The Pearl of the Adriatic for some, Kings Landing for others, Dubrovnik is UNESCO World Heritage Site perfection for all. Arrive, eat, sleep, see & 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 undergone a rich and colourful history. The city’s independence and reputation for trade has been as 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 brutal siege in 1991 during the Homeland War. During this time, the aggressors destroyed many of its famous orange-roof buildings. Thankfully, life has improved a lot since then. The damage has been repaired, and Dubrovnik is now enjoying a huge tourism boom.

Already popular in its own right, the city’s international profile received a huge boost in recent years with the filming of hit HBO series Games of Thrones. So popular in fact, that some GoT fans visit the mythical Kings Landing without realising that Dubrovnik is a famous town of culture and heritage in its own right. More than one tour guide has had to answer if the walls disappear in the winter period (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 – as impregnable as they are impressive. Culture, history, tradition, adventure, food, wine, activities and fun – you will find it all in Dubrovnik. Let’s begin!

When is the Best Time to Visit Dubrovnik?

Depending on 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 decide to come. The city’s rapid rise in popularity means that it is 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, I would recomment you avoid July and August at a minimum. The should months of May and early June, late September and October are much more pleasant in terms of numbers of arrivals, with the added bonus or more temperate climate.

Local authorities have worked hard in recent years to extend the season, both with additional flights and more events. I personally really like the city in winter when most tourist businesses are taking a break. The restaurant tables, chairs and awnings disappear, and the city reverts back to its original stone. Gorgeous.

But my top tip to see Dubrovnik at its very finest is the first week of February. For that is when locals celebrate their beloved patron saint, St. Blaise, a tradition that has gone on for centuries. The streets are once more packed with people. But this time locals, immersing themselves in the joy of their customs and heritage. It is quite an event and one of the highlights of my 17 years in this country. You can read more about my experiences a couple of years ago.

Is Dubrovnik Expensive Really? Myth and Reality

Dubrovnik has the reputation of being an expensive city. Which it can be, as can any prime location tourist destination in the world. It is interesting to talk to some locals on this subject.

“Compared to the same locations in Madrid, Paris or Barcelona,” said one, “we are not expensive.” Locals do not compare themselves with the rest of Croatia but with top international destinations. I asked my Dubrovnik colleague what she thought:

I hear very many people talk about how expensive things are here, which always surprised me. 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 will 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

Dubrovnik is a LONG way south. If you are driving from the rest of Croatia, you will have the curious requirement of having to go through another country. This is because Bosnia and Hercegovina received a slice of the Adriatic coastline as part of the 1995 Dayton Agreement. This ensured that BiH had access to the sea.

The Peljesac Bridge project is finally underway, a Chinese-built bridge which will connect the Croatian mainland close to Trpanj on the Peljesac Peninsula, thereby connecting Croatia’s two parts for the first time in the modern State. This will speed up road connections and eliminate border delays at Neum. You can follow progress of the bridge construction, on this dedicated TCN page. For the best advice on getting to Dubrovnik from Split and beyond, here is the comprehensive Total Croatia guide. Catamaran information is in that guide, but there is also the option of arriving in Dubrovnik by car ferry from Bari. Learn more in our Italy to Croatia section.

More tourists are flying to the city, as the airport has improved both its facilities and number of flights. Many also use the airport for access to neighbouring Montenegro. 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. This includes why it makes sense do to so via BiH in season.

5 things not to miss in Dubrovnik

1. The old walls

The famous walls of Dubrovnik have surrounded and protected the citizens of Dubrovnik since the city’s founding prior to the 7th century, with numerous additions and modifications throughout their history, they are deservingly considered to be one of the greatest fortification systems of the Middle Ages, as they were never breached by a hostile army during this time period.

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

The walls run an uninterrupted course of approximately 1,940 metres in length. They encircle the vast majority of the famous old city, they reach a maximum height of about 25 metres. The bulk of the existing walls and fortifications we see today date back to the 14th and 15th centuries.Strengthening and extension continued until the 17th century.

