Dubrovnik Sunset over Babin Kuk
Visiting Dubrovnik may well be the highlight of your Croatian holiday. The "pearl of the Adriatic" (according to Lord Byron) is a place of jaw-dropping beauty, making it by far Croatia's top sight.
With massive walls punctuated with turrets, towers and gates enclosing streets, churches and palaces packed with art treasures, you'll never run out of things to see and do in Dubrovnik.
Beyond the walls, a hilly, indented coast and clear water make Dubrovnik a prime resort destination. Whether staying one, two or more days, you'll find out what to see, where to stay, how to get to Dubrovnik and get around, plus the best beaches, day trips, restaurants and nightlife. With festivals, galleries and stunning offshore islands (Lokrum, Elaphiti and Mljet), Dubrovnik is an ideal holiday at any time of year (see when to go to Dubrovnik).
[For a complete practical Dubrovnik information, see the Dubrovnik travel planner below]
You'll find a wide assortment of hotels from luxury to budget and plenty of private accommodation. The greater Dubrovnik area can offer a resort experience, a beach experience or an urban experience at all budget levels.
[See an accommodation guide to Dubrovnik neighbourhoods]
Dubrovnik was a city-state that once rivalled Venice in wealth and power. It reached its apogee during the 15th century and attracted the finest sculptors and architects to adorn the city center in a Renaissance style. Alas, the golden age ended with the earthquake of 1667 but the resilient city rebuilt, this time in a baroque style.
Dubrovnik gradually declined as a naval power but in the 20th century visitors flocked to the city making it the tourist highlight of former Yugoslavia. The bombing of Dubrovnik in 1991 attracted global attention as shells and mortars rained down on its lustrous streets.
The photo below was taken in 1996 while Dubrovnik was still undergoing postwar reconstruction. You can clearly see the older roof tiles in the lower left and the Jesuit Church in the center which was in the process of being rebuilt. The walls still bear obvious scars from mortar fire.
With help from the international community, the damage was largely repaired by the end of the decade. The photo below was taken in 2006. It's a different story!
[Read more about Dubrovnik history]
The tsunami of tourists that wash into Dubrovnik's Old Town have created a sort of identity crisis for the ancient city, making Dubrovnik a poster child for the problem of overtourism. On the one hand it has brought prosperity to a place that is no longer at the crossroads of commerce and has few other sources of regular income.
On the other hand, the shops and restaurants of the Old Town are increasingly geared to international, not local tastes. In fact, most of the baroque buildings in the Old Town have been transformed from residences to rental properties or are left vacant most of the year until their wealthy owners arrive for a holiday. The full-time population has dropped precipitously from 5000 in 1990 to only 600 now. When the price of real estate in the Old Town skyrocketed in the mid-aughts, it made far more sense for residents to sell and move to a mansion outside town rather than trudge up stairs to a sunlight-challenged apartment. Charm and history can only take you so far!
But Dubrovnik citizens are far from ready to give up. Much of the overtourism problem stems from mega cruise ships that can discharge thousands of sightseers in a single day. Dubrovnik's mayor has agreed with cruise ship operators to stagger their arrivals and promises that the town will receive a maximum of 5000 passengers daily in 2019.
With a population of less than 43,000, it's a measure of Dubrovnik's devotion to culture that it can support its own symphony orchestra. Classical productions are regularly staged in the Marin Drzic theater and there are a wealth of art galleries showing contemporary works. There's a pride in local traditions that is easily apparent in Dubrovnik's regular local festivals and religious ceremonies. Women take pride in their appearance as well. No matter their age and even during the tough years following the war, Dubrovnik's women always dress with a ladylike emphasis on good grooming, well-coiffed hair and quality clothes. Food is also a proud part of Dubrovnik's heritage. Local fish and seafood, olive oil, wine, fruit and vegetables are a cherished part of Dubrovnik's dining experience. Locals demand the best ingredients and chefs are combining them in increasingly imaginative concoctions. (see best Dubrovnik restaurants).
Lord Byron baptised Dubrovnik "the pearl of the Adriatic" because of its incomparable architectural heritage. The gleaming marble streets of Dubrovnik are lined with baroque buildings punctuated by beautifully sculpted Renaissance fountains and facades. Dubrovnik's walls are the most intact and impressive in the Adriatic and clearly head the long list of Dubrovnik's essential sights. Don't miss the Rector's Palace, Franciscan Monastery, Dominican Monastery, St Blaise church and the Cathedral. No wonder UNESCO named Dubrovnik a World Heritage Site! And there's plenty more to see in the Dubrovnik region.
But Dubrovnik is more than a fascinating Old Town with an ancient history. It's also a first class Adriatic resort. Stretching out from the historical centre is a network of beaches to laze away the day in the sun. Offshore, the crystal-clear sea is littered with wooded islands that make easy day trips. And the array of cafes, bars and clubs in and around the Old Town insure that Dubrovnik at night is never dull. So plunge in! Check out 22 fun and unusual things to do in Dubrovnik.
Price increase: Walking the Dubrovnik walls will now set you back 200Kn (€27) up from 150Kn last year.
Flights: For the first time in history there's a direct flight to Dubrovnik from the USA. American Airlines starts flights between Philadelphia and Dubrovnik June 7 that run until September 21. See more Croatia flights.
Hotels: The illustrious Hotel Bellevue is undergoing a massive renovation. The 91 rooms and suites will be redesigned along a nautical theme to evoke ships sailing on the nearby sea. The hotel is due to reopen in the spring. BOOK NOW
Crowd Management: In addition to the cameras and counters at every gate, there is now a new app that predicts the number of visitors on any given day and advises on the best times to visit. Give it a whirl at dubrovnik-visitors.hr/prediction
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The Dubrovnik tourist office has several convenient branches:
Outside Pile Gate (tel 020-312 011), Dubrovackih branitelja 7;
in Gruz harbour (tel 020-417 983), Obala Pape Ivana Pavla II;
in Lapad(tel 020 437 460).
The tourist offices are open long hours daily in summer and provide a wealth of information. Look for the free monthly booklet, Dubrovnik Riviera, which lists all the goings on of Dubrovnik and the region, including museum opening hours, special events, bus routes and excursion ideas.
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