If you’re friends with me on any form of social media, you’ll know that I have a not-so-secret crush on Croatia. Signing up for The Yacht Week and then spending an extra week in the country to explore has got to be one of my best travel decisions to date–and lawd knows I’ve done a lot of travel recently.
Dubrovnik was an absolutely incredible spot to explore. After a week of crazy parties at sea, I elected to book an apartment for a little bit of peace and quiet. The summer is the high season in Croatia so booking an apartment and splitting the price between friends can actually be cheaper than the hostel alternative in the city centre. I got an apartment (this one to be exact!) with Dominium Travel in the Lapad neighborhood of Dubrovnik, which was absolutely precious!
Tourism is the main industry in the town of 40,000 people and the Croatian’s level of hospitality really shined. I had a truly fantastic experience with Dominium Travel and recommend them to anyone visiting the area. They made the trip really convenient. After meeting at the Dominium Travel agency office, they had a van that dropped us off at the apartment and a guide who gave us the run down of the area (where to eat, party, visit, etc.). Dominium provided us with fresh breakfast each morning (tied in a little bag on our doorstop), did our laundry (much needed after a week at sea!), stored our luggage, booked bus tickets for us, and dropped us off at the bus station! Waaaay better than your typical airbnb.
If you’re worried about the swarms of crowds that cruise ships dump into Dubrovnik, Lapad is the perfect escape. It’s fairly residential and not overrun with tourists like most locations near the Old City. The apartment I stayed at had fantastic views of Dubrovnik and was just a few
steps staircases away from this fantastic pedestrian street called Zvonimira that was filled with bars, restaurants, gelato, local beaches, and sunset watching spots. Plus at the end of the street, the Bus 6 ran every 10 minutes and took us straight to the Old City for 12-15kn (kn = kuna). Staying in Lapad also allowed us to escape some of the tourist markup. For example, inside the Old City gelato ran for 15kn a scoop, but in Lapad it was only 8kn.
I enjoyed this blog post on How to Avoid Crowds in Dubrovnik.
Morning: The Old City
I found the morning to be the best time to explore the Old City. It’s cooler and less crowded. At first when confronted with the list of all the buildings to visit in the Old City, I was overwhelmed and worried that I wouldn’t have time to hit everything I wanted. But then I realized that the circumference of the outer walls of the city (which are the best preserved of its kind + a UNESCO Heritage site) is only about 2 kilometers. I found that a few hours was all that was needed to leisurely explore the Old City.
First thing, I did was walk along the walls. LEGIT THE COOLEST THING EVER. Views are absolutely incredible at every corner and every step in between. We stopped halfway through the wall walk and grabbed drinks at Petar’s Bar facing the Adriatic Sea. Another good option for cocktails and sea views would be Buza Bar.
Pro tip: Wear good walking shoes. I ruined a pair of sandals on the unforgiving marble and uneven cobblestone and had to switch to Keds halfway through the day.
After the walls, we popped into the Franciscan Monastery (founded by St. Francis himself) and saw the oldest working pharmacy. We wandered through the Old City alleyways, the main Stradun, climbed a zillion stairs up and down and explored the tiny corners of the town, and visited the Cultural Historical Museum inside the Rector’s Palace and some of the churches onsite.
For tips on how to take awesome pics of Dubrovnik, check out this blog post.
Despite being a tourist hotbed, the Old City is home to only about 1000 Croatians with the rest of the space being rented out to travelers or sold to foreigners for €1000/sq meter. Dubrovnik is also the set to many recent films including Game of Thrones, Robin Hood and Star Wars. On this trip, I learned that “Kings Landing” is in fact a fictional location, not a nickname for the city of Dubrovnik.
Pro tip: Everywhere has Wifi, if you make a purchase at the restaurant you can get the password.
Afternoon: Lokrum Island
I am most happy when I’m on a beach. So naturally, I was stoked af to make a visit to Lokrum Island. It’s a 15 min ferry ride away (ferries run every 30 minutes) and it’s filled with beautiful rock beaches. Sand really isn’t a thing in Croatia, so while relaxing on pebbles might not seem the most comfortable at first, you really come out on top because sand isn’t engrained (ha, pun) in everything.
Lokrum Island is gorgeous and has a Dead Sea lake in the middle that’s filled with salt water and loads of peacocks, yes peacocks, wandering around. It also has some of the nicest public bathrooms I’ve ever seen. I swear the fixtures are better than my house. Last boat back is at 7:00pm, so perfect for getting you back in time to watch the sunset.
Evening: Srd Mountain
Take a quick cable car ride up the Srd Mountain for dinner and drinks at the Panorama Restaurant. We were able to walk-in and get a reservation, but if you’re looking to get front row seats be sure to make your reservation in advance. The restaurant boasts typical Croatian fare, which you’ll see at literally every other food spot in the country–meat, fish, pasta, pizza, and risotto–just at a mountain top premium. We went for French fries, dessert and fancy cocktails. #noshame
The sunset was obviously incredible and as it started to get cooler (much to our Houstonian hearts’ delight) the servers brought out heat lamps and blankets for everyone finishing their meals. If we had time, I would have loved to visit the Cave Bar at Hotel More in Lapad, but all in all I was quite satisfied with my mountainous sunset adventure. Shout out to our server Marijo with the most sultry-I-want-to-be-your-Croatian-lover voice ever.
Pro tip: Bring bug spray. The Croatian mosquitos are annoying af and most places don’t have screens. I’m quite itchy as I type this.
Towards the end of my time in Dubrovnik, I was a bit water activity-ed out after my week at sea with The Yacht Week, but if I had more time I’d love to have done one of the sea kayaking trips. I’d also like to have visited Tito’s (the
vodka former dictator of Yugoslavia) private beach, which is now open to the public in Lapad. Perfect excuse to come back right?
Have you been to Dubrovnik? Planning a trip there now? What’s on your must-see list in the city?