Dubrovnik is often called ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’- and rightfully so! With stunning beaches that look out onto turquoise water, majestic ruins and cobblestone streets steeped in history, this small city is rich with culture. The Dubrovnik Old Town, originally founded in the 7th century is walled city and now the main attraction of the city. Even though their population just tips over 43,000, Dubrovnik, while tiny, is full of interesting things to do, see, and buy. And the food? Be sure to pack your stretchy pants, because it is *delicious*. With so much goodness in one city, how can you make the most of your Dubrovnik trip?
Go on a Game of Thrones tour and check out Croatian filming locations IRL
Game of Thrones will start wrapping up this April 2019, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop chasing the throne. The city of Dubrovnik doubles as King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, in the television series. One of the things to do in Dubrovnik is to head out on a day tour of the city to discover the Red Keep, also known as Lovrijenac Fortress– a majestic fort located atop a 37-meter high cliff. As you explore through the UNESCO-list Old Town, you’ll hear behind-the-scenes secrets of the TV series. In addition to checking out Game of Thrones filming locations, on your tour you’ll also learn about the local Croatian culture and history. You’ll be able to check out the pedestrian-only Old Town, finished in the 13th century, and gain insight into the wars, kings, and leaders that made Dubrovnik what it is today.
Visit Lokrum Island to bask on the beach
Neighboring Dubrovnik is Lokrum Island, just a quick 15-minute ferry ride away from the city. From Lokrum Island, you can catch sweeping views of the mainland, or opt to go for a refreshing swim in the Dead Sea. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can head to the southeast of the island and relax under the sun on a nude beach! You can also take in some history- Lokrum Island is home to the Benedictine monastery ruins which date back to the 12th century. If you’re trekking about Lokrum Island, chances are you’ll also run into some of the animal inhabitants such as peacocks and turtles.
One of the best ways to visit Lokrum is with a sunset cruise from Dubrovnik. You’ll be able to admire the lush island as the sun sets in the background and enjoy an authentic Croatian dinner abroad a 16th-century karaka ship. Island entrance fare: 35kr
Not only can you ferry over to Lokrum Island, but you can also kayak. Kayak tours and rentals are available in Dubrovnik. As an added bonus to kayaking over to Lokrum Island, you can check out Betina Cave (a.k.a. Blue Cave or Blue Grotto). The cave is known for an illuminating blue light that fills the area.
For help planning your trip to Lokrum Island, you can also check out our Dubrovnik Transportation Guide.
Take the Dubrovnik Cable Car
Hop on the Dubrovnik Cable Car for picturesque views of the Old Town, surrounding city, and crystal-clear Adriatic sea. On a clear day, you can see up to 60 km away. The cable car station is situated on the Hill Srđ and was constructed in 1969. From the cable car, you can witness the Imperial Fort below. Built by Napoleon, the Imperial Fort is over 200 years old. Don’t miss the chance to stop for a leisurely lunch or dinner at the Panorama Restaurant & Bar. Located at the top of the cable car station, you can dine while taking in a breathtaking view of the city and sea below. Sip on European wines and savor Mediterranean cuisine with a postcard-worthy view.
Get cultured while you explore museums
Dubrovnik is a goldmine for history buffs, so you know it has some incredible museums and heritage landmarks. In the heart of the walled Old Town is Gornji Ugao Tower and Minčeta Fort. Minčeta Fort was originally built in 1319; the Gothic-style fort is one of the most prominent towers found along Dubrovnik’s defensive walls. Gornji Ugao Tower is a preserved foundry under Minčeta Fort.
Adding to the list of landmarks to add to your Dubrovnik itinerary is Franciscan Church and Monastery. The Franciscan Monastery is a large complex, the first monastery was built outside the city walls in the 13th century, later monasteries were built inside the walls. The monastery contains Museum of Pharmacology and a library of world-renowned ancient manuscripts. The library contains over 20,000 books including 1,200 valuable manuscripts. The Pharmacology Museum is in one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe, while travelers can check out old bottles and artifacts of the past, the pharmacy is actually still functioning as well!
Another required thing to do in Dubrovnik is a visit to the Rector’s Palace. The Rector was a member of the clergy and the palace was the Rector’s seat. The Rector’s Palace is now open to visitors as the Dubrovnik Cultural History Museum. Tourists can make their way through the large palace to check out furniture and artwork from the 15th and 16th century. Most notably, travelers can see the palace’s prison, where convicts would stay for years in cramped, overcrowded cells with little to no sunlight.
If you’re feeling a little history-ed out and in need of something a little more modern, take a gander at the Love Stories Museum. This quirky museum is an exhibit of “unique personal love stories and items of great sentimental value donated from all around the world”.
Lastly, if you’re looking for something artistic to do in Dubrovnik, why not head to the Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik (MOMAD)? Nestled in a charming setting, the museum showcases contemporary pieces from mostly Croatian artists.
