The Pearl of the Adriatic for some, Kings Landing for others, walled city Dubrovnik is UNESCO World Heritage Site perfection for all. Travel, food, accommodation, sights & things to do tips.

Ragusa, Kings Landing, Pearl of the Adriatic – welcome to Dubrovnik!

“Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik,” said George Bernard Shaw. He then went on to give Dubrovnik one of its most famous names – the Pearl of the Adriatic.

And what a pearl she is! Founded in the 7th century as Ragusa, Dubrovnik has a rich and colourful history. The city’s independence and reputation for trade lies at the core of its proud history. The Dubrovnik Republic of Ragusa received its statutes in 1272 and continued until 1808. This was despite the best attentions of both the Ottoman and Venetian Empire. It abolished slavery several hundred years before the birth of the United States. Some even claim that Dubrovnik was the first state to recognise the United States back in 1776.

Dubrovnik by Romulic and Stojcic

UNESCO and Game of Thrones

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, the city came under siege in 1991 in the Homeland War. During this time, many of its famous orange-roof buildings were destroyed. Thankfully, the damage has been repaired. Dubrovnik is now enjoying a huge tourism boom.

Already popular, the city’s international profile got a huge boost in recent years with the filming of hit HBO series Games of Thrones. In fact, some GoT fans visit ‘Kings Landing’ without realising Dubrovnik is a famous town of culture and heritage in its own right. Tour guides sometimes answer if the walls disappear in winter. (You can check out that and other unusual tourist questions).

Ah, the walls! A million people walk the ancient outer walls of the old town each year. Markedly, they remain as impregnable as they are impressive. Culture, history, tradition, adventure, food, wine, activities and fun – you’ll find it all in Dubrovnik. Let’s begin!

When is the Best Time to Visit Dubrovnik?

When to visit a destination depends a lot on what you are looking to achieve, of course. And it is true that your Dubrovnik experience will be very different depending on what time of year you come. The city’s rapid rise in popularity means it’s absolutely packed in peak season. So much so that special counters were introduced to monitor how many people are entering the old town.

If crowds are not your thing, avoid July and August. Undeniably, May and early June, late September and October are much more pleasant in terms of numbers. And there’s the added bonus of a more temperate climate.

Local authorities have worked hard in recent years to extend the season, both with additional flights and more events. And well they might – the city in winter is gorgeous. Although, at this time, most tourist businesses are taking a break. Restaurant tables, chairs and awnings disappear. As a result, the city reverts back to its original stone. Behold, authentic Dubrovnik.

Another top tip to see Dubrovnik at its finest is the first week of February. Because that’s when locals celebrate their beloved patron saint, St. Blaise. Endearingly, it’s a centuries-old tradition. The streets are packed with people. But, this time, they’re locals. Finally, the city’s is again theirs and they joyfully immerse themselves in their customs and heritage. Truly it is quite the event. Read firsthand experiences from a couple of years ago.

Is Dubrovnik Expensive Really? Myth and Reality

Dubrovnik has a reputation for being expensive. Certainly, it can be. However, so can any prime location tourist destination in the world. Some locals on this subject;

“Compared to the same locations in Madrid, Paris or Barcelona, we are not expensive,” said one. Markedly, locals don’t compare themselves with the rest of Croatia. Instead, they compare against other top international destinations.

“I hear very many people talk about how expensive things are here, which always surprised me,” says another. “Yes, there are a handful (okay, maybe more than a handful) of overpriced places. But, you get that anywhere. If you’re willing to venture further than Stradun for your meal, you’ll discover how cheap good food and drink are. Konoba Lanterna (next to Taj Mahal Bosnian restaurant) in the old town is my personal recommendation. But, the list really is long. Dining in Dubrovnik doesn’t begin and end with high-end fine dining in restaurants like Porat or Nautika.” More on the expensive Dubrovnik debate.

