Lots of superlatives can be used to describe Dubrovnik, Croatia. Magnificent, beautiful, gorgeous, stunning, breathtaking, jaw-dropping, fabulous, mind-blowing—all the classic positive adjectives that you often read in travel articles apply to Dubrovnik.
As I’ve used several already, I’ll try to limit them in the rest of this post. It’s hard not to use them, though, for it is a truly spectacular—oops!—city.
We spent four nights and three days in Dubrovnik last summer and got to see pretty much all highlights. I want to say that, however great the city is, it is not that big and three days in Dubrovnik is plenty of time to cover it. This will even leave time for a side trip, as you will see below.
I’m not going to bore you with the historic background of this old, once-independent city. Many online sources offer all the information you might need—a quick Google search is all it takes.
I do, however, want to give you guys a brief geographical introduction. Dubrovnik is located in the far south of the Dalmatian coast in Croatia. The area surrounding Dubrovnik forms a mainland “island” of Croatian territory surrounded by other nations. Although the city lies on the Croatian mainland, if you want to travel by car to another part of Croatia and not leave the country, you’ll have to take a ferry. You can find why that’s the case when you read the history of Dubrovnik, which, by the way—allow me to throw in just one historic fact—was known as Ragusa up until 1918.
This post is meant to serve as a guide to Dubrovnik, a resource upon which you can base your own visit.
And, trust me, visit you must.
Three Days in Dubrovnik – A Guide
Dubrovnik’s City Walls are the city’s main attraction. They are among the best and most impressive in the world and, dating from between the 13th and 16th centuries, were constructed around the entire Old Town. Made up of no fewer than fourteen square towers, two round towers, a fortress and two corner forts, and measuring more than two kilometers (1.5 miles) long and up to 25 meters high (80 feet), these City Walls used to be (and still are) a mighty sight to behold.
You can walk the entire length, thereby completing a loop around the Old Town. This is a wonderful way to get your bearings and get a feel of the town below. I would recommend doing this first, in the morning, because, especially in summer, it gets scorching hot up there. There is hardly any place to shelter from the beating Adriatic sun. After viewing the Old Town from every possible angle, you can explore it further in the afternoon.
The Old Town of Dubrovnik is completely under the protection of UNESCO. You will most likely enter this historic town through the Pile Gate, which is, incidentally, also the main hub of public transportation in Dubrovnik. You will emerge from the Pile Gate onto Stradun, old Dubrovnik’s main street. This bustling promenade is the widest street in the Old Town, lined with souvenir shops, restaurants and bars. Several smaller alleyways jut off to the left and right.
Also lining Stradun is the wonderful Franciscan Monastery and Museum, which lies immediately to the left when you step onto Stradun. To the right stands the iconic Onofrio’s Big Fountain, where you can fill up your water bottles—and yes, the water is 100% safe to drink.
At the other end of Stradun, you will find the Synagogue Museum, Sponza Palace, the Bell Tower, the City Hall and Orlando’s Column.
When you turn to the right, you will pass the amazing 15th-century Rector’s Palace and the striking Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin, also known simply as Dubrovnik Cathedral.
Other notable highlights in the Old Town are the Dominican Monastery and Museum, located in the northeastern corner of the town, and the Old Port. If you have extra time, a visit to the War Photo Museum is also recommended.
A place this jam-packed with highlights, landmarks and historic monuments deserves a full afternoon. You can pick and choose between all the above-mentioned highlights as you please. Also make sure to leave some time to simply sit down at one of the countless terraces that line the streets and alleys and enjoy some world-class people-watching.
Another major attraction in Dubrovnik is the Cable Car that commutes between the Old Town and the top of Mount Srđ. The ride doesn’t take longer than four minutes.
At the top, you can visit the exhibitions showcasing the so-called Homeland War that nearly annihilated Dubrovnik, enjoy a drink or meal at the scenic restaurant and, of course, gaze down in awe at the Old Town below—the views are absolutely phenomenal and take in the Old Town, the suburbs, Lokrum Island, and the Elafiti Islands in the Adriatic Sea in the background.
