Alright, so I’m not gonna lie to you guys: I was a little apprehensive about Dubrovnik.
Not only has it become one of the world’s hottest tourist spots, which escalated exponentially thanks to Games Of Thrones, but it only flew onto the radar and into people’s top spots within the last 10 years. That’s a dramatic increase in footfall for anywhere to deal with, let alone a place as small as Dubrovnik.
Articles and blog posts have been popping up everywhere on how to survive Dubrovnik; how to deal with the overcrowded streets; how best to walk the city walls and not want to throw someone over the edge (I suppose that’s pretty tame for Game Of Thrones anyway).
So naturally, I was a bit worried. And where I had always envisaged that I would visit in April one year, to keep my crowd-dealing to a vague minimum, here I was visiting in June. It wasn’t quite July or August, but it would still be at the start of prime tourist season, and in Dubrovnik, it felt like the tourists were going to be unavoidable.
I was a total nerd and checked in advance to see what cruise ships would be in that day. This became routine when I was working in tourism in Orkney; after all, I needed to tell our guests to avoid Skara Brae when a 5,000-strong cruise ship was in. Dubrovnik would only have one ship in, and it was barely 1,000. A dip in the ocean, if you excuse the pun. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Dubrovnik was not that busy. I mean, it wasn’t quiet by any stretch of the imagination, but alleyways were clear, and between the unnecessarily large walking tours (of which I’m afraid we were one), we had tons of space to move on the main streets. I feel like we may have been lucky, but it may just be that we weren’t quite in primetime cruise ship tourist season yet.
And so it was that I fell in love with Dubrovnik.
The first thing that amazed me was that the old town isn’t just narrow, crowded streets – there are entire avenues. It wasn’t what I expected at all!
Even so, inside the city walls, the place is tiny and it doesn’t take long to get your bearings and walk pretty much every street. It’s a nice size though; there are lots of side streets to get away from crowds, and it’s quite easy to while away an entire day exploring.
That’s why I’m glad that’s exactly what we did. Our tour had the option of taking a sail boat out to an island; an excuse to get drunk and find a beach. Which isn’t a bad thing to do in Croatia by any means, and if we’d had a couple of days, then sure – but we only had one day in Dubrovnik, and I didn’t want to spend half of that out on the water. Thankfully, my group of girls didn’t fancy that either, and so we spent the day together, wandering and eating and losing ourselves in the narrow streets. It was perfect.
We started the day with a walking tour; a common theme of our tour, and something I am becoming more and more of a fan of!
It was a great way to find our bearings in the town, and we learned of the history, the effects from the war, and a whole load more, including a bunch of tips that I’m going to reveal in this post. One of my favourite fun facts, that I would never have noticed otherwise?
All the statues of Dubrovnik’s patron saint, St Blaise, hold the city in his hand to protect it.
I started noticing it everywhere!
After the tour, we left the old town – for about five minutes. It’s easy to forget that there is a lot more to Dubrovnik outside the old town, but to be honest that’s what we wanted to explore, and nothing was enticing us out of it (we thought we might be able to find a cheaper lunch, but absolutely nothing caught our eyes, so we headed back inside).
We were greeted with these views, and it was enough to make us stop for a while.
Also, how much of a fairytale does this town gate, Ploce Gate, look like?!
After wandering some alleyways, we picked a place to eat – and I have to concede that it’s the most expensive place I went on the entire trip. I had, erm, some very traditional Croatian food. It’s called… uh… Pad Thai. It was expensive Pad Thai, but it was actually really delicious and certainly hit the spot!
Food done (and a little people-watching), we continued exploring, and although the clouds had rolled in, the rain was holding off.
That said, it was still the perfect time to get lost in the narrow streets! I must have been so shocked about the wide streets that that’s all I’ve posted photos of so far, but trust me, there are plenty of alley ways, and they are ALL ADORABLE. (So much so that I’m planning an entire photo post of them!)
(Side note: I LOVED all the lanterns! They’re used as shop signs!)
Our walking tour guide had given us some advice for a great view at a bar, which a few of our group took to mean as a replacement for walking the city walls. However, assuming we found the right place, it is not.
Regardless, it does have pretty damn nice views.
It would have been nicer if the sun had stayed out, but it was a peaceful escape from the town walls, and completely tucked away – you have to find a small doorway and basically walk through the wall, down some steps!
It’s called Buza bar, and on researching, it looks like there is another one further along the wall. Admittedly, the other one looks like it’s higher up and has a proper terrace, but other than that, I don’t think the views are too dissimilar.
Of course, I took a photo of the only “clue” that anything was through there…
We had decided to leave the best til last, if just to beat the crowds: the city walls themselves. (After some more wandering, of course. More cute alleyways? Yes please!)
I will admit, walking the walls is bloody expensive. Considering it has doubled in the past couple of years, the price is now a whopping 200 kuna, or £25. To put into perspective, that is more expensive than the Tower Of London (which I have never done because I thought it was extortionate!), and verging on the Empire State Building (which I did when it was $18 – the difference is, that’s doubled in ten years, not two!). It is ridiculous, especially seeing as Croatia is overall a pretty cheap country.
But money talks, and with the overtourism problem Dubrovnik has been experiencing, people are still more than happy to pay it. I wouldn’t say I was happy to pay it, but I did hand over my money regardless, because it’s been on my list forever.
I will say it’s still worth doing.
I got some of my favourite photos from the whole trip, and the views were astonishing (I was worried I’d be a bit let down, to be honest!).
We also did it the right way. Our guide had recommended going from one of the entrances away from Pile Gate, the main entrance to the old town. So we started from near the piers instead… and we were the only people there.
As we worked our way up, taking the north side, the views just kept getting better and better and better.
Because we’d started in the late afternoon, the cruise ship tourists had left, and you could tell.
(Yeah, who expected to see a sports court?! Not me! Question is – what surprises you the most? The ball court or the empty walls?!)
It was perfect!
And because of the time of day, the glow on the buildings started to get pretty special towards the end.
What’s also great, and I didn’t realise this, is the ticket also allows you access to the fortress just outside the old town. Fort Lovrijenac may look familiar to Game Of Thrones fans – it’s the Red Keep!
We decided it was worth checking out, and boy, was it ever!
This is where you get THIS VIEW.
It just looks like a fairy tale! If you really don’t want to pay for the city walls or go into the fortress, it’s still worth heading up there as you get this view from the entrance:
Of course, we headed back into town for an ice cream to round the day off – and managed to catch the changing of the guard!
Can you see St Blaise above Pile Gate with Dubrovnik in his hand?
What a way to end our short time in Dubrovnik! We’d only had a day, but it felt like we’d seen a lot; in fact, I’m pretty sure I walked almost every alley and street in (and above!) the old town.
Little did I know that we were about to end the day on an even bigger high. As our bus left the city, I took a quick snap of the glowing sunset through the window, and assumed that would be the last of it.
Nope. We stopped.
Now that’s how you end a day!
Dubrovnik is one of my favourite places that I’ve ever photographed. Even when the clouds rolled in, everything was photogenic. Everything was seeped in history, and everything felt like a fairy tale. It was expensive; but equally it’s easy not to spend much money (that Pad Thai filled me up for the rest of the day!) and just soak it all in instead.
It would be nice to spend longer than a day there, especially as so many people don’t. But a day was definitely long enough to fall in love with the place, and I’m really glad that after all my apprehensions, it didn’t disappoint in the slightest.
Have you been worried about a destination being overrated? Were you disappointed, or did it live up to the hype?
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