How to spend the perfect long weekend in Dubrovnik
Wrapped in a tightly knit ribbon of stone walls, Dubrovnik perches dramatically on cliffs over the turquoise Adriatic Sea. The Unesco-listed old town, quaint surroundings and stunning coastline make Dubrovnik a perfect taster for Croatia, while its compact size makes it an ideal destination for a relaxing mini-break.
While planning your perfect long weekend in Dubrovnik, resist the temptation to pack too much into the itinerary, as drawn-out coffees, midday glasses of wine, beachside daydreams and endless sunset gazes remain an integral part of a true Dubrovnik experience.
In addition to world-renowned architecture and global stardom for its role as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik also has a reputation for cruise-ship crowds. Arriving early warrants you a better chance of marvelling at the gleaming limestone streets without having to elbow your way around them.
Take in the splendour of Stradun, the main street, then lose yourself in the grid of narrow stone alleyways. Don’t avoid the stairs – they lead up to the town’s most picturesque, residential areas. Remember to look in all directions: up, to see masterfully crafted balconies and colourful strings of drying laundry; straight on, for ornate church facades and eclectic shop windows; and down, for phlegmatic cats and pigeons. Game of Thrones fans are bound to stop dead in their tracks each time a filming location casually appears around a corner, such as Littlefinger’s brothel at the Ethnographic Museum, or the Walk of Shame stairs beneath the Jesuit church.
Afternoon and evening
As the town gets busier, pick up a prosciutto and cheese sandwich in homemade bread from the longstanding Buffet Škola, then make your way to the cable car. After a four-minute-ride, you'll arrive at the top of Srđ hill, where you'll lose a few degrees in temperature but win a stunner of a view. Stretch your legs and take in the whole town from a bird’s-eye perspective, before settling down for coffee at Panorama.
Spend the afternoon relaxing, preferably at one of the beaches boasting views of the old town, like Sveti Jakov or Banje. Nearing sunset, work up an appetite with the most stunning walk of them all, along the Dubrovnik city walls. As you admire swifts’ flights through the sky in search of dinner, plot your own feast at restaurant Kopun. Their speciality, highlighted in the name, is capon (castrated rooster) prepared to a 16th-century recipe, with dried fruits and bitter orange marmalade – as unique as the day you just had. Nightcap the evening with one of the 80 labels of Croatian wine at the lively D’vino wine bar.
Saturdays are notoriously busy in the old town, so hop on one of the boats from the old town harbour to the charming seaside town of Cavtat. Take the stairs by St Nicholas' Church and explore the town’s sleepy streets, occasionally splashed with bright bougainvillea flowers poking their heads over stone walls. See what the inside of a local home looks like at Bukovac House, whilst marvelling at the artwork of one of Croatia’s most renowned painters. Then continue along Prijeko Street for a swim at one of the pebbly beaches gracing the shores of Rat peninsula.
Refreshed, return to the town’s seaside promenade for beautifully prepared Mediterranean dishes at Bugenvila restaurant. Head back to Dubrovnik on bus number 10 and land in the main bus station in Gruž. Enjoy an ale at the Dubrovnik Beer Company, before travelling back to the last century with a lesson on Croatia’s communist history at the Red History Museum.
Finish the day with a big night out on the town. Enjoy a seafood platter and mackerel baked in paper at Forty-Four, then get fancy with chic cocktails at BAR by Azur. Work off dinner dancing the night away at Revelin, set inside the walls of a 16th-century fort.
When in Dubrovnik, do as the locals do and take it easy on Sunday. In the morning, snatch one of the front row seats at Gradska kavana and, sipping your coffee slowly, admire the intricate facade of the Sponza Palace while hordes of dressed-up locals make their way to Sunday mass at the Cathedral. Swap breakfast for a traditional local dessert, torta od skorupa, a cake of cream and almonds once prepared only by nuns on special occasions. Try to forget the persistent hourly chimes of the nearby clock tower and simply savour the moment, a sentiment locally known as fjaka.
After coffee, grab a quick bite at Barba, perhaps prawns or an octopus burger, and head to the old town harbour to take the ferry to the neighbouring island of Lokrum. No matter how packed the boat might be, Lokrum is never crowded, as between its pine-shaded beaches, botanical gardens and meditative olive groves, there’s a quiet spot for all. The only place to expect queues is in the Benedictine Monastery, where Game of Thrones fans line up to take a free photo sitting in a replica of the Iron Throne. Hike to the hilltop Napoleonic fortress for amazing views of the old town, circle the island along a string of scenic paths, or swim in the lake known as the Dead Sea: Lokrum will restore your energies no matter what you choose to do.
Dubrovnik International Airport is a 30-minute drive from the town. Ferries from Split and the islands arrive to Gruž Harbour. Gruž also houses the town’s main bus station. Find out the best ways to get to Dubrovnik.