Dubrovnik is one of the most popular towns in Croatia and according to Google Trends, it is more popular than Croatia as a country itself. I grew up in this region visiting the town on numerous occasions since I was a child. I was also doing my university degree course in Dubrovnik, living there for four years. So, I know this town pretty well. In this article, I will try to cover as many aspects of the town as possible.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, Dubrovnik is a must-visit destination. It is a truly beautiful medieval walled town with most of the attractions situated in the pedestrian-only heart of the Old Town. At times it gets crowded and sometimes feels too touristy. It can also be expensive. But, despite all of it, it is still one of the best places you can see in Croatia.
Views over Old Port and Town walls from Ploce gate in Dubrovnik
Table of Contents
Best time to visit Dubrovnik
The best times to visit Dubrovnik are spring and autumn, April to June and September to November. In the summer, the town is very very busy, very touristy and very crowded. But regardless of the crowds, if you have no other option but to visit it in the summer, do it anyway. Try to avoid the crowd by carefully planning your visit here.
How to Avoid the Crowds in Dubrovnik:
If you ask me how to avoid the crowds in the summer I would have the following tips & advice:
- get up as early as possible and do your sightseeing in the early morning. Alternatively, late evening is also good, but the downside is the lack of daylight.
- if you have to choose between late morning and afternoon, visit the town in the afternoon (after 4 pm) when most of the day-tip visitors already left and there is still plenty of daylight available.
- if you are in the town for just one day or a few hours, do your sightseeing in several batches with quiet breaks between visiting crowded spaces.
- get into the Old Town via Buza or Ploce Gate. Avoid Pile entrance.
- if you can, come here out of season (October to April)
You can get to Dubrovnik by several transport options. See also how to get to Croatia article. Here is a brief list of what is available:
- By plane – the town’s nearest airport is about 20 km away from the Old town. The airport is served by numerous flights from a number of places in Europe and beyond and is one of the busiest in Croatia. To reach the town from the airport, take a bus, local airport transfer or rented car. It will take you about 20 minutes to reach the town. (See also how early to arrive at the airport for your return flight.)
- By bus – The main bus terminal is on the western edge of the town, in the Gruz district. You can arrive here by numerous buses, run by several bus companies connecting the town with a major place in Croatia including Split and Zagreb. There are also buses running from Bosnia/Herzegovina and Montenegro. Buses are running all year round. See what is available here.
- By ferry or boat – you can get here by ferry from Bari in Italy and from Split (easy for a day trip), Brac, Hvar, Korcula, Mljet and Lastovo. These boats are run by a couple of local companies and are in operation from April to October. For the rest of the year, there are no boats or ferries connecting the town. For schedules and info see croatiaferries.com website.
- By car – the coastal road D8 leads to Dubrovnik, connecting the northern and southern Adriatic coast, passing through many coastal towns and offering breathtaking views and lovely scenery while driving. It is winding the double-track road and on a certain point narrow road that tends to get busy at times. From Zagreb or Split, you can get here by highway all the way to Ploce where you join D8 again. Important to know is that you have to cross the border with Bosnia in Neum where the border crossing procedure takes place and slows down a journey for about 30 minutes.
- By train – there are no trains or train stations in Dubrovnik. The nearest train station is in Ploce.
Parking in Dubrovnik:
Dubrovnik is mostly about the Old Town and the Old Town belongs to pedestrians (and small boats). When you come near Dubrovnik’s historic center, you’ll need to park your car somewhere out of the town walls until you’re ready to leave. Your parking options here will be limited and expensive. The best option is to park in the underground garage in Ilijina Glavica, in Zagrebačka ulica Street or in Gruz Port (above photo) and from there take the local transport or taxi to the gates of the Old Town. Try to arrive early to catch the best parking spots.
Public Transport in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik has well-developed and functioning public transport that includes numerous bus lines, taxis, and Uber. Buses run pretty regularly and are a convenient and cheap way to travel around the town or in the near vicinity (as Cavtat). If you are in a hurry, carrying luggage or if it’s late in the night you can get a taxi 24/7 which will take you to the nearest spot you need. Uber is also convenient as you don’t need to worry about having enough cash in local currency (Euro).
