Top things to do in Dubrovnik, for nature lovers and GoT fans alike
Welcome to your guide of the top things to do in Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic.
Although Dubrovnik's medieval old town has been world-famous since forever and listed on the UNESCO-heritage list since 1979., recently Dubrovnik had been awarded another honor, inclusion on the list of the Game of Thrones locations. As the GoT craze swept the world Dubrovnik, the stand-in for King's Landing did not remain unaffected. Droves of new tourists came pouring in looking for tours to take them along the walls of Dubrovnik and white-limestone streets of Stradun as well as easy access to the Lokrum Isla and Trsteno Arboretum.
But being one of the Game of Thrones locations is not all there is to the former Republic of Ragusa. Dubrovnik beaches have a reputation of their own and setting out of the city itself is never a bad idea. Why would anybody want to spend their limited holiday time not exploring the magnificent old city? Well for starters, the surrounding nature has attracted royalty and world-leaders alike long before the Song of Ice and Fire series had ever been a concept.
Below is a crash course on things to do in Dubrovnik which GoT fans and nature lovers will find irresistible.
Here is a Tl;dr on the topics covered:
- The walls of Dubrovnik, a large fortification system you can climb yourself
- Lapad, a cozy neighborhood with great hotels and one of the finest Dubrovnik beaches
- The old town, a must on the list of things to do in Dubrovnik, or rather tour
- Lokrum Island, beaches, nature, a thousand-year-old monastery, the works
- Trsteno Arboretum, a botanical garden focusing on exotic trees and Renaissance
- Some of the finest Dubrovnik beaches, and where to find them
The kind of walls Trump wishes he had
Considered one of the greatest medieval fortification systems, one has to back up for about 600 years to understand why the walls of Dubrovnik even came to be. The year is 1358. and the Republic of Ragusa is founded. Due to Dubrovnik's position on the Adriatic sea it was all set up for success by using the many trade routes it had at its disposal, but with great wealth comes a great deal of enemies, as history has shown.
In order to protect itself as a maritime power the walls of Dubrovnik had to be erected. Today, in spite of the tumultuous history of the region and an episode of shelling the fortifications still stand as glorious as they had been at their inception.
Countless tourists still roam the walls of Dubrovnik, take pictures along the ramparts, trace the steps of their favorite characters as the walls hold several Game of Thrones locations. Let the stones tell their stories as you enjoy majestic views.
Some points of interest along the walls of Dubrovnik which you certainly wouldn't want to skip are:
- The 4 gates, most famous being the Pile Gate(link)
- Minceta tower facing the North
- Fort St. John, stepping out into the ocean
- Bokar tower, protecting the approach to the Pile Gate while offering the best view of the old town coupled with Lokrum Island
A cozy neighborhood
Although not part of the Game of Thrones locations list, Lapad is the go-to destination for those looking for one of the Dubrovnik beaches which are so heavily sought-after in the hot summer months. Lapad does not overflow with attractions but is the best place to book your stay while on your Dubrovnik holiday. The streets are lined with all sorts of restaurants creating an inviting atmosphere for evening strolls and dines when the heat subsides. The bus lines are frequent to and from the old town for easy access and one of the most popular Dubrovnik beaches is at your doorstep wherever you are situated and whenever you long for a quick dip.
Exploring the city's main attraction is the top thing to do in Dubrovnik. Every diehard GoT fan will instantly recognize the streets and buildings of King's landing wether wandering along the white-limestone Stradun or just posting up in a cafe for some people watching. As compact as the old town is, historic attractions can be found on every corner with medieval stones from the walls of Dubrovnik exuding history all around you. But do be careful because the famous Dubrovnik beaches are not very accessible from this point so do plan on touring in the earlier hours of the day or late afternoon unless heatstrokes are your thing.
As far as Game of Thrones locations, go below is the list of the most memorable sights in the series:
- The Rector's Palace, featured in season two where Daenerys interacted with the King of Spice
- The Jesuit Staircase from the scene none of us will forget anytime soon, „The Walk of Shame“, although it is not recommendable to try and reenact it on the location
- St. Dominic Street appeared in several scenes such as the murder of one of Robert's bastards
- Ploce Gate seen often as the Red Keep's Gate in the show
- Walls of Dubrovnik have been used in multiple scenes and panoramic shots throughout the show
You may be asking yourself where the main part of King's Landing is located. Well, if you are already on your Dubrovnik holiday it is by no means a tough feat to visit or find. The Red Keep is added with CGI over Fort Lovrijenac which stretches out into the sea on the western part of town.
Lokrum Island, or where to disappear for a day
Observed from afar, Lokrum Island may seem like just another among thousands of Croatia's islands but do not let looks deceive you. Nature lovers and GoT fans alike should look to include this island in their Dubrovnik holidays schedule.
