Dubrovnik is probably one of the most famous places in Croatia. With its monumental city walls, picturesque stone houses and a historic old town, it’s not by surprise it’s getting so many visitors each year. I’ve spent a weekend in Dubrovnik last April and here is my itinerary for a stay in this city filled with art, history and some fun things to do.
Weekend in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is quite small, so spending a weekend there is just about enough time to explore this beautiful Croatian town. Filled with a unique and exciting history and being home to some great museums, it’s a must-see place for any art enthusiast. Marijan and I visited Dubrovnik during our Croatia and Bosnia road trip, and it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
*Read my Ultimate Croatia Travel Guide before your visit to this beautiful country.
Some tips for visiting Dubrovnik
However, let’s start with some general tips that will make your weekend in Dubrovnik so much more enjoyable.
# – The best time to visit Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is among the most popular destinations in Europe, and it could get really crowded during July and August. It’s actually that crowded that the city authorities introduced the ticketing system and if there’s more than a certain number of people inside the city walls, it’s not allowed for others to enter it. That’s why I would strongly recommend you to plan your visit in Spring or Autumn when the weather is still beautiful, but the city is not that crowded. We visited during the last weekend in April and had beautiful weather, but the city wasn’t packed with people yet.
# – Get yourself a Dubrovnik Card
Dubrovnik Card is really useful if you would like to use public transport and visit some of the museums. We’ve got the three days long Dubrovnik cards and found them to be super useful. You can get more info about it on a link here.
# – Be careful at Dubrovnik city walls
Walking around its city walls was probably a thing I liked the most during our weekend in Dubrovnik. There are some truly amazing views from them, and I took numerous photos while walking on them. However, the walls are quite tall and climbing on them to make the best selfie possible is not the best idea. So, be careful and stay behind the fence.
How to get to Dubrovnik
*With a plane – Dubrovnik has its own airport, and you can easily travel there from anywhere in Europe. They recently introduced a direct line to the USA, as well.
*By a car – You can also visit it with a car. Highways in Croatia are great, and it’s easy to travel around the country with a car. However, if you’re coming from the western part of Croatia, the last few kilometres are going to be on the regional road with many curves, so be careful on that part.
*TIP: Once in Dubrovnik, park your car at your accommodation and use public transport or walk around. Finding a parking place is a headache in Dubrovnik, and it’s quite expensive, as well.
A bit about Dubrovnik’s History
Dubrovnik is a city with a really fascinating history. It’s located at the very south of Croatia and, for a long time, it was an independent state – The Republic of Ragusa. It was a small country consisting of the old town of Dubrovnik and its surroundings. Its Golden Age was during the 15th and the 16th century. The main industry was maritime trade. However, people of Dubrovnik were also important as international diplomats at that time. They were even involved in the American Revolution.
The Republic was quite progressive, and they adopted some modern laws quite early. Medical service was introduced in 1301 and the city pharmacy (still operating today) was established in 1317. Slave trade was abolished in 1418, and this is when Dubrovnik’s flag was created – a white flag with the Latin word ‘Libertas’ (‘Freedom’) on it.
Republic slowly declined during the 17th century when the Mediterranean shipping crisis, affecting other cities on the Mediterranean, as well, happened. However, the strong earthquake in 1667 in which a big part of the town was heavily damaged, quicken the decline. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was captured by Napoleon’s troops. And became a part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and Yugoslavia later on. Since 1991 it’s a part of Croatia and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Weekend in Dubrovnik Itinerary
Dubrovnik is such a picturesque town you can spend two days there by just strolling around it. However, we tried to include some guided tours and museum visits in it, as well.
Saturday in Dubrovnik
We’ve arrived in Dubrovnik on Friday afternoon, so after a nice dinner at our hotel, we’ve taken a walk at the beach and just enjoyed by strolling next to the sea. We went to bed early to save some energy for all the exploring we planned during our weekend in Dubrovnik. Before we came there, we booked two guided tours, so we started our day with one of them.
