Dubrovnik Riviera Guide: Why Dubrovnik Is More Than The Old Town
This post on the Dubrovnik Riviera is in collaboration with Jet2.
Do you ever feel like no matter how much you visit a country, you’ll never get bored of it? Well for me, that country is Croatia.
Recently I was lucky enough to embark on my fifth trip to my favourite place in Europe and even though I’d visited Dubrovnik before, the adventure was filled with so many new activities and discoveries.
From ATV rides through the beautiful Konalve countryside to swimming in salt water lakes in Mljet, I’ve discovered that the Dubrovnik Riviera is so much more than the old town we see on Instagram day after day.
How To Get To Dubrovnik
The easiest way to get to Dubrovnik from the UK is to fly from one of the major airports. I’ve visited Croatia 5 times over the past 6 years and each time I’ve booked flights to Dubrovnik with Jet2 because they make everything as simple as it can be. You get 22kg of baggage included with your fare and if you’re looking for a package holiday, they have some incredible hotel locations to choose from. With affordable flights to Dubrovnik (and Split, where I’ve previously stayed) from Manchester, Birmingham, London and other key airports across the UK - you really can’t go wrong with package holidays to Croatia!
Where To Stay In The Dubrovnik Riviera
Luxury hotel located in Cavtat
During my second trip to Dubrovnik, I had the luxury of staying at Hotel Croatia. This stunning hotel owned by Luxury Adriatic Hotels is just 10 minutes from the airport and 25 minutes from the city of Dubrovnik. Just a short walk from the charming town of Cavtat, it’s the perfect location for those looking to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the Old Town.
Hotel Dubrovnik Palace
Luxury hotel located in Lapad (Dubrovnik)
This Croatia hotel boasts stylish, spacious rooms and excellent service with breathtaking views of the Adriatic and the nearby Elaphiti Islands. Are you interested in exploring beyond Hotel Dubrovnik Palace? Take a leisurely stroll into Lapad for a change of scenery or hop on the local bus to Dubrovnik Old Town.
Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik
Luxury hotel located in Old Town (Dubrovnik)
At this historic and prestigious hotel, you will be surrounded by a spectacular view of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Its grand heritage dates back to the 19th century, and it is located just a few steps from the famous Pile Gate, Lovrijenac Fortress, and Stradun Thoroughfare. Featuring a classic continental décor and plush furnishings inside, the hotel exudes luxury.
Affordable apartments located in Mlini (Dubrovnik)
The Tonkovic Apartments are located on a hilltop overlooking Zupa Bay and the picturesque town of Mlini. You will enjoy a taste of traditional Croatian life at this small and friendly property. While the apartments provide a perfect base to explore the surrounding areas with friends and family, the balconies offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape and turquoise sea.
Dubrovnik Old Town
I know, I know. I’m telling you that the Dubrovnik Riviera region is more than the old town but it wouldn’t be a post about Dubrovnik and Neretva county without including a few ideas for what you can do in the area, would it?
Recently increasing in popularity as a travel destination because of the endless list of filming locations for HBO’s Game of Thrones series, Dubrovnik Old Town is a must-visit for those visiting the riviera region.
My top tip, however, is only to spend a day in the old town because honestly, that’s all you need.
When spending a day in Dubrovnik Old Town, these are my suggestions for things you have to do:
City walls - the city walls are one of the most popular landmarks in Dubrovnik and for good reason. The 1.5 - 2 hour walk around the walls on the outside of the old town offers incredible views across the city (as well as Lokrum island in the distance). They’re roughly xxx to walk and follow a one-way system once you’re up there. The walk can be difficult at times but it’s well worth the views, especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan and want to feel like you’re surveying Kings Landing from above.
Game of Thrones tour - if you want the full Game of Thrones experience, there are lots of GoT tours you can book yourself onto. With so many locations (including the Red Keep and Black Water Bay) located in and around the city, you will feel like you’ve stepped straight into the make-believe world.
If you don’t want to do a guided tour, there are lots of tours online that you can follow yourself! This is what I did my first time in Dubrovnik and it was nice to be able to go at our own pace and dedicate time to taking photographs.
Monestry and oldest pharmacy - the Dubrovnik Monastery is a beautiful example of Baroque architecture, and the pharmacy inside is one of the oldest in the world!
The famous step that helps you find love - while a step doesn’t sound overly exciting, legend has it that if you’re able to jump up onto the gargoyle step and hold yourself against the wall, you’ll find the love of your life. Located just outside of the Monastery you’ll find queues of people waiting to run and jump up a wall. It’s unusual but equally amusing to watch and take part.
Fort Lovrijenac - Fort Lovrijenac is a beautiful fort that overlooks Dubrovnik. I’ve climbed it once before and although it can feel a little pressured due to all the people behind you, it’s definitely worth it for the views of the city and the city walls.
