Drum roll please… I’m about the drop the ultimate knowledge bomb full of insider travel tips to one of the world’s trendiest destinations: Dubrovnik, Croatia. Trust me when I say you won’t find these tips in any Lonely Planet Guide or one of the various “36 hour travel guides” on Pinterest.
Why? Because I didn’t just visit Dubrovnik; I live here. I first came to study abroad, then fell in love, literally, with a local. I then returned to live here, where I am now. I’m one of the lucky few Americans that actually is immersed in the culture and Dubrovnik mentality. Not to mention, I’m the only travel blog in Dubrovnik currently.
No tourist traps. Only my genuine tips (and a few of my boyfriend’s recommendations too) about a destination that turned into my second home:
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*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I receive a small percentage of any of the tours you may book that are mentioned below. This helps me support myself and continue to provide free resources on my blog like this guide.
Dubrovnik travel guide, as told by locals
Population: Around 50,000
Language: Croatian, but almost everyone speaks English
Dubrovnik, also known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, is a small coastal town with big character. It’s nested at the Southern tip of Croatia between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. Dubrovnik’s tumultuous history, breathtaking architecture and seaside landscape make it the most popular destination in the Balkan region, and one of the most popular in Europe.
Dubrovnik was first established around 7th century, and was an independent republic for 450 years (1358-1808). The city remained independent throughout the rule of the Roman, Napoleon, and Turkish empires as a seaport with open trade. Dubrovnik then became a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and then finally Yugoslavia.
The secession of Croatia from former communist Yugoslavia in 1991 is a sensitive subject for many Dubrovnik locals. The area was attacked during the war, and people had to either stay and fight in the war or flee as refugees. Even the famed Old Town, a UNESCO heritage site, was completely destroyed. Today most of the area is restored, and is one of the safest places in the world.
Dubrovnik locals take pride in their identity and are very much a product of their past. Many will consider Dubrovnik separate from the rest of Croatia, as if it still is a republic. The local economy depends heavily on tourism, and has tactfully marketed Dubrovnik’s unique features. Dubrovnik is very welcoming towards foreigners, but locals share a special bond that is harder to explain than it is to break.
Book a cultural tour of Dubrovnik below:
When to go to Dubrovnik
Shoulder season: April, May, September, October
High season: June, July, August
Off season: November-March
I recommend: May or September
There’s really no bad time to visit Dubrovnik, but it depends on what you want most. If you can tolerate massive crowds of tourists for perfect beach weather, then visiting in the summer during high season is for you. If you’re looking to experience more of the authentic Dubrovnik without all the tourism, or maybe even want to visit the Christmas festival, then going in the off season is a good option.
I’ve been in Dubrovnik for all three tourism seasons, and I would recommend visiting in the shoulder season. May and September are my favorite, because it is still warm enough to swim and enjoy everything Dubrovnik has to offer, without being trampled by tourists.
How many days to spend in Dubrovnik
Isn’t this the million dollar question? I can tell you that you surely cannot see what Dubrovnik has to offer in only a day. Not even two. The thing is, many people don’t understand that Dubrovnik is NOT just the Old Town. Going to Dubrovnik and only seeing the Old Town is like going to Paris and only seeing the Eiffel Tower.
I truly think you need at least 4 days in Dubrovnik, preferably 5 if you want to explore the surrounding area. The reason is because you should give yourself one or two days to explore the Old Town, another day for the surrounding area, and ideally two day trips. Dubrovnik is conveniently located right next to Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Montenegro, and several neighboring islands.
The most popular tours in Dubrovnik right now:
How to get to Dubrovnik
Getting to Dubrovnik depends on if you want to visit other parts of Croatia before or after (you totally should if you have time). You can easily fly into Dubrovnik, but the only direct flights are from Europe.
Sometimes flights can be expensive, since Dubrovnik is more isolated from the rest of Europe. If traveling from the U.S, I would recommend finding a flight into London or Amsterdam first, and then buy a separate ticket into Dubrovnik (use Google Flights). You may have to go out and get your bags in between connecting flights, but this is the secret that has saved me hundreds of dollars.
Otherwise if you are traveling elsewhere in Croatia, you can take a bus to Dubrovnik. You can also take a ferry from various other Croatian cities, and even a few places in Italy.
Where to stay
There are many surrounding areas of Dubrovnik, which means that you don’t have to confine yourself to the Old Town. Honestly there are so many gorgeous hotels in Dubrovnik, but I recommend booking a rental apartment through Book.com or airbnb. Upscale and glamorous rental apartments are scattered throughout the Dubrovnik region, mainly through booking.com or airbnb.com. These can be anywhere between $35-$150 a night.
Staying at a rental apartment is one of the best ways to directly impact the local economy. Almost everyone in Dubrovnik rents apartments, with some living solely off of renting apartments during high season. Locals are extremely accommodating and are genuinely happy to help you enjoy Dubrovnik. Some apartments have websites, and it’s actually cheaper to go directly through them instead of paying a booking fee with a host website.
