3 Days In Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is easily one of our favorite places in the world. It has a pristine quality and magical charm unlike anywhere else I’ve visited. It’s no wonder the Game of Thrones creators chose the city of Dubrovnik and much of Croatia as the backdrop for its fantastical world.
The city of Dubrovnik is what first put Croatia on the map for me. One photo of the majestic medieval town and my giddy yet methodical “how am I going to make this happen” brain took over. It took us two years to make it a reality, but it was completely worth the wait.
During our travels through Croatia, we spent 3 days in Dubrovnik and found that to be enough time to get a glimpse of the highlights that this extraordinary city has to offer.
Here is our complete travel guide for the perfect Dubrovnik 3-day itinerary and our best travel tips on how to make your stay more enjoyable.
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Best time to visit Dubrovnik
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when planning a trip to Dubrovnik is figuring out the best time to visit. Thousands upon thousands flock to Croatia to experience the unparalleled allure of the UNESCO world heritage site and the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic. While tourism is great for the economy, it can be hard to experience the beauty when you’re trying to squeeze through narrow alleys with fellow camera-wielding, selfie-taking, sweaty tourists. On top of the visitors who drive or fly in, huge cruise ships roll in and dump thousands of people every day into the Old Town. There is talk of limiting the number of cruise ships allowed into the city to two a day to retain the quality of life for its inhabitants, which we strongly support.
If you’re going to visit in July or August, be prepared for the crowds. If you’re able to, you will have a much more enjoyable (and cheaper!) time from May to mid-June or mid-September to October. We went in mid-September, and the weather was perfect; it was still warm enough to swim in the water, and the crowds were not an issue at all.
Here is the average weather in Dubrovnik.
How many days do I need in Dubrovnik?
While planning your own itinerary, you might be wondering…is three days enough in Dubrovnik? For us, three days in Dubrovnik is the sweet spot for how long to spend in the city. It allows you to do an excursion, explore the Old Town, and spend some time lazing by the glorious aquamarine waters of the Adriatic.
If you can spend more time in the area, I would definitely do it! There’s a lot to do and there are plenty of day trips from Dubrovnik that are all-day events.
If you are tight on time, plan for at least 1 1/2 to two days in Dubrovnik.
How to avoid the crowds in Dubrovnik
In 2018, 4.2 million people visited Dubrovnik. That’s a lot of people. Besides going at an ideal time of year, the absolute best tip I can give you is to plan your 3 day Dubrovnik itinerary around the comings and goings of the cruise ships.
When we visited, I checked the cruise ship schedule to see how many people were expected to be on the boat to get an idea of the crowds. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the online schedule I used since the pandemic has changed what’s available.
If you can find a cruise ship schedule, you’ll want to look out for the number of people on each ship, which port it’s arriving at, what time the boat docks, and when it leaves port. We planned our day trip to Lokrum for the day when the old town would be the most crowded.
You can also use this tool, which predicts how crowded the Old Town will be each day. If you can’t avoid crowds, plan to visit the Old Town in the late afternoon when cruise ship visitors will have returned to the ship. You could also opt to arrive in the early morning, around 7:45 AM.
How to get to Dubrovnik
If you’re flying into Croatia, you can fly directly into the city at Dubrovnik Airport. If you’re on a budget, you might want to check the airfare costs for flying into Split or Zagreb and either driving or taking a bus to Dubrovnik.
TIP: Check Skyscanner for the best airfare to Dubrovnik and to set up a price fare alert.
The Dubrovnik Airport is about 20 minutes away from the city center by taxi. You can also opt for a shuttle bus or public transportation which will take roughly 40 minutes. Check here for different shuttle options from the airport. You can also arrange a private transfer ahead of time. Check here to book a private transfer.
Best area to stay in Dubrovnik
The Old Town is the section of the city surrounded by the city walls built in the 13th century. It is a car-free zone and the main draw of Dubrovnik. Many choose to stay here, and it’s a great place to stay if you want to be in the center of everything. Hotels and home rental options tend to be more expensive, and because it is a walled city, you’re unlikely to find a place with a seaside view.
