One of the best ways to spend a couple of hours is to walk the city walls. If you go early enough – they’re open from 8am in the summertime – you’ll have a much more pleasant experience, without having to squeeze past hundreds of people all queuing up to take the same photo.
Can you see everything in Dubrovnik in one day? Ideally you want a couple of days to soak in the atmosphere, and to enjoy the city early morning and evening without those pesky cruise ship tourists, but it’s certainly possible to hit all the main sights in 24 hours. We stayed for three nights, but only spent one full day in Dubrovnik itself, so here’s how we filled our day.
The walls date back to the 10th century and were built to protect the city – and was a great deterrent to potential invaders. If you were faced with 8ft high stone walls would you try and invade? Thought not. It’s about 2km all the way around, and it took us about 2 hours with plenty of photo stops, a bit of queuing behind tour groups from about halfway round, and a coffee stop overlooking the Adriatic. The walls are the best place to get a fantastic view of the terracotta rooftops, the city’s old port and the tiny little alleyways crisscrossing the city from the main street Stradun.
There are three entrance points to the walls; at Pile Gate (the main entrance where all the tour groups congregate), at St Ivan’s Fort, and just inside Ploce Gate (1), which was our start point as it was closest to our accommodation just outside the Old Town walls. You can exit at any point but you can only walk in a clockwise direction.
Opening hours: Daily 8am-7:30pm (summer); 10am-3pm (winter)
Admission: 120 Kn (around £15pp). Includes entrance to Fort Lovrijenac
Old Town Dubrovnik
Once you’ve explored Dubrovnik from above, now’s the time to explore the city within the walls. The Old Town is a small city, and if you walk from Ploce Gate to Pile Gate it only takes 10 minutes at the most. But all those tiny little alleyways and hundreds of flights of steps leading from Stradun will take hours to explore. Especially the steps. They’re like the best type of Stairmaster workout you can get.
From Ploce Gate, we walk through the city via Sveti Sebastien, Sveti Nikola and Sponza Palace. We pass St Blaise’s, the Rector’s Palace and Orlando’s column. So many beautiful buildings and churches and we’ve only just set foot in the city. The main street Stradun is a pedestrianised street which divides the city, with bars, restaurants, shops and tourist agencies lining the street and nestling in the alleyways. The polished limestone streets make for wonderful photographs, but is not good for high heels. It’s remarkably slippy, particularly after a rainstorm so consider your footwear carefully.
Towards Pile Gate you have the beautiful Onofrio Fountain (devoid of any water when we were there) and the Franciscan Monastery. If you have time, then many of the churches and other buildings are fully accessible to the public – but if you only have a day, and the weather is fine, then you’ll probably just want to admire their beautiful exteriors.
You’ll probably be ready for lunch about now, and there’s a whole host of great value eateries hidden in alleyways, on the main squares and at the old portside. Check out Chasing the Donkeys Guide to Where to Eat and Drink in Dubrovnik (http://www.chasingthedonkey.com/eat-like-local-eat-dubrovnik/). We enjoyed a platter of cold cuts and a prawn salad at Stara Loza (2) on Prijeko ul.
Have you kept your entrance ticket from your city walls walk? Yes? Then you can also use this to enter Fortress Lovrijenac. Exit the Old Town at Pile Gate (3), and climb the hill (yes, more climbing) to the fortress which famously doubles up as Kings Landing’s Red Keep for Game of Thrones fans (4). The walls are 37 metres high, balanced precariously on a rocky outcrop dominating the western entrance to the Old Town by land and sea. In the 11th century, the residents of Dubrovnik built the fortress in an impressive three months, beating the Venetians to it. There’s not much to see inside but the terrace provides spectacular views over the walls and rooftops of this beautiful town, and all along the coast.
Time for a cold drink?
There’s a multitude of bars in Dubrovnik where you can stop for a cold beer or a chilled glass of white wine, but there’s possibly no place more iconic than Buza Bar (5). Make your way back into the Old Town through Pile Gate and follow Stradun, turning right at Ul Miha Pracata. Carry on until you find the southern city wall. A sign advertising “Cold Drinks Here” and a small gateway are the only clues that you’re approaching this cliffside bar, whose name literally means “hole-in-the-wall”.
Ride the Dubrovnik Cable Car (6)
If you exit the Old Town beyond the northern walls you will soon see the cable car cabins ascending to and descending from Mount Srdj, 405 metres above sea level. It’s a short and smooth ride with breathtaking views over the medieval walls and crystal clear Adriatic coast – make sure you get to the rear of the cabin whilst you’re ascending for the best views! Up top you have a restaurant and bar, with those same stunning views, and it’s very romantic at sunset when the lights start to twinkle in the city below.
Opening hours: Daily from 9am. Last departure time varies throughout the year.
Round-trip ticket: 120 Kn (around £15pp).
So that’s Dubrovnik in a day! Out of these few highlights, I’d definitely say don’t miss the City Walls walk – it’s worth every penny. The Cable Car ride is a little pricey and can probably be skipped if you’re on a budget, but I really enjoyed the experience of seeing Dubrovnik from above. Dubrovnik is a great city for slow travel, for people watching at the port or along Stradun or in one of the city’s squares, and definitely deserves more than just one day.
We flew in and out of Dubrovnik Airport from London Gatwick, mainly because the fares were significantly cheaper than from Birmingham. We flew out with Easyjet,and returned with Norwegian (hello, in-flight wifi!)
We stayed at Apartments Lucic, just outside the Old Town Walls. Basic but comfortable one-bedroomed apartment, with a lovely balcony with city wall views. Ten minute walk to Ploce Gate, five minute walks to airport shuttle bus stop. € 216 for three nights (June 2016)
We booked a taxi transfer through our hosts as we were arriving late in the evening. However we used the airport shuttle bus to return to the airport for our car rental pick-up. The bus stop is right next to the cable car station. Tickets can be purchased in the shop over the road, 40kuna per person (approx £5).
You can find more about our Dubrovnik stay and the rest of our Croatia trip here
This blog has also been published on GPSmyCity online! For this, and other great Dubrovnik articles and tour guides, download the GPSmyCity app on your iOS or Android device and search for “Dubrovnik”, or you can find all the Dubrovnik content here!
*All photos are taken by myself or by CPF Photography (reproduced with permission) unless otherwise stated*