Dubrovnik might be the prettiest city I’ve seen in Europe so far. While it serves as an iconic backdrop for many Game of Thrones scenes, even those who haven’t seen the show will still be charmed by the old town, built into a hill and surrounded by ancient walls and a fortress.
In the last decade, tourism in Dubrovnik has skyrocketed, with over a million people visiting every year, most of them in July through September. For that reason, it’s often full of people, with cruise ship passengers streaming into the city each morning. And while the rest of the Balkans may be cheap, the prices in Dubrovnik have risen to reflect their status as a tourist Mecca. Backpackers and those travelling on a budget might be disheartened upon first glance at menus and accomodation prices, but there’s definitely a way to see the magnificent city without breaking the bank.
Most of the attractions and tourist checklist spots are located in the city’s old town, so its obviously the most convenient place to stay. Instead of choosing a hostel within the city walls, instead I found one (called Petra Marina) a little further out, near the main bus station and port, and saved around 10 Euro a night. I was still only a 30-minute walk or a quick bus ride into town. Also, the restaurants and bars around my hostel were a lot cheaper than those you’d find in the old town.
Obviously, to keep costs low, shop in local supermarkets and cook meals in your hostel. There are a lot of bakeries dotted around the city where you can pick up croissants or sandwiches for pretty good prices, and have a DIY picnic.
If you want to eat out, an amazing hidden gem is Ala Mizerija. Located in a cove behind the fortress, it’s got epic views but serves up food for a quarter of the price of restaurants nearby. There’s also a bar next door with equally impressive views and cheap drinks.
If you want a coffee, ice cream, or meal while you’re in the old town, a good rule is to just always walk a few streets back from the main one.
Things To Do
Buza Bar is a cafe and bar set right into the rocky cliffs on the other side of the city wall. The views are amazing and the drinks are pricey, but you can walk through the bar and down some stairs to the rocks below. This is a popular spot for cliff-divers, with little platforms of varying heights set into the rocks. You can BYO drinks and hang out down here for a bit, instead of forking out for the bar above.
The city walls are a very pricey and touristy activity, but if you want stunning 360-degree views of the town then it’s definitely worth it. Make the most of your ticket by arriving when they first open at 8am, and you’re almost guaranteed to have parts of it to yourself. Don’t forget your entrance ticket also includes access to Fort Lovrijenac as well.
The Old Town is incredibly charming and picturesque, especially the winding alleys set up on the hill. Once you get away from the crowds that tend to stick to the main streets, its nice to just wander around and soak up the vibe of the city – all without costing you any money.
While the beaches around the Old Town aren’t really worth swimming in, there are definitely a few amazing ones that make a great spot on a sunny afternoon. Danče beach is a quiet, rocky paradise usually only frequented by locals, and has a nice bar during the summer. Sveti Jakov is a more Insta-friendly beach, with white sand and blue water. There are a few more just outside of town, accessible by bus, that you can read about here.
Kupari is a small town about 20 minutes by bus from Dubrovnik, where you’ll find something amazing. A ruined, abandoned hotel complex, completely bombed out during the war of the ’90s, and left to be taken over by nature. You can walk around the whole thing, through the buildings, and get right up close to the destruction. It’s now covered in graffiti and art and is usually pretty deserted. It’s very cool to wander around, and is right on the coast so has great water views as well. Bring your swimmers and hit up the beach around the corner when you’re done. I caught the number 10 bus there, asking the driver to tell me when to get off. Afterwards I walked back along the coast to Dubrovnik, which took about two hours.
Despite the fact that it’s going to bleed you dry, I really really recommend Dubrovnik as a destination. It’s such a beautiful city, even though it rained the whole time I was there. Just limit your visit to a day or two, and head somehwere cheap afterwards to balance it all out. Mostar, one of the cheapest places in the Balkans, is only a few hours away, and you’re super close to the Montenegro border as well.
If you have any suggestions for cheap places in Dubrovnik, let me know and I can add them here!
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