Dubrovnik, the walled city Lord Byron once called the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic,’ has dazzled tourists for decades.
Historians claim that tourism first really set off in this picturesque walled city in 1945. Its inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List over 30 years later only heightened its fame.
The breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s pushed Dubrovnik into the spotlight once again, however not for its grandeur and charm, but as the target of the Yugoslav People’s Army during the Seige of Dubrovnik. Intensive shelling blasted the medieval city walls, and over two-thirds of buildings in the historic core were damaged. The tourist jewel in pieces.
But even after its darkest days, Dubrovnik shone again thanks to an extensive reconstruction between 1995 and 1999. The Adriatic Pearl was polished to its pre-war perfection, and it has been Croatia’s champion of tourism ever since.
I first visited Dubrovnik on my first trip to Croatia in 1996, not yet six years old and just after the war. I have photos of me striking poses on Stradun, slurping ice cream melted from the hot summer sun, and chasing pigeons around St. Blaise Square. The city’s monumental effect on me as a child never dwindled, and its magic only grew as I got older.
As a teenager, I would dream of visiting the baroque city during month-long stays in my mother’s village of Kosa, just outside Metkovic and only 45 minutes from Dubrovnik. On Dubrovnik day trips, I begged my mother to dress up with me for fancy fish lunches and sunset gelato. It was my favorite Croatian city, without a doubt.
We have brought dozens of friends from the US to Dubrovnik, staying for days in old-town apartments we wished we maybe hadn’t booked after schlepping oversized luggage up 100 steep steps. But once the golden hour lit up Stradun, nothing else mattered – and the magic of Dubrovnik was infectious.
But that was over a decade ago.
If Dubrovnik wasn’t already popular then, today is it one of Europe’s top travel destinations and a summer haven for cruise ship tourists who pile into the town for a day. A victim of ‘overtourism‘ next to Venice before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the city’s charm has often been met with critique and tourists wishing they hadn’t visited in the summer after all.
But there are ways to beat the bustle and ensure you get the most out of what Dubrovnik has to offer, so you too can experience its perpetual allure. Just read carefully.
How Many Days Should I Spend in Dubrovnik?
While I thought it was tough to decide how many days you should spend in Split, quantifying it for Dubrovnik is infinitely harder. If you asked me in 2006, I would say a week, in 2010, maybe 3 days, and in the last couple of years, I would say no more than a day.
Though I would hardly agree with that now.
Factoring the potential of summer crowds (though we can’t predict they’ll return so fast after COVID-19), the key to Dubrovnik is taking your time.
How long should I spend in Dubrovnik to see the Old Town?
Truth be told, Dubrovnik’s center looks much mightier than it really is. This rather compact old-town town could be explored on a speedwalking tour in just a few hours, but that’s not as much fun.
To really explore the cracks and crevices of Dubrovnik’s old town, I’d recommend one day – minimum. This gives you time to wander and stop to examine numerous historical attractions like Onofrio Fountain, built in 1438, the Franciscan Monastery (which is also home to Europe’s oldest pharmacy), and the baroque Church of St. Blaise (circa the early 1700s).
Don’t forget the Rector’s Palace, which held the Rector’s seat of the Republic of Ragusa, nor can you miss the Romanesque-style Cathedral of the Assumption, designed by Roman architect Andrea Buffalini, which dates back to the 12th century. The 16th-century Sponza Palace is best seen at dusk, while the 31-meter-tall Bell Tower can be used as your marker as you wander around town.
You’ll certainly need time to peruse the shops hidden in high alleyways and people watch with a probably over-priced beverage on Stradun, which won’t matter much to you then as you embrace the history around you.
How much time do I need to see the city walls?
Dubrovnik’s main attraction, its walls, has guarded the town for centuries. Built between the 12th and 17th centuries, these defensive stone walls are almost two kilometers long and wrap around the Old Town with scenic views overlooking Dubrovnik’s red rooftops and sparkling Adriatic Sea.
You haven’t really been to Dubrovnik unless you’ve examined the city from this height, and history will continue to reveal itself at every tower, fort, and turn.
By entering from the busy Pile Gate, you’ll find that walking the walls will take around two hours, that is, if you really take your time to enjoy it. Should you choose to visit in summer, it’s best to book in advance and book to tour the walls in the morning – you’ll thank me later.
