Dubrovnik is a city I was unable to envision until I paid my first visit – a medieval city, ravaged by war in the 1990’s, with a sumptuous Riviera and a thriving international tourist scene… Wait…What? Dubrovnik is all of those things – a phenomenal mixture of young and old, medieval and baroque that revolves around the resplendent Old Town, which is located inside its city walls. The crystal clear blue water surrounding the walls augments the grandeur of this place!
Dubrovnik is situated in the southwest corner of Croatia, directly across the Adriatic Sea from Italy’s east coast. The region’s history is rooted in the Maritime trade, and it continues to be a mainstay for numerous Eastern Mediterranean cruise itineraries. Recently the city has gained new notoriety as a filming location for the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.
The walled city of Dubrovnik is the quintessential walking city, and a veritable Utopia for lovers of history, culture, and architecture. For travelers who would prefer to explore the regions’ spellbinding natural beauty, there are dozens of options in the vicinity.
There are two possible docking locations, though most ships berth in Gruz Harbor, a suburb of Dubrovnik approximately 3 miles from the Walled City. Smaller vessels may be permitted to anchor in Old Harbor, right in the heart of the old city. Many cruise lines provide shuttle service from Gruz Harbor to the Old Town; the ride is approximately 10 minutes, and the drop-off point is directly in front of Pile Gate, the western end of the pedestrian thoroughfare and main entrance into the walled city.
Taxi’s are plentiful in the port area -a ride from the cruise ship terminal to Pile Gate is 13 Euro. While we’re on the subject, the official currency in Croatia is the Kuna (HRK), but Euros are widely accepted. For the budget conscious and adventurous, the public bus is across the street at the terminal exit (you will need Kuna to ride the bus – there is a money exchange at the port exit).
Dubrovnik’s remarkably preserved Old Town was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Its angular, sometimes grid-like configuration represents a Greatest Hits Collection of Medieval, Baroque and Renaissance buildings and monuments, neatly wrapped within the monumental fortifications and city gates. These treasures include the Town Hall (now the Rector’s Palace), dating from the 11th century; the large complex of the Franciscan Monastery (completed in the 14th century) with its imposing church and historical pharmacy; the Dominican Monastery; the Cathedral (rebuilt after the 1667 earthquake); the Customs House (Sponza Palace), and a number of other Baroque churches.
Walking the Walls
No trip to Dubrovnik would be complete without exploring the walls, staircases, and fortresses that surround the Old Town. The walls run an uninterrupted course of approximately 6,360 feet in length, encircling most of the old city, and reach a maximum height of about 82 feet; they have long been a source of tremendous pride for the Croatian people. It takes approximately 2 hours to walk the entire circumference, so it’s a good idea to start early in the day, before the crowds and summer heat descend. Be sure to bring water, sunscreen, and a hat. Your efforts will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea facing outward and the voyeur’s perspective of the city’s promenade, backstreets, cafes and red-tiled roofs facing in.
There are three entrances to the city ramparts: on Stradun by the Pile gate, by Fort St. Johns and by Fort St. Luke.
Open Daily 8am–7:30pm Jun–Sept
Hours vary slightly to correspond to daylight hours during other months
Prices – Adults: 100 kn, Children: 40 kn
Ride the Cable Car
For another stellar view, board the Cable Car to Mount Srd, located just north of the walled city. From here, soar 405 feet over those terracotta-tiled roofs and watch the city’s medieval walls give way to unveil the harbor, Adriatic coastline, and surrounding islands in their entire splendor! There are two panoramic terraces for non-stop photo ops, as well as a gift shop and restaurant.
Go Island Hopping
If you have had enough of the summer crowds and want to enjoy the natural beauty of Dubrovnik and its surrounding areas, island hopping is the way to go! Lokrum Island is situated directly across from the Old Town. Austrian Archduke Maximilian once had a vacation home on the island – a monastery and a botanical garden remain from his era. The island is covered in Mediterranean flora and woods, and is surrounded by sandy beachfront. Lokrum is easily accessed via the taxi-boats that run from the Old Harbor every half hour from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily during the summer months. The price is 40 kn.
Further afield (45 minutes from Dubrovnik) is the seaside resort town of Cavtat, accessible by bus (route No. 10) or ferry (form the Old Harbor at the East Gate). Here you will find private yachts docked alongside the lush blue-green harbor, their owners luxuriating on resort beaches; Cavtat boasts a rustic affluence and an absence of cruise ship crowds.
Adult round-trip ticket: 100,00 kn
Adult one-way ticket: 60,00 kn
Child round-trip ticket (4 – 12 years): 50,00 kn
Child one-way ticket (4 – 12 years): 30,00 kn
If the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic are calling your name, there are numerous local tour operators, who offer tours for cruise ship passengers and day travelers. You will find them passing out flyers at Pile Gate. For more information check out these resources:
Take a Game of Thrones Tour!
I have to be honest here – I have never seen Game of Thrones (my binge-watching is presently dedicated to getting caught up on House of Cards and Orange is the New Black) As I understand it, however, our beloved Walled City doubles for King’s Landing in seasons two and three of the show; capital of Westeros, and home to the Iron Throne, thus creating a whole new shore excursion opportunity for cruise passengers!
Enjoy Siesta at a Neighborhood Pub
Drink like a local (or cruise ship crew member) – cool down and re-fuel at Lady Pi-Pi Bar, hole-and-corner pub and café, located along the north western corner of the walled city. You’ll know you have arrived when you stumble upon this fountain…
That is the short list, but more than enough to have an exhilarating albeit exhausting day in port! Be sure your camera batteries are fully charged and your SD cards empty – Dubrovnik is a photographer’s paradise! As always, bring along water, sunscreen, and head protection. For more information check out these resources:
To book a cruise that stops in Dubrovnik, visit: http://www.cruisecritic.com/cruiseto/cruiseitineraries.cfm?portofcall=70