Dubrovnik has been alluring tourists, writers, and sunseekers since the 13th century, and it remains a beautiful walled city high above the azure Adriatic on southern Croatia’s Dalmatian coast.
Despite a massive 17th-century earthquake and a war in the 1990s, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-inscribed city has retained its intricate Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque churches, not to mention its scenic monasteries, salt-sprayed palaces, and numerous fountains.
Breakfast: Dubravka 1836 – Morning eateries are hard to come by in Dubrovnik, as locals usually have breakfast at home. But this historic restaurant, which swells with tourists by lunchtime, is an exception. Located in Brsalje Square by the Pile Gate and entrance to Old Town, the sea-facing terrace begs to be lingered on over frothy cappuccinos and baskets of homemade Dalmatian bread with local honey and sweet puffy krafna (Croatian doughnuts).
Lunch: Nautika – Largely considered the city’s best restaurant, this one has a wait list and celebrity patrons (Eva Longoria, Roger Moore) at dinnertime. Opt for lunch instead, which is just as tasty, without the crowds. Request a sea-view table on the Penatur Terrace, which overlooks the city walls, and order shellfish dishes like polenta-topped fish stew and tender lobster medallions with gnocchi.
Dinner: Victoria Restaurant – Dubrovnik is not short on restaurants overlooking the sea, but finding an intimate one is tricky. This one in the Villa Orsula — a tranquil 1930s boutique hotel — is a real charmer that’s also open to the public. Hidden under bougainvillea in a private seafront garden, this is Dubrovnik’s most romantic spot. Go at sunset for a chilled bottle of Dalmatian bubbly and a plate of glistening Ston oysters. Then segue to Chef Thierry Caruel’s sturdy Mediterranean staples, including Adriatic squid, red mullet niçoise, and herb-breaded lamb chops.
Dessert: Dolce Vita – Dubrovnik teems with gelaterias, but none as charming or popular with locals as this ice cream parlor-bakery hybrid in a quiet cobblestoned alley lined with lanterns and café tables. Sample seasonal gelato flavors like wild strawberry and watermelon, as well as excellent palačinke, Croatian crepes stuffed with fruit, nuts, or honey.
For Everyone: Walk the city walls – No visit here is complete without a walk upon Dubrovnik’s famed medieval walls. In Old Town, pass through the Pile Gate to access the ticket office and main entrance (one of three), then set off for the hour-long walk at your own pace along the walls that encircle the fortified city. An English audio guide will provide historical insight while specialized tours (including one tied to “Game of Thrones,” filmed in Dubrovnik) offer a more glamorous take on things. Mornings on the wall are less crowded and a good way to beat the intense sun, which can become unbearable in summer. Even though a handful of cafés provide respite on the harbor-side exit, a hat and water are musts.
For Couples: D’vino – Sip the best at Dubrovnik’s first wine bar, a cozy subterranean tasting “cave” located in Old Town. It serves more than 60 Croatian wines by the glass, along with flights, pairings, and tastes of all the well-known Dalmatian, Istrian, and Slavonian labels. The owners also know a thing or two about many lesser-known wines like amphora-fermented Malvasias and reds made with unusual Dalmatian grapes, such as Babić, Ninčuša, and Trnjak.
For Families: Copacabana Beach – Dipping your toes into Dubrovnik’s crystal clear water is an absolute must. There are several beaches, most of which lack services, but this is the one exception — and hands down the best for families. A gentle tide laps at the rocky shore, just 3 miles from the city center, while water chutes, parachute boat rides, water scooters, canoes, a diving center, and water activities such as windsurfing, water skiing, surfing, and water polo, promise to entertain kids and adults. You’ll also find gelaterias, restaurants, and cafés in eyesight of the shore.
For the Adventurous: Adriatic Kayak Tours – Go on a full- or half-day sea kayaking trip for beginners, and you’ll be gliding over cerulean waters in no time. The English-speaking local guides — expertly trained naturalists and kayaking enthusiasts — will show you a perspective of Dubrovnik that most visitors don’t get to see. Longer, multiday kayak trips are available, too.
Dubrovnik’s oldest market is held in Gundulićeva Square. There’s no shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables, but arrive early to bag jars of local honey, olives, cheeses, traditional brandies, dried figs, and lavender. The market is wildly popular on summer Saturdays, when vendors sell out of goods early.