Ploce is the area outside of the Ploce gate entrance to Old Town. The advantages of staying there are the lower prices and because it is built on a steep hill, you can find a hotel or home rental with a stunning view of the sea and the Old Town. It’s also quieter than Old Town. The drawbacks are that it can be a 5-10 minute walk into the Old Town, and depending on where you are on the hill, there will be a lot of stairs to contend with.
Pile is the area right outside the second entrance to the old town, referenced as the Pile gate. Like Ploce, it offers easy access to the Old Town and is closer to Fort Lovrijenac Fortress.
Lapad is 3km from the Old Town and is a lush oasis with seafront hotels. It’s not within walking distance to the Old Town, so you’ll need to take a bus or an Uber when wanting to access the Old Town. The advantage of staying here is that it’s quieter and not as tourist-driven.
Ultimately, we chose to stay in Ploce at a lovely apartment rental because we didn’t mind the workout (more gelato!), and we wanted a place that would be quiet and not in the hustle and bustle of the Old Town. If you’re going to stay outside of the Old Town, but the thought of stairs in 85-degree heat feels daunting, you can always Uber back and forth. It costs roughly 4-6 dollars one way. We don’t judge you.
Other highly-rated hotels in Dubrovnik include:
Or, you can compare other hotels in Dubrovnik here.
We prefer to do home/apartmental rentals over conventional hotels, because we can cut costs by having breakfast at home and even having a few dinners in. The rental we stayed at is no longer available, but there are many options from basic to extravagent. Here are a few beautiful apartment rentals in Dubrovnik:
TIP: If you stay in the Ploce or Pile area, make sure you have luggage that you can easily carry up stairs. A backpack or duffel would be best, but you can also be like us, and fasten backpack straps onto your roller luggage. Something like this will do the trick. We looked like ridiculous tourists… but we didn’t have to buy new luggage. Bam! More money for gelato.
THREE DAYS IN DUBROVNIK ITINERARY
Let’s dive into how to spend an unforgettable 3 days in Dubrovnik. This is the itinerary we made that includes what to see in Dubrovnik and fun tour options. You can use it as jumping off point for making your own itinerary for Dubrovnik.
Day 1: Explore Old Town
1. Walk the Old Town Walls
This is the day to explore the ins and outs of the old city. We suggest you get up early (you can do it) and walk the walls of the old town right when it opens at 8:00 A.M. The advantage of getting there early is it will be less crowded (the path is narrow in sections) and the heat won’t be in full force yet.
The entire loop can only be done one way and takes about two hours to complete. There are small concession stands with vendors selling drinks and snacks along the walk.
Conversely, you can also choose to do the walk in the late afternoon when the cruise ship crowds have hopefully subsided.
If you want a guide to give context to all the sights you’re seeing you can do this sunset-guided walking tour of the walls. It’s highly recommended for those who love history and architecture.
Tip: Wear a hat and sunscreen since there will be no shade along the entire walk.
After the walk, spend some time milling about the Old Town and seeing where your feet take you. We enjoyed exploring off of the Stradun (the main street of Old Town) and getting a feel for how the locals live. While it’s true that most locals have moved outside of the city walls, most likely due to the massive influx of tourism, there are a few locals still milling about, as evidenced by the ones we saw doing the normal humdrum activities of everyday life.
2. Buza Bar
Mid-day, grab a drink at tourist hot spot Buza. The name Buza translates to “hole,” which refers to its entrance essentially being a hole in the wall. At one point, this place was an undiscovered gem, but it’s safe to say the cat is out of the bag with this cliffside bar.
The only reason it retains an air of mystery is that it can be hard to find! We’ll let you solve the puzzle, but here’s a hint: Look for the yellow sign that says “cold drinks with the most beautiful view.”
Its popularity lies in the views since the bar is built on the city’s limestone outer walls. Its location makes it a prime spot for cliff diving and enjoying the sunset. Even though we aren’t big drinkers, we went to see what it was about and potentially do some cliff jumping.
The day we visited, the sea looked like she was ready to swallow anyone who dared enter. Since then, we have read that many people have not only injured themselves but leaped to their death, soooo… probably not the best spot if you’re an inexperienced jumper and swimmer.
