top of page

The 'Pearl of the Adriatic': A Travel Guide to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

Nestled on the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is a gem of historic architecture, rugged beauty, and vibrant culture. Known as the 'Pearl of the Adriatic,' this stunning Croatian city perfectly balances the allure of the past with the buzz of the present. As you wander the limestone streets, explore majestic fortresses, and savor mouth-watering Dalmatian delicacies, you'll quickly discover why Dubrovnik has become a bucket-list destination for digital nomads and travelers alike. This guide will provide insights into navigating this enchanting city, ensuring you make the most of your Dubrovnik adventure.



Dubrovnik Travel Guide
Old Town Dubrovnik


History of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, a city with a unique cultural and historical heritage, has been a significant Mediterranean sea power since the 13th century. The Old Town, with its well-preserved fortifications and remarkable Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979. From its role as a free state in the Middle Ages to its recent fame as a filming location for 'Game of Thrones,' Dubrovnik's fascinating past continues to captivate visitors.


This barely scratches the surface of Dubrovnik's 1300 ears of history, but we offer more detail in this article.

Transportation

The best way to explore the Old Town is on foot. Cars are not allowed within the city walls, but the town is small enough to be navigated by walking. Even the nearby neighborhoods, described below, are well within walking distance, although Ubers are so cheap, they're an easy choice to save you a few steps. To get from Lapad to Old Town, expect to pay just 5-10 Euros. Taxis are also widely available but expect to pay double the cost of an Uber.

Safety

Dubrovnik is generally safe and welcoming to tourists. However, like any popular tourist destination, it's important to be aware of your belongings at all times, especially in crowded areas.

Neighborhood Guide

Dubrovnik is composed of several distinctive neighborhoods, each offering a unique charm and experience for visitors. Here's a deeper dive into a few noteworthy areas:

  • Old Town: Also known as Stari Grad, the Old Town is the heart and soul of Dubrovnik. Enclosed within medieval stone walls, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a labyrinth of narrow, winding lanes and cobblestone squares, brimming with Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque palaces, churches, and monasteries. The main thoroughfare, Stradun, is filled with boutiques, cafés, and restaurants that bring the street to life day and night.

  • Ploče: To the east of the Old Town, Ploče is a hillside neighborhood boasting splendid views over the city and the sea. The area features many high-end accommodations, including Hotel Excelsior and Villa Orsula, and is home to Banje Beach, the most popular (and often crowded) beach in Dubrovnik. Nearby, you'll find the historical Lazareti complex, once a quarantine facility, now hosting cultural events and art exhibitions.

  • Lapad: Lapad Peninsula, northwest of the Old Town, is a residential area known for its extensive pedestrian zone, beautiful seafront promenade, and large sandy beaches like Lapad Bay. The area offers a more relaxed vibe compared to the Old Town and features numerous restaurants, bars, and shops.

  • Gruž: This neighborhood is where the city's port is located and is usually the first point of contact for those arriving by ferry. Gruž Market, open every morning, is the perfect place to buy fresh local fruits, vegetables, and other regional products.

  • Babin Kuk: Situated at the very tip of the Lapad Peninsula, Babin Kuk is known for its green spaces, resort hotels, and beautiful pebble and rock beaches. The neighborhood offers excellent walking paths, including a pleasant stroll around the peninsula that affords spectacular views. Copacabana Beach, one of Dubrovnik's largest, is located here and is a great place for water sports.




These neighborhoods, each with its own charm and character, combine to make Dubrovnik a city of diverse experiences, ready to cater to every traveler's taste and preference. From historical monuments to tranquil beaches, and bustling markets to charming lanes, every neighborhood in Dubrovnik has its own story to tell.


Key Sights or Must-See Places

  • Dubrovnik City Walls: For a small fee, you can walk the city's ancient walls, offering breathtaking views of the town and sea.

  • Rector's Palace: A Gothic-Renaissance structure that now houses a museum dedicated to the city's history.

  • Fort Lovrijenac: Known as "Dubrovnik's Gibraltar," this fort offers another perspective of the city and the sea. This castle, with a few CGI updates, serves as Game Of Thrones' Red Keep.

  • Stradun: The main street in the Old Town, filled with shops and restaurants. Known as the most beautiful street in the world, it offers a beautifully maintained medieval setting.

  • Game of Thrones Walking Tour: Walk through Kings Landing to see all of the settings used to film the HBO hit series.

  • Cave Bar: Nestled inside a literal cave under the Lapad Promenade, this bar offers a unique setting you can't miss. It also has a sundeck on the water, so you can dive right into the sea from your lunch table.

  • Lapad Promenade: This seaside walking path sports many bars, restaurants, Sunset Beach, and breathtaking views of the Adriatic.

  • Lokrum Island: Just a 10-minute ferry ride from Old Town's marina this island has an intriguing history and was used to film the GOT party in Qarth.


Dubrovnik and Game of Thrones


For fans of the wildly popular HBO series 'Game of Thrones,' Dubrovnik needs no introduction. Serving as the real-life backdrop for the fictional capital of King's Landing, the city's historic streets, ancient city walls, and Fort Lovrijenac became instantly recognizable locations throughout the show's eight seasons.