This highly imposing structure, amongst the largest and most complete in Europe, protected the freedom and safety of a republic that flourished in total peace and prosperity for some five centuries. Reenforcements 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

Until early 2019, one of the top recommendations for things not to miss was the cable car ride to Mount Srd, from where one can enjoy the most incredible views of the old town.

Unfortunately, a dispute between the city and the cable car operator means that the service is in doubt for 2019. While that would be a real pity for Dubrovnik’s tourism offer, it does not mean that the magical views from Srd are off-limits – you can still hike or drive there. In the hope that the cable car service will soon resume, here are more details:

The story about the Dubrovnik Cable Car goes back to 1969 when it started to transport the first passengers in Dubrovnik to the top of Srd hill. The service stopped due to the Croatian War of Independence. A 4-year long war is a theme of the new Museum of the Croatian War of Independence is in the former 19th – century Imperial Fortress.

Visitors can enjoy breathtaking uninterrupted full panoramas of the Old Town, surrounding islands and Adriatic Sea from the top of the hill as well as go on an adventurous ride with the Buggy Safari tour, visit the Ohrid pearl shop or the blacksmith shop.

Starting from 9 am and continuing every half an hour with the last departure from the lower station half an hour before the end of operation. The lower station for the cable car is above the Old Town in the part of Dubrovnik of Ploce.

It is five minutes’ walk from the Old Town. The number 8 bus route from Gruz harbour to the Old Town will drop you off at exactly the right spot.

Lokrum by Romulic and Stojcic

3. Lokrum

Sitting a mere 600 metres from Dubrovnik, Lokrum is a beautiful, natural island. But there is much more to Lokrum’s long story than one could expect. The first known written mention of Lokrum was in 1023 when the Benedictine abbey and monastery that still stand today came into existence. The name Lokrum comes from the Latin, ‘acrumen‘, that translates as ”sour fruit”. The name apparently derives from the tradition of cultivating exotic plants on the island. This is a tradition that began at 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 at the plea of citizens, the church was built on the nearby mainland instead.

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 of the island 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. The deal was struck between Franz Joseph I of Austria and Leopold II of Belgium. Charlotte had become insane and Leopold had renounced in the name of his sister all claims to her and her husband’s property in Austria. Leopold was, in reality, far more concerned with acquiring his sister’s great fortune than with her rights to property in Austria.

The island was given to Archduchess Elisabeth Marie of Austria as part of her marriage dowry; Yugoslavia claimed it under the Treaty of Saint-Germain. Princess Elizabeth stated that she was no longer a Habsburg, having renounced her rights on the occasion of her marriage; 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 plan life. The island is also inhabited by families of peacocks related to the original ones brought over by Maximilian from the Canary Islands. The island is full of life, natural beauty and ideal swimming spots. It is now a popular place to relax for both visitors and locals, and it holds a very special place in the hearts of citizens of Dubrovnik.

4. Game of Thrones tour

They say that one cannot visit Paris without going to the Eiffel Tower. They used to say that one cannot visit Dubrovnik without walking its incredible walls. And while that is still true, perhaps we can add to the list a Game of Thrones tour. For Kings Landing has become a global phenomenon since the HBO series took to the screens of billions. Game of Thrones tourism is BIG in Dubrovnik. Here is what you need to know.

Hotel More

5. Cave bar

Nestled in the 5-star boutique hotel More, this popular cave bar is an actual cave that was discovered during the construction of the upscale hotel. Extending over three levels, a unique bar in Lapad peninsula can accommodate up to 60 guests. The bar offers a wide choice of alcoholic and soft drinks, teas, coffees and snacks. In order to enjoy extraordinary uninterrupted views of the Lapad bay, one just needs to find the entrance. There is an elevator taking you to the bar from the hotel More or you can just use the stairs through the tunnel.

Where to stay in Dubronvik

There are plenty of accommodation options in Dubrovnik to suit all budgets. but the general advice is the same – especially in peak season – book early. Things do 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 some links to the 5-star hotels, 4-star hotels, 3-star hotels and hostels.

