“Where are you from?” I am often asked when the unplaceable accent comes out of my mouth, not British but not quite American either. “Croatia,” I say and wait for the inevitable “Oh, where from in Croatia? I’ve been with my mates, we visited Dubrovnik” or some variation to the same statement, Croatia = Dubrovnik (also Split in the recent years).
As if it wasn’t quite popular before, this gem of the Adriatic got even bigger after Weiss and Benioff made it King’s Landing for the massive HBO hit that is Game of Thrones. Everyone wanted to walk the walls and gardens where so many plots were concocted and so many people sentenced to die (Valar Morghulis). Or they could take a quick boat ride to Lokrum and walk around Qarth where Daenerys kinda came into her own right and fought for her scaly babies.
Dubrovnik centre became impassable as soon as the tourist season hit and the prices went sky high.
We had our own chance last summer, between two waves of Covid 19. It was one of the stops on our road trip down Croatian coast. And guess what? We found the centre almost EMPTY!! Coronavirus has done its bit and killed of the travelling for the summer. It was also the reason we were able to go on this trip (more on that here).
The big question I put in the title is “Is it worth it?” Is Dubrovnik really that amazing or is it just a hyped up, overpriced tourist trap?
First of all, Dubrovnik is much, MUCH bigger than the tiny historical centre you see on all the photos. The main tourist attraction, the Old Town and the famous city walls, can be done in a few hours.
The streets leading to the centre felt like a maze. My mother refuses to use Google maps so this was probably more stressful than it had to be.
Even with a serious lack of tourists, parking was not easy to find. Nor was it cheap. If you want to park super close to the city’s core, make sure your pockets are well lined. Ditto if you plan to have a bite to eat or a drink – the closer you are to Old Town, the higher the prices go.
Stari Grad aka Old Town
It was literally the middle of summer. The sun was beating down on us relentlessly. Even though we were in Dubrovnik, famous for its centuries old fortification walls that had never been breached, we decided that spending more than 2 hours walking in 35+ degree heat with no shade whatsoever was a bad idea. Instead, we walked the empty narrow streets, enjoyed the old stone buildings and kept to the shade.
There were quite a few tourists on the famous promenade, Stradun. It cuts through the centre, from the city gates all the way down to the docks. Shops were open. Cafes too, their terraces empty. The city felt like it was just waking up.
The title of this blog indicates that we usually get lost on our adventures. It’s mostly a positive experience. However, you can’t really get lost in the centre of Dubrovnik. Yes, there are a lot of smaller, narrow streets. Yes, they all look very similar. But if you follow them to the end, you will eventually end up either on the promenade or by a landmark.
So what are these landmarks? There are loads of them but some most famous ones are Pile Gate, Orlando’s Column, Church of Saint Blaise (patron saint of Dubrovnik), Rector’s Palace (guarded by a fearsome kitty), Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (quite a mouthfull this one) and lastly, the church of Saint Ignatius that is at the end of the iconic staircase (think Cersei’s walk of shame).
Of course, there is a lot more to see here, but I don’t want to bore you with long lists. The point is, there is no way you’ll get lost here!
We might have forgone the walls of King’s Landing, but we were not gonna say no to Lokrum, a small island just off the coast of Dubrovnik, with its Mediterranean gardens, old Monastery and the Iron Throne 😀 Please be smarter than we were and grab your beach gear with you if you plan to visit Lokrum.
Even during the pandemic when most prices dropped significantly due to lack of demand, the boat ride to Lokrum was NOT cheap. It set us back about 140kn per person so you can probably expect well over 200kn during “normal” times. However, you can easily spend a full day there. Explore the islands nooks and crannies, see Croatia’s own Dead Sea and enjoy a great beach day!
Please note the whole island is a nature reserve so you can’t stay overnight. You also should pick up any rubbish from your stay. I’d suggest taking food and drink with you so you don’t get fleeced by the prices of the few cafes on the island.
So the question still remains – is Dubrovnik worth visiting? It is definitely an overhyped destination, but, if you are in the neighbourhood, you should pay it a visit.
If your budget allows, stay in the city. If not, there are smaller places close by, with the beach on your doorstep which you can use as a base while you explore this part of the Croatian coast. Visit the arboretum in Trsteno and the islands off the coast of Dubrovnik, climb atop Srđ for excellent views or all go all the way down to Cavtat.
Have you ever visited Dubrovnik? What are your thoughts about this city?