“Oh, this is nothing!” our waiter told us, “In the summer there’ll be six of them out there!”
We were at the beach café at beautiful Sveti Jakov (Saint Jacob) beach and remarking on the one cruise ship we could see anchored in the Adriatic…but more about this great get-away beach later.
I’d been apprehensive about the busy Dubrovnik reputation and planned on only 3 nights, and yes the town was busy the last week of May, but despite the amount of people I could easily have spent another night. There’s plenty to do in Dubrovnik that we didn’t get to.
Top Dubrovnik Experiences
- Walking the fabulous Walls
- Relaxing at Sveti Jakov beach
The top activity in Dubrovnik is walking the massive town walls. Dubrovnik Old Town is big and these amazing walls are 6,360 feet long, soaring to a height of over 80 feet on the land side.
Tip: Get to the walls entrance near the Ploče Gate before they opened at 8:00 am, the right strategy if you want to enjoy the fabulous walk around Dubrovnik with only a few other people.
Tip: The walk along the walls is counter-clockwise and there are 3 entrances, if you start at the Ploče Gate entrance you get the best views first as you climb to the highest part of the walls.
Scenes from the walls walk
The Ploče Gate is a dramatic way to enter Dubrovnik – walking over what used to be the city moat and drawbridge and then the road between towering walls, the defensive outer wall and the wall of the Dominican monastery.
Game of Thrones fans will recognize St. Dominika street from the many scenes in the series that were shot right here.
When you start early you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery before the cruise ship crowds get off the boat.
From high up on the walls you can’t help but notice the different colored roof tiles. Nearly two-thirds of the roofs were replaced after the bombings during the 1991-1992 siege of the city in the Croatian War of Independence.
The massive walls were built mainly during the 12th and 15th centuries and continually extended and strengthened through the 17th centuries.
On the section of the wall over the busy Pile Gate (Pee-lay) entrance you get a great look at the 300 yard long, limestone paved Stradun – the main thoroughfare through the old town.
The Stradun wasn’t always a street, or even a straight street – back when Dubrovnik was getting it’s start in the 7th century this was a canal that separated the island of Ragusa from the mainland. Finally in the 11th century the canal was filled in and the populations of the Romans who lived on the island and the Slavs who lived on the shore merged.
The Great Dalmatia 1667 earthquake, followed by fire, destroyed most of the city and the Stradun was straightened during the rebuilding.
On the sea side of Dubrovnik you’ll see ruined areas, damaged not by the 1991-92 siege but by the 1667 earthquake.
Down below the walls, perched on rocks above the Adriatic is the famous Buža Bar. Buža means Hole in the Wall and that’s how you get to it – a little door opening in the wall. A drink here is one of the things you have to do before you leave Dubrovnik, it’s crowded for the sunset and then – poof – everyone splits.
Walking the walls can take a speedy 1 hour to a leisurely 2 hours. We took our time and ended up closer to two and then stopped for an espresso break on the Stradun, the main promenade that runs through the heart of the Old Town, watching the ebb and flow of the tour groups as they hustled purposefully along following the leader.
As we headed to the Pile Gate to go to St. Lawrence fortress (included in the walls ticket) it was amazing to see the amount of people going up and down the steps of the walls entrance at the Pile Gate. We congratulated ourselves that we had a terrific time walking the walls early!
Sveti Jakov Beach Break
By the time we’d finished our morning walls walk and the St. Lawrence Fortress, the amount of people in the town seemed extreme for the one cruise ship we could see from the walls – we got out of town and had a leisurely 20 some minute walk to Sveti Jakov beach.
That is, it would have been 20 minutes but there are beautiful views and at least one enticing detour down some stairs and rocks that slowed us up along the way.
At the end of the walk was picture perfect Sveti Jakov beach and better yet – a great beach bar. Nothing says Holiday more than sipping a Mojito in the shade with a gorgeous view of the Adriatic and Dubrovnik.
So what about that one cruise ship? The anchorage wasn’t the only place for the ships – the main port was a short bus ride north across town, and the Pile Gate entrance is where the buses drop everyone off.
Staying out of Dubrovnik in the busy part of the day seemed like the right idea – on our last day we packed a picnic and got the 10:00 ferry to rocky Lokrum Island for a look around and a little nature break.
Tip: In busy Dubrovnik you’ll want to get to the ferry a half hour early to buy your round trip ticket to the island.
The ferry was full going over and coming back, but on the island everyone spread out. An unexpected bonus was the Game of Thrones museum with film clips and info on all the GOT sites shot in and around Dubrovnik. Four hours was plenty of time to see the museum, walk up to the fort at the top of the island, walk all around, picnic, and still have time to sit and stare at the beautiful water of the Adriatic. Plenty of time.
Evening Scenes in Dubrovnik
Bustling Luža Square is gorgeous at night with the lighting on the beautiful 16th century Sponza Palace, the Clock Tower with it’s green men that strike the time, and the 15th century Rector’s Palace that once was the home and office of the official who governed Dubrovnik. A wonderful square for just taking in the busy Dubrovnik scene!
Great Eats: Restaurant Horizont: Outside the Dubrovnik walls you’ll find better and less expensive meals than the pricey restaurants inside. Horizont has delightful tables on the sidewalk steps outside with great views, food and service. Instead of a full meal we ordered appetizer portions which were still proceeded with a complimentary starter. The appetizer portion of fuži with truffles – that’s mediterranean homemade pasta with truffles paté (from the motovun forest) in a creamy champagne sauce – was plenty. We ate in truffle capital Motovun in Istria and THIS dish was far better! Another great touch was the small complimentary brandy at the end. A great meal and experience, so good it was worth a repeat the next night.
- Croatia Map
- Apartment with Balcony, Sea View and free parking (Airbnb) – Great apartment for 3 nights with a terrific host
Apartment with Balcony, Sea View, Free Parking (Airbnb)
Lovely apartment with a big view from the living room and the balcony off of the bedroom, this apartment is about 300 steps uphill from the Ploce Gate. It was spotless, well equipped – even with a washing machine although we didn’t use it. The large bedroom and bed were super comfortable (plus Quiet!), the little kitchen had everything we needed although we didn’t cook. Big table for the 2 laptops and WIFI worked fine, we were to stream Netflix connected via HDMI to the nice size LCD TV, which was handy because we couldn’t find any English language channels. The uphill walk was OK two times a day, but it did deter us from just popping in and out. For only 3 nights it was worth the climb to be able to park the car and forget it – plus have that unforgettable view.
Dubrovnik with a Car
A car is a hassle in Dubrovnik – your best bet for piece of mind parking is staying in an apartment that comes with it’s own parking place.
Arriving in Dubrovnik
An easy 2 hour drive from our 5 Nights in Captivating Kotor, we didn’t have any border issues or traffic problems on the main route (Highway 8) from the Bay of Kotor to Dubrovnik.
Next stop: Split Croatia, about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Dubrovnik.
Are 3 nights in Dubrovnik enough for you?