Getting around Dubrovnik

If you are driving to Dubrovnik, you should factor in the parking costs. Or better still, find accommodation which offers parking. There is one road in from the main coastal Magistrala highway, and one way out. And things get busy! Even finding a parking spot can be a challenge. And with street parking prices in the region of 40 kuna an hour, a car can be an expensive accessory. Learn more about parking in the city.

The old town is compact and 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 which has led to tensions with taxi drivers.

Getting around by boat, particularly to visit the Elaphite Islands is a much more pleasant way of getting around. A look at the options by both public and private boat.

Things to do in Dubrovnik – food and wine

With the healthy Mediterranean diet as its base, Dubrovnik’s dining scene has no shortage of freshness and quality. International foodies are now discovering what is on offer, and the 2019 Michelin Guide featured no less than 11 Dubrovnik restaurants.

At the 2018 Days of Croatian Tourism, a Dubrovnik restaurant was named the second best in all Croatia – and it was not even Croatian cuisine. Congratulations to Taj Mahal, a Bosnian specialist.

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

The Dubrovnik region has some fantastic wines, including several of the 130 indigenous varieties in Croatia. The wine bar scene is booming, a great way to meet locals and learn more about the Croatian wine scene. Check out the options via Total Dubrovnik in the nightlife section on the navbar.

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

You will only be in the old town for a few seconds before you get a sense of the rich culture and heritage which has built up over the centuries in Dubrovnik.

It has the oldest working pharmacy in Europe, as well as an extraordinary number of churches and places of worship. These include the second oldest Jewish synagogue in Europe.

You can see more information on the rich festival tradition below, but Dubrovnik’s culture and heritage are preserved in a wide range of museums and art galleries in the city. Take a tour with Total Dubrovnik.

Looking to get more active? From horseback riding and kayaking, to a Buggy Adventure tour or Konavle Jeep safari, there are plenty of options to explore.

Day trips from Dubrovnik

There is plenty to see and do in Dubrovnik, but if feel like spreading your wings a little, there are a number of fascinating places to check out on a one-day trip. Here are our top 5:

Ston – oysters, salt and the Great Wall of Croatia

Ston is a fascinating small town on the road from Dubrovnik to Split, whose history is very much intertwined with the history of the city. For this little settlement used to provide up to 35% of the annual revenue for the Republic of Ragusa through its salt pans, which you can visit today.

So important was the salt that the republic built walls to protect it. People say that the walls of Ston, all 5.5 km of them are the longest fortified walls still in existence outside China itself. And while they may not be as impressive as the Great Wall of China, they are still quite a challenge, especially if you decide to take part in the annual Ston half-marathon.

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

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. For here one can find the best Plavac Mali wines in the world, that powerful Dalmatian red which owes part of its genes to Zinfandel (which originates in Dalmatia). Coupled with the white Posip and Grk on Korcula, here you will find some of Croatia’s finest wines. There are plenty of wine tours where you can discover more, before heading 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. The exquisite old town of Korcula is one of the great architectural gems of Europe, its streets constructed in the shape of a fish in such a way as to maximise the breeze on the one hand, and to protect from the fierce bura wind on the other. An island of wine, culture, beaches… and sword dancing. Learn more about this magical island in our Korcula in a Page guide.

Montenegro – UNESCO heritage of Kotor and luxury of Lustica Bay

Dubrovnik is not the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the region. Just across the border in Montenegro is the magnificent Bay of Kotor, with the delightful old town of Kotor as its heritage jewel. Kotor makes for a great day trip, but there is also a new attraction for those looking to escape the crowds and indulge in some peaceful waterfront luxury in the new Lustica Bay development close to Tivat. The luxury Chedi and marina village is just the first of 7 hotels and an entire village and 18-hole golf course which will be built there. Learn more about Lustica Bay, and find out what you need to know about crossing the border into Montenegro.

A hit of the Ottoman East in Bosnia – Mostar

If you want to continue your international UNESCO World Heritage tour, then another outstanding day trip – and a world away from Dubrovnik – is a visit to Mostar, whose iconic old bridge and old town also has UNESCO status. Destroyed in the war in 1993, the bridge has been completely rebuilt. Enjoy the very Ottoman feel of the old town, before watching daring locals dive from the bridge into the inviting green waters of the Neretva below.

