Tell most Europeans you’re visiting Dubrovnik and they’ll say, “Oh, yes, it’s beautiful there,” Tell most Americans you’re visiting Dubrovnik and they’ll say, “What’s that?”
It’s not good or bad, but Dubrovnik, and Croatia in general, are just not on a lot of Americans’ radar! You may recognize it if you watch Game of Thrones, or if you happen to know much about the Balkan Wars in the 1970s and 1990s. But no one is currently invading, it’s not a major world power, and it’s not technically Western European. Trust me, though, this is definitely a place that will make its way onto your travel bucket list! And these are the tips you need to know before you go.
It’s old, but it’s also new.
The city of Dubrovnik dates back centuries, but you may walk into the Old City and start to think, “Wow! This is so clean! And it’s been so well-maintained! And while that’s true, it’s also been skillfully and lovingly restored after the bombings here in the 1990s.
You can see maps of the city that denote direct hits from bombs to the homes, buildings, roads, everything. Personally, I have a newfound appreciation for Croatians and their resilience, resourcefulness, and commitment to seeing their city restored.
Slippery when wet.
That said, those smooth and pristine pedestrian roads are slippery when it rains! We did get rained on during our visit, and we saw more than one person slip. Be careful out there!
Something for a sunny day: How to Spend a Day at Lokrum Island, Dubrovnik
It’s going to be crowded.
If you were hoping to see Dubrovnik without crowds, you’re about 20 years too late! While most Americans couldn’t pick out Dubrovnik on a map, Europeans have been flocking here for a while. And once Game of Thrones hit the small screen, even Americans wanted to see this fairytale city for themselves. So, unless you are willing to come in January, expect this small walled city to be very much on the crowded side!
Keep reading: The Top 10 Things to Do on Your First Trip to Dubrovnik
It’s probably the most expensive city in the Balkans.
Croatia has long been a budget traveler’s dream destination, but that is definitely no longer the case in Dubrovnik, and hasn’t been in at least a decade. This is not to say it’s expensive by every standard; having lived in D.C. for so long, I actually thought prices were pretty reasonable! Rest assured, though, that the rest of Croatia and probably the rest of the Balkan Peninsula will be a bargain compared to Dubrovnik.
Taking a roadtrip? Bring your passport!
Greater Dubrovnik is actually surrounded by countries other than Croatia! If you’re flying into the city, this won’t even affect you. If you plan to roadtrip the Dalmatian Coast, or even just drive from Dubrovnik to Split, you will need to bring your passport to cross through Bosnia and Herzegovina! That would be an easy way to check another country off your list, but if you set out without realizing you need your passport, you’ll be disappointed!
Also helpful: The Traveler’s Ultimate Guide to Passports
You must walk the City Walls.
If you do nothing else, you have to walk the City Walls. It’s (expectedly) on the expensive side at 250 kn (€33 or $32), but you’ll be spending two hours seeing some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and walking on one of the oldest, most intact medieval defensive walls in the world. There are even restaurants, museums, and shops to peruse along the way!
Get the details: Your Guide to Dubrovnik’s City Walls
Signage is not great.
There definitely could have been more signage in and around the Old City and other popular sites. There were several instances when we asked ourselves, “Are we doing this right? Is this the right way? Am I supposed to cross this major highway to get to that popular trailhead?” When in doubt, ask a local, and look at a map!
More here: 10 Guaranteed Ways to Ruin Any Trip
The color of the water is for real.
The Adriatic has the clarity of the Caribbean, the inky shade of the Aegean, and the stunning beauty that pictures don’t do justice. I couldn’t stop looking at it, and yet I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. If you’re an ocean girl like me, you will know exactly what I mean when you see it!
Read next: Places I Could Visit Again and Again
Want more? Check out my dedicated Croatia Page for everything you need to plan your trip!
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