*HOTEL TIP: We stayed at the Palace Hotel Dubrovnik which is located just outside the city centre. However, the hotel has some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen and a lovely swimming pool. There was a bus stop just outside our hotel, so it made it easy to commute to the city centre (some 10 minutes ride).
# – Dubrovnik City Walk
Although we both visited Dubrovnik before during the school trips as kids, we wanted to refresh our knowledge about the history of this beautiful town. We booked two hours long small group city tour and explored the old town of Dubrovnik during it. We learned about the way life looked like during the past there, some of its famous citizens and the importance it had during history.
*Would you like to book the same Dubrovnik City Walk? Click on a link here for more info!
# – Sponza Palace & The Clock Tower
During our city walk, we visited Sponza, a beautiful Renaissance palace where the city archive is located today. Standing in its courtyard made me feel like I’ve stepped into the history back to the Golden Age of Dubrovnik. The 31 metres long Clock Tower next to it is a symbol of freedom of the city. Two statues inside of it strike the bell each hour.
*TIP: If you would like to get one of the most beautiful views on Dubrovnik, take a ride with a Cable Car that will take you to one of the best spots to do that. We wanted to get there after our city walk, but unfortunately, it wasn’t operating that day. Read more about it and get your Cable Car ticket on a link here.
# – Lunch at Konoba Moskar
Our guide gave us a recommendation for a lovely small restaurant to have lunch at. I had some local pašticada (meat in a sauce with some gnocchi), and it was delicious. There are many small restaurants around Dubrovnik to have lunch at. However, my recommendation is to ask at your hotel or your guide for a good suggestion. And of course, to try some local food. We loved Konoba Moskar, and I’m definitely recommending it.
# – Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik
One of the things I really looked forward during our weekend in Dubrovnik was to see some of the paintings created by one of my favourite Croatian painter, Vlaho Bukovac. He lived in the region close by, so many of his paintings are on display in a Museum of Modern Art in Dubrovnik.
It’s interesting to see how many of some of the most famous Croatian painters active at the beginning of the 20th century lived in and around Dubrovnik. Many of their paintings could be seen there, so if you would like to explore some of the modern Croatian art, be sure to visit it.
*TIP: If you would like to learn more about Vlaho Bukovac, then I would strongly recommend you to visit his house located in a nearby Cavtat. Both the bus ticket and the entrance to it are included in the Dubrovnik Card. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit it in the end. But, it’s something I’m definitely going to do the next time.
# – Strolling around the old city of Dubrovnik
On our way back, we walked through some small streets and narrow alleys and explored this old town. We loved getting lost and stumble to some beautiful hidden churches and palaces. We climbed the Jesuit Staircase where the famous ‘Walk of Shame’ from the Game of Thrones was filmed. Whichever church we entered we were amazed by the beautiful decorated ceilings or some fantastic paintings. That’s always my favourite part of travelling – getting lost and finding some hidden gems in the city.
# – Dubrovnik City Walls
I don’t know how to even start with describing a feeling I had while walking on Dubrovnik City Walls. It was definitely a highlight of my weekend in Dubrovnik. They were built between the 12th and the 17th century and are considered to be one of the most significant Medieval walls because they were never breached. They are around 1940 metres long, and the highest part of it is 25 metres tall.
We have joined one of the guided walks there (you can check it out on a link here) and really enjoyed all the explanations our guide was providing. From learning about a defensive purpose of the walls, interesting buildings we could see from them to seeing the city from another perspective. Walking on Dubrovnik walls was definitely a fantastic experience.
If you would like to visit the walls of Dubrovnik on your own, you can get your ticket at the tourist office next to the Pile Gate. Be sure to have it with you the whole time, because they are going to scan your ticket twice while on the walls. And it’s also valid for a visit to the Lovrijenac Fort.
*TIP: A small island you can see when looking in the direction of the south from the walls is Lokrum Island. Believed to be cursed among the locals, island definitely has some fascinating history and has changed many owners. It has a beautiful nature, so it may be a lovely idea for a day trip from Dubrovnik.
