Looking to save money on your trip to Croatia? Here are 10 free things to do in Dubrovnik!
Dubrovnik is a beautiful, historic city. But… it can be expensive. We spent a week there and seemed to haemorrhage money, even without intending to. That said, we also tried to save money where we could.
How? Well, we made up rolls and breezed out of the breakfast at our hotel, avoiding eye contact with the staff. Jokes! I did feel a bit awkward I’m not gonna lie, but I also really wanted those rolls. Plus, everyone has played this game on occasion, right?
We also ran out of money in the last night. Well, at least the money we’d taken out. We ended up having a late lunch at our hotel, going for pre-dinner drinks, and skipping dinner. We may or may not have bought a tub of Pringles to eat in the room instead.
But I digress. One of the big ways to save money in this beautiful city is to make the most of some of the free things to do in Dubrovnik. And trust me, there are plenty. Here are my picks of the bunch…
1) Free walking tour
I love a free walking tour! I’ve done them on the last couple of city breaks I’ve been on and I’m definitely going to include them on any ongoing trips as, so far, they’ve been excellent. I find them to be a great way to get under the skin of the city I’m visiting.
Dubrovnik was the perfect example of this. Our tour guide Marco had grown up in the Old Town of the city. He was able to talk about what it was like to live there, the history of the city, and some of the perspectives of the Croatian people. All super interesting!
Of course, I should caveat this review by saying that the free walking tour in Dubrovnik is not entirely free. There’s no upfront cost, but a tip for the tour guide is a good thing to do, especially if you enjoyed the tour! I saw some people handing over some hefty notes but luckily you can pay according to your budget – we probably paid the rate of a paid tour.
2) Climb Mount Srd
The cable car in Dubrovnik takes you up Mount Srd in a matter of minutes and drops you off at the top. You can then enjoy seriously good views of Dubrovnik and the surrounding area.
However, it costs money and this is a blog on free things to do in Dubrovnik, after all. You don’t have to spend $$ getting the cable car up, you can walk it instead. However, I do want to caveat this by saying it probably won’t be an easiest or most enjoyable hike.
We walked down from the top having got the cable up. Easy, you might think, but the path is rocky and zigzags all the way down. It took us about 50 minutes to get down so it’s probably about the same for the way up, it’ll just be much harder.
However, I can’t pretend that the views at the top aren’t pretty spectacular. Breath-taking, in fact. If you’re feeling energetic and it’s not too hot, I’d go for it!
3) Soak up the Stradun
The Stradun is the most famous street in Dubrovnik. It’s all limestone paving and sophistication, lined on each side with baroque buildings that give everything a sense of grandeur. The famous promenade stretches 298 metres long in total. It takes you from the famous Pile Gate at the entrance of the Old Town, all the way to the Port, where you can catch a ferry to the island of Lokrum or to one of the many other island destinations.
One interesting thing I discovered about the Stradun is that it used to be a canal that divided the old town from the rest of the surrounding area. The canal was built on top of and then paved in limestone in 1468, which created its famous light-coloured pavement.
These days, it’s the perfect starting point for exploring the Old Town of Dubrovnik. Wander up the steps on the right to start a tour of the City Walls, turn right or left and start zigzagging through the maze of narrow streets, or take a seat at one of the many cafes and restaurants and while away a few hours in the sunshine.
Wandering the Stradun is one of the best free things to do in Dubrovnik.
4) Watch the sunset
There are too many beautiful locations to watch the sunset in Dubrovnik. Of course, if you’re happy to spend money then there are many suitable spots. The iconic hole-in-the-wall Buza Bar on the rocks offers unobstructed views over the Adriatic Sea.
If you want to do it for free then you may have to be a bit more creative. You could climb to the top of Mount Srd and see the light fading over the iconic orange rooftops of the city. Another option is to hang out near the Ploce Gate and soak up the port views.
As we were staying in Lapad we were able to catch the sun fade over the water every night, which was lovely. With boats sleepily tilting in the waves and barely more than a breeze it was just stunning. We made a point of getting a selfie by the water every night!
5) Explore the Old Town
There is a lot of architectural real estate in the old town that you can soak up without having to spend a dime. Rector’s Palace is one of the big ones. Try not to let your jaw drop when you turn the corner and see this beautiful building for the first time.
It’s a mix of Renaissance and Gothic architectural styles and is incredibly striking, inside and out. I loved the columns, the gothic windows, and the grandeur of the stone staircase. It’s also another location you’ll recognise if you’re a Game of Thrones fan. Another one!
There’s also the Sponza Palace, which is almost as nice, numerous churches, and the large Onofrio Fountain that you’ll see whan you make your way in from the Pile Gate entrance. I couldn’t help but laugh at the little dog at the top that looked like my Labrador pup!
Once you’ve maxed yourself out on beautiful buildings then it’s time to wander out by the port and breathe in the sea air. Although it’s still busy out here it’s a little less crowded. If you go far enough then you might even want to rest up and sunbathe for a while.
