Although it’s hardly a hidden secret, Dubrovnik’s majestic old town exceeds expectations. It’s straight out of a fairy tale with its well-preserved baroque buildings and ancient city walls. This is a city that’s best explored on foot to explore all its cobbled streets and timeworn hideaways, flanked by the sparkling waters of the Adriatic Sea. Take the cable car to Mt Srd to enjoy the sweeping views over Dubrovnik’s red roofs, or take a day trip out into the inland countryside to go wine tasting in the abundant sunshine. Visit 14th-century monasteries or take a boat ride out into the harbour.
Dubrovnik’s enchanting Old Town is its biggest attraction, so start your tour of the city at its main entrance, the Pile Gate. From here you can have a wander around the cobbled lanes that circle through this historic district, including Europe’s oldest pharmacy, multiple historic monasteries and the Baroque paintings inside Rector’s Palace. You’ll see one of Europe’s oldest Synagogues, as well as the city’s impressive Cathedral and a maritime museum here. You can also explore from above by walking the 1.5 miles of old city walls to gain a different view of Old Town, though beware of the steep steps!
Ships enter the Dubrovnik area at Gruz Harbour, which is a 15-minute shuttle bus ride away from the Old Town. These shuttles will drop you off at Pile Gate so you don’t need to waste any time before you start your exploration of the main sights. In the unlikely event that your cruise ship doesn’t offer this service, you can opt for the numbers 1 or 8 buses into the city centre instead. Tickets are available at any newsstand or within the main terminal building. There are also taxis right at the pier to get you into town if you want to skip the bus queue.
It’s not recommended to drive anywhere near the Old Town, which is a car free zone. The streets around these main city walls fill up very quickly, so you’re unlikely to find free parking spots there. When it comes to parking at the port, there’s a secure lot inside Port Gruz. This is staffed for security, with an automated entrance and exit to make payment quite simple. Enter the parking lot through the main port roundabout and follow the signs. Port parking is suitable for either short ferry excursions or longer Mediterranean cruises – you can pay by the hour or day.
"It’s no wonder that George Bernard Shaw was enchanted by this beautiful city, saying “those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik”, as well as describing it as “the pearl of the Adriatic”."
"Jutting out into the Adriatic Sea with a backdrop of rugged limestone mountains, Dubrovnik Old Town is known as one of the world’s finest and most perfectly preserved medieval cities in the world."
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There are a number of attractive beaches to relax on around Dubrovnik, particularly during the summer months when temperatures rise. Banje is within walking distance from Old Town, although it’s pebbly rather than sandy. For taking a dip in the sea, venture to the Lapad peninsula where you’ll find quiet, private coves to enjoy.
Beyond the beach, you can get out into Croatia’s gorgeous countryside on a kayak tour, snorkelling trip, or inland cycling tour. A popular day trip is to Lokrum Island, a short ferry ride from Dubrovnik. This island is a lush nature reserve, home to secluded beaches and tropical plants.
Take part in the local laid-back lifestyle and while the afternoon away in an open-air café. These dot the Old Town, many of which offer sea views as well as a prime spot for people-watching over coffees or cocktails. Stay for a meal – local cuisine features freshly caught seafood and typical Mediterranean flavours. The gelato is particularly good here.
Although much of Dubrovnik can be seen as an open-air museum, there are also official galleries where you can take in a bit of culture. The city’s Museum of Modern Art showcases an impressive collection of works from modern and contemporary Croatian artists.