I thought long and hard about writing this post because I was so disappointed with my stay in Dubrovnik. I was there for 3 nights based on what I had read, but I really should have only allowed one night. That’s why I decided to write that you could easily see Dubrovnik in 1 day.
I am not sure why but for some reason, I expected a much bigger town. Perhaps it had something to do with fact that every second person I spoke to LOVED Dubrovnik made me think that I too would love it. I think that I felt cheated that it did not live up to my expectations and that clouded my stay.
Dubrovnik is also known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic” and there is no doubt that it is charming. It is on CNN’s list of the 10 Best Medieval Walled Cities and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and the focus of major restoration work by UNESCO. To their credit, they have done an awesome job.
I arrived early in the morning. I was impressed by the imposing walls. Entering the walled city through an old gate had a wow factor and I was excited about exploring the town. I made my way to my accommodation which was also quaint, so no complaints about that either. I wandering around enthralled, but not for long!
Dubrovnik is on the tourist trail for cruise liners. It was soon was heaving with tour groups that had been bussed in. There were so many people that I felt like I was in Harrods on the first day of the sales. I could not find anywhere to relax and enjoy the town, so I went back to my room much to my irritation to plan what to do with the time I had left in town.
I subsequently found out that they allow 8000 people a day into the city. No wonder I felt a bit like a sardine in a can. I was delighted to read late last year that the new mayor has recognized that it is too many people and wants to cap the number at 4000 per day so that you are able to enjoy the city. I hope that he succeeds as it will be a much more pleasant experience.
When I ventured out at around 6 pm, normality had returned and the town once again oozed charm. Dinner was average, not particularly memorable and overpriced. That was my next complaint. I really have no problem spending money, but I hate the feeling that because I am a tourist I can be ripped off. Almost everything is Dubrovnik was far more expensive than the rest of Croatia. Stradun street is filled with restaurants, bars and shops. It also has the reputation as the most expensive street in the country with rentals of 6 000 – 10 000 euros per sq metre. I would hate to pay this rental bill!
How to see Dubrovnik in 1 day
This was where the bus from the airport dropped me. It is busy with loads of people just milling around. The gate dates from 1537 and was the entrance to the old town. It is impressive and I felt dwarfed by its grandeur. It is also really beautiful when it is lit up at night.
The most obvious place to start is with the city walls. The first walls were built in the 9th century. In the 14th century, 15 square forts were added. With the threat of the Turks attacking the walls were strengthened yet again and new ones were added. The old town was now inside a 2 km barrier with walls that were up to 6m thick on the land side.
Dubrovnik was under siege for the period October 1991 – May 1992. I remember watching the story unfold, along with the rest of the world, on television. I never dreamed that I would one day visit Dubrovnik. The two-toned roof tiles that have been lovingly restored bear testament to this sad chapter in the country’s history. If you look carefully you will see the two different coloured tiles.
You are required to walk in an anti-clockwise direction. Don’t underestimate just how hot it can be, so have an early start. There are a couple of vendors selling overpriced drinks so take your own with you.
The main reason for stopping here, unless you love Romanesque architecture, is to see the pharmacy. It is the third oldest in Europe and has been operating since 1391. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take any photographs. Take a quick look at the cloisters and the beautiful carvings on the top of the columns. There is also a museum and a library, but this will take too much of your time if you are planning on seeing Dubrovnik in 1 day.
You have no real choice other than to stroll along the Stradun as it is the main road. There is an old world charm about it, so make the most of it if it is not swamped. I enjoyed it early in the morning and towards sunset when all the day trippers had left and the sky changed colour giving the limestone buildings a warm glow. The clock tower at the end of the road is particularly appealing at this time of day as a silhouette against the evening sky.
This is one of Dubrovnik’s landmarks. It is actually made up of 2 fountains. The larger fountain is the first that you see as you walk into the Stradun from the Pile Gate. If you look closely, you will see a sculpture of a dog on the top. I can’t imagine why it’s there, but I think its fabulous! There is also a smaller fountain is at the bottom of the road that was to supply the market on Luza Square.
I discovered this by accident but was extremely happy that I did. It was set back a little bit, off the main drag, in Gundulic Square. Here I felt like I had space to breathe. The vendors have interesting items to buy. I love the way the spices were packaged in test tubes making for a colourful display. The air was heavy with the perfume of the dried lavender for sale on many of the stalls. The selection of jams, jellies, olive oil and dried fruit all looked inviting and were beautifully packaged for gifts. The square is also a nice place for lunch or a drink while you watch the world go by.
A good way of seeing the city is from above and the best way of doing this is in the cable car. The views are spectacular and as you can imagine it is particularly popular at sunset when you can enjoy a sundowner in the restaurant. There is also the museum of the Croatian War of Independence if you want to delve into some history.
The opening times vary at different times of the year so check the website for details.
The Dubrovnik Cathedral
Its official name is the Church of Assumption of the Virgin Mary and is the seat of the Diocese of Dubrovnik. The Cathedral Treasury can be visited to see beautiful silver and gold items dating from the 11th – 17th centuries. Whether it is fact or legend I am not sure, but the first cathedral was supposedly funded by Richard the Lionheart when he was shipwrecked and rescued in Dubrovnik.
Church of St Ignatius of Loyola
Located in the heart of the old town the church is filled with baroque décor. It was built in the 18th century, but the bell tower dates from the 14th century. It looks gorgeous at night when the light shines through the stained glass windows.
Best time to visit
Summer is packed. Peak season is July and August so avoid it then. The days are still sunny and mild in May and September which is when I visited, but these days Dubrovnik is considered to be a year-round destination so you will just have to take your chances!
Dubrovnik is undoubtedly pretty. It has a rich architectural and cultural heritage. The coastline is beautiful and the water is crystal clear. Don’t pay a premium to stay in the old town but rather stay outside the walls and arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon to make the most of the city.
I am pleased that I visited, but honestly, I don’t think that I would go back. If you have always wanted to see the old town and it is on your bucket list then visit Dubrovnik in 1 day. Spend the rest of your time exploring the islands, enjoying the water and the beaches. It will be a far more pleasant experience, in my opinion, and you may well fall in love with the city.
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