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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
People at Dance beach.
People at Dance beach.
CITY GUIDE

A local’s guide to Dubrovnik, Croatia

People at Dance beach.
People at Dance beach.
  • By Jelena Simac
  • Photos by Dubravko Lenert
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Perched along the Adriatic Sea and surrounded by one of the best-preserved medieval walls in the world, photogenic Dubrovnik has always been appealing to tourists. But after it became the main filming location for King’s Landing on “Game of Thrones,” its global popularity boomed.

This former independent merchant hub has suffered no attacks from dragons, but it has survived a catastrophic 1667 earthquake, damaging fires and wars as recent as the 1990s. Traces of that history remain in the memory here, and on the facades of some buildings within the walls.

Time and time again, though, little Dubrovnik has risen from the ashes. Its latest rise has made it, once again, one of the most prosperous cities in this part of Europe.

Meet Jelena Simac

An award-winning former journalist, Jelena was born in Split, studied literature in Zagreb and now lives in Dubrovnik. She now offers historical and movie tours of the city, such as the popular “Game of Thrones” tour. On her days off, she likes to travel, cook and read good books.

Want to get in touch?

Email bytheway@washpost.com
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IN THE ACTION
U Pilama
Although staying within the walls of the Old City might seem charming, accommodations a little bit outside can provide you with the same experience, minus the noise and the crowds. U Pilama still overlooks the old walls, a view that, accompanied with a morning coffee, will light a spark of enthusiasm for discovering the city. Find this neighborhood.
LOW-KEY
Lapad
Located on a peninsula about 2 miles away from the Old City, Lapad is the most desirable residential area in Dubrovnik. Very well connected by public transportation, it is home to local favorites Sunset Beach and Lapad Bay, which functions as another city center — full of good bars, restaurants and live music, spiced with a great sea view. Find this neighborhood.
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Eat

BREAKFAST
Above 5
When Dubrovnik’s locals open their eyes in the morning, all they want is good, strong Turkish coffee. As a result, the first meal of the day is often not breakfast but rather a slightly later marenda, typically between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Above 5 offers a perfect Mediterranean version of that meal (go for the cheese with olives and whole-wheat bread) in a stunning setting: the only rooftop terrace in the heart of the Old City.
BTW: The building is a 500-year-old UNESCO-protected site, so there’s no elevator to the rooftop.
Od Sigurate 4, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
BREAKFAST
Restaurant Orsan
Situated along the scenic marina in Lapad, this seafood restaurant serves up homemade food, including its own extra virgin olive oil, and organic products from its own agricultural production. Although Restaurant Orsan specializes in fish, its honey, bitter orange marmalade, sausage and prosciutto are must-tries. It’s also great for lunch and dinner.
BTW: You’ll definitely want to make a reservation.
Ul. Ivana pl. Zajca 4, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
LUNCH
Buffet Kamenice
This legendary, simply decorated buffet is a perfect place to try the best of the Dalmatian region’s cuisine: black risotto, small fried fish, octopus salad and, of course, kamenice (oysters). The portions are plentiful, and prices are very affordable, at least by Dubrovnik’s expensive standards. Be sure to end your meal with the classic Dubrovnik rozata, a custard-pudding dessert that has been prepared here since the Middle Ages.
BTW: If you don’t like pigeons, avoid this place at midday, when the locals feed them in the square. It’s a spectacular scene, but only for those who are fond of the birds.
Gundulićeva poljana 8, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
LUNCH
Pantarul
Pantarul’s motto is “Feels like home,” and the restaurant truly does, with a cozy vibe, fresh fish delivered daily and ingredients sourced from area farmers. Situated outside the Old City, close to the Lapad area, this hidden gem stands out for its elegance — and serves as evidence that location is not necessarily crucial for success. Each recipe here, from the octopus tempura to the ox cheeks, is innovative.
BTW: Owner Ana-Marija Bujić wrote a special Pantarul cookbook, in Croatian and English, that can be purchased online. Her previous cookbook, “What’s Cooking in Dubrovnik,” featured 120 traditional recipes and has achieved great success.
Ul. kralja Tomislava 1, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
DINNER
Konoba Dubrava
Dalmatian peka — a meal prepared over a fire or ashes, in a pot with a bell-shaped top — is a Croatian culinary tradition, and Dubrava’s expertise in the art has made it one of locals’ favorite restaurants. Under the high bell temperature, meats release and mix juices and aromas, which gives the meal a distinctive flavor. The lamb on the spit is also delicious here, although it likewise takes a lot of time to prepare. Be sure to make a reservation.
BTW: Konoba Dubrava is located on the top of the hill Srđ, above the Old City, so it requires transportation arrangements. But it’s totally worth it.
Bosanka, 20207, Bosanka, Croatia
DINNER
Nishta
Croatia is a nation of carnivores, but this little place is our attempt at vegan redemption. Nishta offers a creative fusion menu with a touch of the East and has a great selection of fresh juices and drinks. This funky and happy oasis serves up noodles, nachos, falafel, rice crepes, Bombay salad, tofu sticks and various tasty raw options, all of it healthy and delicious. One heads-up: It’s tiny, so reserve a table for evening meals.
BTW: To find Nishta, enter the Old City through the main Pile gate, take the third street on the left and go up the steps. It will be there on your right.
Prijeko bb, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
LATE-NIGHT
D’vino Wine Bar
Dubrovnik has produced wine for millennia, and some of Croatia’s best bottles still come from this region today. You can taste many in this little bar, which offers an impressive selection of more than 60 Croatian wines by the glass. In addition to serving you, the friendly staff will gladly help you choose, as well as explain their selections and how the distinctive flavors come about. Pair your glass with one of the bar’s tasty quick bites, such as dried fruits, marinated olives or a cheese platter.
BTW: Check out the lists of wine tours and tastings, too. Something may catch your eye.
Palmotićeva ul. 4a, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
LATE-NIGHT
Barba
Tucked away along one of the side streets of the Old City, this charming seafood spot should be on the Dubrovnik bucket list of all visiting street-food lovers. The octopus, shrimp burgers, fried calamari and small fried fish are all fresh and quickly prepared, and they will all make you want to come back for more. While eating your tasty meal, amuse yourself by decorating your used forks and adding them to the wall.
BTW: For “Game of Thrones” fans, a nearby shop contains the city’s first and most famous reproduction of the Iron Throne.
Boškovićeva ul. 5, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
(Jelena Njegus for The Washington Post)
LOCALS THINK YOU SHOULD KNOW
  1. Dubrovnik is a small city with many narrow streets. Be mindful not to block any thruways while sightseeing or taking pictures.
  2. Walking around in a swimsuit or without a T-shirt in the UNESCO-protected Old City is not allowed. The same applies to cafes and restaurants; it is considered rude.
  3. Tips in restaurants and cafes are preferable — if, of course, you are satisfied with the service.
(Jelena Njegus for The Washington Post)

