Top things to do in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik on Croatia's sparkling Dalmatian Coast is undoubtedly one of the world's most captivating and historic urban centres. Vanessa O'Hanlon checks in with tips for top things to see and do...

Top things to do in Dubrovnik

Top things to do in Dubrovnik: Explore the old city.

Top things to do in Dubrovnik

Our bus ride from Mostar to Dubrovnik – the ‘Pearl of Adriatic’ – takes three or four hours.

The lush, mountainous countryside of Bosnia and Herzegovina gradually gives way to the glistening beauty of the Dalmatian Coast. Those lucky enough to have snared a seat on the righthand side of the bus ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at a stunning coastline punctuated with hidden bays and craggy bluffs.

Dubrovnik or Kings Landing? This centuries-old city has awakened a new cult following from the television series Game of Thrones. I admit I am naïve to this phenomenon (I have never watched a single episode), but for my travelling companion finding locations is an obsession!

Abandon your script and create your own fantasy as you twist your way around the staircase Gundulic Square, walk the steep city steps of the old walls or just lounge around basking in the sun at one of the many themed Italian restaurants. Here’s guide to some of the top things to do in Dubrovnik.

I am here in the peak of summer and Europeans love to holiday in coastal locations. The streets are crowded and the heat is beaming off the cobblestone pavements. The glistening waters of the Adriatic Sea look more than inviting. It’s time to cool off and escape the Game of Thrones throng by hiring a kayak and paddling out around the old city walls to the nearby Lokrum Island. The half-day tour starts beneath Fort Lovrjenac in the small port of Pile.

Top things to do in Dubrovnik

Top things to do in Dubrovnik

Situated a mere 600 metres from Dubrovnik and spanning an area of just two hectares this island has a surprisingly rich history that was first written about in 1023 when the Benedictine abbey and monastery were founded.

In 1808 the last Benedictines left the island and the legend happily relayed by our tour guide is that on the Benedictines’ last night, the monks put a curse on anyone that should try to own the land in the future. We are also surprised to encounter a fully fledged peacock performing a mating dance. These peacocks are a major feature of the island and are a legacy of the short-lived Emperor Maximilian, who once had a holiday home on the island.

On the eastern side of the island is a Botanical Garden that was founded by the National Academy of Science and Art in 1959. Although my horticultural skills are limited, I was surprised to see so many Australian native plants. Our tour guide tells us that most of this vegetation was sourced from Australia and South America to establish whether tropical and sub tropical plants could adapt to this climate.

It’s time to explore the ruins of Benedictine Abbey and Monastery or, for those with a keen eye and an obsession with Game of Thrones, you are bound to recognise it as the ancient port-city of Quarth. My travelling companion is up for a re-enactment or two. For me, a couple of photos and it’s time to move on.

Top things to do in Dubrovnik

Top things to do in Dubrovnik. Image: Bigstock

Virtually in the middle of nowhere we discover a beach bar where people are lounging around reading books and enjoying cool drinks by the edge of a large waterhole. Shaded by trees, the water is rather chilly.

After a refreshing dip, it’s back in the kayak for further exploration of the Adriatic waters. Imagine our surprise when we encounter a nudist beach on a cliff on the south-eastern side of the island! The tour boats and kayaks clearly aren’t a concern for these summer frolickers.

We paddle our kayaks into the cliff’s open mouth. A natural beauty – Purple Cave derives its name from the purple seaweed that covers the rocks. On the way out we catch one more glimpse of the nudist beach, before we head back towards the mainland.

Top things to do in Dubrovnik

Top things to do in Dubrovnik: Fort Lovrijenac. Image: Vanessa O’Hanlon

After a relaxing morning on the water, it’s time to scale upwards. There are two options to get to the top of Mount Srd (pronounced ‘surge’): walk or take the lazy alternative of gliding up in a cable car. In less than four minutes our ears pop and we step out at 412 metres above sea level.

Walking on top of the mountain and looking to the south I am instantly mesmerised by the 360 degree panoramic view that looks beyond the mass of terracotta roofs, towards the old medieval wall and beyond to vast turquoise waters.

In complete contrast, looking down the north side of the mountain, there is small bay with eight small Croatian villages. For historic things to see and do in Dubrovnik, this site is of strong importance. It’s the home of Fort Imperial.

The French built the fort in 1808 during the Napoleonic Wars to hold back any attacks by the Austrians. Fascinatingly, it was never used in combat – until 1991 when it played a major role in the city’s defence back during the Croatian War of Independence. Then it was repeatedly attacked by the Serbians. A small museum inside the fort will give you a glimpse of the destruction the city endured during that conflict. It also gives an insight into the reconstruction of the city.

Following the Siege of Dubrovnik, a giant cross was also erected on the mountain as a memorial. It’s located on the south side.

Top things to do in Dubrovnik

Top things to do in Dubrovnik

Remember those panoramic views? After our history lesson in wartime destruction, we escape the summer rush by relaxing at the basic but lovely Restaurant Terrace. Sip on a cocktail watching as the sunset beams off the Riviera.

Make sure you leave enough time to get lost in the back streets of one of the world’s loveliest cities.

Do you have any tips for top things to do in Dubrovnik? We would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment.

Additional images: Bigstock


Vanessa O'Hanlon

About the writer

Vanessa O’Hanlon is an Australian television news presenter with the Nine Network and an avid traveller. Her travels began with a flight to Egypt, a visit to the pyramids and a camel ride and instantly she knew there was no turning back. Since then Vanessa’s backpack has seen a thing or two, from discovering relatively untouched Bhutan to bracing the cold winds on the peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro. Her travel tales span nearly 50 countries. Combining a love of writing, photography and exploring the unknown, Vanessa is pleased to share her adventures with The Big Bus tour and travel guide readers.

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