The Perfect Week in Dubrovnik
A visit to Dubrovnik can give you a glimpse of an older Europe, one with ancient Roman sites and medieval stone walls, with charming cobbled streets and sunny market squares and the blue Adriatic Sea glittering beyond. Savor your time here by walking the city walls, toasting the sunset from a terrace bar, shopping for local crafts and delicacies, and falling in love with the “Pearl of the Adriatic.”
Ul. od Sigurate 7, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
A city of red-tiled rooftops, pine- and cypress-shaded hills, and sparkling turquoise waters, the Old Town of Dubrovnik stuns with both its architecture and scenery. Its surrounding stone walls, built between the 11th and 13th centuries to protect the city from war and epidemics, stretch for a full 1.3 miles, comprising an immense system of forts, bastions, and walkways that offer breathtaking views. Hike along them, then be sure to check out the Lovrijenac Fortress, built atop a 100-foot rock looking out toward Venice (Dubrovnik’s historic rival). The Old Town’s main street of Stradun, known locally as Placa, is also worth exploring. It’s especially nice in the late afternoon, when the sun shines off the historic buildings and swallows soar in the blue sky above.
Ul. Vlaha Bukovca 6, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
It’s all about the view at Villa Dubrovnik, a divine hotel built into the cliff across the bay from the Old Town and Lokrum Island. The restaurant, rooftop bar, spa, and most of the rooms feature the same breathtaking vistas over the Adriatic, deep blue at depth and turquoise closer to shore. Done up in sleek, Mediterranean style, the hotel includes glass-walled balconies and external walls that merge into the golden stone of the cliffside. Those balconies are perfect for morning coffee or sunset drinks, but consider having breakfast on the restaurant terrace, under the shade provided by wind-bent pines. The spa features an indoor pool, and just outside, stone steps lead down to the Adriatic’s edge, where guests can relax on sun beds or step directly into the sea. Should you ever want to leave, the hotel’s private motorboat will zip you directly into the Old Town port.
Ul. Svetog Dominika bb, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
This extraordinary restaurant holds a prime position in Dubrovnik: It’s located on the city walls with wide-open views of the old town harbor. The expert staff puts a unique spin on Mediterranean cuisine and presents it in an almost artistic manner. Enjoy the kitchen’s take on a regional favorite like sea bass roasted in cabbage leaf and drizzled with dill-and-mint-infused oil, or an elaborate specialty like the slow-cooked veal cheeks with morel mushrooms and parsnip cream. With its extensive wine and liquor cellar, Restaurant 360° is the place for memorable special occasions. (Open for dinner only.)
Ul. Pred Dvorom 3, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
The most important public building in the time of the Ragusan Republic, the Rector’s Palace was home to Dubrovnik’s ruler during his one-month mandate, the period when he was separated from his family to focus solely on matters of state. An inscription above the doorway to the meeting room says it all: “Forget your private concerns when working for the public.” Today, the magnificent Venetian-style palace is a cultural history museum.
9 Crijevićeva ulica
Climb the grand baroque staircase and pass the Jesuit church, cross Gundulić Square, and follow the COLD DRINKS WITH THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEW signs. Then, yes, walk through the walls. Buža translates to “a hole-in-the-wall,” and a hole-in-the-wall it is, one that leads to a cliffside ledge with a bar on it. From the moment you order a cool beverage off a simple menu, you begin to unwind. The backdrop to your drink is stunning: a sky-high stone parapet on one side and nothing but the blue sea between you and the horizon. This is the ideal spot for swooning over Adriatic sunsets.
Ulica kralja Petra Krešimira IV, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
In a swift four minutes, the Dubrovnik cable car will deliver you to the top of Mount Srdi for awe-inspiring views of the Old Town and Elaphite Islands. On clear days, you can even see Italy far out on the horizon. Next to the cable-car station is Napoleon’s Fort Royal, an immense stone fortress that played a strategic role in the 1992 Siege of Dubrovnik during the Croatian War of Independence. Today, the fort houses the Museum of Contemporary History, which showcases artifacts from the Dubrovnik battlefields as well as a BBC film that vividly illustrates the events of 1991 and 1992.
