Highlights and Lowlights of Dubrovnik, Croatia

dubrovnik croatia header

Dubrovnik, otherwise known as ‘the Pearl of the Adriatic’ is at the top of every traveller’s Croatia wish list. It is spectacular, incredibly photogenic, and has one activity which ranks up there as one of our all-time favorite travel experiences. You can’t skip Dubrovnik if coming to Croatia. But is it our favorite Croatian destination? No. I’ll explain why.

In this post I’ll cover what we like about Dubrovnik as well as cover a few aspects we liked less. I’ll tell you what to see and do, how much time to allocate to your visit, and how to best spend your money. Because a visit here can make you poor very quickly. I’ve also got a lot of photos below. You tend to go photo-crazy in Dubrovnik.

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The Ultimate Dubrovnik Activity – A Walk around the City Walls

One activity ranks above anything else you can do in Dubrovnik: a walk around the city walls. It is not cheap (100 Kunas/person, about $18 CAD or $15 US) but you will be blown away by the views of the city. It is spectacular and you can easily spend 2-3 hours doing the circuitous route around the top of the city. A few photos:

sights from walls in Dubrovnik

sights along the walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Below: that’s the St. Lawrence Fortress to the right.

sights along the walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia (4)

Below: views down the Stradun.

sights along the wall in Dubrovnik, croatia (2)

views along the wall in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Below: the seaward side has great views of the coastline and features a few bars along the way.

sights along the walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia (8)

sights along the walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia (9)ed

Tip: Start at the Ploce Gate (it means coming downhill for the best views), try to plan your excursion starting in the late afternoon leaving yourself 3 hours, check on the closing time which varies from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm in the summer (see here).

sights along the walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia (10)

I would plan all activities around the ‘Wall Walk’. It is one of the most impressive and fun excursions we’ve had anywhere and although not cheap worth every penny.

Note: See the St. Lawrence fortress on the same day (which would cost 30 Kunas by itself, i.e. almost $5 US) and you’ll have the cost discounted from the price of you ticket (i.e. Instead of 100 Kunas, you’ll pay 70 kunas for the Wall Walk).

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A Walking Tour of Dubrovnik

You can do your own walking tour of Dubrovnik, no need to take one of those group tours.

Start outside the Pile Gate and walk to the St. Lawrence Fortress. You’ll get great views of the Old City from there.

Below: A few photos from the St. Lawrence Fortress.

St. Lawrence Fortress, Dubrovnik views

cannon, st. lawrence fortress, dubrovnik

St. Lawrence Fortress, Dubrovnik, Croatia - cannon

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After you’ve seen the St. Lawrence Fortress, walk back through the Pile Gate and see, in order: Big Onofrio’s fountain, St. Saviour Church, and the Franciscan Monastery.

Below: Entrance to the Pile Gate. It is very impressive at night.

Pile Gate, Dubrovnik

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Below: Big Onofrio’s fountain was built in 1440 and was the ending point of an aqueduct system that brought water from the mountains 12km away.

Big Onofrio's fountain and St Savior Church

Below (also seen above): St. Saviour Church was built to appease God for saving Dubrovnik from a bad earthquake in 1550. Ironically, it was one of few structures not to be destroyed in the 1667 earthquake.

st. Savior church

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Below: Next to St. Saviour Church is a Franciscan Monastery which also has a Pharmacy museum (it has the 3rd oldest functioning pharmacy in the world). You have to pay to get into the gates of the monastery – but if you just stick your head in like we did you can see  one of the most beautiful cloisters (i.e. open gallery) in Dubrovnik.

inside franciscan monastery

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The Stradun (below left) is the main street in Old Dubrovnik and runs 300 meters from the inner Pile Gate (Western Gate) and inner Ploce Gate (Eastern Gate). If you walk to the end of it you’ll see more of the city’s highlights including the Bell Tower (below right), the Sponza Palace, St. Blasius Church and the Rector’s Palace.

views of the Stradun and bell tower Dubrovnik, croatia

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Below: right next to the Bell Tower is the Sponza Palace. It was built in the early 1550’s and survived the 1667 earthquake. It was a very important building in Dubrovnik, containing the mint, the treasury, and the armoury. There is a photo gallery inside dedicated to defenders of the city who died in the 1991 war against the Serbs and Montenegrins. It is worth seeing (and free).

sponza palace

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Below: St. Blasius Church, built in 1715 by a Venetian architect on the spot where a previous church had been destroyed in the 1667 earthquake. In front of the church is the Orlando Column where public proclamations would be made.