Walk through the Pile Gate - The Pile Gate is one of the most impressive gates in Dubrovnik, and it leads into the Old Town. Built in 1537, it is a must-see for any history lover!
Visit the Rector’s Palace - The Rector’s Palace is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, and it was once the home of the Dubrovnik government.
Peppino’s Gelato - usually I don’t believe it when places have a sign outside saying ‘The best ABC in XYZ’ but Peppino’s have every right to make the claim that they’re the best Gelato in Dubrovnik because oh my gosh, it was delicious. With vegan options also available, they had a large selection of flavours and if I had the time, I’d have stood there trying them all. In the end, I went for White Rocher and Snickers and both were some of the nicest gelato I’ve had ever, let alone just in Dubrovnik.
Pigeon feeding - every day at midday a man feeds the pigeons in the market square. They sit on the buildings surrounding the square in the run-up to 12 and then begin swarming in circles above as he feeds them. It’s an unusual experience, but one our guide said to watch out for.
Top tip: while you’re in the market square, make sure you pick up some sugared almonds and candied orange peel. I brought home four bags of sugared almonds because I honestly can’t get enough of them.
Lokrum island is located just off of Dubrovnik’s main city and is one of the thousands of islands in Croatia. Just a short 15-20 boat (or a kayak ride) ride away from the main harbour, Lokrum is a great day trip if you’re staying in the Dubrovnik Riviera region.
There are lots of things to do on the island and if you’re planning some time to relax while you’re there, you can easily fill a day with exploring.
Swimming - there are lots of places on Lokrum Island where you can jump in the water and swim, so make sure you pack your swimwear and a towel! Water shoes are also a must, as there are rocks and pebbles rather than actual beaches.
Nudist Beach - On the south-eastern part of the island, because of the natural shelter, there is a nude beach,
The Dead Sea - This is one of my favourite places on Lokrum as it’s so beautiful! As the name suggests, The Dead Sea is a saltwater lake on the island. Just a short walk from where the boat from Dubrovnik drops you off, this is should be the first place you head to if you’re looking for a relaxing island day.
Game of Thrones Museum (where you can sit on the REAL Iron Throne) - for the true GOT fans, there’s a museum where you can see some of the real props that were used during filming. This includes the Iron Throne, which you can sit on and take a photo.
Make sure you don’t miss the last boat off the island because there’s nowhere to stay and legend has it that if you stay overnight, you leave cursed!
Cavtat was where our Jet2.com accommodation was located and as an area I’ve never visited before, it was great to explore somewhere new. Hotel Croatia was located just an 11-minute walk from the main centre of Cavtat, with buggies to take you up and down the steep hill if needed. In terms of getting into Dubrovnik city centre, it was about 20-25 minutes in a taxi but there is also public transport available if you’d prefer it.
Cavtat centre itself was small but in my opinion, that’s what makes it so special. I love small Croatian towns and would happily wander around grabbing a bite to eat followed by some ice cream by the sea and of course, a couple of cocktails before heading back up to the hotel. If you’re looking for a break from sitting by the pool or the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik, spending some time in Cavtat is a must.
Although we didn’t get much time to explore, here are just a few of the things you can do in Cavtat:
Explore the Monastery - At the foot of St. Rocco hill on the western peninsula lies the Gothic-renaissance Franciscan monastery and church. You can climb to the top for some great views!
Have Cocktails As You Watch The Harbour Out Front - There are lots of lovely places to sit and enjoy a cocktail while you watch the harbour, making Cavtat the perfect place for a chilled-out drink.
Enjoy dinner at Le Luet restaurant - A restaurant that has been visited by a number of different Presidents, this is a must-do during your visit to Cavtat. There are great views, delicious food and super friendly staff! What more could you want?
Ston, you sexy little Croatian town you. If you couldn’t already tell, I love a small Croatian town and I *think* Ston is one of my favourites so far.
Consisting of two parts, Mali Ston and (big) Ston, this place is famous for two main reasons - the largest salt pans in Europe and the second longest walls in the world (after The Great Wall of China). For a town with just 500 people living there and only one hotel, that’s pretty impressive if you ask me.
When visiting the Dubrovnik Riviera Ston should 100% be at the top of your bucket list as for a small town, there’s SO much you can do.
Go oyster tasting in Mali Ston - if you’re into oysters, Mali Ston should be top of your list. Your oyster degustation tour starts with a strong shot of grappa on board your boat, before heading to the oyster farm just a short distance away from the harbour. Here you get to learn about how they farm for their oysters and try some freshly caught ones prepared exactly how they like them - cooking with a little squirt of lemon. I’m not a fish eater myself so I sat back and watch others try but the general consensus was that they were delicious!
Of course, afterwards, you can have a little wander around Mali Ston too. In fact, this is where the one hotel in Ston is located, if you’re looking to stay in the area.