Ul. kneza Damjana Jude 1, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik Cathedral stands out among the almost 30 churches and chapels in the Old Town. The striking minimalism of its main altar accentuates the central painting, The Assumption of Mary, attributed to the Venetian Renaissance master Titian and his workshop. The cathedral’s treasury was once the richest in the Adriatic and had to be unlocked by an intricate system of three keys assigned to three different people.
Lokrum, Dubrovnik, Croatia
If you’re looking to escape the tourist hubbub in Dubrovnik’s historic core, follow the locals to Lokrum. Just a 15-minute ferry ride from the Old Town, the island offers magnificent nature walks through botanical gardens and olive groves. Paths climb up to sites like the oldest Benedictine monastery in the region and Napoleon’s Fort Royal at the very top, passing native peacocks along the way. Come for a relaxing stroll, a picnic in the shade, or a refreshing dip in the sparkling Adriatic.
6 Antuninska ulica
War Photo Limited is a museum dealing with a topic that resonates deeply with Dubrovnik’s people: war and conflict. With a small permanent exhibition on the Balkans conflict and the shelling of Dubrovnik in the 1990s, the museum also hosts temporary shows by renowned international photographers on conflicts around the world as well as topics like child soldier victims. Immensely powerful, War Photo Limited makes a lasting impression.
Ul. Frana Supila 14, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
With the Old Town spread out below, this picture-perfect spot was once a place of worship dedicated to Saint Ursula, the patron saint of young girls. Today Orsula is a scenic outdoor amphitheater and a nice detour if you take a cab from the harbor to the Old Town. Ask the driver to take you via the Gruž bridge so you can get a bird’s-eye view of the cruise ship port and Gruž Bay.
Nalješkovićeva ul. 3, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
This shop is more coral sanctuary than ordinary jewelry store. In addition to selling mind-blowing designer pieces, this is the place to learn all about the Adriatic coral: where it lives, and how it is sourced, harvested, and treated to become that deep-red stone used in jewelry. You can watch this magic will happen right before your eyes if you drop in here for a chat with a member of the impressively knowledgeable staff, who will tell you everything you want to know in the time you have available. Get inspired, and then check out the pieces, some of which feature typical Dubrovnik filigree work. Like unique works of art, each item comes with a certificate of authenticity.
Gundulićeva poljana, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
You could expect no less than to find a bustling fish market in a seaside town. Explore the isles of this market that houses fishermen and farmers alike and watch the morning’s catch being descaled right in front of you.
Old Town, Cavtat, 20210, Cavtat, Croatia
A visit to the picturesque town of Cavtat, south of Dubrovnik, must include a visit to the imposing mausoleum of the Račić family. The tomb, on a hill overlooking the town’s waterfront, is worth the shady climb. Built of bronze and white stone, the mausoleum, designed by Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović, is quite moving—especially the carved angel faces floating in the dome, waiting to guide the departed to heaven.
8 Ulica Frana Supila
Minutes outside the Ploče Gate, the eastern entrance to Old Town, Deša features traditional embroidery from the region on tablecloths, handbags, purses and shirts, as well as homemade bitter orange marmalade and lavender cushions. Deša women’s NGO supports a group of skilled women who benefit directly from each sale of their handmade goods.
4A Palmotićeva ulica
Wine is an integral part of life on the Dalmatian Coast, a region with many indigenous varietals; a visit to Dubrovnik shouldn’t go by without a glass of local wine. Tucked away on Palmotićeva Street off the main Stradun, D’Vino offers cozy interiors as well as atmospheric seating at tables set on the narrow thoroughfare outside. Try a glass of something new from the impressive selection of local producers—the knowledgeable staff can help guide you in choosing one. D’Vino features several tasting experiences that highlight the region’s star wines: the Konavle Valley’s refreshing Malvazija, potent Plavac Mali reds from the Pelješac Peninsula, and Korčula Island’s fruity Pošip whites. Pair the wines with a platter of prosciutto and Croatian cheeses for a wonderful welcome to Dubrovnik and its wine region.