6) Discover the Instagram hotspots
You only have to do a quick search under the hashtag #dubrovnikoldtown on Instagram to see hundreds of photos of this city looking absolutely stunning. Want to capture a few shots for the gram? Scouting out the #nofilter hotspots is one of the best free things you can do in Dubrovnik.
There were a few personal favourites. The pale, circular steps of the Dominican Monastery are pretty special – they pool down on the street below making everything look elegant and graceful. If you head up towards the monastery there’s also a beautiful doorway, and if you pay the entrance fee it gets even better. The internal garden is a gorgeous, tropical oasis.
There are stone windows that peek out onto the port near the Ploce Gate, on the east side of the city. These are the perfect spot to capture a photograph of all the colourful boats bobbing around on the harbour. Finally, there’s a clock tower just next to the Dubrovnik Cathedral that we ‘clocked’ on a blog. I really like how this shot turned out.
There are also some fun surprises. We wandered onto the wonky basketball court, which has one of the corners shaved off. Not the kind of court you see every day!
7) Hang out at the beach
Dubrovnik is a place that has pretty much everything on its doorstep. Old world charm. Historic buildings. Narrow, cobbled streets that twist and turn and are perfect for getting lost in. Add in the tons of day trips and excursions you can do and it’s a real winner.
However, the other card that Dubrovnik has in its pocket is its beautiful beaches. We were staying at Hotel Kompas in Lapad. As well as being surrounded by restaurants and only being a stone’s throw away from the amazing More Cave Bar, it’s also next to the beach.
On our first day we arrived tired and sweaty from our flight in the middle of the afternoon. We were sunning ourselves on the beach only a short while later. It was amazing! The beach is also flanked by a cool AF beach club, so if that’s your vibe then you can grab a cocktail there. Of course, I’m such a granny I was always tucked up in bed by around 9pm, lol.
8) Spot the Game of Thrones locations
Have you even been to Dubrovnik if you haven’t got a selfie at the Walk of Shame steps? The Jesuit staircase is where one of Game of Thrones most famous scenes was filmed. It’s hard not to stand there without picturing Cersei Lannister walking naked through the streets accompanied by the clanging bell and ‘shame, shame, shame’ ringing out.
Our tour guide also told us that on the day of filming, all the local residents were paid to keep their shutters closed so that the film crew could get the shots they needed.
Of course, there are many more Game of Thrones locations in Dubrovnik. There’s the imposing Red Keep with views of Blackwater Bay, for one. Rector’s Palace is also a GoT filming location, and is where Daenerys asks the Spice King of Qarth to take her army across the narrow sea. You’ll also recognise the Minceta Tower, otherwise known as the House of the Undying. If you’re super keen you can also do a Game of Thrones walking tour.
9) Hang out with the cats of Dubrovnik
Just when you thought Dubrovnik couldn’t get any more perfect, right? One of the things I really love about Dubrovnik is the multitude of resident cats that live there. You’ll find them strolling up and down the narrow streets of the Old Town, sprawled out in the sunshine, oblivious to tourists, or brushing against your legs when you’re eating lunch.
The interesting thing about the cats of Dubrovnik is that they are the real OGs of the city. They were introduced in Dubrovnik hundreds of years ago in the 14th century to control the population of rats and mice. The cats that we see in Dubrovnik today are descendants of these original cats, and they stroll around like the own the place. And why not, eh?
If you head to the back of the city, below the city walls and near the Buza Bar, you’ll see some ‘cat homes’ on the city walls. The gaps in the walls have been filled with bedding so they can catch 40 winks in peace, before they head out on their next adventure.
10) The abandoned hotel
One of the most intriguing things and free things to do in Dubrovnik if you’re trying to keep costs down is to visit the abandoned hotel. The Hotel Belvedere was supposed to set the bar for next-level luxury when it opened in 1985. However, it wasn’t to be. The hotel was forced to close its doors during the Croatian War of Independence and it’s remained shut ever since.
And as if an eerie, abandoned hotel isn’t enough to intrigue you, then you may also be pleased to know that it’s a Game of Thrones location. You’ll recognise the sea-level amphitheatre as the place where the grisly battle between The Mountain and The Viper took place. You know, the one where the Viper had his eyes gouged out. Yuck.
It’s worth noting that the hotel is fenced off. The only part you can actually see is the amphitheatre. It’s around 35-40 minutes walk from Dubrovnik so it’s up to you whether that sounds like it’s worth it or not. We didn’t have a chance to visit it during our trip but we did manage to spot it, fleetingly, when we were heading out on the ferry to Lokrum!
Do you know any more free things to do in Dubrovnik?
If you like this post you may also like these…
- Things to do in Dubrovnik
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- Best restaurants in Lapad Dubrovnik
- A guide to Lokrum Island