Climb to the top of Fort Kaštio - Fort Kaštio is easy to spot when you arrive in Ston as it’s directly in front of the only car park for the town. If you’re worried about climbing to the walls, climbing to the top of Fort Kaštio is definitely the best way to Ston from above and it’s definitely much more accessible with only 30 or so steps to the top.
Walk the walls (if you’re brave enough) - if you fancy a bit of a challenge, climbing the Ston Walls is a must. Named the second longest wall in the world, Ston’s walls were originally more than 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) long. When it comes to climbing them, you can do the easier route (pictured on the left) or the harder route (pictured on the right). They’re incredibly steep, but I hear it is worth it for the views!
Visit the famous salt pans - the salt pans in Ston are the oldest in Europe and while from a distance they may not seem exciting, they’re worth stopping by to get a full glimpse into their fascinating history.
Enjoy lunch and a slice of Ston Cake - years ago, making cake had to be done on a budget, which is why bakers in Ston used cooked pasta to help ‘bulk’ out a cake. This recipe is something that has stayed with Ston locals over the year, making this the only place you can try this unique dessert. With a strong taste of cinnamon, you can only eat a small amount and although it wasn’t my favourite dessert I’ve ever tried, it was worth it to say that I’ve given it a go.
Go wine tasting at a nearby vineyard - there are lots of wineries and vineyards in the Pelješac region and so an afternoon of wine tasting is a must when travelling through Ston. We visited the Putnikovici Winery and after a tour of the museum, we were given three different wines to try - one red and two whites. There are lots like this in the region so a little bit of research to find which one is best suited to you will definitely be helpful.
While you’re in the area I also recommend visiting the brand new Pelješac bridge. On previous trips to Croatia I’ve had to drive through Bosnia to get from the Dubrovnik region to split but as of July 2022, there’s now a bridge you can cross to get from one side to the other. While it may not sound like a big deal for you and me, this is a huge deal for Croatians as it means those without passports can travel freely within their country and ultimately, travel is now much easier for them. Not only that, but it is a pretty impressive bridge to look at too.
I know I say everywhere in Croatia is beautiful but I have to admit, Mljet island is definitely up there as one of the most stunning places I have visited. Nicknamed the Green Island of Croatia, 1/3 of Mljet island is actually considered a national park.
While we didn’t get time to explore the whole island during our trip, we did take the time to explore both St Mary’s Island and parts of the national park.
St Mary’s Island - St Mary’s island is located in the middle of the large lake within the island and is only accessible via boat. There’s a cute little water taxi that runs between key places on the island, making it easy to get the St Mary’s island throughout the day. While on the island you can walk the entire perimeter in just ten minutes, stopping by the Church and Benedictine Monastery to look around before you finish the full loop. Just outside where the boat stops there’s a restaurant called ‘Melita’ where you can grab a lunch of freshly caught fish and local wine.
Swimming in salt lakes - one of my favourite things to do when I travel is to swim so when I heard that we could go swimming in the lakes on Mljet, I was SO excited. The water is a stunning shade of blue and so clear, making it incredibly easy and safe to swim in. At one point I had the entire lake to myself and honestly, it felt amazing.
Kayaking - next to some of the best sports to swim you can also rent kayaks. The rental is by the hour so depending on how long you want your kayaks for, you could spend a whole day going on and out of the water. While I did try this, others in the group did and they said it was super fun and incredibly easy to do!
Cycling - as well as kayaks, bikes are available to hire across the whole island. We saw lots of people cycling on their own as well as on guided cycling tours so if you’re looking for something with a bit of structure to it, you may want to consider a tour. If not, you’re free to cycle wherever you want as long as you return your bike on time.
Top tip: there’s not a lot of service on the island so make sure your Google Maps works offline and drop a pin where you picked up your bikes. That way, you’ll be able to get back there easily if you go too far.
Hiking - similar to cycling, you’re free to hike around the national park. There are lots of trails that are signposted wherever you go, giving you plenty of choices based on your ability. Whether you’re looking for a short walk around the lakes or something a bit more challenging, it’s worth researching the options beforehand and deciding which one you want to do. .
I visited the Elaphiti Islands islands, located in the Dubrovnik Riviera, on my first ever trip to Dubrovnik and it was definitely worth it. We booked our tour from the harbour in the city centre and the next day made our way back down there for our boat tour.
The three islands we visited were Koločep, Šipan and Lopud.
With some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen, these islands are a must-visit during your stay in the region. You can read more about my three-island tour here.
Explore More of The Dubrovnik Riviera
I know I’ll be back to explore more of the region soon but until then, here are some posts from some of my favourite travel bloggers sharing other great places to visit in the Dubrovnik Riviera region:
While I know exactly why Dubrovnik City is popular with tourists, it was so great to explore other parts of the region and confirm exactly why I keep going back! If you’ve ever visited the Dubrovnik Riviera or you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.