Dobar Dan Dubrovnik
Croatia was on the short list of countries I most wanted to visit since a coworker of mine came back with gorgeous pictures and stories of sun, wine, fresh fish, and swimming in the clear azure blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. The perfect opportunity arose in April when our dear friend said she wanted to meet us somewhere in Europe before joining her family on a trip to Ireland. I suggested Croatia and she jumped on the idea!
We spent four magical days on the Dalmatia Coast, but wish we could have stayed longer. As my Dad always says, it's better to leave a vacation feeling like you want more time rather than wanting to go home. I genuinely wish we could make Croatia an annual summer trip! It is the perfect destination for those who want more from their beach vacation. You'll also find a country filled with culture and historical exploration.
Let's just say that our trip to Croatia lived up to its immensely high expectations. We too spent our days eating fresh fish, drinking wine, and swimming in the Adriatic. More specifically, we ate truffle dishes every day, drank Croatian wines, picked freshly caught fish from a case, went cliff jumping, swam in ocean caves, and explored palaces and fortresses...Need I say more?
The warmer months are the best time to visit Croatia, so you can go island hopping and enjoy the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic. That being said, they are also the busiest, but still nothing like the crowds in Rome. I'm not going to lie, when we first arrived in Split (our first stop) in July, the height of season, I was nervous that we had hit a tourist trap filled with young backpackers ready to party. Don't get me wrong, I like to have fun, but I was not looking for Coachella Round 2. It turns out Split is one of the main ports from where the Croatia Yacht Weeks start. If you're not familiar, these are usually week long party boats that cruise the islands. Fortunately, once the boats left in the morning, the city pretty much cleared out. We saw the partiers again on Hvar (our second stop), but it did not impact our stay.
We spent our time on the Dalmatia Coast island hopping. We flew into Split, then ferried to Hvar, and ended in Dubrovnik. We bought one way tickets, so we could fly in and out of different destinations to save time. As I mentioned above, we only had 4 full days and 5 nights in Croatia. Ideally, we would have liked a full 6 days.
Here is the ideal itinerary with our destinations:
Days 1-2: Split - largest city of Dalmatia (blog post coming soon!)
Days 3-4: Hvar - perfect summer island resort (blog post coming soon!)
Days 5-6: Dubrovnik - a fortress city in the south
We stayed on Hvar for two nights and were also able to visit Vis and Biševo on a day boat trip. If we had more time, we would have liked to spend a night each on Korčula and Mljet. You may also want to check out Zagreb, the capital.
We Start in Dubrovnik
When we arrived in Dubrovnik off the ferry at 9pm, our taxi driver asked us to which gate our apartment was closest. I said, come again, a gate? Yes, the old city of Dubrovnik is in a fortress and there are no roads for cars. In fact, there are only a few main entrance gates by foot and steep, narrow stairs that lead down to the main promenade (Placa). We ended up lugging our bags all the way to the bottom to only have to go straight back up another street. I guess we got our workout in for the day...in 95 degree heat.
After meeting our Airbnb host, we set out to an excellent tapas bar. We enjoyed local cheese, meats, fish, and wine flights. We then of course had to try what our host said was the best ice cream in Dubrovnik. We had our ice cream and strolled the Placa admiring the gorgeous architecture, when the clock sounded one loud gong. Then it hit us, we were eating ice cream at 1am in Dubrovnik. We had lost all sense of time. Success!
I am beginning with Dubrovnik because it was my favorite city of the trip and a starting point for most Croatia itineraries. Dubrovnik is in the southern part of the country and most famous for its Old Town, a perfectly preserved fortress built into the cliffs. The views are simply spectacular. I fell in love with the narrow limestone streets and orange tile roofs. You often see locals and tourists sitting on the steps enjoying a sandwich or coffee.
Sadly, we only had one full day in Dubrovnik. Two days would be the ideal amount of time. Follow along as I take you through my perfect two day itinerary!
What to See By Day
Day 1: The Fortress and Views of the City
Spend the morning walking the City Walls then head up the mountain for the best views of Dubrovnik. End your day swimming and enjoying the sunset from Buza Bar.
+ Grab a coffee and pastry at Caffé Bar Tinel for breakfast ...
From your accommodation, walk to Caffé Bar Tinel for coffee and a croissant. If the tables are full, drink your coffee like a local on the red cusions on the stairs.
+ Walk the Ancient City Walls of the Fortress ...
Head to the entrance near the Onophria Fountain. Take your time (roughly 2 hours) walking the city walls. While only 2km in length, you'll want to stop and take tons of pictures along the way. I recommend starting as early as possible because the sun is brutally hot. Make sure to discover every nook and cranny and look down when you're at the top of the wall on the sea side.
+ After the Walls, take the Cable Car up the mountain for sweeping views of the city ...
Walk back along the Placa and exit through the Buža Gate. Walk straight through the underpass and up the stairs. Cross the street and follow it to the right. There you will find the entrance to the Cable Car. You can purchase tickets at the booth or from the tourist kiosk right outside the gate. They have an option to buy tickets for a day and night pass. We would have loved to go back up and see the city lit up at night, but alas, we were pressed for time. While up on the mountain, you can also rent ATVs. We heard from friends they are a lot of fun, let us know if you go!
+ Have lunch at Panorama Restaurant on the top of the mountain ...
Normally I do not like touristy restaurants with a view, but Panorama actually provided an escape from the bustle and heat of the city. Make sure to ask for a table along the right hand side for the views, even if it means waiting. The tuna salad was excellent!
+ After lunch, walk back through Old Town through the main Pile Gate and head to the beach ...
