Dubrovnik, Croatia, Is a Dream Destination

Aerial view of Dubrovnik, Croatia fronting the Adriatic Sea, Europe

Dubrovnik, Croatia, is a city as shrouded in intrigue as it is in beauty. No one even knows exactly when the city was settled—likely sometime in the 7th century—though the famously beautiful stone walls that still surround Old Town today date back to the 13th century. Ask most visitors what they know of Old Town’s historic landmarks and they’re more likely to describe which Game of Thrones scene was filmed there than what its real purpose is or was.

The rest of Dubrovnik spills down a lush hillside toward the shimmering Adriatic Sea, where Old Town sits, observing sailboats, yachts and cruise ships in the distance. It’s a dream destination for travelers in general but especially spectacular for romantic getaways. Here’s what to do and where to stay when you go.

Start at the Top

Cable car moving down from the hill to Dubrovnik City Center

Many of Dubrovnik’s best views come from high vantage points that overlook the hillside homes and Old Town below, so take advantage of some key places to catch dazzling views. The Dubrovnik Cable Car takes you to the top of Srd Hill, where views stretch up to 37 miles on clear days, encompassing the city, the sea and the islands beyond. There’s no more quintessential viewpoint than this, but don’t forget to check down lower for another aerial view, as confusing as that sounds. Back at sea level, in Old Town, one of the city’s coolest viewpoints is from the top of the city walls, which you can tour in about two hours (bring a hat or umbrella for shade). If you prefer to visit these with a guide, you can often find combo tours that include both the cable car and walls.

Explore the Bottom

Stradun Placa, the main street of the Old City of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Old Town, fully contained within the city’s imposing walls, is undoubtedly the star attraction of Dubrovnik. It’s not big, and you can certainly explore its medieval alleys on your own, but you’ll be missing out on its fascinating history if you don’t let someone show you around first. Schedule a walking tour for evening to avoid the throngs of cruise ship visitors who port here almost every morning and flood the city on their own tours. Aside from elegant landmarks, the walls mostly contain shops today, but there’s also some acclaimed dining to be found. Michelin Guides may only cover around 30 cities or regions, but Dubrovnik is one of them, and the city is home to a dozen listed restaurants, including one Michelin star and two Bib Gourmands. Restaurant Dubrovnik, inside the walls, is one of these listed restaurants and offers stellar rooftop dining for special occasions.

See the Sea

Oysters in Mali Ston

Aerial view of the town of Ston and historic walls

OK, you’ll see the sea from most points in Dubrovnik, but make a point to properly experience it from some of its most desirable locales. St. Jakov Beach is among the most beautiful beaches along the coast, and it’s only about a mile east of Old Town. It’s generally less crowded than even closer beaches and has views of both Old Town and Lokrum Island. Speaking of which, Lokrum is just a short ferry ride from Old Town and a favorite escape for both visitors and locals. Game of Thrones fans will find even more to recognize here, as they will just about anywhere in and around Dubrovnik. To get a little further from town, you could also head to Lopud, the jewel of the Elaphiti Islands. Here you’ll find Sunj, the number one beach in the islands, perhaps because it’s known as the only sand beach, while the rest are mainly pebble. If you enjoy seafood, you can also visit the nearby town of Mali Ston and head out on the water to collect and taste the freshest oysters with local farmers. The 14th-century village of Ston is just a mile from here and world-famous for its coveted salt, which is still mined with medieval techniques (you can buy by sacks of various sizes).

Picture-Perfect Moments

Fountain Neptune in Trsteno Arboretum, Dubrovnik, Croatia

While there’s a worthwhile botanical garden to visit back on Lokrum Island, one of the most storied gardens in the world can be found about 30 minutes northwest of Dubrovnik. Trsteno Arboretum may be primarily focused on trees, as are all arboretums by definition, but it remains a picturesque oasis of international plantings, including plenty of flowers. It was first planted in the 15th century, when a noble family requested that ship captains in this busy maritime region bring back seeds from wherever they went, resulting in a collection of international species still growing today. The pair of palms at the entrance are each over 500 years old. Finally, if you’re here for a honeymoon or other romantic reason, be sure to visit the Love Stories Museum just outside the Old Town walls back in Dubrovnik. The collections here celebrate both local and international romance, including famous love stories from film, music and myth. Snap a pic at this charming museum to commemorate your special story!

Pop Into Another Country or Two

To really maximize your time in this part of the Balkans, consider a day trip or two to nearby nations. Kotor, Montenegro, to the southeast, is about two hours from Dubrovnik. It’s a gorgeous port town with its own walled Old City, teeming with boutiques and restaurants, and a 1,350-step hike up the hillside to the remains of a 14th-century fortress with panoramic views of the town and bay below. In the opposite direction, Mostar is a 15th-century stunner not far from Croatia’s border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Best known for its iconic Old Bridge, the thriving outdoor market is the big draw here, and the low cost of living makes it an ideal shopping and dining destination for a day trip or overnight visit. It’s just over two hours from Dubrovnik, and you should be sure to plan at least a few hours for a stop at Kravica Waterfalls on your way in or out. An hour from Mostar and still two hours from Dubrovnik, this oasis boasts waterfalls even more stunning than Croatia’s famous Krka Falls, with the bonuses of much smaller crowds and you can still swim in the water below these falls, unlike Krka. There’s food, a bar and plenty of places to lounge at the bottom, so feel free to make an afternoon of it. While rental cars can be tricky in much of the politically challenged Balkans, you’ll have no problem getting a car for journeys to either Bosnia and Herzegovina or Montenegro from the Dubrovnik airport.

Stay in Style

Hotel Bellevue at night in Dubrovnik, Croatia is part of Adriatic Luxury Hotels
Hotel Bellevue
Adriatic Luxury Hotels' Hotel Excelsior, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Hotel Excelsior
Hotel Supetar is a boutique property along the waterfront promenade of historic Cavtat, about 30 minutes from Old Town in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Hotel Supetar

Adriatic Luxury Hotels is a collection of 12 top-tier hotels and villas in the Dubrovnik area, offering diverse styles and amenities to meet your specific needs. Many can host destination weddings, but all are excellent options for honeymoons or romantic getaways in general. Hotel Excelsior is the best-located luxury hotel in Dubrovnik at just a five-minute walk from the Old City walls and directly on the sea. You won’t be surprised to learn Hollywood legends and British royalty (yes, Queen Elizabeth II, herself) have stayed here. For more of a beach stay with some serious spa moments, Hotel Bellevue is only a seven-minute drive west from Hotel Excelsior and Old Town but manages a bit more seclusion, with a semiprivate beach complete with jumping cliffs and a swimmable cave, and a fully private lounging area with chairs, showers, waitstaff and a restroom. It’s also home to a superior spa for some pre- or post-wedding pampering. For something a little more outside of the typical Dubrovnik stay, Hotel Supetar is a boutique property along the waterfront promenade of historic Cavtat, about 30 minutes from Old Town. The refurbished three-story villa is a design dream of unique furnishings and original art, and the property includes a private pool surrounded by lush vegetation and a lounge bar, as well as a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating.