top of page

​​Dubrovnik as a Port Stop

Dubrovnik is one port stop that I always enjoy. Contributing to my love affair with this city is the fact that the weather has always cooperated. Every time I have been on a ship that stopped in Dubrovnik, the sun was shining which has helped to reinforce my positive feelings about this medieval city. Why have I been to Dubrovnik so often? It is an extremely popular port stop and one that is visited by almost every major cruise line. Whether you are on an eastern Mediterranean cruise or some other cruise that has you in the general area of this historic place, chances are the cruise ship will stop there.

On my first visit, there were seven cruise ships in port which meant the old city was inundated with thousands of tourists all vying for space in the narrow streets and little shops. Trying to get a great picture when you have that many tourists in a compacted area was almost impossible. Normally hating crowds and despising heavily marketed ports, I found that Dubrovnik still charmed. I was fully captivated on my second visit when I arrived on the only cruise ship to visit that day and I was able to truly appreciate the look and feel of the old city. It is a delightful place and has been used as a location set for various movies and television shows (Game of Thrones for one). There are various Game of Throne tours on offer but having never taken one, I cannot comment on their value for money.

Dubrovnik is located in southern Croatia fronting the Adriatic Sea. When I talk about the old city I am specifically referring to the distinctive area referred to as "Old Town" which is completely encircled by 14th - 16th century stone walls. Parts of the wall actually date back to earlier centuries. The look and structure of the walls invite people to walk upon them and enjoy both the city and sea views which are magnificent. I don’t recall paying anything to walk the walls when I first visited Dubrovnik but on subsequent visits, I soon found that entrance at the wall access stairs had become controlled and a ticket was required. On my most recent visit I found the current price to get to the top of the walls is 35 euros (which is about $52.00CDN or $37.50USD). It is one of the more expensive wall walks in Europe. If you have never walked the walls, I think it is worth the price as it will give you a great view of the old town and beautiful views of the water. You can buy your ticket at the Dubrovnik Tourism Board which is near the Pile Gate and across from the fountain. Since I had walked the walls on four of my last five visits, I opted to save my money on this trip for other purchases.

Dubrovnik is a cornucopia of architectural periods with its Gothic Rector’s Palace and the Baroque St. Blaise Church. Let’s not forget the Renaissance period which is represented by the Sponza Palace. The pedestrianized areas are paved with limestone. Little shops line the streets and I have to confess that they have become more commercialized and pricey over the years. On this trip I also stopped at the little market which had reasonably priced goods from local farmers and some highly ticketed tourist items on offer. I bought two beautiful leather purses for a reasonable price.

The main street in Old Town is called Stradun and it can get quite busy depending on the number of tourists visiting. It actually began as a bridge but soon became the primary thoroughfare and it is probably the widest street in that part of the old town. If you enter the city by the Pile gate, you will enter directly onto the Stradun. If you continue to walk straight ahead, you come to Orlando's column, the Bell Tower and the Sponza Palace. All in all, the old town is fairly easy to navigate and following the Stradun will easily allow you to find most of the important buildings and sights you may wish to see.

The first few times I arrived in Dubrovnik by ship, we dropped anchor on the coast just outside the old town and we took tender boats to the Old Port (which is located on the southeastern side of the old town). Recently however, the ships we arrived on, docked at the “Port Gruz” which is located about 2.5km to the west of the old town. This new drop off location means passengers have to take a bus or some other form of transportation to get to the old town and most of these shuttle buses or ship arranged transportation arrive in the vicinity of the Pile Gate. Generally, cruise ships have chartered buses that will take you there either free or for a nominal fee. Unfortunately Pile Gate is also the area where local tours depart so it can become quite congested and a little confusing when trying to establish where your cruise ship shuttle or tour buses are located. Lots of buses, loads of congestion and little traffic control. It can be veritable circle of confusion so pay particular attention to where your bus will drop you off and pick you up.

Once you enter through the Pile gate, things become much easier. While walking around the old town, don’t forget to visit St. Blasius (aka Blaise) Church. Dedicated to St. Blaise, who is reported to have saved the city in 971 when he appeared before, and warned a man named Stojko of an impending attack by Venetian ships. The church can be found on your right just before you arrive at the palace if you are walking the Stradun. We bought a beautiful handmade artist's piece depicting St. Blaise and we were told that he inspires more artists in Dubrovnik than any other subject. I am not sure of the truth behind the Saint being the actual inspiration for art or the whether the mere depiction of the Saint makes an art piece a more marketable item (given the city's history), but either way, we now own a marvelous, one of a kind piece made from reclaimed ocean wood and various metals.

Other must see places in the old town are the pharmacy, Rector’s Palace, Franciscan Monastery and if you, like me, are a Game of Throne fan, look for familiar filming sites within and around the old city walls.

On one visit to Dubrovnik, I took a shore excursion organized through the ship, and we ventured outside the city to an area that looked like it was specifically designed for tourists. It involved picturesque fast moving water, an old mill and a lot of tables set up so tourists could sample a little wine, some food and hear about local olive pressing. Basically a manufactured noon hour retreat that for me, was not worth the time or money. The most memorable event on that shore excursion was the homemade walnut wine I bought from a fellow who was selling it on the road a short distance from the designated eating and dining area. I vowed not to repeat the mistake of doing a tour like that again. The best part of that day was discovering and exploring the old town once the tour returned to Dubrovnik itself.

If you have mobility issues, please note that there can be challenges with uneven pavement and stone steps to access different locations.

Croatian is the language most locals speak but I found English was widely understood in most shops and restaurants.

In the market and in some shops, cash only is accepted although the use of credit cards is becoming more widely accepted. I tried to pay with a credit card in one shop and they required cash. A quick visit to a bank two blocks away provided me with the necessary cash. The next year I was back at that same shop again and they were accepting credit cards.

The most important thing to note if this is your first trip to Dubrovnik, and you are visiting it as a shore excursion, is that you do not need an organized tour to enjoy this port stop. You can take your tender to the shore and the ship organized transportation to the gates of the old city. Once in the old city, just after you enter the gates, there is a tourist office on your right where you can pick up a map and brochures. You then are free to walk around and enjoy the ambiance and the beauty of this historic and charming city. Look for bullet holes which are remnants of the war of independence. You don’t need to spend any money but if you do, make sure you spend some of that money on a wall walk as that truly is one of the highlights. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about Dubrovnik.

bottom of page