Self-Guided Tour of Old Town
Once you get a hold of a map of Dubrovnik, you can see all the churches, museums, forts, etc. throughout Old Town and decide what you want to see. One of my favorites was St. Ignatius Church, as the architecture intrigued me from the outside, and I was amazed upon stepping inside by the dome above the altar with scenes from the life of St. Ignatius de Loyola painted by Gaetano Garcia.
The streets are full of character and full of buildings made with beautiful stone. Bars and restaurants are bursting along the edge of the streets, with delicious aromas filling the air. The whole city is Instagram worthy.
Circle the City Walls
The medieval walls afford ever-changing views out to sea and over the old town, and hark back to the 13th century. They are best explored with a full-circuit, just over a mile’s walk along the battlements. Further reinforcements, including several imposing towers, were added in the 15th century, to protect the city against the Ottoman Turks.
Fort Lovrijenac (Fort of St. Lawrence)
The impressive Fort Lovrijenac, or Fort of St. Lawrence, is the iconic detached structure that sits atop the steep cliffs. It lies just outside the city walls near the Pile Gate entrance. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you may also recognize it as the Red Keep in King’s Landing where many scenes were filmed, including the tournament thrown in honor of King Joffrey’s name day in season two.
The fort was built in a quick three months in the early 1000’s to protect the city from the Venetians. I want you to take another look at the photo of the fort above. Can you imagine building that in three months? With the tools they had in the 1000’s? That’s phenomenal!
A climb up 175 stone steps will bring you to the entrance of the fort, and the price is included in your city walls tour – so make sure to keep your ticket! At 121 feet (37 meters) above sea level, the views from the fort are incredible and give you yet another viewpoint to admire the remarkable city of Dubrovnik.
There are a lot of kayak tour companies not operating legally in the area, so make sure you choose carefully. I went with Adventure Dubrovnik, located right outside of Pile Gate. They were recommended by the hotel I stayed at, so you can always ask for a suggestion from the place you’re staying at as well. It’s a great option because you don’t need any experience, although you should be somewhat physically fit.
For 230 kuna you can get a 2.5 to 3 hour kayak tour including instruction, lunch, and snorkeling at a cave, we chose the sunset tour as we didn’t want to burn in the open waters it was so hot! Since they have tours nearly every hour of the day, you are better off booking after you arrive in Dubrovnik so you can account for weather and any other plans you make. There is a large waterproof bucket on each kayak where you can store your belongings, and a smaller one for your phone and/or camera for easy access while you’re out on the water so you can take photos.
If you walked the walls you’ve seen the city from above, but the kayak tour gives you a new perspective of the city from out on the Adriatic Sea while also learning about the history of Dubrovnik as you paddle along the city walls, around Lokrum Island, and stopping for a longer break at the hidden Betina cave and beach. Here you will have time to eat your lunch and enjoy snorkeling in the clear, blue waters.
Take your pick of cafe in Old Town and people watch! It’s a perfect time to pay attention to the little things. Sit back and observe the sights, sounds, smells, and voices around you. We often took a seat and just sat back and watched others go about their day. Of course we had a little help of sipping on cocktails.
What to Eat
I usually didn’t want a huge lunch so i bought baguettes from the bakery. There was a huge range of choice from pastries, sandwiches, pizza and cakes. I also found I saved money on this as eating out twice a day can mount up! I prefer to cut costs in other areas while traveling so I can afford to splurge on the amazing evening meals. One of my favorites was Zuzori, a restaurant hidden away on one of the tiny side streets in Old Town that I only noticed because of the hot pink lettering on their sign that drew my eyes along to the bottom where it read “pumpkin gnocchi,” and I knew I needed to try this restaurant before leaving.
They have a creative menu serving Mediterranean food with a modern twist and a strong Italian influence. Sounded like the perfect combination to me! Of course, I ordered that pumpkin gnocchi and was not disappointed. In fact, it ended up being one of the best meals I had in Croatia! I also ate many pizzas, and I must say their pizzas are one of the best I’ve ever eaten, plus they were MASSIVE.
Game of Thrones Walking Tour
The Old Town is so striking that it seems to have leapt directly from the pages of George R. R Martin’s addictive series of novels and it is no coincidence that Dubrovnik was also a capital city in its own right – of the now extinct Republic of Ragusa.
At first I thought this 2 hour tour will be too long, however I enjoyed every second, and the lady that took the tour was so knowledgeable. She is a repeat extra on the show so she gave us behind the scenes info. She had a flip book with pictures from the various scenes in show to remind us of the specific scene and background. This was super helpful.
I was taken through the parts of the Old City where some of the most memorable scenes from the ongoing cultural phenomenon were filmed, including: The Pile Gate where King Joffrey was faced with a citizens’ riot and pelted with dung, and the Lovrijenac fort where the unsuccessful attack on King’s Landing – the Battle of Blackwater – took place.
Off the jagged coast of Dubrovnik, the island of Lokrum stands sentinel looking out over the Adriatic Sea. Providing additional protection to the natural harbor and thick Old Town walls, this garden island is home to no permanent citizens – unless you count the peacocks.
In the center of the island, you can explore the ruins of a 12th/13th-century basilica and 15th-century monastery. These ruins (some of which date back as far as 1023 AD) are under restoration efforts currently, but if they’re open, I highly recommend spending some time learning about the history of the island and those who have lived there.
Located on the highest point of the island, Fort Royal is a former French garrison which looks out over all of Lokrum and has great views of Dubrovnik too. It’s a gentle slope but moderate difficulty hike from sea level to the top, but the views (and the small sea breeze that you can feel) makes it worth it.
Where To Stay
I stayed at The Hotel Dubrovnik Palace. Backed by the pine-wooded slopes of Petka Hill, on the coast on Lapad peninsular. It looks onto the open sea, the tiny rocky Grebeni islets, capped by a lighthouse, and the island of Koločep. West-facing too, so you get spectacular sunsets. It’s three miles to Dubrovnik’s lovely fortified Old Town (served by Bus 4 from outside the hotel) and 14 miles from Dubrovnik Airport.
Staff are warm, welcoming and very professional. The concierge can arrange local excursions, and car and yacht rental. Out front, sun beds on the rock-and-concrete bathing area look across the Adriatic to the Elaphiti Islands. There are several outdoor pools, a scuba diving centre and a beachwear shop.
On the 10th floor, the Wellness & Spa has a sea-view indoor pool with two adjoining circular hot tubs, plus steam bath, Finnish sauna and a sea view gym. They offer massages and face and body treatments using Thalgo and Energy Clinic products. There’s also a peaceful tennis court shaded by towering pine trees.
I stayed as bed and breakfast, and I couldn’t fault the breakfast or the service. There was an array of cooked breakfast, continental, fresh fruit and cereals. Every morning I must of had about 4 courses because I just couldn’t decide what to have!