How to get to Dubrovnik

By car

Compared to the rest of Croatia, Dubrovnik is a LONG way south. And, if you’re driving from anywhere else in the country in 2021, you’ll still have to go through another country. Because Bosnia and Hercegovina has a thin slice of the Adriatic coast. Actually, they got it as part of the 1995 Dayton Agreement. It ensured Bosnia and Hercegovina has access to the sea.

However, the Peljesac Bridge project is nearing completion. It’s a Chinese-built bridge that will circumvent Bosnia’s strip of sea. No more time-consuming border crossing! Follow the bridge’s progress on this dedicated TCN page. For the best advice on getting to Dubrovnik from Split, here is the comprehensive Total Croatia guide. Catamaran information is included. But, there’s also the option of arriving in Dubrovnik by car ferry from Bari. Learn more in our Italy to Croatia section.

Flights to Dubrovnik 2021

More tourists than ever are now flying to Dubrovnik. Accordingly, the airport has improved facilities and the number of flights. Also, many use the airport to access neighbouring Montenegro. Routes and numbers of flights remain in fluctuation, as the pandemic of 2020 eases its grip. But, updates are happening all the time. All you need to know about Dubrovnik Airport and getting to Dubrovnik is in our Total Croatia guide. There are also some useful tips about crossing the border to Montenegro. It includes why it makes sense do to so via Bosnia in season.

5 best things to do in Dubrovnik 2021

1. The old walls

The famous walls of Dubrovnik have surrounded and protected its citizens since before the 7th century. In spite of numerous additions and modifications, they are deservingly considered among the greatest fortification systems of the Middle Ages. Indeed, they were never breached by a hostile army during that time.

The very oldest systems of fortifications around the town were likely wooden palisades. By comparison, today’s intact walls are mainly from the 12th–17th centuries. They have long been a source of pride for Dubrovnik. Indeed, in 1979, the old city of Dubrovnik joined the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Running an uninterrupted course of approximately 1,940 metres, the walls encircle most of the famous old city. They reach a maximum height of about 25 metres. Most date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. However, strengthening and extension continued until the 17th century.

Highly imposing, especially when approached from the sea, they ensured independence freedom for an uninterrupted five centuries. Later, reinforcements came in the shape of 3 circular and 14 quadrangular towers, 5 bastions, 2 angular fortifications and the large St. John’s Fortress. More than 120 cannons armed the outside of the walls.

2. Mount Srd, with or without cable car

Enjoy a breathtaking and uninterrupted panorama of the Old Town. Additionally, in the distance, islands create a magical backdrop. And, the Adriatic surrounds, shimmering on all sides. Also, from the top of the hill, you can go on an adventurous ride with the Buggy Safari tour. Visit the Ohrid pearl shop or the blacksmith shop.

Dont’s fancy the walk? A cable car runs from the city to the peak. However, in recent years, its operations have been somewhat sporadic. Specifically, it closed for a while in response to a local dispute. Moreover, services were curtailed in 2020 due to the pandemic.

However, it may return for the 2021 season. You can easily check at the start point. Indeed, this lower station for the cable car is in Ploce. It’s only five minutes walk from the Old Town. The number 8 bus from Gruz harbour to the Old Town will drop you off at the right spot.

3. Lokrum

Lokrum by Romulic and Stojcic

Sitting a mere 600 metres from Dubrovnik, Lokrum is a beautiful, natural island. But there is much more to its story than you might expect. The first known written mention of Lokrum was in 1023 when the Benedictine abbey and monastery came into existence. They still stand today. The name Lokrum comes from the Latin, ‘acrumen‘. In fact, this translates as ”sour fruit”. Apparently, it derives from the cultivation of exotic plants on the island. It’s a tradition begun in the time of the Benedictines.

The last Benedictines left the island in 1808. On their last night, the monks placed a complex curse on the island. Since then, anyone who tried to seek Lokrum for their own has met an unexpected and untimely death. According to legend, Richard the Lionheart was shipwrecked on Lokrum in 1192. After returning home from the crusades, he pledged to build a church on the island in thanks. But, in response to the plea of citizens, the church was instead built on the nearby mainland.

