The 51 best things to do in Dubrovnik

Discover the best things to do in Dubrovnik with our insider's tips on sights, activities, eating and drinking

Dubrovnik
By Time Out contributors |
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Dubrovnik is a one-town tourist industry on its own, with endless things to do all year round. As stunning as the clear blue sea around it, the former centre of the independent Republic of Ragusa invites superlatives and attracts the lion's share of Croatia's visitors. Read on for our insider's guide to the best things to do in Dubrovnik.

RECOMMENDED: More great things to do in Dubrovnik.

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You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.

The 50 best things to do in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik rooftops
Photograph: Shutterstock

Explore Dubrovnik's Old Town

What is it? You’ll spend the bulk of your time within the 15th-century ring of fortifications, in the small square half-mile of gleaming medieval space bisected by 300-metre-long Stradun. As you flit between the main gates of Pile and Ploče, guided by the list of places on the maroon flags, each venue with its own logoed white lamp, barkers on every side-street corner call you up to the bland tourist restaurants on Prijeko.

Why go? To get the essence of Dubrovnik. Cats scatter in from the old harbour, a cacophony of tour guides give their spiels. All is free of traffic until you reach the bus-choked hub outside the Pile Gate.

Don't miss: The main square and crossing point of Luža, where you’ll find the landmark astronomical clock tower (sadly, a modern rebuild of the 1444 original); Orlando’s Column where all state declarations were read; the smaller of Onofrio’s fountains, and a prosaic statue of Shakespeare-era playwright Marin Držić, installed in 2008.

Buza bar

Sink a beer at the cliff bars

What is it? Far from the downtown flock, five minutes along a back alley, the bar table of your dreams is set on one of two panoramic terraces atop a rocky sea-view promontory propping up the city walls: Bard Bar and Buža II.

Why go? Find your niche, gawp at the awesome sunset and sip a four-euro beer. Buža, meaning 'hole in the wall', suits boozers, swimmers and sunbathers alike. Of the two, Bard Bar is the most basic but perhaps the most enjoyable - maybe because of easy access to and from the sea, via metal steps fixed to the rocks.

Don't miss: From the cathedral, walk down Ilije Sarake as far as the dining destination of the Azur. Diagonally opposite is a doorway; negotiate the stone staircase and behold! At differing levels according to the rock formation, tables appear - as does a bar counter and, occasionally, films projected onto the cliff face. Bard is the better known. It has a straw roof, waiters in logoed T-shirts and dinky wooden trays. From the open square of Rudjera Boskovića, by the Jesuit church, follow a sign saying 'Cold Drinks With The Most Beautiful View'. Ahead an arrow points to 'Cold Drinks'

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Lokrum Island

Have your own island idyll

What is it? An uninhabited isle on Dubrovnik's doorstep, Lokrum is an unspoilt isle lush with pines, palms and cypress trees. Its verdant coastline beckons from the hotel windows of Ploče. Dotted with diverse ruins and remnants - medieval, ecclesiastical, Napoleonic, Habsburg - it has long been given over to nature.

Why go? Although taxi boats disgorge tourists from Dubrovnik every half-hour - you can be drinking a beer in Dubrovnik's main square and be here in 20 minutes - no-one may spend a night here. Ancient superstition links back to the curse placed on Napoleon's troops by the Benedictine monks they removed. Subsequent mishap befell the Habsburgs who turned Lokrum into their own summer pleasure zone - hence the peacocks and botanical gardens.

Don't miss: After a leisurely stroll, you can take a dip in the warm, saltwater lake and drink a beer or cocktail at the Lacroma bar, that conveniently overlooks the jetty. The last boats leave around 7pm, depending on the time of year.

"Game of Thrones"
Paul Schiraldi

Go on a Game of Thrones tour

What is it? Dubrovnik has served as the location for the fantasy city of King’s Landing ever since the shooting of series two, when it replaced Malta as the preferred backdrop for the capital of the Seven Kingdoms.

Why go? It is now difficult to think of ‘Game Of Thrones’ at all without visions of Dubrovnik springing immediately to mind. Find GoT landmarks in our guide. Or, go a walking tour with a savvy local company.

Don't miss: The Inner courtyard of the Rector’s Palace, with its trademark stone staircase, used for the meeting of Daenerys and the Spice King in Qarth in series two, episode five.

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Dubrovnik

Walk the City Walls

What is it? The easiest and most popular itinerary for visitors to Dubrovnik is the stroll around its fortifications. As you arrive in the Old Town through the Pile Gate, the main entrance and ticket office to the City Walls is right there. You can set your own pace, take an hour or an afternoon. Audio-guides in English are sold at the main entrance but most visitors are perfectly content with random vistas of red-tiled roofs or, better still, the panoramic blue of the Adriatic, interspersed with pristine white stones jutting into it down below from varying angles.

Why go? It allows the newcomer to get their bearings and gain an appreciation of the scale of this intricate jewel, and the skill of those who designed and constructed it. You also get breathing space from the high-season masses below. This is an elevated promenade and history lesson in one.

Don't miss: A couple of cafés provide pit stops at the harbour end, where there's also an open terrace for that eye-popping backdrop, ideal for holiday snaps. Dubrovnik Walks is an agency offering walking tours of the City Walls run by locals.

Red History Museum
© Hrvoje Margaretic
Museums, History

Uncover communist history

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What is it? Croatia was part of the communist-ruled Yugoslav federation from 1945 until 1991, and yet there’s still a shortage of museums that deal with this period in an accessible way. The Red History Museum, opened in April 2019, offers at least part of an answer.

Why go? A private project initiated by a group of local friends, it offers decent-sized dollops of historical chronology alongside an impressive haul of everyday artefacts. Although the display kicks off with a hammer-and-sickle-spattered history of communism as an ideology, the accent is on the more colourful aspects of the communist rule, and its attempts to design a lifestyle that combined equality and order with consumerism and cultural freedom. Elsewhere the display is rich in revealing detail: a wardrobe full of denim clothes, pop records, racy glamour magazines. Much of the exhibition is interactive in the sense that you can sit on original couches, leaf through books, or activate sound and visuals using your smartphone.

Don't miss: There’s a “dark room” that covers the regime’s attitude to dissent, including docu-clips of Goli otok, the island where pro-Soviet communists were imprisoned and tortured after President Tito’s break with Stalin in 1948.

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Restaurant 360 Dubrovnik
© Restaurant 360 Dubrovnik

Eat a Michelin-starred meal at 360

What is it? At this top-drawer setting, you get top-drawer cuisine, perhaps even the best in Croatia.

Why go? Here under expert gastronomic stewardship, you can expect meticulously sourced food, painstakingly created and immaculately presented - along with a setting, atop the Old Port, second to none. Ingredients to create dishes of mainly Mediterranean ilk are flown in fresh from around the world or selected from markets in and around town. Desserts provide an honourable finale to one of the finest meals you'll have all year. The wine cellar comprises 6,000 bottles.

Don't miss: Beg for a booth in the gun chambers.

Cablecar
© Dubrovnik Cablecar

Take the cablecar to Srđ

What is it? The gleaming orange Cablecar you see scaling the steep incline high up over the Old Town is both a tourist attraction and a piece of history. Mount Srđ has figured in key moments in the city's history, not least during the 1991 conflict. Mount Srđ served as a frontier against the Turks and a Napoleonic fort and, most notably, where brave Croats kept Serb forces at bay in 1991.

Editor's note: The cable car is due to reopen summer 2019.

Why go? It's pricy, but this matters little as you rise up in no time, the Old Town nearly vanishing as a panorama of Adriatic blue dominates the horizon. In the space of five minutes, halfway along, below you is the reason so many thousands come every year. Expensive it might be, the cablecar is simply a must for a complete visit to one of the world's most beautiful cities.

Don't miss: At the cablecar station, the Panorama restaurant offers the same view, along with seafood platters, cocktails and fine local wines.

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Franciscan Monastery
© Vanda Vucicevic/Time Out

Visit a medieval pharmacy

What is it? Of all the Old Town treasures, the Franciscan Monastery and its Old Pharmacy Museum are the real gems. Don't be put off by the crowds - try and go at the end of the day. In a narrow passageway dividing the monastery from the Church of Our Saviour is the entrance to the famous Old Pharmacy, still in operation after 700 years, and beautiful cloisters leading to a peaceful, petite inner garden courtyard dotted with orange trees.

Why go? One of the oldest in Europe, if not the oldest, the pharmacy is still a working chemist's. Old locals totter in for their regular prescriptions as tourists peruse the jars and vessels from yesteryear. Most local sources give the date of the pharmacy's foundation as 1317 - all records were burned in the fire of 1667. Many of the containers and poisons you see date from the 15th century.

Don't miss: Also on display through the back are disturbingly large grinders and other implements, giving a perspective to our moaning about modern health systems. While medicine has improved, the prescription book shows us that doctors' handwriting has obviously gone the other way.

Rector's Palace
© Vanda Vucicevic/Time Out
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Dander around Rector's Palace

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What is it? The most historic monument in Dubrovnik, the Rector's Palace was rebuilt twice. The first, by Onofrio della Cava of fountain fame, was in Venetian-Gothic style, visible in the window design once you ascend the grand staircase to the Rector's living quarters. Thereafter Florentine Michelozzo Michelozzi was responsible for the loggia façade.

Why go? On the ground floor, either side of a courtyard, are the prison and courtrooms of the Ragusa Republic, and a glittering display of medieval church art. Upstairs, where each Rector resided for his month's stint, is a strange assortment of items: sedan chairs, carriages, magistrates' robes and wigs, portraits of local notables and Ivo Rudenjak's beautifully carved bookcase. One curiosity is the clocks, some set at quarter to six, the time in the evening when Napoleon's troops entered in 1806.

