Where you should eat, visit, and stay in Dubrovnik

July 10, 2021, 12:00 PM UTC
Dubrovnik's beaches are far less crowded than they usually are this time of year, but tourists are coming back fast.
Rachel King

The European Union reopened many of its borders to U.S. travelers again, although Croatia has been open to Americans since last summer. Nevertheless, many analysts expect a huge wave of U.S. tourists venturing across the Atlantic this summer.

With the full EU reopening, flight and hotel deals site Hopper expects round-trip airfare this summer between U.S. and EU airports will average $901—a 5% drop from summer 2020 and up 1% from Summer 2019’s average ($889). Hopper highlights Dubrovnik as one of the best destinations for a summer deal, with an average roundtrip airfare of $897, down -32% from summer 2019.

And it’s easier to get there from the U.S. than ever before. United Airlines launched new nonstop service from Newark to Dubrovnik on July 1, followed by Delta Air Lines adding a route from New York-JFK to Dubrovnik on July 2.

If you happen to be heading there this summer, or are looking for some inspiration on where you can book a trip in Europe relatively quickly and easily, here are some itinerary suggestions below.

Despite enduring multiple sieges and wars over the centuries—as recently as the early 1990s—Dubrovnik’s Old Town has been remarkably preserved.
Rachel King

Where to go

Dubrovnik’s Old Town: The best and easiest place to start your journey is at the heart of Dubrovnik. Estimated to have been first founded in the 7th century, the entirety of Dubrovnik’s Old Town within the stone walls has been a UNESCO heritage site since 1979. You can opt for a local tour guide to show you around, but also take the opportunity (and give yourself the time) to get lost in the historic district’s narrow and winding roads. You’ll find anything and everything you need here, too, from cafés and restaurants (with plenty of outdoor seating) to pharmacies, boutiques, and souvenir shops. Old Town has also become a popular filming site for Hollywood productions, including Star Wars: The Last Jedi and it is expected to be a location in the next James Bond film, No Time to Die. And for Game of Thrones fans, you’ll likely recognize that Dubrovnik doubled as King’s Landing starting in season two.

Nowhere in Dubrovnik offers more breathtaking views than the Cable Car, first established in 1969.
Rachel King

A cable car ride to Srdj Hill: There is no better view of the Old Town and the Adriatic Sea than from the top of Srdj Hill, accessible via Dubrovnik’s only funicular. Tickets range between roughly $6 and $26 per person, depending on age and discounted rates, but it’s only a four-minute ride to the top. There’s also an outdoor café at the top—aptly named Panorama—a perfect spot for lunch or coffee while overlooking the entire city and coastline.

With white, rocky outcrops enhanced by the deep blues and greens of the Adriatic, the Elaphiti Islands are true gems in the rough.
Rachel King

A boat tour of the Elaphiti Islands: To truly experience the spirit and culture of Dubrovnik, you need to get out on the water. Boating is a way of life for locals, and it’s also the best way to navigate the surrounding region for afternoon and full day trips. Start with exploring the Elaphiti Islands, an archipelago surrounding and north of Dubrovnik. There are many charter options as well as a public ferry with multiple potential stops so that you can explore the many coves, hidden bays, sandy beaches, and fishing villages, with ample opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.

A great spot to start your wine tasting adventure is Saints Hills, a family-owned, hillside winery in Pelješac.
Rachel King

Wine tasting in Pelješac: A world-renowned wine region, the peninsula is famous for its wine. The majority of the wineries here are family-owned, but the plots are smaller than what you might see in Western Europe or the U.S. Thus, production counts are smaller, leaving little to be shipped out of the country. So take advantage of this golden opportunity while you can. Many of the wineries in Pelješac specializing producing wines with Croatia’s Tribidrag, which through testing has been determined to be identical to Zinfandel and Primitivo grapes. But you can find something for everyone here, from a crisp Pošip white wine for summer sipping to a bold Plavac Mali for pairing at dinner.