Walking through Dubrovnik's Old Town, you'll find yourself retracing the steps of characters like Tyrion, Cersei, and Daenerys. The city's stunning locations provided the setting for many memorable scenes, including Cersei's infamous Walk of Shame down the Jesuit Staircase next to the Church of St Ignatius, and the Battle of Blackwater at Fort Lovrijenac.


Several local companies offer guided 'Game of Thrones tours, taking fans to key filming locations while offering insights into the production process. These tours often include visits to nearby Trsteno Arboretum, which served as the palace gardens in the series. Even if you're not a fan of the show, exploring these iconic locations offers a unique way to appreciate Dubrovnik's architectural and cultural heritage.


Whether you're retracing the steps of the show's beloved characters or simply soaking in the city's history, Dubrovnik's connection to 'Game of Thrones adds another exciting layer to your Croatian adventure.

The Red Keep, overlooking Black Water Bay - Dubrovnik Travel Guide
The Red Keep, overlooking Black Water Bay

Food

Dubrovnik's cuisine reflects its location on the Adriatic Sea. Fresh seafood is a staple, with dishes like black risotto (made with cuttlefish ink) and buzara (mussels in a wine broth). Truffles, prosciutto, and local cheeses are other regional specialties. For dessert, try rozata, a local pudding similar to flan.


Don't miss out on trying the local specialty "peka". This dish is typically made with veal or octopus, along with vegetables, and is slowly cooked under a bell-like dome, or ispod čripnje, covered with live coals. It's a social dish that requires time to prepare and is often associated with celebrations or family gatherings.


Dalmatian cuisine, characterized by simple, high-quality ingredients and traditional recipes, is an essential part of the Dubrovnik experience. Let's explore the gastronomic delights this city has to offer:

  • Seafood: Given its location, it's no surprise that seafood takes center stage in Dubrovnik's gastronomy. Enjoy traditional dishes like 'buzara' (scampi, mussels or clams sautéed with garlic, olive oil, parsley, and white wine), octopus salad, or black risotto, a squid ink-infused dish that is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

  • Meat and Cheese: Dalmatian prosciutto ('pršut') and cheese from the island of Pag are a must-try. Peka, a traditional way of preparing food under a bell-like dome or 'ispod čripnje', is another delicious experience, often featuring veal, lamb, or octopus.

  • Plavac Mali Wine: When it comes to wine, Plavac Mali is the crown jewel of southern Croatia. This robust red wine has a high alcohol content and is known for its rich flavor and strong tannins. Wine tours are available throughout the region, where you can learn about the winemaking process and sample different vintages.

  • Nearby Influence: Croatia's position in the Mediterranean and proximity to countries like Italy, Greece, and Turkey, influences its cuisine. Italian-style pastas and risottos, Greek-style salads, and Turkish-inspired sweets like baklava can be found throughout Dubrovnik's restaurants.

  • Sweet Treats: Don't leave without trying 'rozata', a local dessert similar to flan, and 'arancini', candied orange peels that are a favorite local sweet treat.

Eating in Dubrovnik is an adventure in itself - from traditional konoba (tavern) to upscale restaurants, from street food to wine tasting. You'll not only discover the rich gastronomy but also the culture and the history of this region, reflected in every dish and every glass of wine.

Tipping in Dubrovnik


Tipping in Dubrovnik, as in much of Croatia, is not obligatory but is generally appreciated. In restaurants and cafés, it's common to leave a tip of around 10-15% if you're happy with the service. However, you should feel free to tip more or less depending on the quality of the service. It's worth noting that some establishments may include a service charge in the bill, so it's a good idea to check before tipping.


In other service industries such as taxis or hairdressers, rounding up the bill to the nearest round number is usually sufficient. For hotel staff such as porters or cleaning staff, a small tip of a few kunas is always a nice gesture.


Language in Dubrovnik


The official language of Dubrovnik is Croatian. It is a South Slavic language and may be difficult to grasp for first-time visitors. However, English is widely spoken, particularly among the younger generation and those working in tourism or service industries. This means that as a tourist, you should have little difficulty getting by with English.


It's worth learning a few basic phrases in Croatian though, as it's always appreciated by locals and can make your experience more enriching. Simple words like "Dobar dan" (Good day), "Hvala" (Thank you), and "Molim" (Please) can go a long way.


Also, bear in mind that Croatian uses the Latin alphabet, just like English, which makes reading signs and menus a lot easier. However, the pronunciation can be quite different, so don't be surprised if you hear words that don't sound as you'd expect!


In any case, don't let language barriers deter you - Croatians are generally friendly and will gladly help you out if you need directions or have questions.

Nearby Attractions

  • Lokrum Island: Just a 15-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik, this island is perfect for a day trip.

  • Elaphiti Islands: These picturesque islands, known for their lush vegetation and sandy beaches, are just a short boat ride away.

  • Pelješac Peninsula: Renowned for its vineyards, it's the perfect destination for wine lovers.

Conclusion

Dubrovnik is a city of immense charm and historical significance, and its stunning Adriatic setting is sure to captivate every traveler. Whether you're walking the city walls, exploring the vibrant neighborhoods, or tasting local specialties, Dubrovnik promises an unforgettable experience. Safe travels!


Comentarios


bottom of page