Orlando's Column and St. Blaise church, dubrovnik

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Below: The Rector’s Palace (a few photos below)  is one of Dubrovnik’s most striking buildings. The Rector presided here, keeping an eye on the city for Venice. The position of Rector seems a strange one; they had one month terms and were usually old men chosen by their ability to ‘tow the line’. Most of their duties were ceremonial.

Rectors Palace, Dubrovnik

courtyard inside Franciscan Monastery, Dubrovnik

Below: views through the arches of the Rector’s Palace. The building in the background is the Cathedral.

views of Cathedral through arches of Rectors Palace

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The Dubrovnik Cathedral is another of the city’s highlights. Legend is that it was financed by Richard the Lionhearted after he was shipwrecked on nearby Lokrum Island following his return from the Crusades in 1192. It holds the bones of Dubronik’s patron saint Saint Blasius. It has been destroyed many times by earthquakes, including the famous 1667 quake. Lots of detailed history here.

Below: photos of the Cathedral.

Dubrovnik Cathedral

painting in cathedral, dubrovnik

views towards Dubrovnik Cathedral

Dubrovnik Cathedral, croatia

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Close to Dubrovnik Cathedral a large Baroque staircase leads to the impressive St. Ignatius Church. We were actually more impressed with the interior of this church than with the interior of the Cathedral.

st. ignatius, dubrovnik

inside st, ignatius, dubrovnik

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The buildings and churches I’ve mentioned above are the historical and archaeological highlights of Dubrovnik. But half of the pleasure of Dubrovnik is wandering around the Old Town. You’ll see lots of little streets and many more churches and historical buildings.

Below: sights you’ll see walking around town.

little streets in Dubrovnik, croatia

dubrovnik views

steep streets in dubrovnik

views on a dubrovnik square

streets in Dubrovnik, croatia

church in dubrovnik

sights on the streets of dubrovnik, croatia

Dubrovnik sign

palm tree and inside ploce gate, dubrovnik

st. ignatius vendors, dubrovnik

square in Dubrovnik

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Sdr Hill. to go or not to go

Going up Srd Hill in a cable car is one of the most popular tourist activities in Dubrovnik. Is it worth it? I’m of two minds about this. A round trip ticket up in the cable car costs 108 Kuna for a return ticket (almost $17 US). Again, costs add up quick in Dubrovnik. The views are great, especially if you come at sunset. But if you’ve done the ‘Wall Walk’ you might have had enough of views. Lissette is of the opinion that it wasn’t worth it – there’s not much up there and you’ll be ready to come down after 30 minutes. So it’s not great value for money. On the other hand, look at the views:

Dubrovnik from Srd Hill

views from Srd Hill, Dubrovnik (1)

views from Srd Hill, Dubrovnik (2)

My opinion is that if you’ve come all the way to Dubrovnik it is worth splurging for. I didn’t want the regret of not having done it. And it’s a different perspective on the city as well as an experience. But it should fall far behind the Wall Walk and the Walking Tour of the Old Town.

The above are the highlights of Dubrovnik and can easily be managed in 2 full days (It can even be crammed into one day if you get up early and go full force).

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What we don’t like about Dubrovnik

Dubruvnik is a tourist town and all the things we don’t like about the town are a by product of this.

– It’s expensive. I don’t think I’ve ever paid $9 CAD for a beer anywhere else in Europe.
– It lacks the lived-in charm of a place like Split. Old Dubrovnik officially has 2000 residents but most rent out their apartments to tourists.
– The tourist hordes can be overwhelming, even in May (when we were there). We’ve been told that it is crazy June through August.
– Locals are not as friendly as other Croatian towns and cities. This can be blamed on tourist-fatigue.
– If you are renting an apartment and living in the center, you may struggle finding a grocery store, bakery, or any other kind of store supplied with other everyday items (you’ll find lots of crappy souvenir stores and gelato stands though).