If you decide to stay in a hotel instead, I would recommend the Hilton Hotel, Excelsior, or Sheraton Hotel. All of these have a reputation of being extremely professional and upscale.
Dubrovnik and the surrounding area is also a great place to camp. I recommend this option if you are road-tripping, traveling with kids, or on a budget.
If you are interested in camping, check out my “Insider Guide to Camping in Dubrovnik” here.
There are so many beautiful areas in the Dubrovnik region; it’s hard to pick one. If you want to be closer to the center of action, it’s best to be closer to the Old Town. Look for the Pile or the Ploche region, which is just outside the Old Town. Otherwise anything within a 15-minute walk to the Old Town will be very central.
The Lapad region is gorgeous, and only a few kilometers outside the city center. Otherwise, I love the Zupa region, because it’s extremely scenic, on the sea, and a little more authentic. It’s only about 7 kilometers from the Old Town, which is a short boat or bus ride away. I lived in the area of Plat for 7 months, which is full of serene and untouched nature. (You can check out the apartment I stayed in here.)
Things to do in Dubrovnik
Though the Dubrovnik area may seem small in size, there are seemingly infinite things to do in the surrounding area. Staying any less than three days would truly not do Dubrovnik any justice. Not only is the city itself beautiful, it is conveniently located in close proximity to Bosnia, Montenegro, other coastal towns, and various Croatian islands. So ideally, you should spend at least a few other days visiting the neighboring attractions
Here are the top things to do around Dubrovnik:
Visit the City Walls
Of course, the most popular tourist attraction in Dubrovnik is the City Walls, for good reason. Believe me when I say it may be the best views of Old Town and the Adriatic you’ll get. The City Walls are open year round, and take about an hour and a half to complete the full circle.
I would recommend visiting in the morning or the late afternoon, but be aware that the walls will be packed in high season. You don’t necessarily need a guide to visit the city walls. However, if you’re interested in learning more about the history it may be a good idea.
Explore the Old Town
Sure, doing a tour of the Old Town would help give some historical context of this city’s complex and fascinating history. However, I do recommend you carve out time to simple just get lost in its’ vastness. Climb the cobblestone steps and discover the quieter areas of town. I seem to always find new nooks and crannies along the quaint side streets, and there’s never a shortage of stray cats.
Just make sure you are respectful since yes, people actually live here.
People watch along the Stradun
Do as the locals do in Dubrovnik and have a coffee and people watch along the famed Stradun Street, which goes through the Old Town. You’ll spot locals dressed like they’re coming off a runway, and some interesting tourists from all over the world.
Hike or take the cable car to Mount Srd
Seeing Dubrovnik from the top of Srd is a must. You can either hike or take the cable car to the top. I would recommend the latter in hotter summer months, but hiking is much more scenic. The top overlooks Dubrovnik and the Adriatic, and there is often horses and goats roaming around. There’s also the Panorama restaurant on the very top, which is perfect for dinner or a drink.
You also don’t need to take a tour of Srd, as you can simply hike or take the cable car. I do recommend visiting the war museum at the top if you are particularly interested in the history of the Homeland war.
Visit the local beaches
There are too many beaches in Dubrovnik to count, and some are more touristy than others. Banje Beach is the most popular, but there are so many others that many tourists don’t even know about. You don’t have to worry about any sharks or dangerous fish in the sea, other than sea urchins, which is why I recommend wearing water shoes or jelly sandals while swimming in rocky areas.
Also, make sure to be careful going cliff jumping. Many areas appear safe but tourists end up injuring themselves with rocks under the surface (especially near Buze Bar).
My favorite beaches are Pasjaca Beach, Dance, and Sveti Javoc beach.You can read about how to get to these beaches in my “Dubrovnik Beach Guide” here.
Go Kayaking or snorkeling
Kayaking is one of my favorite activities to do in Dubrovnik. I think it is one of the best ways to experience what the seaside landscape has to offer and uncover the hidden areas of Dubrovnik.
Book a kayaking tour in Dubrovnik below:
Stroll through Uvala in Lapad
Lapad is actually one of my favorite areas in Dubrovnik, and is often more of a mix between locals and tourists. The Uvala Street is a popular place to walk, which has restaurants, shops, live music, and beaches. It is about a 20-minute walk outside the Old Town.
Cavtat is another one of my favorite places, which is just as beautiful as Dubrovnik, but is more quaint and serene. It is about a 30-minute bus ride from the Old Town.
Book a tour in the Cavtat and Konavle region below:
Day trips to take from the Dubrovnik area:
Dubrovnik is the ideal location for taking multiple day trips to neighboring islands and countries. These are my favorite places to take day trips from Dubrovnik.
Visit the island of Lokrum
Lokrum is the island directly across from the Old Town, and is full of gorgeous gardens, exotic animals, and nude beaches. The island itself has a unique history, and it is supposedly cursed for anyone who stays overnight on the island.
You can easily take a day trip to Lokrum for 120 kunas from Dubrovnik’s main harbor, near the Ploce gate within the Old Town. There are a few restaurants and small stores on the island, but packing a picnic is also a good option. Make sure to bring a towel, swimsuit, and sunscreen!