Entering history in the year 1023. (it was probably there before, just not very interesting) when it was gifted to a Benedictine monk named Peter, Lokrum Island had since been visited by the noble English king Richard Lionheart, Algerian pirates, Napoleon's forces as well as Habsburg royalty until finally receiving the status of a natural reserve in 1963. Wildlife is not the first thing many think of when mentioning Croatia's islands but Lapad is a an exepction, with even peacocks roaming the woods largley in thanks to the Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand.
With such an interesting history, stories were always sure to follow Lokrum Island. One of the more famous ones is about the curse supposedly placed upon it for the banishment of the Benedictine monks. It is said that anybody that spends a night on the island are sure to meet their demise shortly after.
But silly superstitions aside, Lokrum Island is a haven for nature lovers. The densely forested island is decorated with holm oaks, black ash, pines and olives trees offering an ideal escape from the city heat of Dubrovnik. Since it is just a short ferry ride away, it is not uncommon to see the beaches listed under the title Dubrovnik beaches. Mainly rocky with a dash of sand in nature the most famous one is located on the east side of Lokrum Island, the most-well known nude and gay friendly one among the Dubrovnik beaches.
While nature philes wander the lush forests and enjoy the shade, GoT fans should strike out toward the coasts for a real-life portrayal of Quarth.
As far as the top things to do in Dubrovnik, hopping over to Lokrum Island is a must if not for the pristine nature then for some unforgettable attractions:
- A swim in the Dead Sea; or rather a much smaller version on the island. The lake is 10 meters deep and resembles the Dead Sea in its salinity located in the center of Lokrum Island
- Tour the Benedictine monastery; dating back to the early 11th century the monastery has seen several upgrades over time but is a sure trip back in time
- The Free Body Culture beach; a cliff beach on the island's southeast, one of the more interesting one on Lokrum Island
Trsteno Arboretum; trees, trees and some sculptures
One of the oldest in the world and oldest in the region, the Trsteno Arboretum(link) dates back to the 15th century. It is the best location to visit when looking to cool down from the city heat while surrounded by untouched nature and another on the list of Game of Thrones locations by the way.
In short, an arboretum is a botanical collection composed exclusively of trees. But what makes the bunch of trees that make up Trsteno Arboretum so special and interesting? Well for starters it began as a sort of a pet project for the noble Gozze family from the Dubrovnik Republic. While the wealthy trading family spent their days cooped up within the walls of Dubrovnik one of them came to the idea of asking their many ship captains to bring back exotic seeds from all over the world. Eventually, it grew into a large garden as generation after generation of the Gozzi family had upgraded the Trsteno Arboretum with sculptures, foreign trees and buildings. What made everything possible from the get-go is the aqueduct which runs through the gardens and is still operational today.
Nature lovers will love exploring the 28-hectare garden. Most of the trees growing in Trsteno Arboretum were never supposed to be there in the first place but have been collected from all over the world through centuries of meticulos work. Meanwhile, GoT fans will instantly recognize the location as the stand-in for the gardens the Queen of Thorns frequents. Trsteno Arboretum is not small by any means but touring it within a day with time to spare is rather easy with a bit of planning of where to start and which points to tour:
- At the entrance, you will be greeted by one of the most famous and largest trees in the Trsteno Arboretum, an Oriental Plane which was brought in from Constantinople by a 16th-century diplomat
- Among the eleven structures within Trsteno Arboretum, the most notable may be the baroque fountain of Neptune. Placed in 1736. it's purpose, according to legend, was to protect the flora from fires, although it didn't help much so far. Standing beside Neptune are two nymphs with the Roman god in the middle striking his signature pose
- The pavilion, bring some lemon cakes and tea for a Red Keep-like picnic
- The summer home of the Gozzi family, although not as grandiose as the other sights in Trsteno Arboretum it is a fine example of Renaissance architecture
This is not a proper guide without at least listing the best Dubrovnik beaches
- Banje beach, one of the most popular Dubrovnik beaches among locals and visitors alike, just a short stroll from the Ploce Gate
- Sveti Jakov, a bit of a longer walk away from the center most of the route is coverable by buses No. 5 and 8. Those looking for the more peacefull Dubrovnik beaches should head there
- The previously mentioned Lapad beach
- Hidden just below fort Lovrijenac, the Game of Thrones location known as the Red Keep, it is perhaps the most scenic and relaxing among the Dubrovnik beaches
Summer is just around the corner and the scorching heats along with it. Where best to cool off than on one of the Dubrovnik beaches in the azure waters of the Adriatic. Or maybe disappear on Lokrum Island for a bit? Perhaps wander through lush nature in the Trsteno Arboretum reliving your favorite show? When it comes to things to do in Dubrovnik(link), the list is endless and this medieval city welcomes one and all with promises of an unforgettable experience while catering to every need imaginable.