Don't miss: The same ticket is valid for the Archeological Collection, a small but attractive collection of medieval carvings as the Rector's Palace) right by Ploče gate.

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Nautika
© Nautika
Restaurants, Mediterranean

Nab the best table at Nautika

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What is it? Calling itself ‘Dubrovnik’s finest restaurant’, Nautika is certainly the most prestigious, the kind of place that is the automatic choice whenever the Pope might be in town.

Why go? It’s not only the setting, overlooking Lovrijenac fortress and the Adriatic (reserve a panoramic table if you can), or the starched white-tablecloth formality – it’s the cuisine of long-term head chef Mario Bunda, who insists on fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Don't miss: The five-and seven-course menus were made for holiday blow-outs.

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Dubrovnik outdoor cinema

Watch a film below the stars

What is it? An outdoor cinema nestled in the city walls, open all summer.

Why go? Owned by the city of Dubrovnik, Jadran cinema screens a pleasantly varied mix of indie films and international blockbusters - always in English, with Croatian subs.

Don't miss: The site is also used as a stage for semi-impromptu performances. The Lindo folklore ensemble put on a show twice a week.

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Hard Jazz Caffe Troubadour
© Vanda Vucicevic/Time Out
Bars and pubs

Catch outdoor jazz at the Troubadour

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What is it? On any given night for six months of the year, crowds flock to this intimate enclosed square in the heart of the Old Town to hear live music and soak up the atmosphere. OK, these days the most famous bar in Dubrovnik might look like a billboard for T-Mobile and beer prices are just silly, if you didn't know this was the lovely old Troubadour, you wouldn't touch it with a bargepole. But lovely old Troubador it is, and visit it you must.

Why go? Formerly run by Marko, a member of the renowned 1960s group the Dubrovački Trubadori, this is a touchstone for artists, musicians and entertainers of his beat generation.

Don't miss: On quieter afternoons or in winter, try and get a seat in the tiny interior and see how Dubrovnik looked in the pre-boom days.

War Photo Limited, attractions, art galleries, dubrovnik, dubrovnik riviera and islands, coatia
© Vanda Vucicevic/Time Out

Appreciate recent history

What is it? New Zealander Wade Goddard came to the Dubrovnik as a photographer during the Siege in the early 1990s - and stayed. Affected by what he saw and keen to broaden the public's understanding of what happens in wartime, in 2003 he opened War Photo Limited.

Why go? The gallery could have easily limited itself to Goddard's experiences in Croatia, but he quickly expanded its remit to exhibit works by leading exponents of this brave art from flashpoints around the world. The first floor houses these hard-hitting images in regularly changing exhibitions, while above you can see what was happening here in the 1990s. What today seems completely serene was then raging with bombardment and fires. Works are sold as limited-edition prints. Comments in the visitors' book sum up the venue nicely: 'It moved me beyond words,' is one typical entry.

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Dubrovnik Beer Company
© Mira Andrić
Bars and pubs, Breweries

Sample craft beer in a Dubrovnik brewery

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What is it? Craft beer may be last week’s news in much of Europe but it’s still pretty revolutionary in Dubrovnik. In three short years local boutique brewers DBC have transformed the local drinking scene, persuading the best of the Old-Town bars to make more of an effort when it comes to beer, and more recently becoming a destination bar in their own right.

Why go? Revitalizing a forgotten corner of the harbourside suburb of Gruž, DBC occupies a utilitarian industrial space with glistening vats in the background and a makeshift bar out front. The outdoor terrace consists of a few up-ended barrels in a parking lot. One of the best things about this place is the social mix it attracts: it’s in part of the city that’s not swamped by tourists, and gets a lot of locals who want an alternative to drinking in the Old Town. 

Don't miss: Four extremely palatable brews are available on tap - Goa IPA, Maestral lager, Fortunal Pale Ale and Grego stout – alongside seasonal specials and guest beers.

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60529983 - sveti jakov (st jacob) beach, dubrovnik, croatia.

Find your ideal beach

What is it? It's what you've come for, so dive in! Dubrovnik offers a handsome array of local beaches.

Why go? Dubrovnik's city beach, Banje, is just a short walk from the Ploče Gate. It's good for kids, with showers, deckchairs and sunloungers for hire, plus jet skis and inflatables.

Don't miss: Banje is not for locals. They head for Sveti Jakov, down the coast past the Villa Dubrovnik, a 20-minute walk along quiet, tree-lined Vlaha Bukovca. Buses Nos.5 and 8 run most of the way from north of the Old Town. Although this is everyone's favourite beach, it's rarely crowded. The sun stays warm until late in the evening, bathing the Old Town in a golden light. It's part shingle, part pebble, with showers, sunshades, and a bar and restaurant at beach level. It is accessed via a long stairway you'll be reluctant to climb back up.