Eat all the fresh seafood you could ever hope for
As Dubrovnik is on the coast, fresh seafood is aplenty in the city’s restaurants. An hour away from Dubrovnik, on the Dalmatian Coast, is Mali Ston Bay, an oyster-lovers paradise. The pristine, unpolluted water is a prime spot for farming fresh oysters and mussels. In fact, in the Middle Ages, Dubrovnik nobles provided the funding for oyster farms and took payment in the form of the shellfish. For foodies, a trip to Mali Ston Bay is a must-do item for a vacation in Dubrovnik. However, at any local joint in Dubrovnik, you should be able to order delicious seafood. Steamed mussels, octopus salad, and fresh, whole roasted fish should be on your ‘to-eat’ list.
Spring is the best season to order seafood in Dubrovnik, over the winter seafood is frozen so springtime is your best bet for succulent, fresh fish.
Day trip to Montenegro
From Dubrovnik, you can easily drive out and cross the border into Montenegro for a day trip. There are several Montenegro coastal towns that are just a quick trip over from Dubrovnik and offer striking views of the Adriatic along the way.
A day tour is a great option for travelers who don’t want to deal with the hassle of public transportation, are on a budget, or who aren’t able to rent a car. We would suggest checking out Kotor and Budva, two Montenegro coastal towns.
During a day tour of Montenegro, you can pass through Boka Kotorska Bay, stopping in Risan and Perast- two ancient and enchanting small towns. Arrive at Kotor and witness the limestone cliffs of Mt. Lovćen. Travelers can walk the winding streets and appreciate the Romanesque churches.
A day tour to Montenegro might bring you to St. Stefan, an islet surrounded by turquoise water before you arrive at Budva. Budva is famous for its old city core and beautiful sandy beaches. Be sure to check out the old churches in Budva’s Old Town, which lies on a small peninsula.
Island hopping across the Elaphiti Islands
You might think of island hopping as an activity suited for the Caribbean or Philippines, but we recommend adding island hopping to your list of things to do in Dubrovnik. Rent a boat and sail out onto the Adriatic to visit the Elaphiti (Elaphite) Islands. The Elaphites is a group of 13 islands, some of which are uninhabited. Visit the islands and experience provincial life, unwind on the beaches or take a dip in cool waters. Be sure to stop at Sipan, the largest of the islands. This island has a rich heritage, artifacts found here indicated that the Romans once lived on this ancient land. You can also catch a ferry to Sipan from Dubrovnik, more info here.
Visit an open-air market
Dubrovnik’s markets are a great way to feel what everyday life is like for a native-Dubrovnikian. Without giant malls and hyper-marts, markets are where locals go shopping. If you’re on the hunt for souvenirs or gifts for friends and family back home, visit one of the open-air markets to grab authentic treats.
One of the most tourist-friendly markets is the Old Town Market. As you would assume, it’s situated in the walled, Old Town; behind the Church of St. Blaise. Walk the busy stalls here to pick up local fares like jars of honey and jam, spices and herbs, and oils. Keep an eye out for olive oil in particular- Dubrovnik is known to produce excellent olive oil. While shopping, make sure to grab some lavender as a memento of your time in Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is one of the largest producers of lavender.
Gruž Market is another popular market option. The market is close to the main port and bus station. Here, you can find Mediterranean goodies and produce. You may be able to find rakija- popular Croatian alcohol. Some stalls may stock homemade versions of the fruit brandy. Croatia is recognized for its artisanal crafts and in particular embroidery. Find traditional embroidered outfits and accessories.
Visit Daksa Island, the ‘Island of Ghosts’
Those looking for an off-the-beaten-path activity, a little more out of the mainstream, should pay a visit to Daksa Island. The 12-acre island is uninhabited and for a good reason- it’s rumored to be haunted. In fact, while possible to adventure out to the island by private boat hire, you may have a little trouble finding someone willing to take you over. In 1944, Daksa Island was the site of a gruesome massacre. The island’s reputation is so tarnished in fact, that it’s up for sale for just €1.7 million with no one biting- not a bad price for an entire island!
Try local, Croatian cuisine
We’ve mentioned the tasty seafood Dubrovnik has up for offer, but we’ve yet to mention the amazing Croatian cuisine you need to try while on vacation. Take note of these dishes:
- Black Risotto
Black Risotto is a risotto served with cuttlefish and often squid, colored black with squid ink.
A fish stew served with polenta, bread, or potatoes. Several types of fish are used to make this dish.
- Dirty Macaroni (Šporki makaruli)
Not mac n’ cheese, but a dish traditionally served on St. Blaises festivity. The plate is made with pasta (macaroni) and chopped beef prepared with onions, tomato sauce and cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.
- Bakalar na bijelo
Often served on Christmas Eve or Good Friday, this dish is made with codfish and potatoes. They are created into a sort of dip and eaten with bread.
When searching for things to do in Dubrovnik, you won’t come up short! With decadent dishes and lively culture and environment to the city, you can simply walk along the walls of the Old Town and be entertained. Hopefully our list of 10 essential Dubrovnik activities can help you narrow your itinerary down!