From monks to emperors

Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand of Habsburg had a mansion built on the island in 1859. Maximilian’s wife, the Archduchess Charlotte of Austria, originally purchased it. She retained ownership even after she and her husband became Emperor and Empress of Mexico.

After Emperor Maximilian’s execution, the island became the property of the Habsburg Family. Subsequently, a deal was struck between Franz Joseph I of Austria and Leopold II of Belgium. Charlotte had gone insane. Thereafter, in the name of his sister, Leopold renounced all of her and her husband’s claims to property in the empire. Undeniably, Leopold was far more concerned with the acquisition of his sister’s great fortune.

The island was given to Archduchess Elisabeth Marie of Austria as part of her marriage dowry. Eventually, Yugoslavia claimed it under the Treaty of Saint-Germain. But, Princess Elizabeth decreed that she was no longer a Habsburg. In other words, this meant she’d renounced her rights upon marrying. Therefore, Yugoslavia had no right to sequester the property. The case was settled by a payment of around $575,000 to the Princess.

In 1959, a Botanical Garden was founded on the island. It contains native and imported, tropical and subtropical plants. In addition, families of peacocks inhabit the island. In fact, they’re descendants of ones brought from the Canary Islands by Maximilian. Full of life, natural beauty and ideal swimming spots, the island is a must-visit. Relax, swim and leave the bustling city behind. You’ll enjoy the space alongside locals as well as visitors. Dubrovnik residents love this place.

4. Game of Thrones tour

They say you can’t visit Paris without going to the Eiffel Tower. Similarly, they used to say you can’t visit Dubrovnik without walking its walls. And while that’s still true, perhaps a Game of Thrones tour is also now essential? ‘Kings Landing’ has become a global phenomenon since the HBO series aired. Game of Thrones tourism is BIG in Dubrovnik. Here is what you need to know.

5. Cave bar

Hotel More

Nestled in the 5-star boutique hotel More, this popular bar is an actual cave. It was discovered during the hotel’s construction. Extending over three levels, it’s a unique bar in Lapad peninsula. It accommodates up to 60 guests and offers a wide choice of alcoholic and soft drinks, teas, coffees and snacks. An elevator takes you from the hotel to the bar. Alternatively, just use the stairs through the tunnel. Once inside, you’ll enjoy extraordinary uninterrupted views of Lapad bay.

Where to stay in Dubronvik

Accommodation options in Dubrovnik suit all budgets. But, the advice for all is the same – book early. Especially for peak season. Things sell out very quickly. And, then prices rise.

Booking.com and AirBnB are well-established in the city. But, if you want to have a browse, here are links to 5-star hotels, 4-star hotels, 3-star hotels and hostels.

Getting around Dubrovnik

Car

Driving to Dubrovnik? Factor in the parking costs. Or better still, find accommodation with parking. There’s only one road in from the main coastal highway (Magistrala)! And only one way out. Therefore, roads get busy. Finding a parking spot can be a challenge. And street parking prices are in the region of 40 kuna an hour. Subsequently, a car can be an expensive accessory. Learn more about parking in the city.

Bus and taxi

The Old Town is compact and easily to walk around. What’s more, it’s pedestrian-only. But, you can take taxis and buses from Pile Gate, the main entrance. The Total Dubrovnik bus overview explains more. And you can learn more about taxis (an expensive option). Uber is well-established in the city, a development that’s led to some tensions with taxi drivers.

Boat

See the walls from a thrillingly different perspective! Getting around by boat is the icing on the cake of this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Particularly if you’re also visiting the Elaphite Islands. Look at the options by both public and private boat.