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Dubrovnik Walks
© Dubrovnik Walks - Walking Tours & Sea Kayaking Tours

Go sea kayaking

What is it? Dubrovnik's signature outdoor activity for visitors, sea kayaking is organised for complete beginners as a half-day jaunt with lunch on Lokrum island thrown in.

Why go? You only need turn up, go through a few paddling techniques in shallow, protected waters, and the Adriatic is yours. Sea kayaks are more comfortable than conventional kayaks. Their length, with extra cargo capacity, allows the kayak to move smoother and easier in a straight line. Experienced kayakers have circumnavigated Ireland and Australia in one. For lesser mortals, the calm waters from the Pile Gate to the verdant, car-free island of Lokrum is, under guidance, a doddle.

Don't miss: Some companies also offer sunset paddles, with wine and cheese thrown in.

Bars and pubs, Café bars

Drink like a local

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What is it? The only bar in a street filled with restaurants, seconds away from Stradun.

Why go? Buzz has won over a local crowd thanks to its good vibe, pleasant interior of colourful chairs and witty decor, craft beers such as Istria’s San Servolo – and reasonable prices, not an epithet you could grant to its neighbouring restaurants.

Don't miss: There’s organic lemonades, cocktails, whiskies and cognacs – and carefully selected rock, pop and jazz. 

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Gundulićeva poljana Market
© Vanda Vucicevic/Time Out

Browse the market in the Old Town

What is it? The oldest market in Dubrovnik is located in the prominent, baroque square of Gundulićeva poljana. Centrepiecing it is a statue of 17th-century poet Ivan Gundulić, who surveys the piles of fruit, vegetables and dried delights. A short stroll away by the old harbour, a modest fish market also does good trade. Saturday is everyone's weekly shop, so get here early.

Why go? To soak up the buzz of the marketplace. Every day at noon, as stallholders approach the last working hour, and watched by equally punctual, attentive cats, an official brings a bucket of corn to feed the pigeons sat patiently on the nearby roofs. Suddenly, scores of birds fill the sky. This is the signal for locals to slope off slowly and congregate over coffee at one of the many terrace cafés.

Don't miss: Some traders offer seasonal cheese, olives, honey and Mediterranean spices. Others sell home-made loza and travarica, strong, flavoured brandy, the type you can't buy elsewhere. In one corner, by the Rector's Palace, stalls sell lavender and cantarion oils, ideal for aromatherapy, and sachets of dried flowers.

Dubrovnik Summer Festival
© Dubrovnik Summer Festival

Experience Dubrovnik Summer Festival

What is it? Croatia's biggest cultural bash is the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, 47 days and nights of classical music, theatre, opera and dance performances (mainly) around the Old Town. Something akin to Edinburgh without the fringe, it has been staging high-brow culture in Dubrovnik for more than 60 years.

Why go? Shows bring Dubrovnik's historic jewels to life. Shakespeare is performed open-air at the Lovrijenac fortress, orchestras play at the Sponza Palace, piano soloists at the Cathedral, ballet takes place after dark outside St Blaise's Church and all kinds of events have the moonlit City Walls as a backdrop. In all, some 70 venues are used - even Lokrum island. Book ahead for the biggest events - for others you can pay on the door. For the most prestigious events, smart dress, although not obligatory, is expected.

Don't miss: Also remember that there will be a number of free performances around the streets of the Old Town throughout festival time - you needn't have to pay through the nose, or pay at all, to get swept up in the whole event.

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Kayak

Discover your own cave beach

What is it? Close to the centre of Dubrovnik yet only known to locals, even closer to the grandiose Grand Villa Argentina above it yet never visited by hotel guests, the hidden cave of Betina špilja is only accessible from the sea. A perfect shelter and picnic spot in one, Betina špilja comprises a large cave entrance and a carpet of fine white pebbles. This spacious empty beach washed by a crystal-clear Adriatic a few steps away.

Why go? There are no sunloungers, no showers, no amenities whatsoever, just you, the beach and the sea. To reach it, head down to Dubrovnik’s Old Port, ask a local to boat you over, agree a fee and a pick-up time. Don’t forget about the pick-up time – if he doesn’t come, you may be here for a while.

Interior of St Blaise Church in Dubrovnik
Roman Babakin
Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Gawp at sacred human remnants

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What is it? The original church, allegedly funded by Richard the Lionheart in recognition of the local hospitality when shipwrecked on Lokrum in the 1190s, was lost to the 1667 earthquake. In its place was built a somewhat bland, baroque affair, free but unenticing to walk around.

Why go? The main draw is the treasury at one end, a somewhat grotesque collection of holy relics. The arm, skull and lower leg of patron St Blaise are kept in jewel-encrusted casings, another box contains one of Christ's nappies, and wood from the Holy Cross is incorporated into a finely crafted crucifix from the 16th century.

