Dubbed the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik used to be a well-kept secret, a city most visitors to Europe had probably never heard of. Then the makers of Game of Thrones used the city as their primary filming location, and the secret was out. People got (pun intended) a sneak peek at the medieval city dotted with orange-tiled roofs overlooking the deep blue Adriatic Sea. And they liked what they saw. Game of Thrones put Dubrovnik on the map, transforming it into one of the must-see destinations not only in Croatia but in Europe.
Today, Dubrovnik is now one of the most visited cities in the Mediterranean, with about 6 million visitors arriving by cruise ship during the peak summer travel season. This strikingly filled with had gone from being a relatively obscure destination to one of the most popular spots in the Mediterranean. If you’re visiting Dubrovnik for the first time, here’s how to explore the city through your own self-guided tour.
Want to read more about Croatia? You’re in luck! This post is a part of the Croatia series. Here is the complete 15-part series:
Krka National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Krka National Park, Croatia
Plitvice National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Plitvice vs Krka – Krka vs Plitvice National Park: Which One Should You Visit?
Mljet National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Mljet National Park, Croatia
- Know before you go
- A Free Walking Tour of Dubrovnik: The Best Things To Do, See, and Eat
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Travel Essentials I Can’t Live Without
Know before you go
Before we dive into the self-guided walking tour of Dubrovnik, let’s go over some planning and logistics to ensure you’re prepared to make the most of your visit. Use the map provided below to get a n overview of where you’ll be stopping.
The best time to visit Dubrovnik
Both times when I visited Dubrovnik, I went during the month of July. This is smack in the middle of the peak summer travel season when hundreds of cruises dock at the shores and tourists outnumber locals. I won’t complain about the crowds because that’s how it is virtually anywhere in Europe at this time of the year. Despite the hordes of tourists, I believe the summer months of June to August are the best time to visit Dubrovnik. This is true when the city comes alive, and you’ll find every possible tour and activity open for business. The temperatures are warm, and the city is teeming with life.
The second best time to visit Dubrovnik is during the fall. The cruise ships have disappeared from September to November, and there are fewer cruises. The temperatures have also fallen, so the weather is cooler. You can explore the museums and historic sites without competing for space with the hordes of tourists that descend on Dubrovnik during the summer.
Time required for a walking tour of Dubrovnik
If you walked to each destination on the tour without stopping, this walking tour would probably take you around one hour. I would budget 4-5 hours to experience the sites of Dubrovnik fully. You will spend anywhere from 5-60 minutes at the locations on this tour. To ensure you have enough time and energy to explore the city’s famous landmarks, starting your walking tour early in the day is a great idea. Wake up at 8 am and be at the starting point by 9 am, ready to go.
What to pack for your walking tour of Dubrovnik
- Comfortable shoes – while the city of Dubrovnik is mostly flat, you’ll be walking on cobblestone streets, so it’s a great idea to wear running shoes or something that won’t kill your feet after three hours of walking. You will also be climbing the city wall and a few fortresses.
- Water – stay hydrated, my friends!
- Snacks – pack some fruit, a granola bar, or my go-to travel snack, the WanderBar, a protein bar made specifically for travelers and frequent flyers. I can’t get enough of the Cocoa Crunch flavor.
- Map or GPS – Google Maps, Apple Maps, or whatever works best for you.
- Sunglasses – it gets hot in these Dubrovnik streets, so be sure to pack some shades. I always reach for my DIFF Eyewear sunglasses because they’re stylish, and sales proceeds go to support important charities.
- Camera – you can use your phone camera, but a DSLR will capture those picturesque streets much better! I always recommend the Nikon D3400 for beginners.
A Free Walking Tour of Dubrovnik: The Best Things To Do, See, and Eat
Kick off your Dubrovnik tour by climbing the city’s most iconic fortress, Fort Lovrijenac. Also known as Dubrovnik Gibraltar, this 11th-century fortress is a towering structure perched on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It was named after St. Lawrence, a much-revered figure in medieval Dubrovnik. You will often see this majestic fortress in postcards of the city. Standing 120 feet above sea level, it is hard to miss; you can see this structure from virtually every corner of the city.
Built by the citizens of Dubrovnik to protect the city from invaders, Fort Lovrijenac has historically played a critical role in the defense of Dubrovnik. You can explore the somewhat dark and mysterious rooms and chambers inside the fortress. There’s a massive courtyard in the center and a small chapel dedicated to St. Lawrence. Climb to the top of the fortress for some of the most breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea and the city.