Things to do in Dubrovnik – food and wine

Eating

The healthy Mediterranean diet forms the base of Dubrovnik cuisine. Therefore, the city’s dining scene has no shortage of freshness and quality. International foodies are now discovering what is on offer. Many Dubrovnik restaurants are Michelin-recommended.

You can spend a lot of money in top restaurants such as 360 or Nautika. But, there are also plenty of budget eateries for the less well-heeled. Total Dubrovnik breaks down the Dubrovnik dining scene: Top 10, Fine Dining, Budget Dining, Fast Food, and International Cuisine.

Drinking

The Dubrovnik region has some fantastic wines. Several of Croatia’s 130 indigenous varieties are from here. Accordingly, the city’s wine bar scene is booming. What’s more, they’re a great way to meet locals and learn about wine. Check out the options via Total Dubrovnik in the nightlife section.

Things to do in Dubrovnik – culture, adventure, and activities

You’ll only be in the Old Town for a few seconds before you get a sense of Dubrovnik’s rich culture and heritage. It’s been built over centuries.

The city has the oldest working pharmacy in Europe. Additionally, it has an extraordinary number of churches and places of worship. Among them is the second oldest Jewish synagogue in Europe.

Check out more information on Dubrovnik’s rich festival tradition below. But the city’s culture and heritage are also preserved in a wide range of museums and art galleries. Take a tour with Total Dubrovnik.

Looking to get more active? Go horseback riding or kayaking. Take a Buggy Adventure tour or Konavle Jeep safari. There are plenty of options to explore.

Day trips from Dubrovnik

There’s plenty to see and things to do in Dubrovnik. But, if you feel like spreading your wings a little, there are a number of fascinating one-day trips. Here are our top 5:

Ston – oysters, salt and the Great Wall of Croatia

The walls of Ston © Ivo Biocina / Croatian National Tourist Board
Salt

Ston is a fascinating small town on the road from Dubrovnik to Split. Furthermore, its history is very much intertwined with Dubrovnik’s. Actually, this little settlement used to provide up to 35% of the annual revenue for the Republic of Ragusa through its salt pans. You can visit them today.

Walls

The salt was so important the republic built walls to protect it. People say Ston’s are the longest fortified ancient walls still in existence outside China. Specifically, they stretch 5.5 kilometres. And, while they may not be as impressive as the Great Wall of China, they are still quite a challenge. Particularly if you take part in the annual Ston half-marathon.

Oysters

Ston has a little baby brother called Mali (Little) Ston, a quite divine slice of Dalmatian heaven for foodies. For here are some of the best oysters in the world. And my top recommendation is to seek out Bote Sare and its incredible floating oyster bar. A truly memorable day out.

Peljesac Peninsula, Plavac Mali heaven

© Croatian National Tourist Board

Ston lies at the entrance to the Peljesac Peninsula, one of the truly undiscovered gems of Dalmatia. But, it has been well and truly discovered by the wine-drinking community. Because here you’ll find the best Plavac Mali wines in the world. It’s a powerful Dalmatian red which. And, its genes are related to Zinfandel (which originates in Dalmatia).

Coupled with the white Posip and Grk on Korcula, this area has some of Croatia’s best wines. There are plenty of wine tours where you can discover more. Afterwards, head to Mali Ston for an oyster or three.

Korcula by Romulic and Stojcic

Korcula, the land of Marco Polo

Ah Korcula, the island home of the greatest traveller of them all, Marco Polo. Its exquisite Old Town is one of the great architectural gems of Europe. Actually, the streets are constructed in the shape of a fish. Not only does this maximise the breeze, but also it protects from the fierce Bura wind. An island of wine, culture, beaches… and sword dancing. Learn more about it in our Korcula in a Page guide.

Montenegro – UNESCO heritage of Kotor and luxury of Lustica Bay

Kotor in Montenegro © Chensiyuan

Dubrovnik is not the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the region. Just across the border in Montenegro is the magnificent Bay of Kotor. The delightful old town of Kotor is its heritage jewel.