Don't miss: Perhaps the most bizarre artefact is the creepy dish and jug designed as a gift for the Hungarian King Mátyás Corvinus, who died before he could receive it.

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Azur
© Azur
Restaurants, Contemporary Asian

Tuck into Asian fusion at Azur

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What is it? This superbly located eatery sits by the entrance of Buža I, in the heart of Dubrovnik’s historic centre but within easy reach of the sea.

Why go? Here you can tuck into a reasonably priced, Med- or Asian-influenced cuisine before an afternoon’s sunbathing, or enjoy a nightcap overlooking the waves.

Don't miss: Starters include local mussels in beer butter and chili, and Dalmatian tom yum soup.

Time Out says
revelin culture club, clubs, dubrovnik, dubrovnik riviera and islands, croatia
© Dino Avdić

Catch a top DJ at Club Culture Revelin

What is it? This 16th-century fortress at the eastern end of Dubrovnik's Old Town has become the place to go after drinking-up time has been called in the town centre's other bars. Luckily, Dubrovnik's military architects had the foresight to construct what is an ideal venue for a club: the stark interior of bare stone blocks, complete with arched aisle spaces and lofty barreled roofs, provide the perfect backdrop for the state-of-the-art light-show. What Renaissance Ragusans might have made of the lithe females dancing in cages is another question entirely.

Why go? With an elongated bar, large dancefloor and plenty of surrounding nooks and crannies, it's the kind of place that can cater for large numbers of people without making them feel pushed around.

Don't miss: A lot of leading Croatian pop and rock acts perform here throughout the year.

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Fish restaurant Proto
© Fish restaurant Proto
Restaurants, Mediterranean

Dine classically at Proto

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What is it? The Michelin-recommended Proto claims a tradition dating back to 1886, and it was here that Edward VIII entertained Wallis Simpson in the 1930s.

Why go? Executive Chef Boško Lonac oversees squid and lobster in simple, traditional but superbly balanced sauces as well as fresh shellfish from Ston up the coast and popular local meat dishes. Choose between restrained elegance in the 1930s-influenced dining room, or the recommended first-floor terrace with great Old Town views.

Don't miss: You can spend an enjoyable hour over the fish platter for two, and the extensive wine list covers just about every quality wine that Croatia has to offer.

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D'Vino
© David Plant/Time Out
Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Sip Croatia's finest wines

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What is it? Dubrovnik's first wine bar is presided over by Australian-Croatian Sasha and his friendly and informative team. D'Vino manages to stock more than 100 varieties, 76 available by the glass.

Why go? Every decent Istrian, Slavonian and Dalmatian label is here, including Grgić Plavac Mali and Zlatan Plavac. The house wine begins at 25kn and the venue lays on wine tours.

Don't miss: Savoury meat-and-cheese platters are tailor-made to complement the wine.

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© Copacabana Beach
Attractions, Beaches

Drink like a VIP

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What is it? For those seeking a spot of luxury, Dubrovnik has a wealth of chic beachside bars with VIP sections and the facilities to go with them. Copacabana Beach is a lavish hangout with kingsize loungers and swanky enough to have fashionistas sipping cocktails on its terrace.

Why go? Studded with luxury white loungers and deckchairs, there's heaps going on to keep you amused. Hedonists can even enjoy table service of cocktails to your sunlounger.

Don't miss: The sunset boat trip comes recommended, where you paddle out to see while Dubrovnik is basked in the golden light of sundown.

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Hotel Belvedere

Explore an abandoned luxury hotel

What is it? At a prime spot on a headland overlooking the Adriatic and Dubrovnik’s iconic Old Town in the distance, the Hotel Belvedere is an easy bus ride or 25-minute walk from the centre.

Why go? Here in 1985, a luxury hotel was built, on the same side of the city as the airport, where guests could relax around the pool, dine and drink at several bars and restaurants, and party afterwards in the nightclub. It only lasted six years, before war broke out, everyone was evacuated and the hotel was bombed. Unlike the Old Town, it was never repaired and remodelled. In the early 2000s, it was used for DJ parties. A decade later, it served as one of the many sets around town for hit TV series ‘Game Of Thrones’. Recently, a Russian entrepreneur bought it, but its renovation will take years. In the meantime, though fenced off, the hotel is worth exploration.

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Lazareti
© Rajko Radovanovic/Time Out

Throw some shapes at Lazareti

What is it? An arts complex in a former quarantine barracks in Napoleon’s time, Lazareti is the city’s best place to party.

Why go? While the programme is hit and miss, when it hits – a top-notch Croatian DJs or live act – it hits hard. And the location cannot be gainsaid, a rambling complex facing the Adriatic, a five-minute walk from the Ploče Gate in the Old Town. DJs spin in the main building at sunken level, while revellers are free to roam around the courtyards where Napoleon’s soldiers would have been recovering from war wounds.

Don't miss: Take your drinks out and imbibe under starry skies.

