Dubrovnik! One of the most popular cities in Croatia and definitely the most popular for Game of Thrones fans eager to see the “real life” King’s Landing, the city has a rich history dating back to around the 7th century, and the beautiful medieval city with its formidable stone walls jutting right up to the Adriatic Sea makes for a stunning sight for all visitors.
One of the important things to note about Dubrovnik is that the city uses steep staircases to navigate through the hills surrounding Old Town. This is crucial information because it means that there were 318 steps between our accommodation and the closest coffee shop, which, as you can imagine, did not make for the most pleasant morning commute.
Nevertheless, these steps are mandatory- on our first night, we hesitated to take the dim and narrow steps, opting instead to follow the road. Instead of being safer, we had to awkwardly hug the sides of the streets when walking and hopscotch across roads without crosswalks, all while dodging cars that clearly were not expecting us to be on the road. Needless to say, that was the only time we tried to get around the stairs.
After we got used to all of the huffing and puffing, it did feel a bit like a secret pathway around the city- and it was fun to memorize which staircases took us to which location. On the other hand, getting lapped by locals who were carrying furniture around really did a number on my perception of my own personal fitness.
Don’t worry- once inside its walls, Old Town Dubrovnik is significantly more level. The pedestrian only area is paved with limestone worn smooth with age, which makes an easy walk along the main street Stradun, and its many offshoots leading deeper into the city. Marked by its famous defensive stone walls, Old Town itself is actually fairly small. I felt that I was able to walk most of the streets within an hour- though of course, this doesn’t account for exploring all of the shops and cafes along the way.
Although Old Town Dubrovnik doesn’t have quite so many compulsory steps, bear in mind that the North side in particular will require climbing some steep steps to explore.
I really enjoyed exploring all the nooks and crannies of Old Town. Perhaps it was because we were visiting so late in the season, but all of the shopkeepers and restaurant hosts had time to chat with us, offering us advise for different things to do in the city and asking us about our own travels. I had some of my very favorite interactions of the whole trip while in this city!
After exploring the city to your hearts content, I recommend doing a walk of the City Walls. These thick stone walls encircle most of Old Town and is one of the reasons that the city is such an arresting sight. The walls extend for just over a mile and typically take 1.5-2hours to complete, depending on your pace and the crowds. I highly recommend getting your tickets early- and be prepared for a bit of sticker shock; tickets were about $30 per person when we visited!
One of the most convenient ways to get an amazing view of the city is to take a cable car to the top of Mount Srd for $30 roundtrip. Once at the top, visitors have access to the Panorama Restaurant which, as the name implies, offers a breathtaking view of the city. This location is also accessible by car, bus, and by hiking!
For a cheaper view of the city, take a much shorter hike over to Fort Lovrijenac on the other side of Old Town. You do have to leave the city walls, but you’ll come across a beautiful view of the city before you need to shell out for the entrance tickets to the Fort.
Although I enjoyed my visit to Dubrovnik, I suspect that if I had visited during the high season, I would have been overwhelmed by crowds. Apparently, tourists can outnumber residents 36:1! I can imagine that the crowds within relatively small Old Town are only compounded by the enclosing city walls- especially when cruise ships passengers come to visit. Despite this, every local we came across swore up and down that we’d have more fun during the summer. I’m making a note to come back in the warmer months- but maybe just as a day trip.