Things to know before going to Dubrovnik & important landmarks to visit
Often called the Pearl of Adriatic, Dubrovnik is a stunning city to explore. With its UNESCO World Heritage City Walls, Old Town, the oldest pharmacy in Europe, and breathtaking sunsets, the city will leave you amazed and full of different emotions. Here’s the ultimate guide of what to do in Dubrovnik, the majestic city of Croatia.
Things to know before g
oing to Dubrovnik
How to Get to Dubrovnik
Depending on where you start your trip, there are plenty of possibilities to get to Dubrovnik. If you choose to begin your Croatian trip from Dubrovnik, then you might want to check out flights from your home city to here.
Eurowings flies directly to Dubrovnik from several central cities of Europe, while other low-budget airlines fly to different cities of Croatia such as Wizzair to Split and Ryanair to Pula, Rijeka, and Zadar. From here, you can either rent a car, take a bus, or Jardolinija ferry.
Check out my tips on how to find cheap airline tickets that saved me $200+
Best time to visit Dubrovnik
One of the things to know before going to Dubrovnik is
Wintertime here is quite cold as well, with sea breeze and low temperature. Thus, the best time to visit Dubrovnik is still September and October, or late spring.
How expensive is Dubrovnik
Well, VERY! Dubrovnik is the most expensive city in Croatia we have visited. And this doesn’t go with tourists only; it’s costly for locals as well. My advice would be to prepare your own meal at your apartment or hostel and not dine out to minimize your costs. Groceries are a bit above average but it goes a long way, and a bottle of wine in the supermarket is cheap.
To give you a rough idea of how expensive dining out is, imagine a non-touristy place outside of a city center, where we bought two slices of pizza, one doner, soda, beer, and french fries. We paid almost $31.30
Locals have a different price than tourists
You might think “this isn’t a surprise. Lots of countries do that!; I get it and completely support the system. Tourism is the main income for many countries and cities. BUT what upset us most was the big price difference between what we, as tourists, and my best friend, as a resident, paid for the same service. For instance, tourist price was triple of what Danijela paid for a ferry ticket to one of the small islands!
The same goes for dining in a cafe or restaurant. The menu for both is the same, but locals get a discount price on the final bill, and the percentage may vary from the venue to venue, going up to 30%.
Croatia has its own currency called Croatian Kuna. There are plenty of exchange offices both inside and outside of the old town. However, one of the things you should know is that the rate shown on the table is low compared to international currency exchange websites. This is because the commission is already deducted. We found that the best and highest rate for USD was in Stari Grad and not outside of it.
Entrance to Old Town or Stari Grad in Croatian
There’s no fee to enter the Old Town itself, but you pay
150 200 Kuna (as of June 2020) to walk on the City Walls and enjoy panoramic views of the Adriatic sea and gorgeous views of red rooftops.
Dubrovnik’s Old Town gets millions of visitors during the summer months. And as the old town is enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site, the maximum recommended amount to visit it is 8,000 people per day, which evidently exceeds it at peak season.
Since UNESCO warned Dubrovnik to take measures, the city decided to reduce the number of visitors by increasing the admission fee for the walls.
Dubrovnik public transportation
In my opinion, Dubrovnik is a walkable city and there is no need to use public transport. However, some buses go to the Old Town from every district of the town and even from the nearby smaller cities. Each bus stop has well-marked route plans.
We only used the bus once, when we were tired from all the walks and island tours in Lopud and paid 12 Kuna for the ticket per person.
Don’t walk in your swimsuit
The country as a whole is very Catholic. And even though Dubrovnik is a coastal city full of masses sunbathing at its beaches, note that locals don’t like tourists walking in the streets in swimsuits, especially if you want to walk in a store or a small convenient shop for a bottle of water after a long day at the bay.
Similar to other European cities, Dubrovnik has a city pass that reduces the expenses for visiting museums, city walls, restaurants, and transportation. There are one, three, and seven-day cards available and each offers different discounts.
We were thinking to get one but then changed our minds. We are not big museum fans and didn’t need to use public transportation at all.
What to do in Dubrovnik
Walk around the Placa or Stradun
The inhabitants of old Dubrovnik used to enter the city through two main gates – Ploce and Pile with mobile wooden bridges. Thus, entering the city at night was prohibited. The eastern gate Pile takes you to the Stradun, the main street in the old town. This 292-meter long lane brings you to the main square of the city to explore its landmarks:
- Onofrio Fountain. Located near the Pile Gate, the fountain is named after a 15th-century builder of the city’s water supply system.
- City Bell Tower. If you walk from the Pile Gate, the Bell Tower is at the end of the Stradun street. Erected in 1444, the tower is 31 meters high.
- Orlando’s Column stands in the center of the square portraying the image of the knight Orlando and is the symbol of statehood.
- The Sponza. A monumental Gothic-Renaissance palace that used to be a customs office, the state mint, and treasury during the time of Dubrovnik Republic. Today, it shelters the most significant cultural organization – The Dubrovnik State Archives keeping many authentic documents about a thousand-year history of the Republic.
Visit the oldest Pharmacy in Europe
One of the places to visit in Dubrovnik is this little Friar’s Pharmacy. It’s considered to be one of the oldest in Europe in terms that it continues the service today.
Both the monastery and the pharmacy were founded in 1217 and houses one of the most valuable collections of literature on pharmacology and medicine. More than 2,000 prescriptions, furniture, and pharmacology equipment present here date back to the 15th century. Besides, the museum also has precious manuscripts and chorales arts by unknown masters.
