would not disappoint. Of course we had to find these two bars, Buza I and Buza II. On our first morning in the city, we were tired and jet-lagged from the long journey, so we decided to take it easy and wander through the small streets and alleys of the Old Town. On our random stroll, we stumbled upon the tell-tale sign for Cold Drinks pointing towards a doorway. We followed the sign and were amazed at the beautiful views of the Adriatic. We snagged two of the last seats and promptly ordered glasses of white wine. We spent a good portion of the afternoon at those seats watching sailboats and kayakers make their way to nearby Lokrum Island. We also watched several brave divers jump into the ocean from the many swimming platforms just below the bar. It was a glorious way to spend the afternoon.
We didn’t visit the second Buza bar until a few days later after we had walked around the walls and spotted the second bar from above. Once we had a rough idea of where it was, we made our way through the back alleys to again stumble upon a doorway that led us to the beautiful seaside bar. This bar was a much simpler setup with only a few tables and a simple bar serving cold beers. It was a beautiful spot to take in the sunset before dinner.
Keep in mind that both bars are pretty basic in terms of amenities and only one has a toilet (also very basic).
Franciscan Church and Monastery
The Franciscan church and monastery complex is located just off the main Stradun in the Old Town. The original church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1667. The monastery includes a Romanesque cloister with beautiful columns surrounding the inner courtyard. Inside the monastery complex you will also find one of the world’s oldest pharmacies. It was originally founded in the 14th century for the Franciscan friars and is still in use today as pharmacy where you can purchase skin cream products which follow the ancient Franciscan recipes. There is also a pharmacy museum where you can see various pharmaceutical tools and containers.
Gunduliceva Poljana Market
The Gunduliceva Poljana market is an open air market in Gundulic Square in the Old Town. The square takes its name from the statue of Ivan Gundulic, a 17th century poet from Dubrovnik. Here you will see stalls with locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as local products such as lavender, sea salt and olive oils. The market is open every morning, so it is a great place to pick up some snack for a picnic at the beach. We bought some fresh raspberries to enjoy for breakfast at our Airbnb. Lavender seemed to be the most popular souvenir to buy at the market as Croatia is one of the largest producers of lavender in the world. There were lavender pillows, essential oils and soaps. I bought a few small containers of lavender and local rosemary to take home.
Banje Beach is one of the closest beaches to the Old Town and is therefore one of the most popular with tourists. There is also a beautiful view of the Old Town and walls from the beach which make this beach especially picturesque. The beach can easily be reached on foot by walking east from the Ploce gate of the Old Town. As with most of the beaches in Croatia, it is a pebble beach rather than a sandy beach. We chose to pay a reasonable fee to enjoy a lounge chair and umbrella from the beach club and restaurant. Although there is a nearby section of the beach where you can set up your beach towel for free.
We were happy to relax on the beach with occasional dips in the water to cool off while enjoying cocktails and snacks from the beach restaurant. Those looking for more active pursuits can also rent jet skis, kayaks or go parasailing from Banje Beach.
Banje Beach is just one of the many beaches to enjoy the Croatian coastline. It is even possible to set yourself up directly on the rocks around the Dubrovnik Old Town and jump directly into the water (see also Buza Bars I and II).
Day Trips from Dubrovnik
As we were staying in Dubrovnik for a full week, it allowed us plenty of time to both explore the city and take a few day trips to nearby towns. A few popular day trips from Dubrovnik are:
Korcula and Ston – Our first stop was the small town of Ston, which is known for salt production and oysters. During ancient times the salt was more valuable than gold so stone walls were built around the city and to the neighbouring city of Mali Ston. After spending a short amount of time in Ston, we took a small boat to the island of Korcula. We stopped for a seafood lunch at an oceanfront restaurant in Korcula before wandering around the old walled town and climbing up the bell tower of St. Mark’s Cathedral for a spectacular view of the town. We also stopped for a wine tasting in the Peljesac wine growing region where we tried the famous Croatian red wine, Dingac.
Kotor and Buvda, Montenegro – Received one more stamp in my passport as we crossed the border into neighbouring Montenegro. A scenic drive around the Bay of Kotor took us to the fortified town of Kotor which was dramatically framed by dark limestone peaks. Our final stop was Buvda where we enjoyed the calm waters and sandy shores.
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina – Mostar is most well known for the Stari Most bridge which crosses the Neretva River. You will often see local daredevils jumping from the bridge into the river below.