Do

TUP Complex
Carbon Graphite Products Factory, located in the Port Gruž area, is one of the preeminent enduring monuments of the city’s communist era. Still owned by the workers, the factory now partly houses the Red History Museum, a mandatory stop for all who are interested in what everyday life was like in Dubrovnik during that Yugoslavian period. The small museum is interactive, run by young local enthusiasts and very educational.
BTW: Afterward, walk around the corner to Love Bar. Treat yourself to a drink on the terrace there, and enjoy one of the most amazing sunset views in Dubrovnik.
Ul. Svetog Križa 3, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik Beer Company
Steps away from Love Bar and the TUP Complex, Dubrovnik Beer Company hosts brewery tours that allow you to witness the magic of craft-beer production firsthand. The brews here are all unfiltered and unpasteurized — and if you prefer to cut to the point, you can taste them in the tap room, straight from the source. On some nights, there’s even live music.
BTW: Try local favorite Maestral, named after the northwesterly wind that cools our coast on hot summer days.
Obala pape Ivana Pavla II 15, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Peppino’s ice cream shop
Peppino’s is a perfect place to regain your energy after climbing the numerous steps of the Old City. Located in the heart of the district, the popular shop is known for its gelato’s full and creamy flavor, as well as its variety: Whether you choose yogo strawberry, choco Oreo, pistachio, or Fererro Rocher premium, you can’t go wrong.
BTW: For those with dietary restrictions, there are even delicious gluten-free options.
Ulica od puča 9, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Danče Beach
Formerly the area where Dubrovnik housed those with the plague, this spot today is the most popular local beach in the vicinity of the Old City. Danče is not a long, sandy beach, but rather a massive rock formation with a few plateaus where locals like to play mini-football barefoot or soak
up the sun with a glass of gemišt, a mix of white wine and mineral water. With ladder access to the water, the beach is great for cliff-jumping.
BTW: Danče overlooks the western side of the city, so you can catch one of Dubrovnik’s stunning sunsets here, too.
Gruž green and fish markets
Gruž, formerly a factory-laden industrial zone in communist Yugoslavia, is a walkable district with a lot of local spirit, old aristocratic summer villas and a charming promenade along the sea. Somewhere in the middle of that promenade, you will find Dubrovnik’s biggest green market and the fish market in its background. And while tourists crowd most other parts of the city in the summertime, here you will mostly bump into locals. Fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, nuts, olive oil and cheese are the main offerings.
BTW: Prices here are mostly fixed, so bargaining rarely helps, although this market is cheaper than the one in the Old City. The best days to visit are Fridays and Saturdays.
20000, Obala Stjepana Radića 21, 20000, Croatia
Buggy Safari Dubrovnik
If you want to escape the crowds but still experience the best sights of Dubrovnik, try Buggy Safari on Srđ hill just behind the Old City. You will hop in a tour guide’s four-seat vehicle, head off-road and from the hilltop take in a dramatic 360-degree view, including the islands in front of the city as well as the mountains of Bosnia behind it. It’s safe yet adrenaline-fueled fun that you will wish had lasted longer.
BTW: You will be traversing some rocky landscapes and driving over dirt. Be prepared to finish the tour dusty.
Lučarica ul. 2, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Jelena Simac
An award-winning former journalist, Jelena was born in Split, studied literature in Zagreb and now lives in Dubrovnik. She now offers historical and movie tours of the city, such as the popular “Game of Thrones” tour. On her days off, she likes to travel, cook and read good books.
Dubravko Lenert
Dubravko is a photographer based in Dubrovnik. Getting to meet new friends and to share experiences is what made him leave behind his day job so he could commit to photography. He is still convinced that Dubrovnik is an infinite source of inspiration.

CITY GUIDES