Three days is the perfect time to spend in Dubrovnik, Croatia’s Pearl of the Adriatic.
With its historic city walls, charming Old Town, and cliff-top views, you’ll be glad you added Dubrovnik to your Croatia itinerary whether you are staying a week or more. More and more visitors are flocking to Dubrovnik every year, and for a good reason. It is the perfect spot to spend three days exploring, relaxing, and immersing yourself in the local history and culture.
Dubrovnik has a wide selection of historic architecture within its famous Old Town. Many things to see in the town include its one-of-a-kind churches and forts and landmarks made famous by the widely successful HBO series Game of Thrones. There are also some great day trips you can take from Dubrovnik so you will have no trouble filling up three days in Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik also makes a great base to explore more of the Dalmatian coast, go island hopping, or head into neighboring countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. However, you will want at least 7 days in Croatia or even 14 days in Croatia to have time to explore locally and go beyond the old town’s city walls.
The Best Time to Visit Croatia
Croatia is a year-round destination with plenty of activities to fill up an itinerary in the colder (and wetter) and less crowded months (November-April). If you are looking to island hop and enjoy the dramatic coastline and pebble beaches that make Croatia a top holiday destination, it is best to visit Croatia in late spring to early summer, when temperates are warm, and there is less chance of rain.
The tourist season peaks in August, with some tourists still visiting into October. It is smart to avoid peak tourist season as it is the most expensive time of year to visit Croatia and will require earlier bookings of cars, hotels, and ferries to ensure they are not sold out.
I enjoyed visiting Croatia in early June. It was busy, and the weather was warm and humid. They had a heat wave while I was there, which made jumping into the cool waters of the Adriatic that much more enjoyable. According to a few locals, the heat intensifies in July and August, and the amount of tourists that pack themselves into Dubrovnik’s Old Town does not make things any better.
Areas to stay
Dubrovnik has many neighborhoods, all of which are great places to stay in their own way. If it is your first time in Dubrovnik, I suggest staying near or in Old Town because it is so convenient for many things you’ll want to do. I’ve stayed in two different areas while visiting Dubrovnik, but my favorite (although it is more expensive) is the heart of Old Town. I love being able to wind myself through the alleys and dazzle at the town’s charm early in the morning before the cobblestone streets are saturated with fanny packs and loud groups of tourists.
Here I’ve listed a few of the most popular areas to stay in Dubrovnik with some pros and cons to help you make the best decision for your Croatian itinerary.
This is where most tourist attractions are located, and staying here means you’ll be
close to everything but will be paying a premium. Almost every side street and cobblestone alley is home to beautiful architecture, charming restaurants, and local shops that are sure to please.
The Old Town is one of the more expensive neighborhoods in Dubrovnik, but it is also the most convenient if you are looking for a night out and want to walk back to your accommodation, saving money on transportation. Old Town is where most of Dubrovnik’s nightlife is located, with a great selection of bars and small nightclubs. If you’re looking for quieter nights, fewer tourists and more of a laid-back vibe, you might want to stay on Lapad instead.
Lapad is Dubrovnik’s peninsula, located northwest of the Old Town. This area is known for its
excellent selection of hotels, laid-back atmosphere, and nearby beaches. You’ll find small
residential neighborhoods here, taking you away from the touristy streets of Dubrovnik’s town center and
providing a more local experience. The peninsula is very green with a lot of nature, and it almost
feels like a small town rather than part of a big city.
Babin Kuk is a popular area to stay on the peninsula. It is about a 15 min drive from the heart of Old Town, and 10 mins drive from the main cruise port and ferry terminal. Babin Kuk has a lot of budget-friendly hotel options, from hostels to larger resorts, and is walkable to many beach clubs, including Copacabana Beach, where you can get a great view of the sunset. Although there are many budget options in this area, if you want to save even more, consider staying in Gruz instead.
To save money, after my first few nights in Dubrovnik I moved to the Babin Kuk area just outside of town. I got a simple hotel with breakfast for just over $100 a night. Although I prefer the convenience of Old Town, Babin Kuk had a lot of great benefits, and it was so much cheaper.
Gruz and the Harbor
If hotels in the Old Town and on Lapad lie outside your budget, you could stay in Gruz instead. This area is close to the main harbor and north of the Old Town, only a short 10-minute car ride away.
