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top five guide: dubrovnik, croatia

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Old Port Outside Old Town Dubrovnik Croatia

Dubrovnik is a magical place. This coastal Croatian city oozes history and its picturesque orange-topped buildings resemble a movie set, which might explain why Game of Thrones filmed here.

We made the poor decision of visiting during the busiest and hottest time of the year: mid-July. On top of the throngs of tourists clogging the narrow streets, there was a historic heatwave overtaking the country that even our AirBnB's air conditioning units couldn't handle.

That said, despite those unpleasantries, we still had a wonderful time exploring this unique and picturesque city. I hope to come back one day, preferably in the shoulder season with fewer crowds and more opportunities to soak in the special character of this place.

here are my top five tips for a trip to DUBROVNIK:

Nighttime Famous Steps in Dubrovnik Old Town Croatia

1: stay in old town

Dubrovnik is famous for its walled Old Town, an aesthetically pleasing enclave of whitewashed stone buildings with bright orange roofs, lively squares, and narrow alleyways. To make the most of your visit and stay close to the action, stay inside or nearby the walls of old town. If you can avoid it, don’t try to park a car. While a road trip in Croatia is lovely, we made the mistake of trying to find parking in high season, which was an expensive error. Parking is extremely limited as the old town is a pedestrian-only zone. The good news is you won’t need a car to see the best sites while you're here anyways!

Old Town Clock Tower Dubrovnik Croatia

2: walk through history

Compact old cities like this one are perfect for exploring by foot, with or without a guide. We downloaded a random walking tour app to point out historic points of interest to us, and we saw plenty of tour guides leading groups around as well. Whether you go for something more structured or freeform, be sure not to miss these sights: Pile Gate, Stradun (Main Street), Onofrio’s Fountain, Bell Tower (pictured), Rector’s Palace, and the Jesuit Stairs (made famous by the Game of Thrones "shame" scene).

Buza Bar Old Town Dubrovnik Croatia Waterfront

3: buža bar

While most of the action is inside the old city walls, my favorite spot in town is technically just outside of them. We stumbled upon Buža Bar after spotting a curious wooden sign that read “Cold Drinks with The Most Beautiful View” and an arrow pointing down a quiet walkway. You don't have to tell me twice. Naturally, we followed the sign around the edge of the walls and eventually through a small doorway that opened up to a cliffside bar right on the ocean. A true "hole in the wall" (get it?), Buža is the perfect place to relax, drink a local Karlovačko beer, and enjoy the sunset.

Porporela Pier Old Town Port Cliff Jumping Dubrovnik Croatia

4: swim at the old port

Another beyond-the-walls must is visiting the Old Town Port and the Porporela pier and breakwater. This isn't your average grimy port: it has the clearest water of any port I have ever seen, and there will be plenty of people enjoying it as there is a nice swimming hole and jumping rock nearby. Tip: beware of sitting too close to admire the blue waves at the breakwater! You may think you’re safe, but one rogue wave will completely soak you (not that I am speaking from experience...).

Swimming in Kotor Bay Montenegro

5: side trip to montenegro

As I noted above, mid-July is peak tourist season, and the thick crowds in the small Old Town can get a bit overwhelming. If you need a break from the frenzy, I highly recommend a side trip to Croatia's lesser known and more affordable neighbor, Montenegro (yes, it is safe). Kotor and Kotor Bay is a gorgeous area that is only a two hour drive away. It is a lovely stop for a night or weekend, and I recommend renting a car if possible rather than taking a bus as it is a truly gorgeous drive. Tip: get full insurance to be safe as the streets in Kotor can be precariously narrow and side swipes are common!

You can't always do it all, so one thing we didn’t do but wish we had:

Walk atop the old city walls. This is one of the top attractions in Dubrovnik and an obvious must-do. So why didn't we do it? It was HOT, and we were a bit sun shy at that point in our trip. That said, I kind of regret not sucking it up. This is priority number one for the next visit!

Have a great trip! Feel free to leave a comment with your own favorites. You can also find these recommendations (and more!) in map format by following me on the Out of Office app.


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