Because you’ll likely need to rest after this wall-workout, don’t rush to see the next thing – take the day in Dubrovnik to relax at a cafe or beach!
How many days should I spend in Dubrovnik to visit Mount Srd?
One of Dubrovnik’s top recommendations is Mount Srd, which you can reach in style with the cable car (5-10 minutes to the top), by hiking (about an hour), or driving (13 minutes from Pile Gate). Offering incredible panoramic views of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic, no matter which way you choose to make it to the top, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic restaurant, buggy tours, and the Croatian Homeland War Museum, which exhibits the Croatian War for Independence in haunting photographs from 1991-1995.
Depending on what you choose to do, you could make Mount Srd a full-day activity!
Can I see everything on Lokrum in one day?
Just 15 minutes by boat from the Dubrovnik Port is Lokrum, a small green island oasis that dates back to pre-historic times (1023). The perfect day-trip idea, Lokrum, is a natural habitat that boasts a botanical garden, medieval Benedictine monastery, nudist and rocky beaches, and even a Dead Sea-like saltwater lake.
You can easily spend the day on Lokrum to beat the summer heat and crowds. This forested wonder even has a restaurant!
Can I see the Elaphiti Islands in one day?
I didn’t visit the Elaphiti Islands until maybe my 6th or 7th time in Dubrovnik, and I’m so sorry I didn’t go sooner. The Elaphiti Islands, which get their name from the Greek word elafos, are a small archipelago of several islands slightly northwest of Dubrovnik. The three most famous are Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan, populated by less than 1,000 people in total, though 13 islands make up the archipelago.
Tranquil, forested, and mostly car-free, the Elaphiti Islands offer a picturesque escape from the busy city. While you can visit Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan by ferry, the timetables could get a bit tight, so booking a private speedboat tour for the day ensures you get the most out of your adventure – and lunch at an island konoba to boot!
How many days should I spend in Dubrovnik if I’m a Game of Thrones fan?
Calling all Game of Thrones fans! If you didn’t know by now, Dubrovnik was transformed into King’s Landing for the hit TV series, and you’ll notice many famous scenes just by walking around the Old Town. For example, Cersei Lannister’s steps of ‘Shame!’ (or Dubrovnik’s Jesuit Stairs), St. Dominic Street (most marketplace scenes in King’s Landing), while the Rector’s Palace, Rupe Ethnographic Museum, Fort Bokar, Fort Lovrijenac, Ploce Gate and more all have their chance in the spotlight.
There are several Game of Thrones tours you can choose from, most lasting around two hours, which will not only take you to filming locations but give you the history spiel of the city, too.
You can also head 30 minutes outside of Dubrovnik to the Trsteno Arboretum, whose gardens are featured in seasons 3 and 4!
How many days should I spend in Dubrovnik, depending on the season?
Summer is without a doubt the busiest time in Dubrovnik thanks to the scorching hot sun, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best time to visit. Trying to do everything you want in a day or two during the summer could be an impossible task, given that long lines and crowds make many tourist activities tough to tick off. If you have time to spend in Dubrovnik in the summer, do it, and book yourself accommodation outside the bustling Old Town so you can maintain a somewhat slower summer pace.
Spring may be the best time of the year to visit Dubrovnik for various reasons – 1) usually good weather, 2) tolerable crowds, less traffic, and emptier walls, and 3) more affordable prices. Most tourist attractions are open as well, and booking in advance is probably not necessary. Summer flight schedules to Dubrovnik usually kick off in the spring, making it easier to get in and out.
Winter in Dubrovnik exposes the city’s local life, which is often hard to experience any other time of the year. Dubrovnik is still enhanced by events in the wintertime, like Advent Christmas markets, its Winter Festival, and, of course, the celebration of its patron saint, St. Blaise. The weather may be cooler, but the vacant streets give the town a new kind of enchantment that only winter can bring.
Conclusion: How many days should I Spend in Dubrovnik?
Another impossible question to answer, I believe it all comes down to why you’re visiting in the first place. If you want to be fully immersed in the history, culture, and beauty of Dubrovnik, do yourself a favor and don’t cut your trip to one day. However, if you’re only looking to walk walls to say you did it and prefer a quick gander around town, one day is plenty.
Keep in mind that the time of year you choose to visit will have a huge part in how your trip plays out. Even so, we’re pretty sure you’ll feel the magic no matter when.
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