If you love wine, oysters, or BOTH, you need to make sure you take a tour of the Peljesac peninsula. Much less crowded than the Dubrovnik area and only about an hour away, the Peljesac area is home to some of Croatia’s best wines, seafood, and beaches. Oh, and you can climb the Great Wall of Europe in Ston, which is an absolute must.
I truly think that this area is going to be the next Tuscany ( I think it’s even better), so this is one of my favorite trips to take from Dubrovnik myself.
Book a tour of the Peljesac region here:
Korcula is one of the most popular day trips from Dubrovnik and also the Peljesac peninsula. It is also known for it’s gorgeous beaches and legendary wineries. There are some remarkable beaches in the Lomarda area of the island. Is it also ideal for renting a bike. Oh, and Marco Polo was apparently born here, but that’s still up for debate.
Book a Korcula tour here:
If you want to escape the crowds for the day and experience the best of the Adriatic, head to the island of Mljet. Named the Croatian island with the best nature by Lonely Planet, Mljet is home to a national park with a lake, and yes, an island within the island. It’s a great place to go for the day to rent bikes or scooters, visit the national park, and relax on the beaches.
Budva and Kotor in Montenegro
You can’t come to Dubrovnik and not visit Montenegro. Only about an hour away, the popular towns of Kotor and Budva are right across the border. Some tours offer the possibility of seeing both towns since they are so close, which is a full day tour. If you’d like to spend a little more time, I recommend going to just Budva. The photo above is in the Sveti Stefan area outside Budva, which you can get to if you have a car or take a small private tour.
Historically, it was this area that attacked Dubrovnik during the war, but it’s good to take a tour here to get their perspective. Plus, you’ll find Montenegro is significantly cheaper than Dubrovnik.
Book a tour of Montenegro here:
Mostar and Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina
On the other side of the border is the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is significantly different than Dubrovnik. You’ll immediately notice the Turkish and Muslim influences in the culture and cuisine. Mostar is a popular day trip from Dubrovnik, which is under three hours away. The town itself has a very ripe history after being destroyed during the Homeland war. Not to mention, you’ll find cheap food and trinkets all throughout the town.
Kravice Waterfalls is right on the way to Mostar, which is a great alternative if you don’t have time to make it to Plitvice or Krka waterfalls. Unless you have a car and are comfortable navigating in Bosnia on your own, I would really recommend going with a tour. Bosnia is an incredible country but can be difficult to navigate and definitely not as safe as Dubrovnik is for tourists, let’s just see. It really is an incredible city worth seeing, none the less.
Book a tour of Mostar here:
Best Restaurants in Dubrovnik
There are so many wonderful restaurants in Dubrovnik, but I wouldn’t suggest eating out for every meal. I would recommend buying some food at Konzum, DM, Tommy or Pemo for your stay, especially for breakfast (since they don’t do breakfast so much in Dubrovnik).
Here are a few of my favorite restaurants.
Note that I am gluten free and don’t eat meat, except fish. These restaurants below are very accommodating. Please make sure you tell your server about any dietary restrictions beforehand in Dubrovnik.
Nishta (gluten free, vegan, vegetarian) *highly recommended
Presa (fast-food style)
Tutto Bene (fast-food style)
Ragusa 2 (seafood, various items)*highly recommended
Restaurant Dubrovnik (upscale Mediterranean cuisine) *highly recommended
Above 5 (upscale local cuisine)*highly recommended
Poklisar (Mediterranean cuisine)
Sesame (Croatian and Mediterranean, also has brunch)
Best Bars in Dubrovnik
Whether it’s the Christmas festival or summer along the Stradun, there are always some evening happenings in Dubrovnik. Most bars turn into café bars at night, so don’t be surprised if where you sipped coffee by day is now a club by night.
Here are my favorite café bars and clubs:
Art Café (funky décor with upbeat house music)
Exit (rock and roll vibe)
Karaka (Irish style pub)
La Bodega (hip and one of the most popular)
Revelin (The legendary Castle club)
Lazareti (Funky dance music)
Banje Beach (club on the beach)
Depending on the time of year, you can always ask around to see if there are any types of beach parties or student nights in other local bars.
How to avoid tourist traps in Dubrovnik
Though you really don’t have to worry too much about your safety in Dubrovnik, you should watch your back for tourist traps. Here are a few tips.
How to meet locals in Dubrovnik
You’re truly missing out on a huge part of the Dubrovnik experience if you don’t take the time to befriend some locals. For one, everyone speaks English so you don’t have a language barrier. And locals are genuinely happy to meet you, and likely will be really interested in talking with you.
Locals love to sit and have coffee with friends, or have a barbeque on the beach. They also really love to sing Croatian songs.
Locals are usually in the smaller cafes or bars, and usually outside the Old Town (here are some hidden gems locals love). Do make the effort, because it will only your enhance your experience of Dubrovnik and Croatian culture.
If you are looking for private trip planning assistance, with the help of myself and my partner who is a Dubrovnik local, please send me an e-mail at email@example.com for my rates.