Twenty euro to walk around the walls and another twenty to take the cable car up to Mount Srd?! You’d be forgiven for thinking that visiting Dubrovnik is an outright assault on your bank account! Or is it?
If, like me, you’d rather spend that amount of money on a delicious meal of grilled squid and a couple of glasses of white wine, then read on!
Free things to do in Dubrovnik
1.Walk up Mount Srd
Saving 20 euro for not taking the cable car AND getting your daily exercise routine in at the same time? Sounds like a win-win situation to me!
Hiking up Mount Srd is one of the best free things to do in Dubrovnik! A 40 minute hike (412m above sea level) will award you with one of the best views over the old town and the Dubrovnik surroundings! Take some sturdy shoes and make your way to Jadranska Cesta, opposite the underpass, for the start of the walk. It can be a bit tricky to find, but friendly locals and fellow hikers will no doubt show you the way. Once on the zigzag calvary path, it winds it way up into the forest. Soon you’ll be exposed to whatever the weather elements are throwing at you that day. Take plenty of breaks to admire the views over the old town, the island of Lokrum and the clear blue waters of the Adriatic.
The mountain itself was home to one of the fiercest battles during the War of Independence. On top of mount Srd you can visit the museum of the Homeland War (4 euro) which is a definite must to understand Dubrovnik’s sad history back in the early 1990’s.
2.Stroll Stradun over and over again
Stradun IS Dubrovnik! The main thoroughfare of the old town is a mere 300m long but boy, is it packed with architectural treasures! One major advice: come early! In summer, cruise ship passengers are herded along the street and it might be very difficult to see the charm of the old town when you have to fight your way through it!
If you go at 7am, you’ll have time to admire the glistening marble of the pavement and check out the stunning and glamorous architecture of the churches, fountains and palaces that adorn Stradun. Have a quiet cup of coffee while observing locals going about their daily business and preparing for a busy day ahead!
3.Get a tan
Let’s face it, as stunning and amazing as the architecture of the old town is, the azure blue waters that surround it, are just too attractive to ignore! Lucky for you, you won’t have to wander too far to have a dip. The closest beach is Banje Beach, a 5 minute walk from Pile gate. Apart from the inviting waters, it offers a pretty amazing view over the old port of Dubrovnik. Needless to say it gets rather packed during the warm summer months.
I personally prefer Bellevue Beach, a bit further out towards the Lapad Peninsula. It’s a small pebbled beach, nested in a picturesque bay and surrounded by steep cliffs. The cliffs provide natural shading in the afternoon if you need to get away from the scorching sun. They also seem to be popular among youngsters to as a dive-off point.
Other popular beaches are situated along the northern part of the Babin Kuk peninsula: Copacabana Beach, Coral Beach and Cava Beach all come complete with sun loungers and beach bars, perfect if you’re looking for that perfect “holiday” feel.
4.Explore the back streets
Stradun might be the main thoroughfare of the old town, but by all means, make sure to venture a little further! Take the flight of steps in any of the picturesque side streets and wander around aimlessly. You’ll see more cats than you can possibly photograph, catch glimpses of laundry hung out to dry in the shadows of the walls and have the feeling that you are actually walking around in a village rather than the main tourist hub of Croatia! It’s hard to imagine that the crowds are only a few streets away!
5.Go to the market
If you crave fresh fruit and vegetables, make a beeline for the popular morning market on Gundulićeva Poljana, near the Cathedral and join the locals for their daily shop. Make sure to come early, during the afternoon and evening the stalls make room for the tables and chairs of the nearby cafés.
If you’re catching a ferry or bus, make sure to visit the open-air market in Gruz. Amongst fish, fruit and vegetables, it’s a great place to have a cup of coffee in the midst of everyday Dubrovnik.
6.Visit some churches
Many of the churches in the old town are free, including the Saint Blaise church, named after the city’s patron saint. Even the majestic Cathedral is free for visitors! You’re in for a few surprises too: the 15th century church of St Sebastian for example is home to a modern art gallery!
7.Walk around Babin Kuk
To the west of the old town and north of Lapad lies the Babin Kuk peninsula, home to some of the best beaches in Dubrovnik. A shaded footpath surrounds part of the peninsula, making it a great place to stroll along the azure blue Adriatic Sea. Fancy going in for a swim? No problem! Every few meters small ladders are fixed into the rocks allowing you to have a quick dip or a swim. Make sure you stop at the Cave Bar at Hotel More to have a drink in their comfy sun loungers. You can swim right from your lounger into the sea and back, where your cold beer or cocktail will be waiting for you! Bliss!
8.Learn about the Homeland War
The best place to learn about the Homeland War, or the war for Croatian independence, is at the “Museum of Homeland War” on top Mount Srd. A ticket will set you back 4 euro.
But even in the old town you can come across reminders of Dubrovnik’s dark past.
In Od Puca street, the house of a well-established artist, was heavily damaged in December 1991. Plaques outside the house bear witness to the horrible events.
Inside the Sponza palace you can visit the “Memorial Room of the Defenders of Dubrovnik”. Black and white photography of those who died in the 1991-1992 siege, is positioned around the walls.
9.Relax at the old port
Nowadays most ships and ferries sail from the new harbour in Gruz, but the tiny old port used to be the main harbour of Dubrovnik. It is still used as a departure point for the ferry to the island of Lokrum, a mere 15 minute ride. Take a seat on the quay and watch the coming and going of the boats or have a drink at one of the cafés.
10.Keep a look out for details
The old city centre is an architectural jewel, so simply walking around is one of the best free things to do in Dubrovnik! The medieval structure of the city, the baroque style of most buildings and the red roof tops make the old town come together as a whole but when walking around the old town, don’t forget to take a closer look at some of the buildings. You’ll soon discover that St Blaise, the city’s patron saint, is omnipresent on churches and entry gates. Take a closer look at the intrinsic details of the Rector’s Palace. Or how about the stone-carved faces of the Onofrio fountain?
Keep your eyes peeled!
As you can see, there are plenty of free things to do in Dubrovnik and you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the city! Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you that the food is cheap, it isn’t! But if you avoid the old town and head for Lapad instead, you are sure to get better value for money!
What other free things to do in Dubrovnik would you recommend?