When it comes to visiting Croatia, Dubrovnik normally comes up in conversation. This historic walled city is one of the country’s most popular destinations. It’s the gateway to the Adriatic and Croatian islands and is a wonderful place to explore in its own right. Dubrovnik is also a star in popular culture, most notably featuring as the fictional city of Kings Landing in HBO series Game of Thrones. Whether you’re heading to Dubrovnik to sample the wine, to start an island-hopping cruise or to follow in the steps of Queen Cersei Lannister, here’s our guide to eight of the best things to do in Dubrovnik.
1. Walk the city walls
The medieval city walls are probably Dubrovnik’s most famous attraction. The full circuit is around two kilometres, boasting stunning panoramic sea views, historic towers and fortresses, and a great birds-eye view of the city below. You can hire a guide to show you around, or can amble about on your own, the choice is yours. Entrance to the city walls is approximately USD $30 per person. But it’s worth it if you have half a day to spare. There are cafes and toilet facilities along the route, and our advice is to visit relatively early in the morning, in order to beat the summer heat and the cruise ship passengers that can descend on Dubrovnik in the peak summer months. Alternatively, sunset is a particularly beautiful time to enjoy the walk. Especially when it’s washed down with a glass of local red at one of the city’s many wine bars.
2. Step into a scene from Game of Thrones
As mentioned, Dubrovnik provided the backdrop for one of the main settings in hit TV show Game of Thrones. It portrayed the city of Kings Landing, which was the capital of Westeros and home to much of the drama throughout the show. One of the most famous scenes in the show was in series 5, when Queen Cersei was made to complete a naked “Walk of Shame” through the streets of the city after release from the High Sparrow. Dubrovnik’s beautiful Baroque Jesuit Staircase played a leading role in this scene.
Other places to feature in the show include the island of Lokrum; just 600 metres from the coast of Dubrovnik, the island featured as the city of Qarth, where Daenerys Targaryen had her dragons stolen. And back in the city, Pile Gate is the main entrance to Dubrovnik’s Old Town. It is also where the King of Westeros got hit by a very different sort of pile, when Joffrey was struck by cow dung during a riot in series 2. All of these places and more can be seen during an independent wander around Dubrovnik. For true Game of Thrones geeks, specialist sightseeing tours can be booked locally.
3. Ride the cable car
If the view from the top of the city walls isn’t good enough for you, then riding the cable car to the summit of Mount Srd ought to do the trick. The cable car finishes up 412 metres above the city. And it boasts panoramic views of the Old Town and the Adriatic coast. There’s a restaurant and snack bar at the top, perfect for enjoying the view while you grab a bite to eat. The cable car has been closed for maintenance recently but is due to re-open in April 2022.
4. Explore the Old Town
Sometimes the best plans involve not making plans at all. Within Dubrovnik’s city walls the Old Town is an atmospheric warren of narrow streets, lined with pretty cafes, restaurants, and shops. Your best bet is to start on the Stradun, the main street in the Old Town. It’s straight and wide, paved with shimmering limestone, which catches the sun beautifully in the middle of the day. From here take a left, or a right, and immerse yourself in the city. Don’t worry about getting lost, the Old Town is not that big, and worst case, you can follow the walls!
5. Take a breather on Lokrum Island
One of the best things to do in Dubrovnik is to take a 10-minute ferry ride from the port to the island of Lokrum. It’s night and day compared to the hustle and bustle of the city. Lokrum is covered almost entirely in pine forest, with plenty of serene walking trails to follow. The island is a nature reserve and is today uninhabited by people. There’s a small Benedictine monastery that acts as a restaurant in summer, and peacocks roam the island, having been brought over by Austrian Archduke Maximilian I of Mexico. The archduke had a holiday home on the island in the 19th century and was responsible for the botanical gardens which survive today. There are also plenty of natural coves for swimming.
6. Hit the beach
Most of the beaches around Dubrovnik and indeed along this stretch of Adriatic coast are shingle, rather than sand. But the attraction doesn’t come from this, but the azure blue water, perfect for swimming and snorkelling. Banje Beach is closest to the Old Town, with calm water and accessible showers and sun loungers (for a fee). Lapad Beach is a good size, fringed with bars and restaurants in a peaceful pedestrian area. The beaches on the aforementioned Lokrum actually do boast sand over shingle, and the tiny Sulic Beach is great for a dip – and another site TV fans will recognize from Game of Thrones!
7. Cross the new Peljesac Bridge
A stunning new bridge opened in July 2022, connecting the Croatian mainland with the Peljesac Peninsula and Southern Dalmatia, which is where Dubrovnik is located. The 2.4-kilometre bridge ends the woes of travellers and locals alike who previously had to pass through neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach Dubrovnik. This meant border checks and traffic delays, which are now a thing of the past. Journey times from Southern Dalmatia to the rest of Croatia have been cut by 37 minutes and a previous feeling of isolation by locals in the region is no more. And the bridge itself is spectacular, crossing the Bay of Mali Ston. If you’re in Dubrovnik and want to see the bridge for yourself then you’ll need to hire a car, but this mammoth $525 million architectural project is well worth a visit.
On our Western Balkans Discovery tour, we’ll cross the Peljesac Bridge on our journey to Dubrovnik from Split!
8. Try the wine
Sun-kissed Croatia is famous for its wine, and you won’t struggle to find a plethora of wine bars dotted around the city. If you’ve got the time, you can also head out on a day trip to the Peljesac Peninsula. The region produces some of Croatia’s best red wines, made from the locally grown Mali Plavac grape. Many wineries in the region are open for tasting tours, and of course, you’ll be able to buy a bottle or two to bring home with you.
When to visit
The summer months from June to August are peak season in Croatia, boasting the best weather. However, the Old Town can get busy, especially during the school holidays. And Dubrovnik is a well-known cruise ship port, which can bring an influx of visitors. The shoulder seasons of April to May and September to October are much quieter (and cheaper), but still warm enough to enjoy the city. Easter is also a great time to visit. It is celebrated enthusiastically in all of Croatia, but especially in Dubrovnik’s region of Dalmatia. Ceremonies and processions take place, and brightly coloured Easter eggs are given out in communities.
All of our Croatia sailing holidays and the majority of group tours start or end in Dubrovnik, so you’ll have plenty of time to experience some of these activities for yourself!