14 Ulica Frana Supila
Built in the 1930s as a private villa, this boutique hotel was renovated in 2012, but still makes guests feel as if they’re staying in someone’s home. Perched on a steep hillside across the bay from the Old Town, it features stone terraces, vine-covered pergolas, and colorful gardens, all of which offer breathtaking vistas of the Adriatic and Dubrovnik’s signature tiled roofs. The 13 rooms—all but one with sea views—have high ceilings and arched windows lined with white shutters to soften the afternoon sun, while modern bathrooms come stocked with plush bathrobes and decadent Bulgari amenities. When not enjoying their daily delivery of fresh fruit or cookies, guests can head to the bathing platform at the bottom of the stone stairs, the outdoor pool at the neighboring Grand Villa Argentina, or the spa at the Hotel Excelsior.
2 Placa ulica
In operation since 1317, the Franciscan Pharmacy was relocated in the 19th century to just outside the beautiful Romanesque-Gothic Franciscan cloister so that women could enter. Alongside Western and allopathic remedies, the pharmacy sells organic cosmetics made on-site using local herbs and ingredients, as well as an antiwrinkle cream made from bergamot.
2 Placa ulica
At the eastern end of Stradun, Sponza Palace survived the great 1667 earthquake and is a rare example of the Gothic–Renaissance style in Dubrovnik. Formerly used as customs house and storage, as well as the Republic’s mint and armory, Sponza today is home to Dubrovnik National Archives. The rooms around its open-air atrium host an exhibit of copies of the Archive’s most relevant documents, some as old as the 11th century. The Memorial Room of Defenders from the 1990s conflict pays a powerful tribute to the victims of the town’s recent war.
26B Vukovarska ulica
At Pile Gate, the Old Town’s main entrance, descend the staircase to a landing near the small fountain (formerly only for Jews) to experience a moment of serenity, looking at this quiet bay bracketed by the mighty fortresses of Lovrijenac and Bokar. Kolorina means “calm harbor” and is the starting point for several kayak tours around the City Walls and the island of Lokrum. (The bay was also the location for the bloody Battle of Blackwater scene in season two of Game of Thrones. )
19 Jadranska cesta
Saint Blaise became the town’s patron saint in the 10th century after a vision alerted him to an impending attack by Venice. His statue—the old man holding a model of Dubrovnik in his left hand—sits atop the church’s Baroque facade. Inside the domed interior, near the main altar, a 15th-century gold-plated statue of St. Blaise has miraculously survived several earthquakes and fires. (Note: The church will be closed through early 2016 for restoration and will reopen for St. Blaise festivities on Feb 3, 2016.)
26B Vukovarska ulica
One of Dubrovnik’s oldest fortresses stands atop a 100-foot rock, guarding the western land entrance to the Old Town. Vigilantly turned toward Venice, it serves as a monumental tribute to Dubrovnik’s foresight, encapsulated in the motto of the Ragusan Republic engraved above the main entryway: “We do not sell our liberty for any gold in the world.” After entering the Old Town through the Pile Gate, walk down to Kolorina Bay and climb the stairs to the fortress. Because it’s far less busy than the city walls, the theatrical space offers a more intimate way to experience Dubrovnik’s history and charm, with breathtaking views to boot.
On the corner of Stradun and Široka, this small shop is bursting with books, lined up on floor-to-ceiling shelves and even on the floors. The staff, however, seems reassuring, calm and knowledgeable. Pick up a book for the ship from the section of foreign-language books (history, novels and guidebooks).
A 40-minute drive from Dubrovnik, past panoramas of the Adriatic and green Konavle fields, brings you to this fertile valley, the region’s agricultural backbone. At Đivanović Mills, you can learn how flour was milled 500 years ago. Follow the forest path to the nearby restaurant of Konavoski Dvori for a taste of their famous trout dish and for the cool breeze off the Ljuta River. (Calling the mill in advance is recommended.)