Kotor makes for a great day trip. But, there is also a new attraction for those looking to escape the crowds. Indulge in some peaceful waterfront luxury at the new Lustica Bay development close to Tivat. Learn more about Lustica Bay. Also, find out what you need to know about crossing the border into Montenegro.

Pilgrimage and a hit of the Ottoman East in Bosnia

Mostar

Want more UNESCO World Heritage? Mostar is within easy reach. Its bridge is iconic. Destroyed in the war, it has been completely rebuilt. Enjoy the very Ottoman feel of the Old Town. Afterwards, watch daring locals dive from the bridge into the green waters of the Neretva below.

Medjugorje

Religious tourists may also be interested in Medjugorje. It’s only 25 km from Mostar. On 25 June 1981, it’s said here the Virgin Mary appeared to six children on a remote hillside. Subsequently, Medjugorje is today the biggest visitor attraction in the country. Learn more about it on Total Medjugorje. Here’s the Total Croatia guide to crossing the border into Bosnia.

5 things you never knew about Dubrovnik

1. Home to a real James Bond

Dusan ‘Dusko’ Popov was a double agent working for MI5 during World War II. He had the code name ‘Tricycle’. The Abwehr coded him ‘Ivan’. Born 10 July 1912 in Titel, Austro-Hungary, his family were very wealthy.

The Popov family moved to Dubrovnik when Dusko was very young. He spoke fluent German and had many highly placed German friends in the Nazi party. But, he secretly despised the Nazis. Actually, he’d had extremely unpleasant brushes with National Socialists during his university years in Freiburg. There, Popov earned a Ph.D. in law. Subsequently, he returned to Dubrovnik and briefly practiced as an attorney.

Eventually, Clement Hope enrolled Popov as a double agent. Hope was a passport control officer at the British legation in Yugoslavia. Initially, he gave Popov the codename Scoot Thereafter, Popov moved to London. His import-export business provided cover for visits to then-neutral Portugal. Actually, for almost all the war, its capital, Lisbon, was linked to the UK by a weekly civilian air service.

Role in World War II

Popov used his cover position to report periodically to his Abwehr handlers in Portugal. He fed enough MI6-approved information to the Germans to keep them happy. The Germans were blissfully unaware of his true actions. Assignments given to him were of great value to the British in assessing enemy plans and thinking. Popov was famous for the playboy lifestyle he lived while carrying out his perilous wartime missions.

In 1941, he was dispatched to the US by the Abwehr. Thereafter, he was to establish a new German network. He was given ample funds and an intelligence questionnaire. Of its three typewritten pages, one entire page was devoted to highly detailed questions about US defenses at Pearl Harbor. However, Popov made contact with the FBI and explained what he’d been asked to do.

During a televised interview, Dusko Popov related having informed the FBI of the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. He did so on 12 August 1941. However, for whatever reasons, neither the FBI or its chief, J. Edgar Hoover reported this to their superiors. Orr, if they did, no action was taken in regard to this apparent German interest in Pearl Harbor.

Popov said Hoover was quite suspicious and distrustful of him. And, according to author William ‘Mole’ Wood, Hoover was outraged upon discovering Popov had taken a woman from New York to Florida. He threatened to have Popov arrested under the Mann Act if he did not leave the US immediately.

In 1944, Popov became a key part of the Operation Fortitude deception campaign. Known as a shrewd womaniser, he lived an extravagant lifestyle. He published his memoirs ‘Spy, Counterspy’ in 1974. Popov has been cited as among Ian Fleming’s models for James Bond. He died prematurely in 1981, aged 69.

Book keepers, pay homage to the founder of accounting

Benedikt Kotruljevic, Republic of Dubrovnik local, is considered the founder of accounting. He was the first to write a book on commerce and trader’s act of conduct. He did so in the 15th century.