Lina Franko
© Dubrovnik Contemporary Gallery
Art, Contemporary art

Appreciate modern art

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What is it? If you’re an art lover, you might have heard about the impoverished little galleries around the rue Laffitte in Paris a century ago, where Cezannes and Renoirs could be had for a pittance. Today, the world is different: galleries like that are scattered around Europe. One of the most imaginative and exciting in this region is Dubrovnik Contemporary Gallery. It’s a pleasant 15-minute stroll overlooking the beach from just about anywhere in Dubrovnik.

Why go? It's owners warn that visitors may be awestruck, morally offended, or (most likely) enchanted, but certainly, you won’t be bored.

Don't miss: This is an artist-centered spot, so don’t be surprised if you’re invited to sit down and chat over coffee with gallery proprietor Selma Hafizovic, a Croatian-American whose paintings have won acclaim in London and New York, or an avant-garde artist from Tallinn or Berlin who exhibits at the gallery and is passing through town.

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Copacabana Beach
© Copacabana Beach

Hit the waves on a boat trip

What is it? Dubrovnik may be one of the hottest destinations in Europe at the moment, but there’s no getting around the fact that, in peak season, the city really suffers from its popularity as a cruise port. The solution? Explore the city's landmarks and surrounding coastline by boat. 

Why go? You can hire a speedboat to the hidden restaurant Villa Ruza, hop along the Elaphati islands and explore the Kolocep's Blue Caves, illuminated inside with an electric, slightly eerie aqua light.

Gverović-Orsan
© Vanda Vucicevic/Time Out
Restaurants, Seafood

Swim while dinner is cooking

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What is it? In the fishing village of Zaton Mali 7km north-west of town, this old boathouse was converted into a restaurant by Niko Gverović in 1966.

Why go? Beautifully located and family-run - Niko Jr runs it with his mother, Mira, producing the speciality black risotto Orsan, four kinds of shells and shrimps sautéed in wine and lemon and mixed with rice soaked in black squid ink.

Don't miss: It has its own beach (and shower), so you can swim while dinner is cooking.

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The Bar by Azur
© The Bar by Azur
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Sip cocktails at Azur Bar

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What is it? Bar by Azur is a promising addition to Dubrovnik’s rather staid cocktail scene – here, concoctions are made with real skill using homemade syrups.

Why go? The slick bar area is comfortably chic, and the buzz extends to the capacious sun-drenched terraces. The drinks menu features a wealth of premium liquors and domestic craft beers.

Don't miss: Nibbles of fresh mozzarella with spicy gremolata and bacon with grana padano quesadillas provide excellent replenishment.

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Bars and pubs, Café bars

Get messy at Ludwig

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What is it? The haunt of the pierced and the tattoed far from the plethora of mainstream venues around the Old Town, this grunge bar in a Stradun side street is a rare venue that's appealing to the under-30s.

Why go? You won't see any sandal-wearing, middle-aged tourists lingering over a pint at Ludwig - some might look in, then immediately head elsewhere. Its soundtrack hardly wavers from guitar-based rock, Ludwig has decorated its walls with a seemingly random mosaic of posters, book covers and pictures torn from magazines (Gogol, Mogwai, Kill Bill and Hendrix all get a decorative look-in). For all this, it's the hard-living black-clad drinkers hunched around the counter that make the place.

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Taverna Otto
© Taverna Otto
Restaurants, Contemporary European

Explore Dubrovnik's bistro culture

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What is it? Otto represents a new breed of bistro in Dubrovnik. Set just outside the Old Town, overlooking the yachts on Gruz Bay, this is Dubrovnik at its most contemporary.

Why go? Classic fish and seafood dishes are given the gastro-treatment, beautifully garnished with fancy purees and sides. Prices are beyond reasonable and even less than what you’d pay for a standard fish dinner in one of the central tourist traps.

Don't miss: The desserts are layered, complex works of art.

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Daksa
Intiaz Rahim

Head to a haunted (and abandoned) island

What is it? Nobody goes to Dakša. There’s no boat schedule, no water taxis, no nothing. In fact, locals would rather not go there. And there’s a reason for that. Those lucky enough to be staying at the high-end Dubrovnik President Hotel may look out its panoramic windows and see a verdant idyll of surrounding Adriatic azure – but Dakša has long been left to decay.

Why go? Once occupied by monks, Dakša was where Tito’s war-time Partisans, who swept through Dubrovnik in 1944, took the Fascist sympathisers they had rounded up. After their mass execution, no graves were found. For decades, this chilling site was off-limits to the general public. A discovery of remains in 2009 led to a reburial and memorial ceremony. Today, you can pay a local to take you over in his boat from Dubrovnik and have the whole island to yourselves. Arrange a time for him to pick you up – you wouldn’t want to overnight here.

