In my post on Montenegro, I noted how frustrated I was by the crowds in Dubrovnik, and I fear it gave off the impression that I didn’t like the city. Really, this was not the case at all—but I will say… the cruisers did negatively affect our experience. However, our overall view of the city was true love.
In reality, Dubrovnik was just as beautiful as I had imagined, and though I think Kotor has more Old World charm, Dubrovnik has more life to it.
So, how to keep your sanity when throngs of cruise shippers try so desperately to snatch it away?
*Fair warning: another picture-heavy post is about to kick off, but I seriously don’t know how to help it. This part of the world is just stupid beautiful.
Stay outside of the city.
We stayed at an AirBnb apartment a little bit away from the Old City, and despite that fact a few locals gave us the side eye when we revealed our accommodation choice, it was perfect! We anticipated needing a bit of a detox before meeting up with the wino & her mister in Budapest (rightfully so, might I add), so having a reason to head back to our apartment and relax on our terrace, as pictured above, wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Our hosts were an incredibly lovely family of three, complete with an impossibly cute St. Bernard puppy and a three year old daughter who eyed up my bracelets on the first night and declared I was a golden lady. I mean, this is how her mom translated it and I choose to believe it because how cute?
We took the bus to Old City each day, and tried to arrive early before the dreaded cruise ships docked. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t the only ones who headed to the Balkans instead of Istanbul—tons of ships were redirected to Dubrovnik as well. This meant that, while the city tried to limit these floating monstrosities to a maximum of three per day, there were a whopping SEVEN when we were there. Obviously, the streets were nearly impossible to navigate between the hours of 11 AM and 3 PM daily, as they were full of dawdling families and pushy faux-photographers, snapping photos faster than they could even get their lenses into focus.
It’s rare you’ll hear me utter these words, but seriously: the earlier the better, especially in the summer. Beat the crowds, beat the heat, enjoy some coffee & chocolate brioche sent from heaven above. This is literally how I started every morning. See how empty the streets & cafe are?
Explore the city with a guide.
We kicked off our first full day with Stefica Curic Lenert, an incredible tour guide who is currently getting her PhD in the history of Dubrovnik. Right from the beginning, she asked what we’d like to focus on, and the hubs and I opted to explore Dubrovnik’s culture. She talked us through the Croatian War of Independence and how it affected life in the 90’s, and led us to some of the best local bars, bakeries, and cafes. We tested out D’Vino, and can solidly recommend for a glass of local wine.
Stefi was a wealth of knowledge, and really gave us a totally different take on the city. Most importantly, she alerted us to the “Authentically Croatian” check mark that denoted where to buy real souvenirs, made in Croatia:
Though we weren’t in the market for mementoes, I appreciated knowing that the city was making strides in preserving local heritage, even with the influx of tourists. Luckily, the stores that had the Croatian seal of approval were regularly crowded so it seems to be working.
Stefi also let us know that the locals were equally frustrated by the insane crowds caused by the cruise ships, and are working to moderate how many people enter the walls each day. Clearly, tourism is key for Dubrovnik, but knowing that they’re trying to make things more manageable for everyone made me think that perhaps the current crowds are just the result of some tourism growing pains.
Flee for the beach.
On our last day, we hopped on a little boat and had the captain take us to a nearby beach, as recommended by both Stefi and our host. The boat ride itself was complete perfection and so relaxing, and the views of Dubrovnik from the sea? Unreal.
I’m a bad blogger and the name of the beach has totally slipped my mind, but it was a popular spot off the coast, with full views of Dubrovnik. Naturally, as soon as we settled in for some sunning (/crisping), this pulled into view:
CURSE YOU, CRUISE SHIPS.
Take it from the top.
On two separate occasions over the span of, like, two days, we saw Dubrovnik from above–first from the ride up the hill via cable car, second during our walk around the walls. Both are a must, though the walls were my favorite. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Here are views from the top of Srd Hill, post-cable car ride (which was about $17 USD each, roundtrip):
Annnnd here we see the Old City while walking the walls, knights in shining armor-style (I mean, I assume):
The next day, we high-tailed it for Split, where we caught our overnight train to Budapest. We only had a few measly hours in Split, which was another gorgeous little pocket of Eastern Europe, so Croatia? I’m coming back for you. And seriously, I might just move to the Balkans and never leave.
– Thank you to Croatian Tourism for pairing me up with Stefica. All opinions are, as always, my own… because seriously, the pictures? How could I make this up?