- Price: 60 Kuna
Admire the columns of Rectors Palace
This is the place where Dubrovnik’s Rector resided during his one month mandate. Besides, it was the administrative seat of the Dubrovnik Republic. Adorned with beautifully carved capitals, the exterior with round arches is quite fascinating to watch. Today, it houses a Cultural Historical Museum.
Marvel at the St. Blaise Church
This Baroque church dedicated to St. Blaise, the heavenly patron saint of the city. Built in 1715 on the place of an earlier Romanesque church devoted to the same saint, St. Blaise features the statue of the saint on top, while the interior is elaborately decorated with a gold-plated statue of him at the main altar.
Walk up the Jesuit Steps
These Baroque stairs lead up to the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius and a 17th-century Jesuit College. The staircase became very famous due to The Game of Thrones’ iconic “Walk of Shame” scene shot here. And if you are a fan of HBO’s TV Show, here’s a review of the Dubrovnik Game of Thrones Tour for you to consider booking.
Built in 1738 by the Roman architect Pietro Passalacqua, the staircase is made in a convex-concave form and adds a unique visual effect to the whole complex. Many also resemble it as a replica of the famous Roman staircase leading from Piazza di Spagna to Trinita dei Monti church.
Admire St. Ignatius Church
The Cathedral existed in its present form since the beginning of the 18th century on the place of the earlier very imposing Romanesque cathedral. During the restoration work in 1981, the archeological research found traces of an even earlier Byzantine church dating back to the 6th century. The existence of such church was not documented in the archives.
Today, it exhibits a rich treasury of valuable silver and golden relics of saints. Additionally, the cathedral contains priceless paintings by old masters, such as Tizian’s Assumption of Our Lady.
Watch the boat traffic at the city port
Another thing to do in Dubrovnik is to visit its port where it’s trading ships sailed from different parts of the world. Today, authentic replicas of the galleon and karaka ships transport tourists to Elaphite islands and somewhat evoke the image of old glory.
Dominated by St. John’s fort, the port was defended from here against pirate and enemy attacks. At the eastern side of the entrance, there’s a quarantine building Lazaretto, built at the beginning of the 17th century and is considered to be one of the best-kept buildings of its kind in the Mediterranean.
Anyone who wanted to enter the city was placed in the Lazaretto for several days to make sure they didn’t have any diseases to bring to the town.
Watch the sunset from the city port
There are several spots to watch a sunset in Dubrovnik. If you plan on visiting the city walls, then make sure you are there during the sunset. However, do note that typically, those walls are very crowded with visitors. And if you are on a budget and don’t want to spend money on the city walls, go to the city port at Ploce Gate and sit near the bay. This might not be the best sunset viewpoint, but it still is a nice place to enjoy local wine, calm sea, and a colorful sky!
Walk on the city walls
The city walls are an essential part of Dubrovnik sightseeing. 1,940 meters long walls offer breathtaking views of the Old Town and the seaside. Considered as one of the most beautiful and best-preserved fortification systems in Europe, the walls include three forts, 16 towers, six bastions, two corner fortifications, and two citadels.
From up here, you can admire the views of red rooftops with unique chimneys popping here and there, and most importantly, see the city center which looks like a big open oyster shell.
- Price: 200 Kuna
However, if you don’t like to spend that amount to walk the city walls, there’s a secret passway that gives you a glimpse of that iconic, red rooftop view. Once you step the Stradun street, each lane has a sign what you can find if you walk up there. Find a red textile sign that says Old Fountry 16th Century.
Walk all the way up until you see Gornji Ugao Tower. The place is now a basketball stadium with picturesque views of the city. Even though there’s a fence and you can’t take proper pictures with your camera, you can still pop out your phone, snap it for your Instagram or simply enjoy the view!
Do note that it’s even more beautiful when you come up during the sunset.
Go grocery shopping at farmer’s market
One of the things you to know before going to Dubrovnik is that every morning there’s a farmer’s market near the Gruz port with fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and seafood. However, if you’d like to buy some freshly caught fish and other delicacies, bear in mind that you need to visit the fish market in the early morning, around 7-8 am.
Take a Dubrovnik Cable Car up to the hill
Want to see Dubrovnik from above and even watch a spectacular sunset? Pack a snack, bottle of wine and head towards the Srd Hill. You can take the cable car or hike up the hill. Another alternative is to use Uber, which is cheaper than a local taxi.
- Price: 140 Kuna
Get away from the crowded beaches
Dubrovnik’s Lapad district is home to a newly renovated bay for you to swim, escape tourist crowds and sunbathe after exhausting walking tours in and around the city. And if you get hungry, there are several bars, cafes, and food courts for you to have a bite.
Prepare for the trip
To ease your travel planning, check out all the posts about Croatia travel. Additionally, here are some of the websites and services I use when preparing for my next adventure anywhere in the world.
– Book affordable flights on Kiwi.com, a platform that shows the best routes and flight deals to your destination. There’s a money-back guarantee if you miss the flight!
– Check iVisa to see if you need a tourist visa to visit Croatia, how to apply online if applicable, or where’s the nearest embassy or consulate
– Find budget-friendly deals on all sorts of accommodation types on Booking and Agoda, or find a cool apartment on Airbnb and get $34 off on your first stay (my invite expires in 30 days after you sign up! )
– Buy the most flexible and budget-friendly travel insurance, SafetyWing, to cover all sorts of health problems on the road
– Book in advance some of the best city walks, cultural experiences, and day tours to maximize your stay and experience here