Car rental in Dubrovnik
There are quite a few places in the town where you can hire a car. The most popular is at the Cilipi (Dubrovnik) airport where travelers usually take or drop off the rented cars. If you decide to rent a car, the best thing is to book it in advance as prices are cheaper than if you book it on the spot. If you intend to stay in Dubrovnik for most of your time, I would suggest you not to rent a car as finding a parking space in the town is not always easy.
Dubrovnik Airport Transfers
If you are arriving or departing from the local airport, it can be a pretty good idea to use a pre-arranged airport transfer. Numerous agencies offer this service, you can get one in advance or upon your arrival in the town. If you would like to book it in advance you can do it here.
Bus no 1 goes from Gruz ferry port and bus station to the Old Town.
Where to Stay
Best neighborhoods to stay
If you are visiting the town just for a day or two, and are travelling further, the best place to stay is around Gruz. It is easily accessible by transport – ferries and buses are nearby, all on walking distance and the accommodation around there is much cheaper than in more popular areas that offer either a view over Old Town (like some apartments and hotels in the Ploce area) or views over the open seas (like some Lapad hotels and rooms).
If you are staying in the town for a longer period, then it depends on what are your preferences. Staying within the Old Town’s walls is romantic but can be much more expensive than elsewhere out of the medieval walls. Lapad and Ploce neighborhoods are popular places to stay where you will find numerous options on offer. The hotels, rooms and apartments there are much larger and usually have a terrace or balcony while in the Old Town it is very rare to find such a luxury. From your Ploce apartment or hotel you will probably have a nice view of the old town’s walls while in Lapad, garden and sea views are very common. Both Ploce and Lapad have nice beaches in the fair vicinity.
As far as a beach is concerned, for families, the best option is Ploce or Lapad, as at least one shingle beach is nearby, while for single travelers, staying in Old Town is good if you are fine with using rock swimming spots.
What to expect
Dubrovnik has a wide range of accommodations on offer including luxurious hotels and villas and basic rooms that are good for simple overnight. Most of the accommodation in the town is fairly described and you should get what you paid for. I never heard of any complaints that the accommodation in the town was not as described. On a couple of occasions, I booked a room via popular booking sites and on all occasions, my accommodation was exactly as described. At this stage of development of this article, I will not link to any particular place to stay, as it is hard to predict the availability. The best option for you is to browse and see what is available for your dates.
Old Town Port Dubrovnik
Where to Eat
Dubrovnik can be a minefield of overpriced and tourist-trap restaurants offering depressingly mediocre food as well as fine dining establishments and authentic local restaurants that offer great quality food. For those in the know, it is easy to choose a good place to eat. Unfortunately, I am not the one who can give any advice on this. For me, restaurants in Dubrovnik are overpriced and I can not really afford them so I stay away from this kind of experience. When I’m in the town, I usually have pizza and beer in one of the Stradun restaurants, mainly because I like to watch the world go by. It usually costs me about 150 HRK and I put up with it as it is just for one day. If I stay for more than a day in the town, I cook my own meals.
A typical restaurant/cafe in Dubrovnik’s Stradun where you can get a simple meal, coffee and drink and enjoy the views and ambiance of this beautiful place.
Where to Drink
The cafes and bars in Dubrovnik are great. Most of them are really good, the coffee is excellent, the cocktails are very nice, wine lists are long and hard to choose from. Prices are very similar to any other European center of the town. Coffee price is on average about 25 HRK (3.5 Euro approx), and cocktails about 100 HRK (12 Euro). A bottle of wine can be anything from 120 HRK upwards.
Here is a short list of my favorite places to drink in the Old Town:
- Cele – for the first coffee in the morning, coffee, cakes, breakfast too while watching people passing by in Stradun (web)
- Gradska Kavana Arsenal – for a daytime break for drink and coffee, while watching people passing by in Luza Square (web)
- Troubadour Cafe (Bunićeva Poljana 2) – for evening drinks and music just around the corner from Stradun (video)
Cocktails prices in typical Stradun cocktail bar
More info to come:
This is obviously going to be a long article so it will take me some time to complete it. This is a list of what I am going to write about in the future:
Things to Do
- Explore the Old Town
- Visit museums
- Sea kayaking
- Swimming and Snorkeling
What to see in Dubrovnik
- Town Walls
- Franciscan Monastery
- Lovrijenac Fortress
- Old Town Port and Porporela
- Lokrum island
Sponza Palace, Orlando’s Column and Luza Square
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