3. Fort Lovrijenac
Afterward, walk out of the city walls through the Pile Gate and head to Fort Lovrijenjac. Admission is included with your City Walls entrance fee. If you’re a Game Of Thrones fan, you’ll recognize it as the Red Keep. The fort is, of course, more than a Game of Thrones filming location and is often referred to as “Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar.” It is worth going to for its rich history, but also for the stunning views of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic. A must-see. The fort is perched high, so you will need to take the stairs.
Tip: Keep your eyes peeled for the Latin quote, “Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro” inscribed above the entrance to the fort. It translates to, “Freedom is not to be sold for all the gold of the world.”
4. Banje Beach or Sulici Beach
At this point, we chose to spend the rest of our afternoon playing in the waters of Sulici Beach just beyond Fort Lovrijenajc. The two beaches that flank the old town are Banje Beach and Sulici Beach. Banje Beach, closer to the Ploce Gate, is extraordinary for its aquamarine water and stellar views of the Old Town.
It is more of a typical holiday beach that offers food, drinks, and sun umbrellas for rent. It is often crowded, so be prepared to fling your towel on the pebble beach as all the sun chairs may be gone. Also, you have to pay for them. While we chose to spend our time at the other beach, Banje Beach at sunset is spectacular. It’s quite magical to be there in the late afternoon sun with the Old Town as your view.
Sulici is a tiny beach on the other side of the city walls near the Pile Entrance. It doesn’t offer much in the way of lounging and is more for those who enjoy swimming and being away from crowds. The day we were there, we noticed that locals or visiting Croatians were enjoying this section more since everyone seemed to be speaking Croatian. As with most beaches in Croatia, it is a pebble beach, so swim shoes are always a good choice when visiting.
Day 2: Lokrum Island and Dubrovnik Symphony
1. Lokrum Island
Catch a ferry in the morning and spend a half-day at Lokrum Island. Lokrum is a peaceful uninhabited island, perfect for a leisurely day of exploring and swimming. Rustic paths intersecting the small island lead you to a deserted Benedictine monastery, botanical gardens, an old fort, olives groves, and wild peacocks.
We loved swimming in the “Dead Sea,” a salt lake swimming hole formed over time through storms and erosion and a series of underground channels that connect to the sea. The lake is 10 meters deep and a popular spot for cliff jumping.
If you’re looking to laze around in the Mediterranean heat, you’ll probably want to wander off to one of the many beaches and coves. There is also a nude beach on the southern part of the island. We parked ourselves on the eastern part of the island, where there are several semi-flat rocky formations you can lay out on and climb into the sparkling water via the many ladders built onto the rocks.
It’s a small island, but the terrain can be rocky, so you’ll want to wear shoes you can comfortably walk around the island in and shoes for navigating the rocky beaches.
Tip: A couple of small restaurants offer food and drinks on the island, but you might be better served to bring food and drinks. We knew we wanted to enjoy lazing out by the water, so we brought a couple of sandwiches to avoid getting too hungry.
Also, for my GOT fans….there’s this.
Iron throne selfies, anyone? That’s right, there’s an iron throne on the island to live out all your Game Of Thrones fantasies.
It’s unclear whether the iron throne is from the actual Game of Thrones since different stories are thrown around. The mayor claims it was donated to them as a gift from the show and others claim he is being crafty with the truth.
Regardless of whether it’s the real thing, we had a lot of silly fun taking pictures on it.
Afterward, catch an afternoon ferry back to Dubrovnik so you can relax for a few hours before heading out to dinner and….the symphony!! ***The ferry leaves for Lokrum out of the Old Town Port every 1/2 hour starting at 9:00 AM and takes 15 minutes to get there. You can find the ferry schedule for both ways here. The fare is 150 Kuna and includes your entrance fee to the nature reserve and your return ferry.
2. Dinner and The Dubrovnik Symphony at Rector’s Palace
This was one of the absolute highlights of our time in Dubrovnik.
We are not people who casually attend symphonies every week. In fact, before this, we had been to the symphony a total of…once. But we were strolling the streets of the Old Town and saw the advertisement for the Dubrovnik Symphony, and we thought, why not?! Beautiful haunting music within a gothic open-air Renaissance palace? Come on. That’s off-the-beaten-path fun right there. Get there a little early to walk around the palace to take in the sights and artwork. Most of the symphonies start around 9:00 PM, so you can have a fun night of dinner and the symphony. You can see the full schedule for the Dubrovnik Orchestra here.