We can thank my friend's sister for this amazing recommendation. Most tourists head to Banje Beach right outside the city for its white sand, but it can get very crowded. Instead, go to the locals' beach where you can enjoy some privacy and see kids playing water polo. Just know you'll be sitting on rocks and cement blocks, but it's worth the seclusion and views. If you want something more cushioned, then go to Banje. We think it's worth it though. To get there, walk out of the Pile Gates and go straight on Brsalje Ulica. Take the 4th left onto Ulica Dante Aligheri. At the end of the short street, turn left onto Ulica don Frana Bulica. Follow the street up to the right past a little parking lot on the left and park and cemetary on your right. Keep walking until you see a cafe and stairs down to the sea. It's only about a 10 minute walk.
+ Spend some time wandering the narrow streets of Old Town ...
Walk back into Old Town through the Pile Gate and head right. Take your time wandering the small streets and pop into the shops.
+ End your day at Buza Bar for an epic sunset while sipping rosé. ...
Once you're done exploring, head to Buza Bar on the outside of the Fortress on the sea for the most amazing evening. Buza Bar stole my heart. We ended up staying there for around 4 hours taking turns jumping into the Adriatic. Don't be surprised if you gain enough courage for some cliff jumping...rosé gives you wings. The entrance to Buza Bar is through an unmarked gate. End your walk at the intersection of Ul. Josipa Jurja Strossmayera and Crijevićeva Ul. Walk up Crijevićeva Ul. and then turn left. The door is a few steps down on your right. The only sign you'll see is one for cold drinks.
Day 2: Out on the Water: Beach and Kayaking to Lokrum
Get out on the water and kayak to Lokrum. Explore the island in the morning and spend the afternoon exploring the sites of Old Town and the City Harbor.
+ Start your day again at Caffé Bar Tinel for breakfast ...
It can't hurt to go twice, but you could always find somewhere for a proper breakfast.
+ Kayak to Lokrum and explore the island ...
Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to visit Lokrum, but our Airbnb host recommended kayaking to the island as a top activity in Dubrovnik. Adventure Dalmatia has great reviews on Trip Advisor!
+ Have lunch at Lady Pi-Pi for the best tuna and gorgeous views ...
We went to Lady Pi-Pi for dinner and it was amazing. You must get the tuna! It was seasoned and grilled to perfection. I would suggest going for lunch, so you don't miss the views.
+ Spend the afternoon exploring the sites and City Harbor ...
Some of the top sites include: the Franciscan Monestary, Sponza Palace, Saint Blaise Church, the Orlando Column, the Cathedral, the Dominican Monastery, and Rector's Palace. There is a great map of Old Town with different walking routes. Don't miss the "Walk of Shame" from Game of Thrones at the Jesuit Steps! After exploring Old Town, walk outside the gates to the City Harbor.
+ Have dinner at Lokanda Peskarija in the City Harbor ...
Go to Lokanda Peskarija, a friend's recommendation, for family style pots of seafood on the water.
Where to Eat
The food was amazing in Croatia! We had fresh fish for almost every meal. Here is a list of our restaurant recommendations for Dubrovnik:
> Caffé Bar Tinel - perfect for coffee and a pastry in the morning
> Lady Pi-Pi - for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Epic views and even better tuna
> Panorama Restaurant - great for lunch on top of the Cable Car with amazing views
> D'vino Wine Bar - a great option after Buza Bar. Get a platter to share and a wine flight to taste different Croatian wines. The ricotta was outrageous as well as the smoked tuna.
> Lokanda Peskarija - family style pots of seafood on the water
> Dolce Vita - the best ice cream in Dubrovnik
Where to Stay
You can't go wrong staying anywhere within the fortress walls. That being said, there are no cars allowed within the walls and there are very steep and narrow stairs either up or down from the entrance gates. If you have mobility issues or don't want to lug your suitcase, then I would suggest finding accommodations outside. If you're able, it's a no brainer. Our Airbnb was in a perfect location and I highly recommend it for groups with its two bedrooms and bathrooms.
TBP Insider Tips
> Make sure to check the calendar before planning a trip. Unless you're into electronic music, you may want to avoid the Ultra festival.
> Croatia is HOT during the summer. Most days are in the 90s if not 100 degrees. The sun was brutal, but we were able to cool off in the sea.
> You will need cash for almost everything. Croatian banks charge a high percentage to restaurants and shops to accept credit cards, so most places only take cash.
> Some people like to rent cars to explore the country. We preferred to ferry, which is our recommendation. We were free enough to explore without the hassle of a car. If you rent a car and are planning to drive along the coast, you will have to pass through Bosnia. Make sure to check with your rental car agency about fees associated with crossing the border. Also, be sure to check your country's immigration requirements if you need a visa.
> You can take a day trip to Mljet from Dubrovnik to hike and explore the national park.
> You can book ferries ahead of time to avoid missing out on preferred times as well as avoiding the hassle of waiting on lines. During peak season, the ferries often sell out.
> There are a couple places to buy tickets to walk the walls. We suggest starting from the Velika Onofrijeva fontana (the fountain near the Pile Gate). If you're facing the gate standing at the fountain, you can buy tickets from the entrance to the walls on the right. If there is a line, instead there is a small office straight ahead where you can also purchase.
> If booking an Airbnb, make sure the place has air conditioning. It's something I normally take for granted, but isn't a given in Europe. You're going to want it in Croatia!
> There are many churches and the Jewish Dubrovnik Synagogue within Old Town. You could also incorporate these sites into your visit. I would also check out the Summer Festival schedule if you'd like to catch a classical concert or performance.
> Make sure to BYOT - bring your own towel to the beach. If you're staying at an Airbnb, you most likely will only get one towel and you'll want to use that for showering, I presume.
Special thanks to Jen Kozin at Fly Photography for contributing her gorgeous pictures.