The best things to see and do in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

It’s hard to imagine that any traveller could fail to be impressed by Dubrovnik. This ancient Dalmatian city has endured for centuries on the brink of the topaz Adriatic, clinging to the rugged cliffs in all its terracotta and limestone splendour. There’s heritage here that few European cities can better, and you’re invited to discover its timeless highlights as part of a Dalmatian coast ocean cruise from Emerald Waterways.

Approaching Dubrovnik from the sea is a spectacle in itself, with the city’s vast medieval walls appearing the same today as they did 700 years ago. From here, a warren of cobbled streets leads to the captivating Old Town, a World Heritage Site brimming with Baroque palaces and ancient stone houses, all topped with perennial terracotta tiles. Marvel at Rector’s Palace, St Saviour Church and Dubrovnik Cathedral, later taking a guided hike to the ramparts of Lovrijenac, the city’s iconic clifftop castle. There’s time, too, for a ride on Dubrovnik’s beloved cable car – a trip that promises one of Europe’s best coastal views.

For those journeying to Dubrovnik as part of an upcoming Emerald Waterways ocean cruise, our guide can help you get more from your free time in this incredible destination – from must-see sights and hidden gems, to unmissable foodie highlights.

Must see sights

With much of its heart designated a World Heritage Site, Dubrovnik is among the most culture-rich cities of southern Europe. Here, we showcase the city’s inimitable must-see highlights – from Stari Grad to the Rector’s Palace.
City Walls
It’s impossible to miss Dubrovnik’s medieval city walls, with the hefty battlements encasing the city’s Old Town from Lovrijenac to Minčeta Tower. With its vast network of stone walls and towers, the Walls of Dubrovnik are considered among the finest fortifications of the Middle Ages, and were never breached. The walls are built almost exclusively from limestone, a common material of Dalmatia, and run on an uninterrupted course for 1,940 metres, standing 25 metres high in places. Today, it’s possible to walk much of this raised fortification, for a unique aspect of the city.
City walls of Dubrovnik
Rector’s Palace
A triumph of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, Rector’s Palace is arguably the finest heritage landmark in Dubrovnik, showcasing the expertise of the city’s medieval ‘master builders’. Originally built as a defensive structure, the palace was destroyed several times throughout history by earthquakes, fires and explosions, resulting in its fascinating mix of architectural styles. The building itself has served as an armoury, powder magazine, watch house and prison, and is now home to the History Department of the Museum of Dubrovnik, who regularly open its doors and courtyard to the public.
Exterior image of rectors palace

Dubrovnik Cable Car and Mount Srđ

Thanks to its mountainous surroundings, Dubrovnik is home to one of Europe’s most rewarding cable car systems, transporting you from the bustling heart of the Old Town to the summit of Mount Srđ, the city’s highest point. Promising breath-taking views on the journey and at the top, a ride on the Dubrovnik cable car is a must, and the perfect way to get to grips with the landfall of this incredible and diverse city.
The Old Pharmacy
While the exterior of Dubrovnik’s Franciscan Monastery impresses with its incredible 14th-century Gothic architecture, things become yet more interesting when you wander inside this ancient complex. The monastery is home to what is regarded as Europe’s oldest pharmacy, founded in 1317 by Franciscan friars, held within a duo of cloisters off the main church. Among the wonderfully preserved exhibits are tools and containers used to create early medicines, as well as several folios, written in Latin, detailing the ailments of those who visited.
The Old Pharmacy Dubrovnik
Stari Grad (Old Town)
Forget museums and exhibition spaces; Dubrovnik’s Old Town is itself a living monument to the past, and an unforgettable place to enjoy an afternoon’s sightseeing. Accessing the neighbourhood via the gates of the city walls, wander its narrow cobbled streets and alleyways, and get a sense of what it was like in Dalmatia 1,000 years ago. Few places in Europe offer a more immersive environment for a walking tour, and you’ll discover more with the help of an experienced local guide.
Stari Grad Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik’s hidden gems

Dubrovnik’s history, beauty and climate make it one of Croatia’s most popular destinations – but that doesn’t mean there are no lesser-known treasures to discover. Here’s our pick of the hidden gems you’ll stumble upon off Dubrovnik’s beaten path.

Take a look at our interactive guide below...
The best of food and drink in Dubrovnik
Influenced by traditional Croatian fare, Italian fine dining and the fresh seafood larder of the Adriatic; Dubrovnik is a paradise for refined foodies and those who love sampling local produce. Here’s our pick of the city’s best eats and refreshing aperitifs.
Mušule na buzaru

Like all of Dalmatia, Dubrovnik owes much of its culinary heritage to the sea. One of the city’s favourite seafood dishes is Mušule na buzaru, a stew of mussels, shrimps and clams cooked in white wine sauce with garlic, parsley and bread crumbs – utterly divine.

 

Where to find it: Many restaurants in Dubrovnik rely on the Adriatic to fill their pantries, but Nautika is among the best, and is beloved for its Mušule na buzaru.

Grk Bijeli

With the wineries of Pelješac on its doorstep, Dubrovnik is awash with wonderful local wines, best enjoyed in one of the many seafront wine bars across the city. One of the very best local vintages is Grk Bijeli, a crisp white that’s the perfect accompaniment to regional seafood.

 

Where to find it: Where else to taste Grk Bijeli than D’Vino, the city’s oldest and most revered wine bar and tasting house. The staff here are passionate wine buffs, so don’t be afraid to explore the menu to find something you like.

Makaruli Šporki (Dirty Macaroni)

Italy has had a huge influence on Croatian cookery over the years, and pasta is now considered one of the country’s national dishes. For a devilishly satisfying lunch, try Makaruli Šporki or ‘dirty macaroni’, a Croatian spin on classic Italian macaroni that always hits the spot.

 

Where to find it: For the richest, most calorific and outright delicious dirty macaroni in town, head to Restaurant Kopun in the heart of the Old Town, and look forward to a real Mediterranean treat.

Zelena Menestra (The Green Stew)

One of Dubrovnik’s oldest dishes, Zelena Menestra is a type of green stew, made from meat, potatoes and cabbage, that’s been made in the city since at least the 14th century. A classic peasant dish, this is Dalmatian cuisine at its most humble and authentic.


Where to find it: For traditional Croatian eats beside the Adriatic, it has to be Poklisar. With its harbour-front terrace, there’s no finer spot to sample local culinary mainstays.


Fast facts

From its immersive history to its unique local traditions, Dubrovnik is a city like no other on the shores of the Adriatic. Here are 10 things you need to know about Dalmatia’s second city.

  • The city has a population of 42,615 (2011 consensus).
  • Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th century, and grew as an influential Mediterranean seaport.
  • The city’s Old Town received World Heritage status in 1979.
  • Originally, Dubrovnik was the capital of the ancient Republic of Ragusa, which existed from the 14th to the 19th century.
  • As a free state, Dubrovnik was among the first cities to abolish the slave trade in the 15th century.
  • The city’s popularity has grown in recent times thanks to it being used as a location for award-winning HBO drama, Game of Thrones.
  • In some places, Dubrovnik’s city walls are six metres thick – no wonder they’ve never been breached.
  • In 1991 and 1992, Dubrovnik was besieged by the Yugoslav People’s Army, who were internationally condemned for shelling the city’s precious Old Town district. Thankfully, the damage was quickly restored following the conflict.
  • The city is cut off from the rest of Croatia by Bosnia, which bought land from the Republic of Dubrovnik in the 17th century following a financial crisis.
  • The city is home to Europe’s oldest sewage system, with sections of it installed in the year 1296.