Day 3: Hidden Beach and Cable Car
1. Beach Day- Secret Beach or Dance Beach
This was the last day of our 2 1/2 weeks in Croatia, so we weren’t looking to do much on our last day. This is perfect if you’re looking for a relaxed last day before you head home, but if you want more activity and sightseeing, scroll down to where we offer other fantastic sights and excursions around Dubrovnik.
We had gotten a tip from the woman who managed the apartment rental we were staying at that there was a great hidden beach about a 20-minute walk outside of Old Town. Quiet, uncrowded beach..ding, ding, ding. I would love to tell you the name and the exact way to get there, but I don’t know the name, and….I can’t remember how to get there.
For what it’s worth, we loved it there. It’s a rocky area where there are a few semi-flat surfaces you can hang out on. The water is spectacular, and there are spots for great cliff jumping. The whole time we were there, there were never more than six to eight people there. If you’re looking for a vibrant beach scene with amenities, I don’t recommend you come here.
I do remember from the Ploce gate you walk away from the Old Town towards the high-end hotels that line the cliffs. You take a right and go down a series of stairs to where you can find a spot to perch on the rocks and climb ladders to swim in the sea or jump off the high rocks if you want a little more thrill.
It’s a treasure hunt. I hope you find it.
If you’re not up for a hidden beach treasure hunt, Dance Beach is another off-the-beaten-path beach that’s walkable from Old Town.
2. Cable Car and Panorama Restaurant
After lazing around, we took the famous cable car up to the top of Mt. Srd. It’s a well-trodden tourist spot because of the stunning views of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea. The best time to go is just before sunset to get those fantastic sunset colors. It is a popular thing to do but absolutely worth it. You can purchase tickets here.
A restaurant sits at the top called Panorama with above-average food, but you will need to make a reservation ahead of time, especially if it’s the summer months. We didn’t have a reservation, but we had heard if you show up early, there’s a chance you could snag a table. We showed up at 5:00 PM, thinking we would take a chance, and if it didn’t work out, we could always watch the sunset and head back down for dinner.
Lo and behold, they told us we could have a table if we were willing to be out by a certain time. Yes, please! We ended up getting one of the best seats available. So if you don’t manage a reservation, you can always take your chances and show up as we did.
Guided Tours and Day trips from Dubrovnik
If you have an extra day or want to try out something different from our itinerary, here are some other great options for day trips in Dalmatia and fun guided tours.
- Game of Thrones Walking Tour – During our time there, we saw many people doing Game Of Thrones walking tours. We tried to listen in on the tour and glean some good trivia, but we couldn’t manage without coming off as really awkward. Nevertheless, it seemed fun and a great way to get a tour of GOT sights and the sights of Dubrovnik. A good tour will include tidbits of Dubrovnik history. Check out this highly-rated GOT tour.
- War Photo Limited Exhibit – For a sobering but profound experience, you can visit the permanent exhibit of photos that focus on war photography. In their own words, their mission is to “expose the myth of war and the intoxication of war, to let people see war as it is, raw, venal, frightening, by focusing on how war inflicts injustices on innocents and combatants alike.”
- War Walking Tour – For anyone interested in learning more about the Croatian War of Independence and how it affected Dubrovnik.
- Kayak Tour – If you want something more active to get you out on the water, numerous kayak tours sail around the Old Town to Lokrum and take you to secluded beaches. If I were to do one of these tours, I would probably go for the sunset ride that has you returning during sunset.
- Take a day trip to Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor. If we had stayed one more day, this is without a doubt what I would have added to our itinerary. Depending on when you go, it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to get there by car. It will be more economical to take a bus or go with a tour guide, but if you can, renting a car offers you complete time freedom.
- Take a day trip to Mostar in Bosnia. Mostar is a little further and takes about 2.5 hours if you get a rental car. You can take a tour, and the bus ride will take slightly longer due to border crossings. A lovely option if you want a glimpse of a different country.
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