Religious tourists may also be interested to visit Medjugorje, some 25 km from Mostar. It was here on June 25, 1981, that the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to six children on a remote hillside. Today Medjugorje is easily the biggest tourist attraction in the country. Learn more about it on Total Medjugorje. For practical advice about crossing the border into Bosnia, here is the Total Croatia guide.

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 under the code name ‘Tricycle’ and the Abwehr under the code name ‘Ivan’. He was born 10 July 1912 in Titel, Austro-Hungary, to a very wealthy family.

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 secretly despised the Nazis after earlier extremely unpleasant brushes with National Socialists during his university years in Freiburg. Popov had earned a Ph.D. in Law there, and then returned to Dubrovnik to practice briefly as an attorney.

Eventually, Clement Hope, a passport control officer at the British legation in Yugoslavia enrolled Popov as a double agent with the codename Scoot (he was later known to his handler as Tricycle). Once accepted as a double agent, Popov moved to London. His international business activities in an import-export business provided cover for visits to then neutral Portugal as its capital, Lisbon, was linked to the UK by a weekly civilian air service for most of the war.

Role in World War II

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

In 1941, he was dispatched to the US by the Abwehr to establish a new German network, where he was given ample funds and an intelligence questionnaire. Of the three typewritten pages of the questionnaire, one entire page was devoted to highly detailed questions about US defences at Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. He made contact with the FBI and explained what he had been asked to do.

During a televised interview, Dusko Popov related having informed the FBI on 12 August 1941, of the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. For whatever reason, either the FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover did not report this fact to his superiors, or they, for whatever reasons of their own, took no action 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, when Hoover discovered Popov had taken a woman from New York to Florida, he threatened to have him arrested under the Mann Act if he did not leave the US immediately. In 1944, he became a key part of the Operation Fortitude deception campaign. Known as a shrewd womaniser, he lived an extravagant lifestyle, publishing his memoirs ‘Spy, Counterspy’ in 1974. He has been cited as among Ian Fleming’s models for James Bond. Popov died prematurely in 1981, aged 69.

Book keepers, pay homage to the founder of accounting

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

Quarantine, a concept born in Dubrovnik

Quarantine was first introduced in 1377 in Dubrovnik on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, and the first permanent plague hospital (lazaretto) was opened by the Republic of Venice in 1423 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, rains tend to be very heavy and sometimes they cause erosions, winter is the main rainy time. Dubrovnik has around 250 sunny days annually.

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

When the rest of Europe and the world accrued a lot of wealth by enslaving people, Republic of Dubrovnik decided they don’t want to have anything to do with such shameful actions and prohibited slavery in early 15th century, thus becoming a pioneer in respecting human rights. Interestingly, Dubrovnik was the first, with Korcula abolishing 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 – April 22-28, 2019.
  • Aklapela Festival, traditional klapa singing – April 26-28, 2019.
  • Lindjo folklore ensemble perform from May to October.
  • Dubrovnik Summer Festival – July 10 – August 25, 2019.
  • Dubrovnik in Late Summer classical musical festival – August 27-September 20, 2019.
  • International Festival of Jams & Marmalades – early October.
  • The Dubrovnik Film Festival – October.
  • Good Food Festival – October 14-20, 2019.
  • Dubrovnik Winter Festival and New Year’s Eve celebrations – December.

Kings Landing and Game of Thrones

Dubrovnik Old Town has become synonymous with King’s Landing. So many memorable scenes took place there, including one of the most iconic scenes of the entire scenes (that does not include the dragons!), the famous Walk of Shame by Cersei Lannister in the fifth season finale.

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

Lovrijenac fort, the most famous fort in Dubrovnik, where numerous plays and events have taken place in the past, have been turned into Red Keep, king’s residence, where the Iron Throne is also located.

Minceta tower, on the northern side of Dubrovnik Old Town, is the location where Daenerys kept her dragons – The House of the Undying.

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 are also the locations where 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.