Our views may be biased – we’ve been slow-travelling over the last year and have gained much more of an appreciation for places where we can see ourselves staying for an extended period of time. If you had asked us a few years ago (when we travelled as tourists) what we thought of Dubrovnik we would probably have said it was spectacular and a fantastic place, with no reservations of any kind. It all depends on how you’re travelling.

wedding in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Above: Wedding party celebrating through the streets of Dubrovnik.

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We are happy that we got to see Dubrovnik. It is spectacular and we had some ‘Wow’ moments climbing the walls and walking the old town. But when we left after 3 nights it was with no regrets or remorse or really any desire to come back. It didn’t tug at our heartstrings like Split or our next destination (a place that would blow us away with both its natural beauty and charm).

Despite the above, make sure that you see Dubrovnik if visiting Croatia. It is an essential experience when in the region.

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Practical information

– Dubrovnik is a 4 hour bus ride from Split. The bus station in Dubrovnik is impractical, being situated a 10 minute ride out of the Old Town.A taxi will cost about 80 Kunas (or 12 Euro) into town.
We rented an Airbnb apartment in Dubrovnik. While not cheap ($140/night after fees) it was perfectly located and a beautiful apartment. And we saved money by cooking (restaurants in Dubrovnik are very expensive). There’s a Konzum grocery store tucked away near the Cathedral.
– The city pushes its Dubrovnik Card as a saving to some museums, galleries, and public transportation. My opinion: The 1 and 3 day cards are not worth it because the major highlights (the ones you would see in such a short period) are not included in the card. If you are staying a week I would definitely recommend it, chances are you will be using all that it offers during that period.
– If you can, visit in the shoulder seasons (i.e. avoid June – August). The weather is bearable and there are less crowds. Crowds are the reason most locals have moved out of the Old Town.

 

Have you been to Dubrovnik? What were your favorite highlights? Anything you didn’t like?

 

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Comments

  1. Your photos are fantastic! Like you said, I could definitely see myself going photo crazy here! Too bad everything is so expensive, but I tend to agree with you- if you’ve made the trip all the way there, some things you just have to splurge on or regret having not done them. Great post!
    Rhonda Krause recently posted…Two Weeks in Japan- Our Itinerary’s Hits and MissesMy Profile

  2. A lot of it sort of reminds me of Malta’s capital, Valletta, except it’s all old streets, no lovely red roofs. It looks lovely, but l have heard the same from at least 3 people about the costs and hordes of people. It’s on my list, but not high on it. Your pictures are beautiful! I am looking forward to your next destination, it sounds great!!!
    Kemkem recently posted…Poblenou – Barcelona’s emerging hipster area & Podcast.My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Yes, I’ve seen photos of Valetta and it also looks beautiful. Many of the roofs in Dubrovnik are new, rebuilt after the 1991 war. If you look closely at some of the photos you can tell between the newer ones and the older ones that made it without damage.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment Kemkem 🙂

  3. Thanks for bringing back some great memories. You are right about the crowds and the costs. Regarding Srd Mountain, we took the easy way up, but friends walked up and said it was quite doable. No crowds on the path up either!
    Paul at “No Pension Will Travel” recently posted…Cycling in the southern Dalmatian IslandsMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Paul. Yes, we saw a few people doing it. It takes about 90 minutes up. I think doing it by cable car was fun though, part of the experience.
      Glad I could bring up memories 🙂

  4. That is one fat cat! Ha! Ha! Ha! Love all of the photos, truly makes me want to visit and find all of those places you’ve photographed.
    Patti recently posted…Putting a Face on Iran: Arrival ~My Profile

  5. Thanks for the wonderful pictures! Dubrovnik and Croatia in general are one of the places in Europe we have had in mind for quite a long time. For traveling in Europe we always try to avoid high season, most of the time we even go in no-season (end of November, beginning of December or so) and found it great. You get great deals, locals are friendly and in many countries the weather is nice enough. We even went to Poland in January once, it was an interesting experience (Auschwitz covered in snow and minus degrees), but we strongly feel we should go back in summer. Croatia might be one of the November places….
    Natscha from Westwards recently posted…On a transit visa through TurkmenistanMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Natscha. Totally agree with shoulder seasons (early spring, fall) but trying to figure out how to do winter as slow travellers. It would mean packing our winter coats and dragging them around which is not ideal…on the other hand, would love to see parts of Germany or Prague in snow. I’ve never been to Europe in winter.
      Croatia in April and May was for us perfect. Loved it, weather was sunny and cool enough. When we left in early June we were getting some hot days…I can only imagine in July and August.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, you’ve made me think about how to figure out winter in Europe.