While there are fewer things to do here, you’ll be very close to the harbor and main bus station,
which makes Gruz a strategically located neighborhood in Dubrovnik for anyone who does not want to rent a car.
While Gruz is a great place to stay for three days in Dubrovnik, parts of it may not be the safest
at night. There is generally no cause for concern since Dubrovnik is a very safe city, but the
area close to the harbor is not the best place to walk home alone at night. Consider
this when picking a hotel in the area.
Ploče is a great area to stay for families and couples looking for luxury hotels and rental villas. It has the grandest hotels with seafront views in the area and is within walking distance of the old town via the Ploče Gate. However, many hotels in this area offer free shuttles to Old Town. Ploče area is also home to one of Dubvronik’s most popular beaches, Banje beach, and convenient to the Mt. Srd cable car.
What to see with three days in Dubrovnik
Most of these locations are convenient and easy to get to from the heart of Old Town. Still, there are some longer day trips you could go on if you wanted to rent a car and spend a full day outside of Dubrovnik, including visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. However, with only 3 days in Dubrovnik, I recommend sticking “closer to home” as there is plenty to do within the city limits to fill your days.
Consider buying The Dubrovnik Pass (1 day or 3 day) to get special discounts and offers to the most visited landmarks in Dubrovnik. Most landmarks require an entrance fee.
You’ll want to start your Old Town tour with a walk down Stradun, the town’s main drag running the length of the Old Town from the Pile Gate to the Ploča Gate. Stradun is lined with historic landmarks, famous movie locations, charming alleys, and plenty of dining and shopping opportunities. You will see Dubvronik’s iconic bell tower at the end of Stradun on Luža Square.
No trip to Dubrovnik is complete without visiting the intricate Dubrovnik Cathedral. It was constructed in the 17th century but stands on the site of a much older church, dating back to the 6th century. Make sure to visit the attached treasury, which is home to various unique relics.
This cliff-top fortress sits 37 meters above the ocean, providing visitors with sweeping views and a cool sea breeze. Located in the heart of Dubrovnik, this is a must-do during your three days in the city. If you’re visiting during the months of July and August, keep an eye out for the annual Summer Festival hosted at Lovrijenac Fort.
The Franciscan Church and Monastery
This 17th-century church and monastery are not to be missed, especially for those interested in the history of Dubrovnik. You can visit the medieval pharmacy located here to learn about how the monks used to study medicine or head to the monastery museum to see the rare art collection.
What to see outside of Old Town Dubrovnik
The island of Lokrum is located less than a kilometer away from the shores of the mainland
and makes for a great place to explore for an afternoon away from the city. Lokrum’s landmarks include
the Fort Royal Castle, the Benedectine Monastery, and a small salt lake. You can take a ferry to Lokrum or rent a kayak and paddle there yourself if you’re feeling adventurous. Lokrum Island is also where the Iron Throne (from Game of Thrones) is currently located and awaiting your arrival. Ferry tickets can be purchased at the Old City Port and cost about $27 USD.
Unless you are a Game of Thrones fan and can not survive without sitting on the Iron Throne yourself, I’d skip Lokrum island and instead take a kayak or boat trip for the day. I visited in the summer, and it was HOT. The only way to get around the island was to walk, and the landmarks were not that impressive. However, there are a few swim spots on the Island, so bring a swimsuit and towel if you visit Lokrum just in case you want to take a dip.
A short 30 mins drive or an enjoyable ferry ride from the Old Port of Dubrovnik will lead you to the charming coastal town of Cavtat. Spending a half day to a full day here is a great way to escape the sometimes smoldering tourist crowds of Dubrovnik. It is a walkable town with some historical landmarks and great views of the bay from its seaside promenade.
Spending time in the medieval villages of Ston or Orebić are great ways to spend a day on the Pelješac Peninsula. It is best to rent a car for the most flexibility. The Peninsula is only 45 mins from Dubrovnik and is home to some of the finest vineyards in the country. Ston is also known for its delicious bay oysters. You can even take a short passenger ferry from the town of Orebić to the neighboring island of Korčula.
If you like Dubrovnik, you’ll love Korčula Town for its similar look and feel, but it has a more laid-back local vibe with far fewer tourists. There are direct ferries to Korčula from Dubvronik up to 6 times a day in high season that take around two hours each way.
