As a seaport located on the Mediterranean, Dubrovnik has a long history of attracting both commerce and tourists. From the Middle Ages, when Dubrovnik rivaled Venice as a center of business and wealth, to today, visitors have marveled at the architecture, culture and stunning setting along the coast of Croatia.
In Dubrovnik, you have all the charm of the Old Town with its pedestrian-only zone, the glamour of being an up-and-coming destination that attracts the wealthy and famous and the beauty of multiple beaches that touch the crystal-blue Adriatic Sea. The setting is so perfect that you might recognize it from popular shows and films like Game of Thrones and Star Wars. It's an ideal vacation destination for just about anyone, including couples and families.
Planning Your Trip
The weather in Dubrovnik is moderate all year, averaging in the high 70s during the summer months but rarely dipping below 50°F even in the winter. The coast can be rainy, particular outside of July and August. As you pack, consider dressing in layers to be best prepared for whatever mild weather comes your way.
Dubrovnik has its own airport, with access from many other European cities. If you plan to travel along the coast, consider renting a car to get around -- but the influx of tourists in summer means that roads along the coast get a lot of traffic in peak season. Traveling into Dubrovnik by boat is an excellent way to access the city, as many cruise ships come into the port and ferries run up and down the coast and from Italy.
If you're looking for fine dining in Dubrovnik, it can easily be found, especially in the Old Town area. Traditional Croatian dishes are not particularly spicy and will appeal most to meat-and-potatoes fans; more exotic meals can be had at restaurants featuring international cuisine. Reservations are a necessity in peak season.
Places to Visit
As a UNESCO World Heritage city, Dubrovnik is teeming with history. The city sustained some damage during the Croatian War of Independence in the early 1990s, but most of the buildings have been completely restored. You'll be able to enjoy learning most about the city through a guided walking tour -- look for a personal guide who can tailor your tour to your interests rather than joining a larger group (the exception: several Game of Thrones tours geared toward fans of the show may be quite well done and attract lots of participants). Here's what else you should include on your itinerary.
Walk along Dubrovnik's ancient city walls that are remarkably well preserved. More than just a bunch of bricks, this 1.2-mile-long wall incorporates several forts worth exploring, including Fort Minceta on the northwest side of the city, Fort Lawrence near the Pile gate and Fort Revelin by the Ploce gate. Also near the Ploce Gate: St. Luke's Tower, which traditionally protected the city's harbor. St. John's Fort houses an aquarium and maritime museum that are also worthy of a stop. Game of Thrones fans may recognize Fort Bokar and the city walls as King's Landing, home to Queen Cersi Lannister.
Within Dubrovnik's Old Town, a few buildings are not to be missed. The Rector's Palace incorporates a museum dedicated to the city's history, but its architecture is its main draw. Occasional evening concerts performed by the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra are a great reason to visit.
The Sponza Palace is a 16th-century building that survived a 1667 earthquake; it is representative of the architecture of the city in the Renaissance era. While the building houses the city archives and a small museum, it's most notable for its exterior. The courtyard in front, Luza Square, hosts the opening of the famous Dubrovnik Summer Festival that brings world-renowned performances to the city during July and August.
The Old Town is also home to several churches, including the baroque Church of Saint Blaise next to the Sponza Palace that pays homage to the city's patron saint. Another baroque masterpiece, the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary features a triptych painted by Old Master Titian above the main altar. The Franciscan Monastery, while not technically a church, houses the third-oldest pharmacy in the world, interesting relics and a beautiful courtyard.
For great views of the city, take the cable car up Mount Srd. At the top, take a few minutes to review the Museum of Croatian War of Independence, which explains this relatively recent conflict through the eyes of the city's residents. If you're really up for a hike, there's a path that takes you up; you'll need good footwear, attention to the sometimes rocky path and about 90 minutes to get to the top.
Not far from Old Town, Banje Beach's pebbled coast has both a private and public area -- go for the private to relax, the public to people watch or get involved in a game of volleyball. Lapad Beach is a bit farther from the central city but offers another option to the more crowded Banje area. It's about 2 miles from Old Town but the street is very walkable and the shore is beautiful. If you are looking for more island adventures in the Adriatic Sea, check out our list of the Best Croatian Islands worthy of a visit.
If you are interested in learning more about Croatia, be sure to download our A Tour of Croatia eBook right here!