Quarantine, a concept born in Dubrovnik

Quarantine was first introduced in 1377 in Dubrovnik. And, in 1423 the first permanent plague hospital (lazaretto) was set up nearby. It was open by the Republic of Venice. Specifically, it was on the small island of Santa Maria di Nazareth.

Dubrovnik has more rain than London

Of course, we’re talking about general amounts of rain. Drizzle is not common. In fact, rains here tend to be very heavy, but very brief. Sometimes they cause erosions. Winter is the period of most rain. Actually, Dubrovnik annually has around 250 sunny days.

Human rights in a city where slavery was abolished 600 years ago

While much of Europe was accruing a lot of wealth by enslaving people, the Republic of Dubrovnik decided they didn’t want to have anything to do with that. In fact, they regarded such actions as shameful. Indeed, they prohibited slavery in the early 15th century. Thus, Dubrovnik became a pioneer in human rights. Interestingly, Dubrovnik was not the first. Nearby Korcula island abolished slavery some 200 years before, in 1214.

Want to learn a little more about Dubrovnik? Here are 25 things to know.

Festivals

Dubrovnik has many festivals throughout the year. Among the most important:

  • The Festival of St Blaise, the beloved patron of the city, in the first week of February.
  • Mediterranean Fair of Healthy Food, Medicinal Herbs and Green in March.
  • Dubrovnik Festiwine in April.
  • Aklapela Festival, traditional klapa singing, late April.
  • Lindjo folklore ensemble perform from May to October.
  • Dubrovnik Summer Festival – July – August.
  • Dubrovnik Late Summer classical musical festival – August -September.
  • International Festival of Jams & Marmalades – early October.
  • The Dubrovnik Film Festival – October.
  • Good Food Festival – mid-October.
  • Dubrovnik Winter Festival and New Year’s Eve celebrations – December.

PLEASE NOTE: Many 2020 events across Croatia, including Dubrovnik, were put on hold. Official announcements of many for 2021 haven’t yet been made.

Kings Landing and Game of Thrones

Shame!

Dubrovnik Old Town has become synonymous with King’s Landing. So many memorable scenes took place there. Actually, these include one of the most iconic scenes of the entire series (dragons excluded!). Specifically, we mean the famous Walk of Shame by Cersei Lannister in the fifth season finale.

(An age restriction exists on the video because of nudity. Follow the link to watch on YT)

The Stairs to the Great Sept of Baelor, where Cersei was forced to walk naked, are in fact baroque Spanish steps by Saint Ignatius Church. Of course, these were an amazing tourist attraction even before the filming of GoT.

Red Keep

Many plays and events have taken place at Lovrijenac fort in the past. In fact, it’s the most famous fort in Dubrovnik. In GoT, it became Red Keep, a King’s residence. Also, it’s where the Iron Throne is located.

More Game of Thrones Dubrovnik

Minceta tower, on the northern side of Dubrovnik Old Town, is where Daenerys keeps her dragons. Specifically, it’s called the House of the Undying in the series.

The Rector’s Palace, St. Dominic Street, Ethnoghaphic Museum of Dubrovnik, the atrium of the Belvedere Hotel, Pile, with the view of the Bokar and Lovrijenac forts and Bokar. These are also the locations you’ll recognize. Significant portions of the plot of the series take place.

The fortress on the Lokrum island, just off Dubrovnik, helped create Qarth. Gradac Park, a park just west of the Lovrijenac fort was the setting for the Purple Wedding between King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell. (Spoiler alert for something that happened more than 5 years ago: the wedding does not end well for the young king). Take a closer look with this early TCN guide.

How did Kings Landing compare to the original Dubrovnik Republic of Ragusa?

Game of Thrones fan in Croatia? It goes much further than Kings Landing – your complete guide.

For more information

You can find out more information about this wonderful destination on our sister site, Total Dubrovnik.

You can visit the official Dubrovnik Tourist Board website here.

For the latest news from the Pearl of the Adriatic, check out the dedicated TCN page.