My final stop in Croatia and of my Balkans adventure was in the city of Dubrovnik. I say my final stop, but it was here that I was able to take day trips to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, although looking back it would have been nice to have spent longer in those countries.
So, what were my impressions of Dubrovnik? That's a difficult question to answer. I think there were many similarities to Split, with the various alleys and passageways throughout the walled city. I would even say that it was more beautiful than Split, with beautiful architecture and more to see and do in the city.
One highlight for me was seeing a traditional Croatian wedding at one of the churches. They were singing and dancing as the bride and groom emerged, who then released doves before the entire wedding party paraded through the city streets.
Another interesting spot was a bar located on the outer wall of the city, known as a Buza Bar. It's said to be a great spot to see the sunset, and gets very busy around this time, so get here early if you plan to do the same. The prices here are a little high, so I only stayed for one beer before moving on.
The problem with Dubrovnik was the overcrowding of tourists. I would have to say that it was by far one of the most overpopulated tourist destinations I've visited so far, and I was there before peak season!
If you do want to get a feel for the streets without the crowds then I suggest waking up as early as possible to explore. On my way to the bus for my day trips, the streets were deserted and I was able to see the true beauty of the city and to take some nice photos. By late afternoon though, these streets are heaving with tourists!
It's much more fun and slightly eerie to explore the deserted alleyways early in the morning, and a lot less fun exploring them during the afternoon when it's hard to get past the many crowds walking through them.
I did actually wonder if the popularity of "Game of Thrones" has increased the tourism. There are so many filming locations situated in and around the city, and I certainly noticed many fans of the show walking around, excited to be in the same place that they had seen on the screen. However whilst on a free walking tour, the guide insisted that tourism has always been huge in the city, and that "Game of Thrones" hasn't had much of an impact. I find this hard to believe.
Game of Thrones Walking Tour
I'm sure any "Game of Thrones" fan will know, there are many locations in Dubrovnik which were used in the TV Series. Some of which I will go into further detail below.
There are various Walking Tours which offer to show you these locations, but at around £30 for the privilege, I feel it's a little on the pricey side. The guides can reveal some inside information, but I'm sure you can find this information online fro free.
With a little planning, you can quite easily find all of the sights yourself, or join a free walking tour to see some of the locations.
The other issue is that when the walking tours take place, it will likely be when when many other tourists are visiting the location too. To be able to get nice photographs without any other tourists in the background, you'll have to visit these sights at daybreak.
The main entrance to the wall city is the Pile Gate. Originally there would have been a wooden drawbridge leading up the gate, but nowadays there is a beautiful stone bridge. Either side you'll see orange trees, and in a niche above the gate is a statue of St Blaise, the city’s patron saint.
If you've arranged any day tours outside of the city, it's likely you'll find your tour bus outside this gate waiting to pick you up.
Not quite as impressive as the pile Gate, the Ploče gate is the entrance at the eastern side of the city. Like the Pile gate there would have once been a drawbridge here which has since been replaced by a stone bridge.
It was used in "Game of Thrones" most notably when Cersei finally arrives at the Red Keep after her walk of shame.
Walls of Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is famous for it's 1940 meter long walls. They were constructed initially to protect the old town from pirates, but they've served them against various invaders. The most recent of which being in 1991 by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA).
You can explore the city walls for 200HRK, which I certainly recommend. It will take a couple of hours to walk them, but you will get some beautiful views of the city whilst exploring the upper levels. Along the walls you'll find "Minčeta Tower", a fortress and the highest point of Dubrovnik, which you can climb to the top of. This was featured in "Game of Thrones" as the House of Undying where Daenerys lost her dragons.
Located to the east of the city is the Old Port of Dubrovnik. This is a beautiful area to stop for lunch in one of the various cafes and restaurants here.
Sometimes there's live music in the area, which adds to the ambience, and there are several ice cream stalls where you can choose from many various flavours.
It's here that you'll be able to take a boat to the neighbouring islands, which includes Lokrum.
This is a great spot to see the sunrise, provided it's a clear morning. It shouldn't be too busy at this time so you can really take in the beauty.
This is one of the most famous "Game of Thrones" shooting locations in the city. The famous stairs used by Cersei during her walk of shame.
Even if you're not a fan of "Game of Thrones", they are a beautiful sight to see. At the top of the stairs you'll find Uz Jezuite Street and the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius.
I visited the stairs during the daytime, but it was packed with tourists who wanted to walk down them, or shout "shame! shame!". There have been many tourists who have even tried to walk down them naked, so there's now a hefty fine for anyone who attempts to do so. There was no way that I could get a nice photograph of the stairs whilst so many tourists were here. So I returned the following morning at around 7am, and thankfully there were only two other tourists here, so I was able to get some nice shots.
Yet another location that was used in "Game of Thrones", and on several occasions, as Blackwater Bay and Kings Landing harbour. You'll find it just outside the city walls, and it really is a beautiful area. As always, I would suggest visiting here very early to avoid the crowds.
You'll have some great views of the walled city from here, as well as Lovrijenac Fortress which overlooks the harbour.
Located outside of the walled city, this is a great view point to see the walled city of Dubrovnik in all it's glory. It was of course used as a filming location in "Game of Thrones", but it's a wonderful fortress to explore if you're not a fan of the show.
It consists of three levels, and thankfully it wasn't too busy when I visited during the late afternoon.
What's also interesting about this fort is that it doubles up as a theatre. It has seen many plays performed here in the warmer months of the year.
For those with keen eyes, you'll notice many of these around the city. They are carved faces, a little like gargoyles and often used at the end of drain pipes which the water would flow out of. The most famous of which appears to be an owl and is located on the left hand side as you enter from the Pile Gate, near the Franciscan Monastery.
A local tradition is to stand on the head, and whilst keeping your balance, take off your shirt whilst facing the wall without falling off. If you accomplish this successfully then you will be lucky in love.
If you find these Maskerons as charming as myself, then you can by a hand crafted one from a seller just outside of the Pile Gate.
Large Onofrio's Fountain
You can't miss this large fountain as you enter the city from the western side, which dates back to 1438. It was part of a water supply system, which was originally adorned with several masks. However only 16 remain due to an earthquake in 1667. The fountain is always crowded with tourists and locals sitting around it, but during early morning it should be free for some nice photos.
Towering over the walled city is Srđ Mountain. There's said to be fantastic view points up here, as well as a delicious restaurant "Panorama". I had planned to visit the restaurant one evening to dine whilst watching the sunset, however there was an issue during my visit. The cable car was not running, and hadn't been for several months due to the company not paying it's tax. It was possible to get a taxi to the top, but this would take a bit of time, so I had to give it a miss. I'm not sure if the cable car is up and running again yet, but if it is, it's been recommended by many locals to visit the top.
Lokrum is a beautiful island just to the south of Dubrovnik. It's only a 15 minute boat ride from the Old Port, and it's well worth checking out.
There are various sights to explore on the island, my favourite being "Buža na Lokrumu", an interesting rock formation with a shallow pool. There are gardens with peacocks and rabbits roaming around, a monastery and an old fort.
There is also a curse on the island which was put in place by the monks who inhabited the Lokrum. "Whosoever claims Lokrum for his own personal pleasure shall be damned!" This now means that no one is allowed on the island after nightfall. You cannot spend the night here and there are strict laws in place to prevent people doing so.