Our guide to everything you must see and do in Dubrovnik, Croatia’s most charming city
Why visit Dubrovnik?
Those in the know are swapping Italy’s Amalfi Coast for what Lord Byron famously called ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’: Dubrovnik (Beyonce and Jay-Z have since holidayed there).
It isn’t difficult to see the appeal; the winding cliff-hugging roads on the drive from Dubrovnik airport is all terracotta rooftops and lush green hillsides to the left, clear blue, sparkling waters to the right.
This atmospheric medieval walled city is the jewel in Croatia’s glittering crown. It was one of the main film locations for Game of Thrones (fans will recognise it as King’s Landing). It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has plenty of Baroque churches, trickling fountains and elegant stone palazzi to explore in the pedestrian-only old town.
What to do in Dubrovnik
Old Town walking tour
A walking tour of the ancient walled city, or Old Town, is essential and takes around 90 minutes. Tip: take comfy shoes – some of the stone steps are steep – and a good camera for unfiltered sea views.
Almost destroyed during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, today, Dubrovnik is a pedestrian-only city – a UNESCO World Heritage Site no less – that has been beautifully restored to its former splendour. Encircled by stone walls (up to six metres thick in places), the city is accessed via two monumental arched gates, Pile (to the west) and Ploce (to the east), joined by the main thoroughfare, Stradun.
Nestled down grid-like alleyways, you’ll discover charming cafes and elegant courtyard restaurants, cute playgrounds and friendly locals, who’ll wave to say hello while hanging their washing out.
Explore the city walls
Dubrovnik’s most famous draw, the ancient walls of the Old City, were built between the 13th and 16th centuries and remain largely intact, despite numerous attacks over the years. There are several notable towers and forts along the way that you can explore, such as the Minčeta Tower, the Lovrijenac Fort, the Bokar Fortress and the Revelin Fortress. The walls offer an unrivalled view over Dubrovnik and the deep blue Adriatic Sea below.
Enjoy an ice cream
Reward your walking efforts with an (almost) Italian-standard gelato, sitting outside the city gates and soaking up panoramic views of the mystical fortress. We recommend the pistachio at Peppino’s on Ulica od Puča.
Explore Mount Srd
Take the cable car to the top of Mount Srd for breathtaking views of the city and the Elaphiti islands (also worth hopping over to on a boat trip).
The cavernous tunnels of the Fort Imperial have been converted by the Museum of Contemporary History into a museum documenting the Homeland War with art, documents and armaments. It is a fascinating insight to the all-too-recent history of Croatia.
If it leaves you with an appetite for more culture, War Photo Limited back in the Old Town is a gallery dedicated to powerful, often heart-breaking war photography.
Take a ferry to Lokrum
Ferries run from Dubrovnik’s Old Town to the UNESCO-protected island of Lokrum every half-hour during the summer, where you can see botanical gardens and plenty of wildlife.
The island is home to peacocks, which were brought to the island more than 100 years ago, and giant rabbits. Explore the abandoned 15th-century monastery, walk the botanical gardens and take care of those tan lines on the nudist beach.
Explore the islands
You can’t visit this region of Croatia without experiencing the islands – and there are many to choose from. Scattered like jewels, hundreds of them are waiting to be explored.
The small town of Ston, just an hour up the coast, offers ferries to Mljet, the most southerly and easterly of the region’s larger islands. Classed as one of Croatia’s greenest, most beautiful islands, its gentle sandy shoreline gives way to a dense forest.
Find a sunbathing spot
The sandy stretch of Banje beach is a mere 10-minute walk east of the Old Town. Here you can hire sun beds or baldachins – impressive four-posters with wafting chiffon drapes. What a way to relax! While you’re there, try water-skiing, parasailing, or relax even more with a massage.
Alternatively, head to one of the tiny public beaches reached down the steep sets of steps from the Old Town – try Bellevue Beach, which has a bar that’s perfect for sun-downers.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
The Hotel Croatia in Cavtat, one of the leading five-star resorts in the area, is just across the bay on a pine-forested peninsula. You can get there easily by boat or it’s a short (under 30 minutes) taxi ride away. Plus, it’s just eight minutes’ drive from Dubrovnik airport.
The hotel boasts two quiet private beaches, an outdoor pool, spa and four great restaurants, including the popular Steakhouse and Spinaker, which serves fresh seafood beneath white awnings on a waterside terrace. The charming harbour town of Cavtat is a 10-minute walk away along the seafront.
For an off-the-beaten-track stay head to Sun Gardens, an upmarket, family-friendly resort around 30-minutes drive from both the airport and Old Town.
Market restaurant at Sun Gardens, Dubrovnik
A member of the Elegant Resorts collection, it combines practicality (think seven on-site restaurants, three pools and it’s own private beach), with unapologetic luxury.
Perched cliff-side overlooking the Adriatic Sea, Villa Dubrovnik’s clean, modern architecture is almost as impressive as its stunning setting.
Located just outside of the Old Town, the five-star hotel is a welcome escape from the Mediterranean heat and the older, crowded stone streets.
Villa’s 55 bedrooms and smattering of spacious suites and complemented by a first-rate spa and a private beach.
Tucked into a cove, the five-star Hotel Bellevue boasts a unique secluded setting on a clifftop with immaculate water views over the Adriatic Sea, making the waterfront scenery alone difficult to top.
Re-opened in April 2019, it’s home to 91 luxury rooms and suites, sophisticated seafood restaurant Vapour and an invigorating spa with ceiling to floor windows.
The best restaurants in Dubrovnik
Croatian cuisine is a wonderful fusion of fresh Mediterranean fare and traditional seafood dishes, washed down with surprisingly good local wine.
Located at Villa Dubrovnik, book a table overlooking the sea for a dinner to remember at Pjerin. If Croatia had a signature flavour it is captured here, and tastes all the better when enjoyed from the sophisticated terrace (all white-washed linen and angular furniture) that feels as though it was carved into the craggy cove.
The tasting menu with paired wines (from £91) includes red prawns carpaccio, wild sea bass and braised veal cheek and it is truly unforgettable.
Getting to Dubrovnik
Flights to Dubrovnik take less than three hours from London. For more information on Croatia, visit croatia.hr.