No Sweat, No Crowds, No Problem – Five Reasons to Visit Dubrovnik in Winter

Lauren Simmonds

Lauren Simmonds

Dubrovnik may well be one of the hottest summer destinations right now, but why should you bother when winter is so much more inviting?

I will come right out and say it, I’m biased, and horribly so, but hear me out. I’ve lived in Dubrovnik for a long time now and my opinion of it in summer time is not good. The fact I grew up in the cold, harsh, wet and Vitamin D lacking climate of Nottingham also speaks volumes. As someone who was raised under the blank, white skies of Northern Europe, I can take the cold, but I can’t take the heat and I’m aware that doesn’t apply to everyone. Anyway, on to my point.

Dubrovnik is of course wonderful to visit at any time of year, the city is breathtaking and it never fails to impress, aesthetically, culturally or historically, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Summer, unfortunately, doesn’t quite agree with the size and infrastructure of Dubrovnik, nor does it agree very well with the recent tourism boom the city has experienced over the past few years owing to GoT, Star Wars, and now Robin Hood: Origins. With rent-a-car drivers not knowing where they’re going, cruise ships and traffic jams galore, the city, while still eternally stunning, can leave a bitter taste in the mouths of some who don’t want to deal with all of that plus the blistering heat – and with fair reason. 

Dubrovnik has played many a role, from Kings Landing to Naboo to Nottingham (which is of course a source of double-edged pride for me), and owing to that, the city has seen an incredible increase of tourists coming from all over the world and while Croatia aims to extend its tourist season to transform itself into a year-round destination, that tricky ”summer destination” label Dubrovnik wears which airline and holiday company propaganda has stuck on it isn’t a particularly easy one to peel off. That being said, 2017’s figures have been very promising and act as real proof that more and more people are coming to visit the Pearl of the Adriatic outside of the classic June-August window.

Why should you ditch your summer plans and visit in winter instead you ask? Allow me to explain. As I said earlier, Dubrovnik is impressive, and I mean impressive, rarely do such an incredible combination of features appear in one very small geographical location and rarely does a destination offer such an enormous variety of attractions. The city is a living, breathing museum and simply cannot be appreciated fully for what it is during the summer. How can you really read that old Roman sign when every other letter is being hidden by the ”blunt end” of a selfie stick? How can you admire the old stone buildings and the tiny alleyways veering off in all directions if you’re having to concentrate on battling hoardes of people? You can’t. 


Winter in Dubrovnik allows you to experience the city for what it truly is – not the mask it wears during summer

This can be said for many places throughout Europe that cater to and live off tourists, but Dubrovnik is truly a fine example of this. As previously stated, this city isn’t known as the Pearl of the Adriatic for no reason. With countless museums, incredible art and culture and a seemingly endless history behind it, Dubrovnik only really ”becomes” Dubrovnik again once the main bulk of planes leave at the end of October. Having leaflets for kayaks and walking tours shoved half way down your windpipe is hardly what you want while you’re trying to take everything in. Kayaks, walking tours and boat trips are all well and good, and this isn’t intended to hate on them, but that isn’t Dubrovnik’s identity. Dubrovnik is art, history, culture and above all – peace, hence the word Libertas, which you’ll see all over the city. What it is not, is chaos, traffic jams and cheap fridge magnets.

Dubrovnik’s Winter Festival

You’ve more than likely heard of Dubrovnik’s famous Summer Festival, and it is a hugely popular celebration of all things arts that stretches for weeks throughout the height of summer. A symbol of freedom and self-expression that Dubrovnik is built upon that appeals to all ages, all nationalities and all tastes. But what about winter? The Dubrovnik Winter Festival is a relatively new thing when compared with its summer-time cousin. The festival of course appeals to children more than anyone, but it highlights the fact that this little city never sleeps and is very much alive and breathing during the colder months. Dubrovnik morphs from ”summer in the city” directly into winter wonderland with a real fairytale feeling about it. A rich program of events and attractions for all is on offer and the festive spirit is well and truly captured. This alone showcases the fact that Dubrovnik is far from just a warm Mediterranean getaway, but as an adaptable city that really can do it all.

A photographer’s paradise

It is in the summer too, but if you’re looking for dramatic weather, empty spaces, wild nature and no crowds – winter is the time to allow your camera to capture Dubrovnik’s true soul.

The weather

While Dubrovnik gets quite a lot of rain during the autumn and into the winter, aside from it being much cooler and the wind blowing that bit more strongly, the skies tend to be mostly blue, the sun tends to shine and as long as you exercise some common sense and realise you can’t walk around comfortably anywhere in Europe in just a shirt and shorts in December (unless you have the consistency of the British or the Germans), you’ll be just fine. Take a jacket and you may even break a sweat with all those stairs!

The locals take the city back

Come winter, Dubrovnik is no longer Croatia’s answer to Disneyland. No longer is the peace and quiet broken by the sound of the words ”CAVTAT LEAVING NOW!!!!” (if you’ve ever spent time in Dubrovnik during the summer, you’ll know what this is about). Seagulls and the odd boat engine are the only sounds that break the silence and even the local cats breathe a sigh of relief as they no longer have to dodge the clumsy feet of the masses. From local artists to priests and nuns to school children and fishermen – you’ll get to see and feel how Dubrovnik is for those who call it home, and not those who are merely there to make a few quid.

Dubrovnik is a walkable city, but not necessarily in summer

With endless crowds, boiling heat and oppressive sunshine, walking around in Dubrovnik doesn’t always strike one as that appealing during summer. The city is, if you’re able bodied, entirely walkable from one end to the other and very many locations go unseen owing to the factors I’ve just mentioned. During winter, the crowds lessen, the sun shines with less aggression and the city becomes breathable. If you’re the type of person who likes to walk, Dubrovnik during winter is the place for you. You’ll come across streets and ancient walkways you never knew were there, steps to secret beaches and bays, quaint restaurants serving homemade meals and accidentally stumble upon untouched nature you had no idea existed.

So there you have it, and I’m absolutely certain I haven’t covered anywhere near everything but my mind has drawn a blank. Spain, Greece and other such popular destinations may close their doors when summer ends, but Dubrovnik doesn’t, nor should it ever be lumped into the same category. If you want to really get to know the Pearl of the Adriatic for the incredible city it is and the wonderful spirit it possesses, winter is the time for you.


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