  6. So true! I have visited Dubrovnik and I just loved the city itself! The little streets, the red roofs, it’s all amazing and so beautiful but the prices are ridiculous! It’s like 12 EUR to enter the city walls and I think 12 EUR also for the cable car! It must have been so amazing around 10 years ago… But you can find beautiful little villages in Albania with all the charms and amazing prices and locals 🙂 But shhh, don’t tell anyone! Montenegro and Bosnia are not that off the beaten path anymore…

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Tom. Yes, we’ve had Albania (as well as Romania and Bulgaria) in mind. I’m sure we’ll get there in the near future!

  7. Breathtaking photography! Eventually we hope to make it to Croatia some time in the future after we take advantage of our time in South America. Great post and again, amazing and inspirational pics!
    Elizabeth Hampton recently posted…Celebrating Festa Junina in BrazilMy Profile

  8. Beautiful photos!!…Croatia is amazing but I never made it to Dubrovnik (my wife did many years ago in winter and the crowds were sparse anyway over a decade ago).

    I’d love to see Dubrovnik someday but I’d be frustrated by the same things you mentioned. I loved Zadar a few years back- great food & drinks, friendly people and beautiful scenery. We rented a friends apartment and spent a few weeks in Zagreb. It was wonderful. Such great memories of that city!
    Alex-Wanderlust Marriage recently posted…Our 10 Year Wedding Anniversary MisadventureMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment Alex. We made it to Zadar and Zagreb as well, definitely less touristy. Sometimes it just gets to be too much!

  9. That’s the beauty of Croatia …..so much diversity. The whole country could almost be declared a National Park its that beautiful. I have visited three times in recent years from Australia and have now covered over half the country. There is a special place 30 mins from the Plitvice Park where I recommend everybody stay when visiting Plitvice. Its called Rastoke . Google it a true hidden treasure- a town built on waterfalls’”.

    I don’t know if you visited the islands but this is a must in Croatia. The towns of Bol and Pucisca on the Island of Brac, Komiza & Vis towns and Stiniva Cove on the Island of Vis (my hidden treasure and the Blue cave)and of course the most famous of the Islands Hvar & Korcula are a must. Mljet is also beautiful.

    But there is a region I think the two of you would absolutely love and that is the area around the Town of Sibenik. Places like Vodice at night, Primosten,Skradin (entry to Krka falls- one of Bill Gates favourite), Tribunj and the beautiful Island of Murter which is connected by one of the smallest Bridges in Croatia and is a great base to the Kornati archipilego and Telascica National Park. The water here is the clearest in Croatia and it is actually the densest concentration of islands in the country. Oh and uou must have a meal at the Etno Village in Solaris….. one word awesome!!!

    The Northern Island of Rab are also stunning. Places like Rab, Mali Losinj & Krk are awesome places. (Mali Losinj a favourite). Then there is Istria with places like Rovinj, Porec, Opatilja & Lovran. On top of that an Istrian Interior similar to Tuscany . Town like Labin, Motovun, Groznjan, Vodnjan & Bale are beautiful and unique in their own way.(Groznjan & Motovun my favs) but love that Labin overlooks the coast and is above another beautiful coastal town in Rabac.

    In all Croatia has so much for a small country, you’d seriously have to do 4 trips here for at least two months in all to see half of it and soak in the beauty. Oh and one more hidden treasure Varazdin in the North ; ). Please Google Image these places and youll be back in Croatia in no time.

    Happy travelling

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Dani – actually we’ll be back this summer. We spent 2 months in Croatia earlier this year (using Split as a base) and loved it.

      Wow, thank you for all the ideas, some of which I’ve never heard of. We concentrated on the area around Split last time but will make sure to explore further next time. Thanks again.

      Frank

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