Okay, I have to admit, I don’t actually watch Game of Thrones. I regularly confuse it with the Hunger Games and World of Warcraft, and this seems to annoy fans of each. I just haven’t ever been able to get into any alternate reality storyline besides Harry Potter. I prefer shows like Friends and Sex and the City, which I find to be more realistic. (Plenty of people will disagree with that descriptor, I know.) But in any event, I understand that Game of Thrones is a big deal to a lot of people, and it’s the catalyst for an unprecedented spike in tourism in Dubrovnik. Seriously, I don’t think anyone would even know about Dubrovnik if it weren’t for GoT (see how I’m getting into the terminology here?).
Initially I think the show brought a welcome wave of tourists to an otherwise undiscovered gem on the Adriatic Coast. But now the town has become like a Disney-fied version of itself, completely un-lived-in and immaculately maintained and existing only to cater to tourists. Call me a travel-purist, but I see this as a loss. When a medieval city with a complex socio-political history, resting at the intersection of a massive mountain range and breathtaking sea, falls victim to hoards of tourist groups being led by guides holding giant number paddles in the air, I think we have lost the essence of what made the city great. I just think those tourists are here for the wrong reasons, and that they don’t really know what they’re looking at. I’m not sure Dubrovnik will ever be able to backtrack from this development, but perhaps in 10 years when excitement for the show has blown over, it can go back to how it was. One thing is for certain though, the people of Dubrovnik are taking full advantage of the situation and charging tourists as much as they can get away with. Honestly, good for them.
So anyway, let’s say you’re going to end up in Dubrovnik sometime soon, perhaps on a cruise ship that comes in to port here as that seems to be the method of travel preferred by visitors to Dubrovnik. You’ve got one day in this historic city, what should you do? I spent a few days here scoping out your options, so here’s what I suggest for how to spend a day in Dubrovnik!
A Day in Dubrovnik
0900 Enter the old town and welcome to Dubrovnik! Through the main entry, Pile Gate, you’ll find the beautiful Onofrio’s Fountain. It dates back to 1438 when it was part of the city’s water-supply system, and it’s massive!
0930 Then on your left you’ll find the St. Saviour Church. Step inside and enjoy the beautiful and unique design elements that date back to 1520, when it was built to celebrate the town surviving a massive earthquake.
1000 Begin walking down the main street, the Placa Stradum. And start your day off right with some Croatian pastries and coffee at the mlinar bakery, which is on your right as your head down the Stradum.
1030 When you reach Orlando’s Column at the other end of the main street, take in the views of Dubrovnik Cathedral and Church of Saint Blaise. Then make your way back out to the entrance where you started, the Pile Gate.
1100 Meet up with the Game of Thrones walking tour just outside the gates (yeah I know, but since you’re here, might as well embrace it!). Be sure to buy your tickets in advance online for this, which will be about 180 kunas (26USD). Your tour should cover both the GoT-related information as well as the history of the town.
1300 I think after two hours of walking around the old town you’ll be needing a rest and refuel. Find a restaurant to sit at for lunch in one of the squares dotted around the city. A cold Croatian beer will feel so refreshing now!
1400 Ready for some sightseeing with less exertion? Get in line for the cable car that will whisk you up to the top of the mountain that overlooks the orange roofs of Dubrovnik old town and the intoxicating blue of the Adriatic Sea. At 120 kunas for a round trip ticket, it’s worth the splurge for the stunning views. If you were feeling particularly adventurous you can actually climb a zig-zagging trail all the way up to the top, though I think that would require a day all by itself.
1530 Once you’re back down to sea level, find an entrance to the city walls. The easiest one to describe to you is just on the inside of the Pile Gate where you came in this morning. This will set you back another 120 kunas per ticket but the city walls circling the city encompass over a mile of scenic walkway so you get your money’s worth. You’ll want to give yourself two hours to walk it all since it includes quite a bit of stairs.
1730 You’ve covered a lot of ground today, now treat yourself to a fresh seafood dinner, straight out of the Adriatic Sea! There are a couple of great restaurants right at the old port, or you can head up to the Prijeko street (one up from the Stradum) for more selection and seating. Either way, can’t go wrong because the food here is delicious.
With your feet worn out and your pockets emptied, it’s time to call it a day in Dubrovnik. But the good news is that you’ve seen all the highlights! It’s a truly beautiful historic city in a magnificent location, and it’s no wonder they chose to film the show here. Hopefully you love every minute of your time in Dubrovnik and come away with an appreciation for this city and country as more than just a filming set from your favorite show.
For those of you looking to do a little something different or with extra time on your hands, I also recommend the sea-related activities available in town: a scenic boat cruise, a sea kayaking tour, a snorkeling excursion, a boat rental, etc. There are also a lot of worthwhile museums in town, like the Franciscan Monastery Museum and Maritime Museum, among others. If you plan on visiting several museums and cultural attractions, you may want to consider the Dubrovnik 1-day card, which includes the city walls and several of those cultural attractions for just 170 kuna. It’s definitely a deal if you’re planning on a few of them already!
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