Nowadays, the fortress isn’t needed to protect the city from invaders, so it serves another purpose: a theater. How epic would it be to see a concert here? The fortress is a popular venue for theatrical performances and concerts throughout the year.
Pile Gate is the main entrance to the Old Town of Dubrovnik. Pronounced Pee-luh Gate, it’s located on the western end of the main street of Dubrovnik. Pile Gate has a long and storied past, completed in the 14th century and dedicated to the patron saint of Dubrovnik, St. Blaise. Take a minute to observe the arches and the stone that built the structure. Once you enter the gate, you will encounter a small passage where different group tours begin. Then on the other side, you’ll walk straight into Stradun, the main street of Dubrovnik.
Distance to next stop: 0 miles.
Stradun, also known as Placa, is the main pedestrian street of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. It is a bustling street, always crowded and lined with numerous attractions, from historical landmarks to tour operators vying for your attention. You will find souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes, and quite a few iconic fountains with grapes lying at the bottom. You can fill up your water bottle at any of the fountains on Stradun and around the Old Town for free.
The cobblestone street runs for about 1,000 feet from the Pile Gate at the western end to the Clock Tower at the eastern end of the Old Town. Along the sides of Stradun, you will see a number of notable buildings that we will explore on this walking tour. There is also a bell tower that tolls every hour towards the eastern end of Stradun.
Stradun is a popular gathering place for locals and tourists, which can get quite crowded. During the peak summer travel season, you might be fighting with tourists for space in the sweltering heat. A quick stroll down the street will give you a feel for the pulse of the city of Dubrovnik. Take in the sights and sounds of the city, and make a note of a few restaurants and gelato shops that you’d like to return to at the end of your walking tour.
Walls of Dubrovnik
Right outside Pile Gate, you’ll find the entrance to the Walls of Dubrovnik. I believe that walking the Walls of Dubrovnik is the most important activity to do in the city. Why? It’s because it covers everything – the history, the architecture, and all the attractions. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Walls of Dubrovnik are a complex fortification system made of limestone, sandstone, and brick. They have towers and fortresses as high as 80 feet in some parts, whose function was to protect the city from attacks. Built in the 14th and 15th centuries, these walls are about two miles long in the perimeter. It will take you at least an hour to walk the entire wall.
As you walk around these walls that surround the Old Town of Dubrovnik, you’ll also get a panoramic view of the city, the Adriatic Sea, and nearby Lokrum Island. Take your time to stroll around these walls, observe the architecture, learn about the history, and snap some of the best photos you’ll get of Dubrovnik. You can buy a ticket to the walls right outside of Pile Gate. That’s what I did the first time: a self-guided tour of the walls.
A better way to experience the Walls of Dubrovnik is to have a live guide show you around and explain the cultural and historical significance of the different parts. I would recommend the Dubrovnik city walls tour for early birds by my favorite tour company, Get Your Guide, because they have deeply engaging tours with knowledgeable, friendly guides. You can walk the walls and then continue with the rest of the tour, or you can save the tour for last so that you can see everywhere else first and then appreciate the view from above.
Medieval Dubrovnik was under the jurisdiction of a government known as the Republic of Ragusa, which was in power from the 14th to 19th century. The elected ruler or rector of the city lived at Rector’s Palace, which is today a museum and important historical landmark in the Old Town of Dubrovnik. Rector’s Palace was built in the 15th century. It has a Gothic style façade with Renaissance and Baroque elements.
The museum features year-round exhibits that showcase the city’s history. You’ll find the original furnishings and décor of the palace, a collection of historical weapons and armor, and an extensive collection of artwork, including paintings and sculptures.
You can also explore the palace’s interior spaces, including the atrium, the grand staircase, and the chambers where the rector and his family resided. Last but not least, a picturesque courtyard is used for concerts and other cultural events throughout the year.
Built in the 15th century, Onofrio’s Fountain is as iconic as it is massive. This fountain is located in the heart of Dubrovnik’s Old Town as part of the city’s water supply system. You can fill up your water bottle here and also admire the intricate design. This dome-like structure is a popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike.
Onofrio’s fountain is located at the western end of Stradun. Designed by the Italian architect Onofrio della Cava, it features a large circular basin with sixteen carved stone masks that spout water into the basin. A natural spring outside of the city walls supplies water to the fountain through a system of aqueducts and pipes. This fountain is a great place to pause and take in your surroundings before continuing your tour.
