During our stay in Dubrovnik we quickly realized just how many different attractions the city has to offer its visitors. We tried to get off the beaten path whenever possible to avoid the droves of cruise ship passengers and day trippers trying to fit all of Old Town into one day.
Although it’s completely possible to fit the iconic sights into just one day, Dubrovnik is so much more than Old Town, and Old Town is so much more than church lined squares and sky-skimming fortifications. Here are our top five sights from Dubrovnik, a mix of well known tourist attractions and hidden gems away from the tourist scene, they all guarantee a unique perspective of this fascinating city.
Originally a 5-star luxury hotel perched on the Adriatic Sea, Hotel Belvedere was destroyed by Serbian forces (remains of the Yugoslav People’s Army) in 1991 and the remains have sat untouched for over twenty years. An eerie reminder of the haste in which its inhabitants fled, original hotel menus, staff uniforms, and decor can be found throughout the expanse of rooms. However rumour has it that the hotel will be redeveloped and we saw evidence of work in the lobby area already – better hurry before it’s too late.
Logistics: From Old Town walk west past Banje Beach, Grand Villa Argentina, and Villa Dubrovnik. There is an old church that the street curves around before you reach the old Hotel Belvedere gates. About a 20 minute walk. Why not bring your bathing suit and go for a dip at St. Jacovs Beach (one of the best around) on your way back. Best of all…it’s free!
Mount Srj (Cable Car and War Museum)
Mount Srđ played an important role in the Croatian War of Independence, the mountain and ancient fortress atop it were a stronghold and last line of defense for the undermanned Croatian forces in the Croatian War of Independence. The newly built cable car (a replacement for one destroyed in the fighting) is a popular tourist attraction that zips visitors to a viewing platform and restaurant at the top of the mountain, where the views of Old Town and the bay below are truly amazing.
Just a few steps away from the top of the cable car, the Croatian War of Independence Museum sits in the badly beaten fortress (originally built by Napoleon). One of our favorite museum visits thus far, it houses an extensive collection of photographs, weaponry, and information. As a protected heritage site with no strategic value, no one believed Dubrovnik would be attacked during the war. It was heartbreaking to watch the ancient walls, designed to protect against cannons and arrows, being put to the test against modern day heavy artillery fire. The museum provided us with an excellent understanding of the area’s history and is less touristy than many in Old Town.
Logistics: Ride the cable car to the top of the mountain, once you’ve taken in the spectacular views look for the museum tucked away to the far side of the cable car platform. The entrance fee is 20 Kn and is well worth it.
When in Dubrovnik… Being so close to the sea it’s almost a right of passage to enjoy as much fresh seafood as possible – there aren’t many places in the world where your meal is caught so close to where it’s cooked and enjoyed. As we are on a budget we needed to be a bit savvy about our seafood and after a few cheap lunches of 13 kn pizza slices we finally sat down in the harbour and ordered up a platter of squid (grilled and fried please!).
Logistics: Lokanda Peskarija Restaurant was our establishment of choice, the portions were large, the prices reasonable (our meals, drinks, and a tip totaled up to 210Kn), and the squid was delicious. To get there enter at the Ploce gate and hug the wall next to the harbour until you reach the second gateway out towards the water, it should be right there.
War Photo Limited (Art Gallery)
Perhaps the most eye-opening and under-visited attraction that the Old Town of Dubrovnik has to offer is the War Photo Limited gallery. Opened by photographer Wade Goddard, who spent the 1990s covering the many wars in the Balkans, it offers an immensely powerful experience to everyone who visits. The two-storey gallery features rotating exhibits by war photographers from throughout the world, but commonly focuses it’s displays on the wars in the Balkans. We happened to be in town for an exhibit by Emmanuel Ortiz entitled “Broken Lights of Yugoslavia” which was an amazing and touching display of photography. This gallery should not be missed.
Logistics: The gallery is located just off the Stradun, and specific directions can be found on their website. The entry fee is just 30Kn per person and they give you nicely laminated guides describing each photo on display for your visit. Limitted edition prints are also available.
City Walls Climb
Climbing and walking around the city walls surrounding the old town of Dubrovnik is one of the most popular activities in the city and for good reason. The defensive stone walls have surrounded and protected the citizens of Dubrovnik since the 7th century. You can walk all the way around the tops of the walls, sometimes reaching 85 feet in height, and can enjoy the stunning 360 degree views from a number of vantage points. The walls were at one point surrounded by a moat and armed with more than 120 cannons. Today, they are among the most impressive and well-preserved examples of city fortifications in the world.
Logistics: To enjoy the walls to their fullest, get there early (8am) and enter near the Ploce gate if possible (offering you half the walls before reaching the Pile entrance, where most of the tour groups enter).. Entrance costs 70Kn per person and also includes entrance to Fort Lovrijenac located just outside the walls near the Pile Gate…well worth a visit on its own.