Brsalje ul. 3, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Right by the Pile Gate, in a beautifully restored maritime school, Restaurant Nautika feels special even before you taste the food. With mesmerizing views of Kolorina Bay beyond and Lovrijenac Fortress looming overhead, this elegant restaurant has a fresh spark about it. The chef often does the marketing himself, browsing the stalls at the local market for organic and locally grown produce and freshly caught seafood—the only ingredients used at Nautika. The kitchen works magic with the ultra-local stuff, turning out small wonders like lobster medallions and sesame-crusted tuna. The inspired cuisine, especiailly when coupled with the location make the Nautika experience nothing short of spectacular. (If the view isn’t enough, you can occasionally spot celebrities among your fellow diners.)
Set in the picturesque village of Komaji on the southern side of the Konavle valley, the winery overlooks vineyards, cypress groves and green fields. For four generations they’ve produced Plavac Mali (red) and Malvasija (white), and their latest efforts with merlot and cabernet sauvignon led to a collection of award-winning wines, including Pomet (wonderful with red meat), Tezoro (pair with Ston oysters) and Vilin Ples (the smoothest of cuvées).
26B Vukovarska ulica
Dubrovnik’s star turn as King’s Landing in HBO’s Game of Thrones brought a new immediacy to the city’s historic sites. The infamous Season 5 “Walk of Shame” scene took place on the Jesuit Staircase that descends from Gundulić Square to St. Ignatius Church. Climb to the highest point of the City Walls—the round medieval Minčeta Tower, which stood in as the House of the Undying in Qarth. And fans can visit the Game of Thrones souvenir shop (Boškovićeva street ) to have their photo taken on a replica Iron Throne.
21 Ulica kardinala Stepinca
This large, modern hotel on the Lapad peninsula—about a 15-minute bus ride from the Old Town—overlooks the green hills above Lapad Bay, the Adriatic, and the beachfront. Completely refurbished in 2015, its lobby and lounge feature floor-to-ceiling windows, low furniture, and white decor, so nothing distracts from the views of the sparkling sea and sky. For even more gorgeous vistas, guests can go just below the hotel to the long pedestrian boulevard, which is filled with cafés and restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating. Guest rooms here are done up in restful tones of sisal and cream, with oversize charcoal sketches by a Croatian artist hung on wall panels behind the beds. The full-service spa has an indoor pool, Finnish sauna, and steam room, while a large deck features a bar and outdoor pool. Also on site is a restaurant with a wide terrace, and the top-floor Zenith Bar, which is best for sunset views.
Boškovićeva 5, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Barba offers a fresh take on fast food, serving tasty items like octopus and shrimp burgers, anchovy sandwiches, and fried calamari, all made with today’s catch. Located on a small side street off Stradun, the shop is tiny and friendly—the perfect pit stop during a day of Dubrovnik sightseeing. Snag the prime table by the front window and watch the rivers of people entering town through the Buža Gate as you eat. Then, be sure to contribute to the restaurant’s growing collection of wooden forks, on which customers from all over the world write messages commemorating their travels.
2, Ul. Cvijete Zuzorić, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Its name honors an avant-garde woman poet from Dubrovnik’s golden age, Cvijeta Zuzorić. Its menu, by star chef Jeffery Vella, honors one of the Cvijeta’s tenets: No compromising on the things you believe in. And what the staff believes in here is that the dishes must be creative, the ingredients fresh, and the wine list enticing. Start with the octopus mini burgers on olive focaccia, then enjoy a gilthead bream fillet cooked in parchment, and end your meal with peach and mascarpone crumble. Dine on some of Dubrovnik’s tastiest treasures from your seat in a charming stone alleyway, watching the passersby.
20215, Gruda, Croatia
The artist Antonija Rusković uses the silk embroidery tradition of her native area of Konavle as inspiration for her work here in oil paintings, prints, and hand-painted ceramics. The atelier also has an array of hand-painted silk scarves, bags, purses, notebooks and similar mementos.