The city’s most important religious site, the Dubrovnik Cathedral, is a historic church in the heart of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. The cathedral was built in the 17th century on the site of an earlier Romanesque cathedral that was destroyed in an earthquake. It uniquely blends architectural styles, combining Gothic and Renaissance elements to create a stunning and ornate façade.
The interior of the cathedral has an extensive and stunning collection of artwork – paintings, sculptures, decorations, and more. The cathedral also features an ornate altar, a beautiful organ, and numerous chapels dedicated to various saints and religious figures.
At the heart of the cathedral is the Treasury, which houses a collection of religious artifacts, including reliquaries, chalices, and other items of great religious and cultural significance. The best way to experience the Dubrovnik Cathedral is to do a guided tour.
The Jesuit Stairs
The Jesuit Stairs in Dubrovnik, located on the western side of Stradun, resemble the ones in Spanish Steps in Rome. There’s a reason for that: the former was inspired by the Spanish Steps when they were designed and constructed in the 17th century by the Roman architect Pietro Passalacqua.
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll also recognize these steps from the “Walk of Shame” scene, where Cersei Lannister was paraded around King’s Landing as punishment for her social crimes. Restaurants and bars along the stairs have capitalized on the Game of Thrones connection, creating dishes and drinks like “Wok of Shame” and “Shamejito.” How clever.
There is never a dull moment at Buza Bar, a hole-in-the-wall bar perched high up on cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea. This popular bar is a favorite among locals and tourists alike for one main reason: cliff-jumping. You can go cliff jumping from the rock formations surrounding the bar or watch others do so while you down some Croatian beer. I did the latter.
I learned that the word buza means a hole in Croatian, a fitting name for this hole-in-the-wall bar. The first time I visited Dubrovnik, some guys at my hostel went cliff-jumping there. The second time I visited Dubrovnik, the ladies in my tour group went cliff-jumping here. I’m still a beginner swimmer, but I predict that during my third visit to Dubrovnik, I will be going cliff-jumping at Buza Bar. This bar is a must-see spot on your tour of Dubrovnik. It usually gets crowded in the evening, and they run out of seats. In that case, you can sit on the rocks, sip your drink, and take in the views.
Ploce Gate is the eastern entrance to the Old Town of Dubrovnik. This historic gate and the rest of the city walls were built in the early 14th century.
The gate is similar in structure and appearance to Pile Gate, with an impressive stone archway and two towers. It also has a statue of St. Blaise enshrined in a small chapel. I’d say that Ploce Gate has a slight edge over Pile Gate in terms of beauty. The towers are ornately decorated, with small windows that overlook the Adriatic Sea. There’s a pedestrian bridge that connects the gate to the Old Town.
Dubrovnik Cable Car and Srd Hill
Fort Lovrijenac, the walls of Dubrovnik, and Buza Bar all offer incredible views of the city. Still, they pale in comparison to the views from the Dubrovnik Cable Car and its final destination, Srd Hill. Located just outside of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, Srd Hill is a picturesque natural wonder that is 1,350 feet above sea level. It offers the most incredible panoramic views of Dubrovnik by far. That’s why I saved it until the end of your walking tour.
The Dubrovnik Cable Car entrance is close to Ploce Gate and hard to miss. It costs 170 Kuna (~$25) to take a roundtrip ride on the Dubrovnik Cable Car to the top of Srd Hill. The journey up and down the hill is about three minutes each way. The cable ride on the way up and down the hill is an experience in itself, despite being relatively short. If you’d like to skip the Dubrovnik Cable Car, you can hike up to Srd Hill, but it will take you an hour. The climb is rugged and difficult, so I would only attempt it if you’re an experienced hiker.
Once you’re at the top of Srd Hill, you can see a bird’s eye view of the entire Old Town, the Adriatic Sea, and Lokrum Island in the distance. You can explore the Napoleonic Fortress, a structure built in the early 19th century to defend the city from new threats. The fortress played a role in Croatia’s fight for independence in the 1990s. Standing from the fortress, you can see the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the border between the two countries.
A balcony area is perfect for snapping photos with panoramic views of the city in the distance. If you’re feeling hungry after all that walking, there’s also a Mediterranean restaurant perched on top of the hill. Talk about dining with a view!
Lastly, there’s a ziplining operator at the top of Srd Hill if you’re feeling adventurous. I would book your ziplining adventure in advance if you’re interested. A few ladies in our group were interested in this activity, but they were already sold out at around 2 pm in the afternoon.
