*This trip was made before we had our son, so this itinerary is best suited for those traveling without a toddler. Many of the options mentioned can still be done with a young child, but the itinerary was not planned with the needs of young ones at the forefront.
3 Days In Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is easily one of our favorite places in the world. It has a pristine quality and magical charm that is unlike anywhere else I have been. It’s no wonder that the Game of Thrones creators chose the city of Dubrovnik and much of Croatia as the backdrop for it’s fantastical world. The city of Dubrovnik is what first put Croatia on the map for me. One photo of the majestic medieval city 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 and itinerary to three days in Dubrovnik as well as our best travel tips on how to make your stay more enjoyable.
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Table of Contents
Best time to visit Dubrovnik
This is perhaps the most important thing to consider when planning a visit to Dubrovnik. Thousands upon thousands flock to Croatia to experience the unparalleled allure of the Adriatic. While tourism is great for the economy, it can admittedly be hard to experience the beauty when you’re trying to squeeze through narrow alleys with camera wielding, selfie taking, sweaty tourists. To make it even more cozy, every day huge cruise ships roll in and dump thousands of people into the Old Town. There is talk of limiting the amount of cruise ships allowed into the city to two a day to retain the quality of life for it’s inhabitants, which we strongly support.
Nevertheless, 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 if you go in May to mid June or mid September to October. We went in mid September and the weather was perfect and the crowds were not an issue at all.
How to avoid the crowds in Dubrovnik
In 2018, 4.2 million people visited Dubrovnik. That’s a whole lot of people. Besides going at an ideal time of year, the absolute best tip I can give you is to check the cruise schedule here and plan your itinerary around the comings and goings of the cruise ships. It does cost around $1 to see the schedule, but it is well worth it. You can find free cruise ship schedules online, but this schedule is more comprehensive and easily lays out the amount of people on each ship, which port it’s arriving at, as well as what time the boat docks and when it leaves port. Trust me, get the schedule and navigating your trip around it will go a long way towards allowing you to enjoy your time in the Old Town. We planned our day trip to Lokrum for the day when the old town would be the most crowded.
Best area to stay in Dubrovnik : Old Town vs Ploce
The old town is the section of the city that is completely 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 Airbnb options do tend to be more expensive and because it is a walled city, you’re unlikely to find a place that has a seaside view.
Ploce is the area right outside of the Ploce gate entrance to Old Town. The advantages of staying there are the cheaper prices and because it is built on a steep hill has the potential of a stunning view of not only the sea but the Old Town. The drawbacks are that it can be a 5-10 minute walk into the Old Town and depending on where you are located on the hill, there will be a lot of stairs to contend with.
Ultimately, we chose to stay in Ploce at a lovely Airbnb 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 want to stay outside of the Old Town but the thought of stairs in 90 degree heat feels daunting, you can always Uber back and forth. It costs 4-6 dollars one way. We don’t judge you.
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Day 1: Explore Old Town
Walk the 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. The best thing to do is consult the handy dandy cruise ship table link I gave you above and see when the ships are arriving and leaving and plan accordingly.
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 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 it’s 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 because 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.” It’s popularity lies in the views it gives since the bar is built on to the limestone outer walls of the city. It’s 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 to potentially do some cliff jumping. The day we visited, the sea looked like she was ready to swallow up anyone who dared enter. Since then, we have read that many people have not only injured themselves but leapt to their death, so0000… probably not the best spot if you’re an inexperienced jumper and swimmer.
3. Fort Lovrijenac
Afterwards, 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 “Dubrovniks 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 stairs.
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 it’s 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 by then. While we chose to spend our time at the other beach, it did seem magical to frolic in the late afternoon sun with the Old Town as your view.
Sulici s a very small beach on the other side of the city walls near the Pile Entrance. It doesn’t offer much in terms of lounging around and is more for those who enjoy swimming in the water 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 then 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 isand, but the terrain can be rocky so you’ll want to wear shoes you can comfortably walk around the island in as well as shoes you can navigate the rocky beaches in.
2. Dinner and The Dubrovnik Symphony at Rector’s Palace
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. You can get there a little early and walk around the palace to take in the sights and artwork within the building. 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 a lot on our last day. This is perfect if you’re looking for a relaxed last day before you head home, but if you’re wanting more activity and sightseeing, I would scroll down to where we offer other fantastic sights and excursions to do around Dubrovnik.
We had gotten a tip from the woman who managed the Airbnb we were staying at that there was a great hidden beach that the locals hung out at 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 really 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 many places for cliff jumping. The whole time we were there, there were never more than six to eight people there. If you’re looking for more of a vibrant beach scene with amenities, then I don’t recommend you come here.
I do remember from the Ploce gate you walk away from the Old Town towards the nice high end hotels that line the cliffs. At some point you take a right and go down a series of stairs to where you can do this…
It’s a treasure hunt. I hope you find it.
If you’re not up for a hidden beach treasure hunt, another off the beaten path beach that’s walkable from Old Town is Dance Beach.
2. Cable Car and Panorama Restaurant
After a day of 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, so you can get those amazing sunset colors. It is a very on the beaten path thing to do, but absolutely worth it. There is a restaurant 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 actually 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 like we did.
Day trips from Dubrovnik
If you have an extra day or want to try out something different than the itinerary we did, here are some other great options for day trips close to the city 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 it without coming off as really awkward. Nevertheless, it seemed really fun and a great way to get a tour of not only GOT sights, but the sights of Dubrovnik. A good tour will include tidbits of Dubrovnik history.
- War Photo 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’re wanting something more active and will get you out on the water, there are numerous kayak tours that 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. I’m so bummed we didn’t make it there, that I might go back, just so I can go to Montenegro! 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 a little longer due to border crossings. This is a lovely option if you want a glimpse of this beautiful area of the country.