Escape from the City: Meet Lokrum

Lauren Simmonds

unnamed 2
Image by

Hvar may be Croatia’s premier island, but Lokrum is definitely Dubrovnik’s. 

Dubrovnik is busier than an ants nest in summer, and with new projects being born, its popularity even outside of the summer season is continually growing. With the abundance of people and lack of space, it can be a test to find somewhere to take a breather and jump in the sea for a relaxing swim, why not take a boat from the Old Harbour 600m across the sea to the island of Lokrum?
Lokrum is an idyllic green nature reserve, but there is much more to this little emerald island’s story than meets the eye with the first recorded mention of it dating way back to 1023 with the Benedictine abbey and monastery (which still stand today!) were founded. Lokrum’s name comes from the Latin ”acrumen”, which translates as ”sour fruit” and it is said that the name derives from the old tradition of cultivating exotic plants in the dense forests on the island, an activity that allegedly began back in the time of the Benedictines.

unnamed 2


Richard the Lionheart, former king of England, became shipwrecked on Lokrum in 1192 on his journey back to England following the Crusades. The unfortunate king became trapped in one of the Adriatic’s uncommon November storms and managed to find safety on the island following his ordeal. Upon hearing of their distinguished guest and his misfortune, the citizens of Dubrovnik gave the dishevelled king refuge in the walled city until he recovered. King Richard offered to build a church on Lokrum as a thank you to the island and to Dubrovnik’s kind inhabitants, but at the plea of those who rescued him, he decided to build it on the mainland instead.
The last Benedictines left Lokrum much later in 1808, but not before placing an unpleasant curse upon the island. Whether you’re a believer in such things or not, it seems more than coincidental that anyone who has attempted to buy or in some way seek Lokrum as their own in the centuries since the curse was placed, has met an untimely and unexpected death.
By 1859, Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand von Habsburg had built a mansion on the island, it was originally purchased by Maximilian’s wife, the Archduchess Charlotte of Austria, and she managed to retain ownership of Lokrum even after she and her husband became Emperor and Empress of Mexico. Following the execution of Emperor Maximilian, Lokrum was surrendered to the rest of the Habsburg family in a deal which was struck between Franz Joseph I of Austria and Leopold II of Belgium. The former owner, Charlotte, had gradually grown insane and Leopold had renounced all claims to her and her husband’s property in Austria. 
Naturally, Leopold was much more concerned with acquiring his sister’s handsome fortune than with her sanity or any of her rights to her property in Austria.
Much later, Lokrum changed hands again and was given to Archduchess Elisabeth Marie of Austria as part of her marriage dowry, before Yugoslavia claimed it under the Treaty of Saint-Germain. Princess Elisabeth boldly stated that she was no longer a Habsburg and that her rights had been renounced on the occasion of her marriage; therefore Yugoslavia had absolutely no right to try to sequester her property. Following a lot of back and forth, the matter was resolved, or at least settled with a payment of approximately £470,000 to the doggedly determined Princess Elisabeth.
Screen Shot 2017 01 05 at 4.40.52 PM
Fast forward to recent history, 1959, and a Botanical Garden was founded on the island which still contains both native and imported tropical and subtropical plant life. The island was and still is inhabited by old families of Peacocks who draw their bloodlines all the way back to the original few brought over by Maximilian from the Canary Islands.
Today, Lokrum is diverse in its uses and attractions. It is used as a Game of Thrones filming location, it is cultivated, lovingly taken care of by the Lokrum firefighters (Lokrumski vatrogasci) and is a point of great interest for visitors and locals alike. It offers impressive swimming spots unlike any that can be found on the nearby mainland, unspoiled nature, botanical gardens, families of various animals including the aforementioned Peacocks, incredible history and much more. 
Lokrum is especially dear to the hearts of the residents of Dubrovnik, and could easily be the image that the Croatian National Tourist Board was aiming for with their slogan: Full Of Life. 


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment