One Day in Dubrovnik: How Much Can You Really See?

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There’s a reason why a day in Dubrovnik is on so many Mediterranean cruise itineraries. Widely known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik Croatia has stunning tile-red roofs and ancient medieval stone walls jutting into the sparkling, azure blue Adriatic Sea. It’s the top destination in the country, ranking among CNN’s list of the Ten Best Medieval Walled Cities, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What to do near Dubrovnik

Cruise ships dock far from the walled city, and plenty of taxis are waiting whenever they do. In our case, we’d made friends with another photographer and his wife, Celia and Jim, who suggested we share the ride.

Then the driver offered to give us a tour of the area, and we agreed. Heck, who knew when or if we might be back?

Dubrovnik city walls jutting into the Adriatic

Mount Srd

Our driver began at a 412-foot-tall mountain that overlooks the city. Mt. Srd always makes the”things to do in Dubrovnik in one day” shortlist. And it’s easy to get to from the city, because a cable car runs to the Napoleonic-era fort at the top.

Mt. Srd played an important role in the Siege of Dubrovnik, one of the fiercest battles of the 1991-1995 Croatian War of Independence. It offered the perfect vantage point from which to bombard the city.

For some reason, one of their main targets was the terminal for the cable car. The result is that now there’s a new terminal, that’s much nicer.

The long queue for the cable car is worth it. Look at the spectacular views from the top!

Passengers in the cable car and view from top of Mt Srd. this is a top must do in dubrovnik croatia.
One one side is the lovely view of the old town, Lokrum Island offshore, and the coastline along the vast and gorgeous blue sea.
Croatia's mountains outside Dubrovnik
On the fort’s other side is a different world of mountains as far as the eye can see.
Mt Srd restaurant, from the outside
As usual they have a gift shop and small restaurant as well. I walked in to check it out; it’s very clean and bright, surrounded by glass and was really tempting to sit and refresh myself while taking in the fantastic view.
Vendor on Mt Srd, Dubrovnik
What would a tourist site be without vendors?

If you have the inclination and the energy, you can walk down to town from the top. (You can climb up, too, but unless you’re craving a serious workout, it’s probably not the best use of your time if you’re only in Dubrovnik for one day.)

Kupari

We had the rare chance to glimpse a bit of Croatia’s stormy recent history as our driver took us to Kupari, a once-thriving tourist destination nearby. Doesn’t this look like an inviting resort?

Kupari Croatia, view of hotel and ocean

Get a little closer and you’ll see what Croatia’s war for independence cost her.

Hotel California, Kupari, Croatia
Hotel California, Kupari, Croatia
Kupari home, bombed out
This was once a grand home.

Cavtat

Fifteen minutes was plenty of time for Kupari, but the same couldn’t be said for our next destination. If a day in Dubrovnik doesn’t appeal to you, Cavtat (TSAV-taht) would make a refreshing alternative to Dubrovnik, and is only 30 minutes away.

Trade offs. Exploring this quaint Croatian town meant we would have less time in Dubrovnik itself. Still, it was worth it to see what a typical Dalmatian tourist resort might be like. We were enchanted.

TIP: European tourists will spend their entire holiday Cavtat and other nearby resorts. Seems that there’s enough to do that going into Dubrovnik for one day is all they need. Check Dubrovnik-to-Cavtat transportation prices here.

Waterfront of Cavtat, Croatia

What to see in Dubrovnik in 1 day

Obviously, one day in Dubrovnik has to include some city sights. Cars aren’t allowed inside the city walls, so our driver dropped us off at the city gate. The defense construction includes a bridge as well.

Entering Dubrovnik

We began with a walk through the city, just to get a sense of its size and atmosphere.

Dubrovnik has been a major seaport since the 13th century and even survived severe damage from an earthquake in 1667. They managed to restore their beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains, which to my mind only adds to its appeal.

I’m a sucker for medieval walled cities, old churches, and cobbled streets. And so is Dan. He has a “thing” for interesting old doors and windows and has the copious photos to prove it.

medieval doors and windows in Dubrovnik

He also never misses a chance to photograph people in interesting dress.

Local woman selling her wares in Dubrovnik

Unlike Cuenca, Ecuador, which shows its half-millennium of use, Dubrovnik wears its age well. Its streets are polished through centuries of use, its people are friendly and polite, the buildings are in good repair (even after the war), and we saw no litter anywhere, even though the place was crawling with tourists.

TIP: It was fun exploring the city on our own, checking out inviting doorways and intriguing nooks and crannies. But in retrospect, we would have made better use of our time if we’d hired a private guide to show us around. There are guided wall walks, city tours, food tours, and even tours that will take you to Game of Thrones film locations. For sure, we’d have seen the sights that were important to us. SEE AVAILABLE TOURS HERE.

Beautiful Orthodox churches

Religion is a huge part of Eastern European culture and it seemed there was an Orthodox church at every turn. Being Greek Orthodox, Celia knew that most Orthodox churches have the same setup, worldwide. Regardless of which country they’re in, you will always find:

  • an overhead dome with an image of Jesus,
  • Jesus’ disciples standing alongside him,
  • a golden front wall, the Iconostasion, between the congregants and the altar.
  • On the right-hand side of the Iconostasion you’ll always find the icons of Christ and John the Baptist.
  • On the left-hand side are always the icons of Mary and the patron saint of the church.
  • The Iconostasion always has three entrances to the altar: a center entrance which is called the Royal Door, flanked by a Deacon Door on either side.
Orthodox church in Dubrovnik

I really appreciated the beautifully crafted ikons and intricately painted portraits I saw in the churches … but I have to confess that, as beautiful as it was, the phrase “graven images” kept popping into my head. Go figure.

Still I was quite impressed by both the excellent craftsmanship that was used and even more by how much silver I saw. This was surely a testament to how much the people desired to demonstrate their love for their god in their offerings of talents and wealth.

religious ikon at an Eastern Orthodox church in Dubrovnik

Walking Dubrovnik’s walls

Walking the walls is #1 on the list of things to do in Dubrovnik. Just as in the Middle Ages, you can walk all along its walls and see the city and ocean from some 80 feet above ground level. Let me tell you, it makes for spectacular views of both the city’s interior and the Adriatic.

TIP: If you are in Dubrovnik for more than one day, walk the walls early in the morning or later in the afternoon, when cruise ships are not in port. In the hotter months, the walls can get very hot and bright at midday as well, so dress coolly and remember your sunglasses.

Swimming in Dubrovnik

tourists walking the walls of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is also a good place for sea, sun, and beach, and there are several nice beaches around the town one can enjoy. If you are tired of historical sites, you can spend a day in Dubrovnik lying on the soft sand, soaking up Adriatic rays, and swimming in the clear, blue waters. Just don’t forget a towel and your sunscreen!

a day in Dubrovnik on the beach

Eating in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik has more than 60 sidewalk cafes and restaurants, so there’s no problem finding a place to eat. The hardest part was deciding where. Everything looked good.

Why travel to other parts of the world just to eat food we can get at home? We all wanted to sit outside in the beautiful October weather, but our lunch spot must serve local food and we had to see locals eating there. They also had to accept Euros, because that was all Celia and Jim had.

Anyway, we soon found ourselves outside a little cafe on a narrow side street. Like most restaurants in a tourist destination, ours had bilingual menus. (Well, actually they were multilingual; besides Croatian and English they were also in French and Spanish.) Jackpot! They were serving local cuisine.

CROATIAN CURRENCY. Croatia’s official currency is the kuna, but many hotels and restaurants will accept euros as a courtesy to foreign patrons. Take it from us: their exchange rates aren’t very good. It’s best to stop at an ATM and get some Kuna. If you’ll be in Croatia for a few days, (our ship would also dock at Split), you’ll use them up.

Foods to try in Dubrovnik

Glad you asked. Croatian cuisine differs depending on the region. Dubrovnik lies on the Dalmatian peninsula, that little sliver of Croatia that runs south along the Adriatic coastline. Dalmatian cuisine includes the best of the Mediterranean diet: fresh seafood, flavorful olive oils, fragrant herbs, and local red wines.

Being a seaport, elements of other regions’ cuisines have contributed to its uniqueness. We ordered grilled fish while Celia and Jim ordered an octopus dish. Our meals came with the traditional side of boiled potatoes drizzled with olive oil. (Swiss chard is also a traditional accompaniment, but alas, all we got was a salad.)

TIP: For a rare treat, try Croatian wine. If you’d like to immerse yourself in Dubrovnik’s gastronomy, consider this 3-hour food and wine tour. Stroll down the ancient cobblestone streets of the city’s Old Town, stopping to visit some of its great sights and to taste the local specialties over a glass of local wine.

Seafood in Croatia
Photo courtesy of FoodSparks.blogspot.com.

Plan a day in Dubrovnik

See more: Enjoy more photos in our Dubrovnik photo gallery.

Want to hire a local guide? Get Your Guide offers unique tours and experiences, many priced per group, instead of per person. CHECK PRICES HERE.

Dubrovnik guide book and articles to read

Day trips from Dubrovnik

Maybe a boat to nearby Adriatic islands would be to your liking. Or perhaps you fancy a day trip to another UNESCO site. Four sites to consider are historic Split and Trogir in Croatia, Montenegro’s awe-inspiring Bay of Kotor and rustic Mostar, in Bosnia.

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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50 thoughts on “One Day in Dubrovnik: How Much Can You Really See?”