After three hours or more of walking, it’s time to rest your feet and relax. What better place to do that than at Banje Beach, a popular pebble stone beach just a short walk from the Old Town? It is a pristine beach with crystal clear water and beautiful views of Dubrovnik’s city walls and nearby Lokrum Island.
You can easily walk to this beach after completing your tour of Dubrovnik through a pedestrian walkway leading from the Old Town to the beach area. You can also take a bus or taxi, but that’s unnecessary since the beach is so close.
When you get to Banje Beach, sun loungers, umbrellas, and changing rooms are available for rent. There are also several beachside cafes and restaurants where visitors can grab a bite or a refreshing drink.
Besides swimming and sunbathing, you can participate in a number of water sports and activities available at Banje Beach. This includes jet skiing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. You’ll find vendors offering boat tours to nearby islands and attractions if you’d like to take a day trip.
There you have it – your very own self-guided walking tour of Dubrovnik!
Use this suggested walking tour as a guide. If there’s an activity that doesn’t interest you, feel free to skip it and do something else. Or maybe you want to see a few places and lounge on the beach for hours. That works too. No matter how you choose to design your walking tour, I hope this guide helps you discover something to add to your list of activities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you tour Dubrovnik on your own?
Yes, you can absolutely tour Dubrovnik on your own. I did so during my first visit to Croatia in 2016 and had a memorable experience. I walked the city wall, went to the beach, and took a ferry to nearby Lokrum Island. Dubrovnik is a great destination for solo female travelers.
Is it worth walking the walls of Dubrovnik?
Walking the walls of Dubrovnik is one of the must-do activities in the city. You will get to experience the city from a unique vantage point, taking in views of the Adriatic Sea and gaining insight into the history, culture, and architecture of Dubrovnik. The short answer is that walking the walls of Dubrovnik is absolutely worth it. In fact, it is an essential item to check off your Dubrovnik bucket list.
How long does it take to walk around Dubrovnik Old Town?
The answer to this question depends on whether you’re walking around the walls of Dubrovnik Old Town or simply exploring the streets of the Old Town on foot. Walking around Dubrovnik walls will typically take you 60-90 minutes. Exploring the Old Town of Dubrovnik on foot can take as little as 45 minutes. The walled city is a compact area.
Can I walk the walls of Dubrovnik for free?
No, you cannot walk the walls of Dubrovnik for free. There is a fee of 200 kuna ($32) to buy a ticket and gain entrance to the city walls.
Is it safe to walk around Dubrovnik?
My answer to this question might be biased because a middle-aged Croatian man stalked me during my solo visit to Dubrovnik in 2016. He followed me around the city for two days, and I had to yell at him to leave me alone. That said, Dubrovnik is a generally safe city. The locals are friendly and welcoming to tourists. Like any city, there are shady characters, so you must be careful and monitor your surroundings if traveling solo.
What are you most excited to do on your walking tour of Dubrovnik? Drop your answer in the comment section below.
Travel Essentials I Can’t Live Without
The CabinZero 36L Backpack – this trusty backpack has been my go-to luggage for domestic and international trips since 2018. I’ve used dozens of backpacks over the years and keep coming back to this one. I almost never check-in luggage, so I need a carry-on bag that is spacious, sturdy, and comfortable, with a laptop compartment. The Cabin Zero 36 L fits the bill. The size makes it small enough for a weekend getaway and big enough for a month of backpacking in Europe. The bag also comes with a tracker in case it gets lost. How convenient! Check out my complete review of the backpack.
Travelwifi Portable Hotspot Device
Travel WiFI Pocket WIFI Device – With portable WiFi, you can say goodbye to ridiculous roaming charges and SIM cards for good. I’ve been using the Travel WiFi Portable Hotspot device for years and love the peace of mind it gives me. The device provides 3G-4G WiFi for at least 6 hours and works in 100+ countries. In my experience, it lasts 9 hours. It also works in a variety of landscapes and terrains. Using my device, I even filmed a Facebook Live from a boat in the Atlantic Ocean. I can also use Google Maps, request an Uber, call my mom, and do many other things I couldn’t do before. A quick tip: turn off the device when you’re not using it so the battery can last longer.
Booking.com – Booking.com is my go-to website for booking discounted accommodations around the world. What I love most about Booking.com is the variety of properties you can find, from luxury apartments to treehouses to university housing. It’s hard to beat the insanely low prices. The website also has a flexible cancellation policy, which is great if things come up or you change your mind.
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