Last May, during my cruise on Norwegian Jade, I got to visit Croatia for the first time, and I absolutely fell in love with it. What a beautiful country! Our first stop in Croatia was Dubrovnik, one of two very popular cruise ports (the other being Split) on the coast.
We arrived in the mid-afternoon and only had a few hours there. It wasn’t long enough to thoroughly explore the city, but I had to make do. I focused my limited time on The Old Town of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage site with cobblestone streets surrounded by high stone walls overlooking the orange rooftops of the city and the Adriatic Sea.
First, I’d advise that if you are arriving by cruise ship and considering purchasing the Dubrovnik (tourist discount) Card online before your trip (which means you’ll have to print your receipt and bring it to the tourist office in Dubrovnik to make the exchange for the actual card), you should make sure you’re not going to be arriving after 2pm on a Sunday, when the tourist offices near the cruise port are closed. Yeah, I did that. Live and learn.
A cab from the cruise port will cost you about 10 Euros.There is also a bus that you can catch from near the port into the city, but because I made the error with the Dubrovnik Card, I didn’t do that. I didn’t have the Kunas (local currency) on me I would have needed for the bus. Some people actually made the walk from the cruise port to the Old Town and back, but I didn’t want to waste precious time getting there and back.
Accompanying me into Dubrovnik were two new friends I met on the cruise, Karen and Ann. Outside the city walls, they stopped at the Exchange Office to exchange Euros for Kunas. I got my Kunas inside the city at an ATM. Outside the city were various tour operators hawking their tours. A guy named Goran was selling sunset tours outside the city for just 20 Euros and it sounded lovely, but I wanted to have dinner on board the ship and didn’t think I’d be able to wait to eat until 7:30, when the tour was scheduled to end. (Karen and Ann did go on this tour and they said it was fantastic.)
The first thing we did after getting our Kunas in the Old Town was walk the Stradun, the main shopping street that runs through the Old Town from the Pile Gate to the dock and marina on the other side.
If you don’t stop for shopping, it really doesn’t take very long to walk from one end to the other (5 minutes or so), but is interesting for people-watching. It also gave me a good first look at the beautiful architecture of this medieval city. You’d never know on first glance that Dubrovnik had suffered heavy bombing during a war within the past 25 years. (Unless, like me, you remember seeing it on the TV news at the time.) They’ve done an amazing job restoring the historic buildings.
When we reached the harbor, Karen and Ann stopped at an ice cream stand for a cold treat while I took photos and enjoyed the view.
It was a little cooler by the water than inside the city walls. After that, we headed back to Pile Gate to buy tickets to walk the wall. We weren’t sure there would be bathrooms up on the wall (there were), so we found a public bathroom near Pile Gate that cost 7 Kunas and used it before we began our climb.
Tickets to walk the wall cost 100 kunas, or 20 Euros. I can’t remember whether someone told us this or I read it ahead of time, but supposedly there are over 500 steps up on the wall (going up or down in various places). I thought my legs might be shaking afterwards (the way they did after climbing the Campanile in Florence), but they didn’t. It’s definitely a good workout, but as long as you’re in reasonably good health, it’s doable. I saw some elderly people up there, as well as a young couple who each carried a toddler in a backpack on their back. If they could do it, I figured I could!
We stopped a lot to take photos, because every time you walked another 50 feet, the view became even more stunning.
Our major disappointment was not finding the entrance to Buza, the cliffside bar, but we were all under the impression from what we’d read online that the entrance to it was from the top of the wall, when actually, it’s from down in the city. Damn. (I should have read this first.)
Karen and Ann quit walking the wall at Ploce Gate, the halfway point, to find an Internet Cafe so Karen could send photos home and then they were going to go find Goran to book the sunset tour. I kept walking the wall on my own, taking tons of photos along the way. Once I got back down into Old Town, I headed back to the marina again for a little while to cool off. Then I wandered a bit more around the city. I loved the old architecture everywhere.
Eventually, I got hungry, hot and tired, and I knew it was time to return to the ship. I caught a cab outside the Old Town. The driver insisted the fare was 15 Euros, even though it had only cost us 10 coming in, but I was so tired, I didn’t want to argue. By the time we reached port, he had dropped the price to 13 Euros without my prompting him.
In hindsight, I wished I had explored the hilly sections of Old Town–I couldn’t help but be curious what I’d find up there. But the steep stairs were pretty daunting after all the walking I’d already done that day.
In any case, my time in Dubrovnik was all too brief but definitely whet my appetite for more. I would love the opportunity to return again someday for at least a couple of days to dig deeper into the history and culture of the city and surrounding countryside. If you ever get a chance to visit Dubrovnik, take it!