Have you ever found a destination that just feels like home?
The first place this happened to me was London, still considered my favorite city, and one I got to call home for a year while living there.
The second place this happened took a little longer: over the month Mr. Valise and I lived in Dubrovnik, it grew on me tremendously. The foreign sounds of Croatian being spoken became familiar. The food became comforting. The relaxed but productive pace of life was invigorating. Dubrovnik, Croatia became another home – fitting since my ancestry is Croatian.
If you are considering a trip to my ancestral home country, Dubrovnik should definitely be on your Balkans road trip plan or itinerary of places to visit in Croatia. Here’s a guide including everything you need to know to have a great trip to Dubrovnik.
When to Visit Dubrovnik
The best time of year to visit Dubrovnik is September and October. The temperatures have begun to fall from their summer peak, but the water is still warm enough to swim in. You also may see rainstorms during this time, but for the most part, the weather will be good and sunny.
Additionally, late September and October are shoulder season for cruise ships visiting Dubrovnik, so you’ll see significantly fewer crowds than during the summer months.
Why Visit Dubrovnik?
Rather than tell you why Dubrovnik is one of my favorite destinations, I want to show you. Pictures share a thousand words, so hopefully, these scenes from Dubrovnik will entice you to book a trip to this gorgeous city.
Where to Stay in Dubrovnik
Within Dubrovnik, there are three areas I recommend to stay.
Old Town Dubrovnik
As the name suggests, Old Town is the heart of it all. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this is where everyone comes to see the ‘real’ Dubrovnik. It is an ideal location with close access to everything (except groceries, but tons of restaurants nearby) however you’ll see a significantly higher cost per night, and lots more foot traffic around your accommodation.
- Old Town Studio – 2-minute walk to ferry – $38 per night
- Pearl in the Center of Old Town – 3-minute walk to ferry – $219 per night
- Eden Rooms (3-star Apartment Rental) – from $83 per night
- Amoret Apartments (4-star Apartment Rental) – from $94 per night
Ploce is the neighborhood just east of Old Town, on the foothills of Mt. Srđ. Some apartments will have sweeping views of the Adriatic, Old Town Harbor, and Old Town itself. It is a good location because of its proximity to the Old Town, without the crowds. Costs are moderate here, and you’ll have to climb some hills to get to/from your accommodation.
- Adriatic Star (Airbnb) – from $65 per night
- The Yellow Apartment (Airbnb) – from $67 per night
- Hotel Excelsior (5-Star Hotel) – from $189 per night
Boninovo is the waterfront neighborhood north of the Old Town, stretching toward the new harbor. Mr. Valise and I stayed in the southwest crook of this area, with Bellevue beach and plenty of hotels nearby. It’s far from the crowds of Old Town, and significantly cheaper, though you’ll face a 20-minute walk to get to the Old Town to go sightseeing. I recommend this area if you’re planning a longer trip to Dubrovnik.
- SB Apartments (Airbnb) – from $60 per night (Where Mr. V and I stayed!)
- Marin Gorica (Airbnb) – from $44 per night
- Hotel Rixas Libertas (5-star Hotel) – from $127 per night
- Hotel Bellevue (5-star Hotel) – $163 per night
What to Eat and Drink in Dubrovnik
Is it possible to be succinct in talking about food and drink in any city?
Here are five foods I’d recommend you hunt down:
1. Wild Berry & Vanilla Danish – A perfect little ‘breakfast’ treat if you’re exploring the Old Town, bakeries sell these delicious pastries for about $1.
2. Regional/Local Cuisine – Dubrovnik has a lot of ethnic cuisine options (not all of them are great!), but you should search out a restaurant making something local. Mr. Valise and I found Taj Mahal Bosnian Restaurant in the Old Town and were totally wowed. Now I wish we had visited Bosnia too!
3. Smoked Meat & Cheese – Like most Mediterranean/Adriatic countries, there’s little better than a plate of meat and cheese with olives and local wine from the Peljesac peninsula.
4. Italian Food – The influence of Italian heritage is strong in Croatia (despite or perhaps why my Croatian grandmother hates Italians), so you can find delicious traditional Italian food pretty much everywhere.
5. Luxe Dining – I know ‘luxe dining’ isn’t a food, but I’d recommend splurging on a meal or two in Dubrovnik if your budget allows. The city has become a playground for some of the world’s wealthiest, and there are restaurants rising to the occasion. Bey and Jay ate at Restaurant 360 on one of their recent trips; Mr. V and I opted for Magellan Restaurant, which was more in our budget.
What to Do in Dubrovnik
I’ve already laid out how to spend the perfect day in Dubrovnik, based on a month’s worth of living in and exploring the city. Check that out, then come back to this list:
1. Go swimming, like, a lot.
Dubrovnik has plenty of beautiful beaches you can enjoy, and the Adriatic is a perfect temperature through the summer and autumn months.
2. Take in the view from the top of Mt. Srđ.
Mr. Valise and I didn’t get a chance to do this, but you can either hike or take the tram up to look down on the city and surrounding countryside.
3. Explore the Old Town.
This is the major draw for people visiting Dubrovnik, and for good reason. There are numerous churches, beautiful stairwells, shops, restaurants, and loads of cats to play with.
4. Explore the New Town.
I don’t know if the locals call it New Town, but the area surrounding the New Harbor is beautiful and worth exploring too. This is where most cruise ships dock, but hardly anyone stays in the region to explore it.
5. Drink at a cliff bar at sunset.
A rite of passage for all Dubrovnik visitors, you simply must grab a table (and guard it with your life) at one of two Buza Bar locations on the rocky edge outside the Old Town walls.
6. Go for a walk.
Dubrovnik is a pretty pedestrian-friendly city; most roads have sidewalks. Explore your neighborhood, wander down (well-lighted) alleys (during the daytime), stop and explore the cemeteries (and keep your eye out for my family name ‘Stimac!’). It’s a city worth exploring at whim if you have the time.
7. Walk the Old Town walls.
Speaking of walks, if there’s one you must do, it’s the Old Town walls. Rise super early to beat the crowds and enjoy stunning views of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Old Town as well as the surrounding city. (~$16 per person.)
How to Explore Beyond Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is a great base for exploring other parts of southern Dubrovnik – and even Montenegro or Bosnia & Herzegovina! Here are some tips:
- Visit Lokrum Island. If you’re in Dubrovnik, you can’t miss spotting Lokrum out in the harbor. This island is a perfect day trip. Here’s a guide to spending a day on Lokrum – you can’t stay overnight, so it has to be a day-trip only!
- Visit Cavtat. The town of Cavtat is 45-minutes south of Dubrovnik by boat, and worth exploring too. It’s much quieter and less trodden by tourists, and there are some quiet beaches and delicious restaurants to enjoy. Here’s a guide to spending a day (or longer) in Cavtat.
- Explore Bosnia & Herzegovina or Montenegro. It’s easy to take a weekend trip to either of Croatia’s southern neighbors from Dubrovnik. There are buses that make daily routes, perfect for taking 48-hours in a new country for a change of scenery. Here’s what to do on a trip to Kotor.
There you have it: all my knowledge gained from my month living in Dubrovnik. Are you booking a trip to Dubrovnik yet? Let me know in the comments!