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Trsteno Arboretum
Pudelek (Marcin Szala)

Take in the scents at Trsteno Arboteretum

What is it? One of the many locations used in and around the city for the hit TV series ‘Game of Thrones’ – the Arboretum doubling up as the palace gardens of the Red Keep – this historic and natural attraction dates back to 1492 at least.

Why go? Set around the villa that once belonged to the Gozze family, the graceful arboretum is the product of the Renaissance era, when sea captains would bring back rare and exotic seeds and plants from their travels during the Age of Discoveries.

Don't miss: The grounds run down to the sea, encompassing a grotto and a Baroque fountain.

Dubrovačka kuća
© Rajko Radovanovic/Time Out

Snag a sassy souvenir

What is it? Stride down the main street of Stradun and all you see are tacky souvenir shops selling overpriced, Asian-made toot. Turn a corner from the Old Port to steeply rising Sv Dominika, towards the Ploce Gate, and you come across this modest doorway. Dubrovačka kuća proffers high-quality gifts at affordable prices.

Why go? The tasteful ceramics and glassware you see are the result of a link-up with the Museum of Arts & Crafts in Zagreb, while local products include wines, olive oils, bath salts, sweets and flavoured spirits. The English-speaking lady behind the counter offers useful advice without being pushy, and you come away pleased to have done your duty as a tourist without the feeling that you've been fleeced.

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Dominican Monastery
© Rajko Radovanovic/Time Out
Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Explore the Dominican Monastery

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What is it? Between the Sponza Palace and the Ploče Gate, this monastery is best known for its late Gothic cloisters and late 15th-century paintings of the Dubrovnik School in the museum – in particular masterpieces by Nikola Božidarević, including his Our Lady with the Saints.

Why go? On the walls of the monastery church are a beautiful wooden crucifix by Paolo Veneziano from 1358 and a painting by renowned fin-de-siècle artist Vlaho Bukovac from Cavtat, The Miracle of St Dominic.

Cogito Coffee
© Cogito Coffee Roasters
Bars and pubs, Café bars

Sip artisan coffee at Cogito

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What is it? Reinventing the idea of the terrace café as a medieval-alleyway bar, the main Dubrovnik outlet of the Zagreb-based boutique coffee roasters peeps out invitingly from beneath one of the broad archways that span the cobbles in this quarter of town.

Why go? With a counter inside and a couple of wooden benches outside, it’s the ideal place for informal mingling or picking up a takeaway. As you might expect from a coffee specialist they spread their net rather wider than the average Croatian kafić, with trained baristas serving up smooth espressos as well as grappling with the demands of filter, Chemex and cold-brew coffees.

Don't miss: Delectable tubs of artisan ice cream from Samobor’s Medenko fill the counter-side freezer cabinet. A new branch of Cogito, just outside the Ploče Gate at Hvarska 2, is set to open in summer 2019.

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Maria Store
© Maria Store
Shopping, Designer

Shop for luxury fashion at Maria Store

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What is it? Strategically located near Stradun street, the Maria Store is one of the few places in Croatia where you can find a battery of major international names such as Givenchy, Lanvin, Valentino, Saint Lauren and Stella McCartney, all laid out in a light, relaxing space designed by Italian architect Marco Bonelli.

Why go? For the sake of fashion, darling. Prices to match the quality and atmosphere on offer. Staff are approachable, though, whatever you're looking for.

Mala Truba
© Mala Truba
Restaurants, Bakeries

Take the cake

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What is it? The latest talk of the town when it comes to cakes, Mala Truba (“Blow Your Little Trumpet” might be a creative translation) is located up an alley behind Mercante, a shopping mall much used by locals but in which tourists rarely tread.

Why go? Imaginative, own-recipe cheesecakes, tortes and biscuits fill a small glass counter; there’s a tiny ledge outside where you can stand and scoff them. Signature treats include Fjorin (20kn), a soft succulent almond cake; and Orlandina (24kn), a delectable finger of raspberry mousse atop a crunchy chocolatey base. Sweets apart, Mala

Don't miss: Truba also does a superb sour-dough loaf (though beware it sells out by lunchtime) and occasional savoury specials such as soparnik (the delicious garlic-and-swiss chard pie indigenous to Dalmatia).

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Sponza Palace
© Vanda Vucicevic/Time Out
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Browse the archives

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What is it? The attractive, 16th-century former customs house and Ragusa mint is used to house the extensive state archives.

Why go? Several rooms off the arcaded groundfloor courtyard are used to display photocopies of the archives' most treasured historical documents.

Don't miss: A small room opposite the ticket office holds the Memorial Room of the Dubrovnik Defenders. Covering the 12 months from October 1991 (although keen to point out that isolated attacks continued until the summer of 1995), the exhibition contains portraits of the 300 defenders and civilians who died during the siege and the tattered remnant of the Croatian flag that flew atop strategic Mount Srđ.