We’ve finished our day with dinner and a glass of wine while enjoying a beautiful view of Dubrovnik. A close-by peninsula of Pelješac and an island of Korčula are famous for their red wine. So, be sure to explore some local Croatian wines while there, as well.
Sunday in Dubrovnik
# – Walk around the city and Stradun
During our weekend in Dubrovnik, a running race called Du Motion was organised. It was lovely to see it because a part of it went on the walls of Dubrovnik. And, people were running on them while we were exploring the city. Because of the same reason, public transport wasn’t operating in the city centre during the morning hours on Sunday, and we were forced to take a walk from our hotel to the old town of Dubrovnik.
However, we weren’t complaining at all, because we walked through some beautiful residential areas of Dubrovnik and had a chance to explore more of this lovely place. When we finally arrived in the old town, we’ve taken a walk alongside Dubrovnik’s main street – Stradun. A beautiful street was once a marshy channel that separated two early settlements there. Today, it’s a beautiful stone street surrounded by some old houses, and it’s connecting two of the old Dubrovnik’s gates – the Pile Gate and the Ploče Gate.
# – Lovrijenac Fort
After having a coffee next to the Ploče Gate and Dubrovnik’s port, we wanted to explore another gem of Dubrovnik – the Lovrijenac Fort or St. Lawrence Fortress. It was built in the 11th century on the 37 metres high cliff, within three months only. It was protecting Dubrovnik from the sea, but it was also defending its Pile Gate. It was interesting to learn that the thickness of the walls facing the sea is some 12 metres, while the walls towards the city are only 60 centimetres thick.
Today it’s one of the locations of Dubrovnik Summer Festival and each summer it’s becoming a stage for Shakespeare’s Hamlet performance.
*TIP: Lovrijenac Fort was used as a Red Fort in the ‘Game of Thrones’. Dubrovnik was King’s Landing in the famous series, and I have found some parts of the city to look precisely as they did in the series. There are Game of Thrones walking tours organised in Dubrovnik during which you can explore some of those locations more.
# – Franciscan Monastery and the old Pharmacy
After a quick lunch, we continued to explore the Old Town of Dubrovnik. Medieval Franciscan monastery and church are beautiful and peaceful places located right in the heart of the city. There is a lovely cloister with some Mediterranean plants in it. But the highlight of it is the old pharmacy established back in 1317. It’s the third oldest still functioning pharmacy in the world.
# – Rector’s Palace
After relaxing at the tranquil cloister surrounded by some beautiful trees, we continued towards one of the most beautiful palaces in Dubrovnik – the Rector’s Palace. During the time of the Republic of Ragusa, it was used as a seat of the small council and the rector of Dubrovnik.
Today, it’s home to the Cultural History Museum, and I’m definitely recommending visiting it. It’s a great place to learn about Dubrovnik’s history and everyday life back in the time. There was a temporary exhibition about the historical furniture while we were there and it was so interesting to see it and get an idea of how some of those beautiful houses in Dubrovnik were furnished throughout the history. Visit to this museum is included in Dubrovnik Card.
*TIP: Museum shop is quite lovely and a great place to buy some nice souvenirs from Dubrovnik. I especially liked t-shirts with drawings of historical ships on them. Definitely take a look if you would like to buy a nice and good quality souvenir.
# – Dinner at the Dubravka Restaurant
After the whole day of exploring, it was time for a nice dinner. We went to Dubravka 1836 Restaurant, which is located just next to the Pile Gate and has a fantastic view of Dubrovnik walls and the Lovrijenac Fort. We’ve enjoyed our food as much as the view. It was a perfect way to finish our lovely weekend in Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik is definitely a ‘Pearl of Adriatic’ and an amazing place with some beautiful architecture that looks like it is still stuck in history. There is so much you can do there, and I hope this itinerary will help you plan your perfect weekend in Dubrovnik, too.