I was hooked the moment I laid my eyes on Croatian soil. Dense forests ran right up to the edge of the sea. The bright orange roofs of houses could be seen here and there between the trees. Suddenly, the greenery began to disappear, and imposing grey mountains rose up in the distance. Yes, I’ll admit I was that person taking too many airplane wing photos. I couldn’t help myself. To make up for my cringeworthy behavior, I’ve written a list of my five favorite things to do in Old Town Dubrovnik.
This city has become steadily more popular over the last decade, especially now that it was the set for several Game of Thrones episodes. Dubrovnik serves as the perfect gateway to Croatia with ferries, planes, and buses connecting to anywhere and everywhere you could want to go. The city itself has seen so much history, from the construction of its walls in the 16th century to the wars of the early nineties. This list is just the highlights from my trip to Dubrovnik to get you started. You could easily spend two or three days getting lost in the maze-like alleyways weaving their way through the city.
It goes without saying, the old town of Dubrovnik is iconic. The shining marble streets and grand main avenue make quite the impression when you first walk through the Pile Gate on the west side of town. Little side streets shoot off leading to pubs, shops, and residential areas. The main street, or Stradun, is lined with outdoor cafés perfect for people watching. This has to be one of the most unique city centers I’ve ever seen. Just be careful in the rain because the streets get slippery.
Walking the Walls
There is no better way to get acquainted with this little city than by walking along the walls. The impressive fortification runs around the entire city and can be as high as 25 meters in some spots. It is best to go in the morning or early evening to avoid the crowds and the summer heat. We went in the evening, and watching the orange glow of the setting sun wash over the city was incredible. My camera was definitely getting more use on this leg of the trip.
Some of you may recognize this fort as the Red Keep from Game of Thrones. Fort Lovrijenac sits atop a 37 meter high cliff looking over the sea and city. The ticket is included in the entry fee for the city walls, so you definitely shouldn’t pass it up. The views are amazing. My favorite spot in all of Dubrovnik was just outside the entrance looking out over a small cove. Dev and I returned there to watch the sunset on our final night. I am still not over how blue the water was. I swear it looked like people were swimming in blue Gatorade.
War Photo Limited
Alrighty, folks. Time to get a little serious. Dubrovnik is an incredible destination because of its historical sites and museums, but its history isn’t all ancient. Located in the city center of Dubrovnik is a photography gallery/museum called War Photo Limited. As the name would suggest, the exhibits focus on the work of various photo-journalists. When we went, the main exhibit was on the work of Eddie van Wessel from his time spent in the Middle East. Shot over the course of about ten years, these portraits, candid shots, and artistic photos depicted the lives of individuals amidst chaos. It was powerful.
Aside from the main exhibit, there is also a permanent collection of photos from the Yugoslav Wars upstairs. Despite the fact that this occurred during my lifetime, I know very little about it. One of the photos showed the harbor of Dubrovnik burning. People in the city were without water. They were refugees. It is hard to imagine that seeing the city as it is now, a thriving tourist hot spot. Even cities ravaged by war can bounce back with a little TLC. I wonder how the city will look in another twenty years.
Watching The Sunset Over the Adriatic
Watching the sun set over the ocean was one of my favorite experiences in Dubrovnik. Sunsets are usually beautiful, but watching the city slowly light up as the sky darkens was particularly magical. I really wish I had a tripod with me to do some proper long exposure shots, but I made do with a crumbling fort wall and some railings. I’d love to come back to the city during the low season. The restaurants and shops may all close, but it must feel incredible to have the city all to yourself. Though we missed the worst of the crowds, the day we left another cruise ship showed up and flooded the city with a new batch of tourists. Maybe I am selfish, but I can live with that.
I also have to give a shout out to the hostel we stayed in – Old Town Hostel. It was absolutely brilliant. The girls who worked there were helpful and friendly, and being smack dab in the middle of Old Town didn’t hurt either. The rooms are more expensive than I’d usually go for, but convenience was king here for us. If you are ever planning to go to Dubrovnik, check it out.
A shuttle service runs regularly from the airport to the city center. Purchase tickets at the information desk in the airport lobby.