  1. Loved your post! Dubrovnik is indeed a very beautiful place to visit. I would love to see this old city aka “King’s Landing” in person. Ever since I saw it on GOT I have been intrigued by this city by the sea. And it’s also good to know that there are other places to visit as well. You have basically summed it all up but if it were up to me I would want to stay longer to fully appreciate its beauty.

    Reply
  2. Hi Linda,

    Magical images you snap!

    We are back in the US now to see fam but thought strongly about visiting Dubrovnik after our recent trip to Cyprus and Istanbul.

    Another trip perhaps 😉

    Thanks for the fabulous share. Can’t get over those peaceful, blue-blue-blue waters.

    Ryan

    Reply
    • Hi Ryan,

      It was great to hear from you again! What did you think of Istanbul? The city fascinates me. Coincidentally, we will be there at the end of our upcoming trip through the Czech Republic.

      Have not been to Cyprus yet, but I imagine the waters were just as incredible as the ones we saw in Dubrovnik and Cavtat. They both sure beat the Jersey Shore. 😉

      Linda

      Reply
  3. O, a day in a gorgeous city like this would just be enough to leave me yearning for more. You’ve accomplished a lot however and that’s what we usually do too when you have very little time in a place. Dubrovnik has been on my radar for so long, but there is always something in the way and I never manage to get there. I wonder if winter would be a good time to visit it. I assume it must be very crowded in summer.

    Reply
    • It certainly seemed crowded when we were there in October, but not horribly so. However as we understand it, the city becomes like a ghost town in the winter and only Dubrovnik’s citizens are about. If you were to visit you likely would seem a local, which might not be a bad thing, but the tradeoff would be that many restaurants and hotels might be closed for the season.

      I would imagine the city clears out in the evening after the cruise ships depart, leaving it open to those who can stay overnight. Just a thought.

      Reply
    • You are fortunate to have had the luxury of three days; I still feel like we missed a lot. It would have been far more relaxing if we didn’t have a departure deadline. 🙂

      Reply
        • Tourist areas ARE expensive, that’s for sure. Will you visit Split too? I highly recommend both it and nearby Trogir if you enjoy UNESCO sites.

          Also, Dubrovnik is not too far from Montenegro. If you make it over the border, don’t miss Kotor Bay. Dan had a great time there with his camera (check our Kotor photo gallery) and it’s a UNESCO site too.

          Reply
  4. Wow! This place is absolutely stunning!! I especially love the first picture. It must have been a real treat to stroll around the streets, take the cable car to the top, and be surrounded with so much history. And the fact that it is so close to the water must have been an added bonus!!

    Reply
  5. Beautiful pics, even the abandoned buildings look like they have a fascinating story to tell. Hopefully I’ll be able to make a trip here in the next couple of years…putting this on my list! We follow each other on Twitter and I’m glad I finally had a chance to stop by. Great posts!

    Reply
  6. What cruise were you on? I stuck to the walls and interior of the old city, but I looked with longing out wards during my own “one day.” But I was more motivated by gelato and the cool interior of churches after circumnavigating the wall in August.

    Reply
    • We were on Holland America’s Rotterdam. I’ve read that the walls are ridiculously hot in the summertime and can’t blame you for fleeing to cool off in the churches.

      Reply
  7. Great report – and even better photos. I must admit, it would break
    my heart to only have one day in such an amazing city.
    But there you go, that’s the nature of cruise ships, I guess.
    You did well to find time to visit Cavtat, which I agree is a quaint
    and charming town with superb walks around the peninsula.

    No mention of the Franciscan monastery and really old working pharmacy
    housed inside? That’s a blow – you’ll just have to go back sometime !! 😉

    Reply
    • I could spend hours in places like that, Jon, and that would’ve been hard since we were with other people. We do want to go back and that’s on our list! Is there anywhere else nearby that we shouldn’t miss?

      Reply
  8. What is it about seaside villages that capture the imagination and fuel the yearn to travel? Your pictures of Dubrovnik definitely fuel the yearning.

    Reply
  9. This is a wonderfully informative post. Dubrovnik is top on my places to visit this year after seeing it on Game of Thrones. Could they have been filming there when you visited I wonder?!

    Reply
  10. Wow, you packed a lot in! I was in Dubrovnik last year around this time, before the cruise ships arrived. We got peaceful, sunny days and no lines! Heard loads of great things about Catvat, but decided to go to Montenegro instead.

    Reply
  11. Our son visited Dubrovinik last year as well and it was one of his favorite cities in Eastern Europe. He was not young enough to remember the horrible war that occurred when Yugoslovia broke up, so it was a real learning experience for him. Nice photos.

    Reply
  12. I’ve never even though of visiting Dubrovnik until now. It reminds me a little of Malta, but even more beautiful. Your photos are amazing. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  13. Looks like you had a great day! We stopped in Dubrovnik during a cruise as well- but only stayed within the city walls. I wish we had more time to explore like you did1

    Reply

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