Further reading: Dubrovnik in 20 Photos
The best time to do this is an hour before sunset, which gives you enough time to take a look around at the top and order a drink or two before the setting sun paints the panorama below in the warmest of colors.
As a Dalmatian coastal city, Dubrovnik boasts a number of delightful beaches. After spending a whole day sightseeing and walking around, the second day is dedicated to relaxation and a tiny bit more sightseeing.
Just to the east of the Old Town lies Banje Beach, which is easily the most picturesque beach in Dubrovnik. It lies within a few minutes’ on foot from the Ploče Gate on the northeastern corner of the City Walls. This gorgeous pebble beach does get crowded, though, so make sure to get there rather early to claim your spot.
If you’re staying at a hotel, you might also have access to a private beach. Those beaches are generally quieter, but undoubtedly also less scenic than Banje Beach. I say, spend time on both.
After spending a morning lazing around on the beach and swimming in the Adriatic Sea, hop on the ferry to Lokrum Island. This small island that lies only a 20-minute ferry ride from the Old Town is a popular getaway among locals and tourists alike.
Covered with woods, lined with beaches (including a nude beach), crisscrossed by many kilometers (miles) of hiking trails, and dotted with landmarks and eateries, this is an oasis of peace compared with the huge crowds that flood Dubrovnik’s Old Town during the day.
You could easily spend a whole afternoon there, visiting the medieval Benedictine monastery ruins, the botanical garden or Fort Royal, or spending some more time on the beach, or nursing a cocktail at an open-air bar, or… There’s plenty to do on Lokrum Island.
By now, you will have gotten a good feel for what Dubrovnik is all about—you will have visited and seen most highlights and you will have soaked up plenty of sunshine as well.
On the third day, you could either opt to take a more detailed look around, visit some more museums or spend another day on the beach, or you could choose to go on a day trip to another country.
Further reading: Mostar in 20 Photos
Montenegro and the magnificent Bay of Kotor lie a short bus ride from Dubrovnik, as does Bosnia and Herzegovina and the downright spectacular ancient town of Mostar. It is up to you which one you choose, but after visiting Mostar myself, I must say that that’s a pretty great place to visit and one that you really won’t want to miss.
Dubrovnik is the priciest destination in all of Croatia. That being said; just like anywhere else in Croatia you can find affordable private accommodations there as well, both in and around the Old Town. Outside of the Old Town, the peninsulas of Lapad and Babin Kuk are dotted with everything from B&Bs and campgrounds to guesthouses and hotels. Public transportation is excellent and buses can drop you off right in front of the Pile Gate.
I can definitely recommend Camping Solitudo as a good option for a place to stay in Dubrovnik. This campground features camp pitches, tent sites and mobile homes. When staying there, you will also have access to the spectacular beaches and swimming pool of its sister hotel, Valamar.
The Old Town of Dubrovnik is filled to the brim with restaurants, cafés and bars. If you’re just after a drink, it doesn’t really matter where you sit down—almost all venues offer the same kind of drinks.
When it comes to food, that’s a different matter. There are many not-so-good restaurants in the Old Town, places that take advantage of the vast number of tourists to raise prices, but not the quality of their food. There are a few great restaurants, though, but you need to know where to find them.
One such restaurant is Restaurant Proto, a fish and seafood restaurant situated just off Stradun on the corner between Vara and Siroka Street. A great place for light lunches as well as extensive dinners inside or at the open-air terrace, this restaurant is a place where you might spot a Croatian celebrity if you’re lucky.
Have you ever visited Dubrovnik? What were your impressions of the city?
Both the Croatia Tourism Board and the Dubrovnik Tourist Board helped us put together our three days in Dubrovnik. I would like to thank them both for their extraordinary efforts to make our visit as successful as possible. Also many thanks to Camping Solitudo for accommodating us during our stay.
This article is also available as a smartphone app, allowing you to use it as a reference when visiting Dubrovnik. You can get the app right here!