Porat Restaurant & Bar
© Porat Restaurant & Bar
Restaurants, Mediterranean

Eat fish straight off the boat

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What is it? Porat makes the most of locally sourced flavours. Located on the busy Gruž Harbour, fishing boats dock up to the restaurant each night with a fresh bounty of seafood grilled and prepared on your table within the hour.

Why go? Local produce from the fisherman or the farmer’s market forms the central theme at Porat. Majoring in fish and seafood, there are few cracking meat dishes and a vegetarian set menu - the humble Brodet (fish stew) is mouth-wateringly good. Dishes are delivered quickly and served creatively by friendly staff. The neutral interior is modern but not pretentiously so - making it a cosy and welcoming setting for a casual lunch or late-night fish supper.

Don't miss: This is casual Adriatic dining at its best. Set menus are fantastic value for money and go from as little as €20 per person.  

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Oyster & Sushi Bar Bota
© Oyster & Sushi Bar Bota Dubrovnik
Restaurants, Seafood

Sample Adriatic sushi

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What is it? Freshly farmed shellfish from the famed oyster beds of Mali Ston are the star attraction at this open-air bar with high stools and high tables, beautifully situated on a raised terrace behind the cathedral.

Why go? The oysters are served fresh, fried in tempura, or as key ingredient in a sushi roll. There is also a full menu of all other forms of sushi, with fishy Adriatic ingredients well to the fore and some creative Adriatic-Japanese combinations.

Don't miss: Fish carpaccios, tuna tartar and tempura-fried shrimps round out the kind of genuinely fascinating menu that demands repeated sampling.

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Fish
©Pexels

Ogle fish on a glass-bottomed boat

Okay, so you won’t beat the crowds by getting on one of these. The Old City's port has endless identikit stalls offering glass-bottom boat trips and the ethos seems to be a simple one: stack the punters high. In their favour, they're quick, at just 45 minutes to an hour, and therefore worth it if you want to squeeze a boat trip into your holiday but don't want to make a day of it. The water is remarkably clear around Dubrovnik and there's plenty of marine life so be seen – that said, you’ll see much more if you spend the time snorkelling instead.

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Modern Art Gallery Dubrovnik
© Šime Fabriš
Museums, Art and design

Take in a century of art

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What is it? Just a short walk away from the Old Town, the wonderful former Banac Mansion contains four floors and nine rooms of exhibition space, with a permanent collection that includes many works by Cavtat-born Vlaho Bukovac, alongside challenging contemporary shows.

Why go? There is usually at least one major summer exhibition featuring a leading Croatian or international artist, and frequent contemporary-art happenings.

hotel kazbek, hotels, lapad, dubrovnik, dubrovnik riviera and islands, croatia
© Hotel Kazbek
Restaurants, Croatian

Eat breakfast on the terrace of a palace

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What is it? At the waterfront of Gruz Bay and an easy stroll to the fine-shingle beaches of Lapad, this five-star boutique hotel is set in the converted Zamanje family villa (1573). The terracotta-roofed mansion features an attractive outdoor pool with a bar beside it.

Why go? Breakfast is made to order, prepared freshly and served to guests on the hotel patio, an enclosed stone courtyard studded with Mediterranean potted plants.

Don't miss: The restaurant offers genuinely gourmet food with caught-that-day fish and seafood alongside Adriatic specialties, served beneath a shaded canopy. Breakfast reservations are also possible for visitors - check with the hotel for availability.

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Life According to Kawa
© Life According to Kawa
Shopping, Showrooms

Shop for Croatian design classics

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What is it? A showroom-sized shop devoted to Croatian-made artisan and designer products, Life According to Kawa is just what you need after being bored to desperation by the mugs, fridge magnets and plastic dragons of the regular gift shops.

Why go? It covers the whole gamut of local fashion accessories, domestic design and deli food; a broad slew of price ranges ensuring that there’s something to suit all aspirations. To give you some idea of the range: there’s Sapunoteka soaps and cosmetics made from local plants and herbs; gourmet salt from the Pag salt pans; coffee beans from Croatian roasters Cogito; teas by Rijeka-based blenders Samovar; sunglasses by Sherrif & Cherry; earrings and necklaces by Iva Stojković; Levin-Coco’s shirts and bags; and Pepiere’s slim backpacks made from woven cornstalks and leather flaps.

Don't miss: Kawa’s own-design T-shirts run the gamut from the witty and ironic to the playfully grotesque – whatever it says on the chest, it will be different from the usual souvenir-fodder available elsewhere.

Camera

Take a speedboat to a hidden restaurant

Surely there's no more romantic way to spend an evening than by whisking your date off on a speedboat to the secluded island of Kolocep for dinner. Unbroken sea views from the island are just tremendous, making it extremely popular for weddings. The food's great too – freshly caught sea bass and sea bream are the highlights of the menu and are presented whole at the table with aplomb. Teamed with lashings of Croatian white wine and great sea views, it's not an evening out you're likely to forget in a hurry. 

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