Dubrovnik's popularity has risen in recent years, in part due to the worldwide success of 'Game of Thrones' and the desire to see 'Kings Landing' in reality. Being so small and compact, it is the perfect place to spend a few nights and so, here is my experience of spending just over 48 hours in Dubrovnik.
First for us it was all about location and so Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik is the obvious choice, just a five-minute walk to the medieval walls and entrance into the Old City. The hotel has a traditional building and a newer glass tower with stunning views of the Old Town and Lokrum island. Definitely don't miss a sunset cocktail on the terrace of the Piano Bar, as it's one of the best spots as you get to watch the sunset across the city, which is pretty magical.
First things first, on your first afternoon I would suggest you start by exploring the city walls. There is an entrance just inside the gate and this gives you the perfect overview of this beautiful city and helps you get your bearings. You can clearly see the main street, Stradun, as it traverses the city, the many churchs and all the narrow little streets ripe for exploring - it's a wonderful mix of city life and tourist attraction as you glimpse how the two combine. You will also spot the many rooftop bars and restaurants that are harder to find from ground level - don't forget to look up!
The city can be busy in the day, so staying in such close proximity allows you to explore at night when the streets are far less crowded and it becomes even more magical. There is a large choice of restaurants within the walls and some, located by the Lotte Gate, have wonderful views over the water and walls.
Whether you fancy a historical tour or one more tailored to the 'Game of Thrones' fan, it's definitely a great way to start your first full day and learn about the fascinating history of the city. Maps, located by the gates, show the sites of all the destruction during the war (1991 - 2001) and it's a stark reminder of how badly the city was hit just 20 years ago! Buildings still bear the bullet holes, if you look carefully, and many guides have a close association and stories of their own, having lived through it.
Another must for us was the War Photo Limited, a small gallery dedicated to showcasing the human side of the war. It was both moving and heartbreaking to see a documentation of the real portrayal of how the experience affected people and families. Spend some time just exploring the city for the rest of the day, getting off-the-beaten-path and seeing what you can find. There are fabulous little wine bars serving fine Croatian wines and charcuterie boards, and you can't get lost, so don't just follow the crowds.
An experience not to be missed is a trip on the cable car to the top of the mountain. The panoramic views of the city and surrounding area are incredible, and it offers another perfect place to watch the sunset. There is a restaurant and bar at the top, but make sure you book if you want a table with the best view, as it's a popular spot.
This morning, take a boat ride over to the island of Lokrum, just a short ten-minute boat ride away and a lovely nature-rich island to explore; it's also part of the city's UNESCO protection. You'll find plenty of boats departing to Lokrum each day from Dubrovnik's small harbour, accessed via the city walls. There is a lovely botanical garden, the remains of the 12th century basilica, 15th century monastery and the Habsburg summer residence, from the 19th century. It's such a nice contrast to the city and lovely to just walk around in the peace and quiet of the palm trees, see the wild peacocks roam and a great spot to grab some lunch under one of the shady pine trees. It's like you have been transported to a completely different location.
Head back to the city and join a sea kayak tour to experience the city from a different perspective on the water. From this angle, you will realise why the city was so hard to attack, as the sheer size of the walls dwarf over you and you will experience unique views you would not get from anywhere else. The hustle and bustle of the city is left behind and the peace and quiet takes over. It's perfect for anyone of any ability or experience and for something extra-special, and you can also do the sunset version of the tour.
Dubrovnik is such a fascinating city, and with such a rich history you can easily see everything in a quick weekend break, but it's also the perfect base if you want to travel along the Dalmatian Coast a little more and just use it as a base.
View of village of Cavtat
Boats in Cavtat
Cavtat Clock Tower
The pretty town of Cavtat is easily accessible - take a picturesque ferry ride from Dubrovnik and spend your day exploring the harbour or visiting the House of Vlaho Bukovac museum, dedicated to the 19th century Croatian painter who was born in Cavtat. Alternatively, if you're wishing to venture further afield, Mostar makes a wonderful day trip - expect medieval architecture, charming restaurants and don't miss the jewel of city, the distinctive Stari Most Bridge.