Korčula is widely regarded as the best wine island in Croatia. It also has a thriving old town, lots of historic sites, tasty restaurants and cafes, and a thick forest perfect for nature lovers.
If you are really looking to get away from the hustle of city life, consider taking a ferry to enjoy the car-free Elafiti islands. The Jadrolinija ferry line has daily ferries from Dubrovnik to all three major Elafiti Islands, Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan. With less than 1,000 people living on the main three islands, expect a low-key experience great for those looking to relax by the sea, enjoy a sandy beach (Sunju Beach is the only sandy beach in Dubrovnik), and take in views the Adriatic Sea along quaint pathways.
Activities to do with three days in Dubrovnik
Ride the cable car
One of the best ways to see Dubrovnik from above is to ride the cable car, which takes visitors to a historic fortress and a scenic viewpoint. The ride up takes around 10 minutes and is best done on a sunny day for sunset. If you’re up for a challenge, you can opt to hike up Mount Srd to where the cable car drops you off. The trail is steep but manageable. Make sure to pack plenty of water and protect yourself from the sun.
Have dinner with a view
There is a great selection of cliff-top restaurants in and around the Old Town, all boasting incredible views. Enjoy a delicious dinner with multiple courses at a fine dining restaurant, or find a more budget-friendly option if you’re trying to save money. Either way, you’ll have an unforgettable evening and night out in Dubrovnik. After dinner, you can head to a local bar and enjoy cocktails with a view.
One of my favorite restaurants with a view is Panorama Restaurant, on top of Mt. Srd. Although touristy, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the service and delicious the food tasted, not to mention the atmosphere with award-winning views. You’ll want to make a reservation to get a table with a view or plan to eat late (9ish).
Go on a boat trip
See Croatia’s impressive coastline from the water and join one of the many boat trips offered in Dubrovnik. The selection is large, including options such as a Game of Thrones cruise, a kayaking excursion, or a speedboat tour. If you’re looking to splurge, you could also take a private boat tour, which is a great option for groups traveling together.
Kayak around the bay
Another great way to get out on the water and soak up some unique views is to rent a kayak or take a group-led kayak tour around the bay. Many tours include visiting beaches and caves, cliff jumping, and snorkeling, while others are relaxed with sunset views and a glass of wine. There are many rental companies near the Old Town gates, including top-rated Adventure Dalmatia.
Walk the city walls
One of the main attractions in Dubrovnik is the historic city wall surrounding the Old Town. Almost 2 kilometers of the walls are walkable, and the views are spectacular. The walls get busy, and tickets are required with a limited amount sold per day. I recommend buying a ticket first thing in the morning. If you don’t mind the crowds, it is also a perfect place to go for a sunset stroll before you head to dinner with a view. Skip going in the middle of the day. There is no shade on the walls, and the heat can be very intense. You will have a better experience if you go early to beat the crowds or later once the sun has started to retreat for the day.
Go on a self-guided walking Game of Thrones tour
This will be the highlight for anyone who wants to go back in time to King’s Landing. You can google entire self-guided walking tours or join a group tour with a guide.
Below are some of the notable landmarks within the Old Town
- Pile Bay as Blackwater Bay GOT
- Fort Lovrijenac as the Red Keep
- Pile Gate and Polce gate and entryways, seen throughout GOT as King’s Landing entrances
- The Jesuit Staircase that descends from Gundulić Square to St. Ignatius Church are seen many times in GOT but is most famously known as the “Walk of Shame” stairs.
- St. Dominic Street serves as a backdrop in GOT as another area in King’s Landing.
Enjoy the sun and sea
Although there are not a ton of beaches in Dubrovnik, you will see many tourists jumping into the sea from almost anywhere along Dubvronik’s rocky coastline. Blaze beach is a great area for cliff jumping and swimming, accessed only by a small door inside Dubrovnik’s city walls.
For a sandy beach, head to Lopud, one of the main three Elafiti Islands. Sunj Beach is popular among tourists for its shallow waters and enjoyable shoreline.
With the stunning ocean backdrop framing the view, you’ll have an unforgettable time during your three days in Dubrovnik. If you have a week in Croatia or two weeks to enjoy the country “full of life” make sure visit other iconic towns like Split and the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park.