Croatia Guide: Dubrovnik
Vibe – touristy, expensive (relatively), crowded, amazing sites.
Dubrovnik is one of those cities that everyone should experience once in their life, but after a couple of days you will be ready to move on. Of all the cities in Croatia, Dubrovnik has drawn the biggest tourist crowds, largely due to the popularity of Game of Thrones. It is a huge cruise port and tourists arrive each day by the thousands. It has become such a problem for locals that the government is likely to begin limiting the number of tourists who can enter each day. Within the old town you will be awed by the amazing fortress walls, architecture and breathtaking beauty. At the same time you will quickly become annoyed at having to shove your way through crowds and pay out the nose for an average meal.
Where to stay
Good lodging is at a premium in Old Town Dubrovnik. I traveled with a group of six people and we hoped to rent an apartment to share near the Old Town. Unfortunately, even three months out from our summer trip all the good apartments were booked.
Almost all of the hotels are small inns and guesthouses. We chose the nicest looking one in our budget on booking.com called Villa Dorma. We were actually quite excited that it looked very luxurious. In reality it was a very average hotel, with dated rooms and an odor coming from the bathroom plumbing that only got worse each day. Given the price point it was not what I expected. I hear most other hotels near the Old Town will have similar problems.
What to see & do
Cable car – The cable car is a treat and a must do, especially at sunset. It costs around $23 and lasts a few minutes. Once you are at the top you have amazing views of the city. There is also a restaurant, Panorama, at the top of the mountain where you can eat (review below) or have a drink at their bar. The sunset here is gorgeous and definitely worth the long queue to get up and down the mountain which will surely be there at that time of day.
Walk the wall – A great way to see the views of the city is by walking the top of the walls of the city. Entry comes at a price of 20 euro per person to get onto the walls but you can spend as much time as you like viewing the city.
Kayak in the ocean – Dubrovnik is amazing to see from all angles. By taking a kayaking tour you can see the city from the water and get some great views of the wall from the outside. The tours will take you around to some islands outside Dubrovnik where you can get off and swim and snorkel. One piece of advice, pick up some water shoes before going on any water activity in Croatia. All the beaches are stone beaches and it can be quite difficult to walk on. We booked this tour through Viator for about $38.
Game of Thrones Tour – Most of the tourism in Dubrovnik has been built up around Game of Thrones and you will see references to it throughout the city. There are many walking tours which will take you to various places where the show was filmed. The guides will show photos from the show and show you the spot in real life. We went with Dubrovnik Walking Tours who offer a 2 hours tour for about $30. Our guide, Dora, was extremely knowledgeable about both the history of Dubrovnik itself as well as Game of Thrones. She (and many of the other guides it seems) also act as extras on the show so she gave us some inside gossip about the actors too.
Where to eat
Buza Bar ($$) – Buza Bar is a great experience and must do while you are in Dubrovnik. If you’ve seen photos of cliffside dining in Croatia you’ve probably seen Buza Bar. The best time to go is at sunset, but do expect a crowd.
Panorama ($$$) – Panorama restaurant is a fine dining experience and must do in Dubrovnik. The restaurant sits at the top of a mountain that overlooks the city. Many of the tables sit on the edge of the mountain and you can enjoy your dinner overlooking the city. The food here is very good and was one of the best meals of my trip. My group ordered the capresse salad for an appetizer and I enjoyed it so much I ordered a second as my main course. Reservations are a must and the best way to get there is to ride the cable car to the top.
Konoba Dubrava ($$) – The local cuisine in Croatia is Konoba food, so you will find many restaurants that have the word konoba in the name. One traditional dish is called peka. This is a method of cooking food in a coal over under a metal dome for many hours. If you are looking to try peka Konoba Dubrava is a great restaurant to try it. It is also located above the city and you will need to travel by taxi to get there. Call a few hours in advance if you want a peka dish and they will have it prepared for you.