The waterfront at the island town of Korčula.
Rachel King

A day trip to Korčula: Across the bay from Pelješac lies the Island of, Considered to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, the island of Korčula is perfect for a day trip out of Dubrovnik. Reachable by ferry or charter boats, this is a must-visit spot for history lovers visiting the region. Do yourself a favor and hire a local tour guide for a narrated deep dive while walking the cobblestone streets of the old city center, before having a seaside lunch on one of the many restaurant terraces lining the water.

Visit a family-owned restaurant in the Konavle hills and take part in a cooking class followed by lunch.
Rachel King

Experience agri-tourism: Croatia is blessed with an abundant source of fine produce and seafood. Visitors can get tastes at restaurants for sure, but there are ample opportunities to go straight to the source. For seafood lovers, visit the Bota Šare restaurant and oyster farm, which you can reach on a traditional fisherman’s boat for oyster shucking with a glass of wine (and maybe some local grappa) onboard. If you’re looking for a farm-to-table experience, rent a car and go about 30 minutes south to Kameni Dvori. At this family-owned restaurant and hotel, you can take a lunchtime cooking class for traditional local dishes, incorporating vegetables grown on the farm as well as eggs from their own coop. And the family buys all of its meat and dairy products from local producers within the same village of Konavle.

Carrots, three ways. Sounds simple, and it is simple, but it’s also dazzling and delectable.
Rachel King

Where to eat

Restaurant 360: Dubrovnik’s restaurant scene has been experiencing something of a renaissance lately. The crowning jewel at the moment is Restaurant 360, the city’s only Michelin-starred restaurant.And that star is well earned with a creative tasting menu (especially for vegetarians), an extensive wine list (featuring a bevy of locally-made wines, including a few spectacular orange wines, which are produced quite well here), and a cocktail menu featuring a Negroni unlike any you’ve ever seen before. It doesn’t hurt that the rooftop terrace comes with a postcard-esque backdrop of the Old Port.

Linger over sun-drenched summer lunches or dinners, showcasing local seafood alongside regional fish and meat dishes.
Rachel King

Prora Beach: Located at the Hotel Excelsior, the Prora Beach restaurant offers a dreamy location for lunch or dinner—right on the water with a sun-drenched terrace and tables under a limestone canopy, looking like the restaurant was carved straight out of the hillside. Specializing in elevated takes on traditional Croatian recipes, there are plenty of options for meat and seafood lovers as well as vegetarians. And for the dress code conscious, while it is casual at lunch, be prepared to dress up a little for dinner.

Courtesy of Peppino’s

Peppino’s: If you didn’t indulge in some ice cream, did you even go on vacation? (The answer is no.) A favorite with locals and tourists alike, Peppino’s offers a rotating selection of dairy-based and dairy-free classic and creative flavors—don’t sleep on the tiramisu ice cream.

Book a water transfer service with Bowa directly while booking a table reservation.
Rachel King

Bowa: Among the many hidden gems within the Elaphiti Islands, you should make an afternoon of it at Bowa. Located on Šipan Island, Bowa is reachable by through a water transfer taxi when you make your reservation, or if you already have a boat chartered for a day, you can make arrangements to pull up on the dock. The restaurant specializes in seafood and has a number of local wines and beers available. But give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the crystal clear water for swimming or just reading a book in the sunshine on the lounge chairs along the beach.

You can take a water taxi from Korčula to visit this secret island bar. (Well, not secret to locals, but a great find for everyone else.)
Rachel King

Moro Beach Stupe: Spend even a little time on the water, and you’ll begin to notice a culture of hidden bars on islands. While many of these are perfect for Instagram backdrops (and yes, some of them cater specifically to these kinds of visitors), you’ll find that many locals frequently show up on their own boats on the weekends and during the summer, too.Right in between Pelješac and Korčula, Moro Beach offers all of the above and then some. You could stop in for a swim and some sunbathing on the lounge chairs and/or an Aperol spritz while getting the best view of the sunset on the Adriatic.

LD’s daily menu comprises both a tasting menu as well as à la carte options.
Rachel King

Lesic Dimitri: If you’re looking to treat yourself (and you made the day trip to Korčula), then be sure to make a reservation at LD Restaurant. Located at the The Lešić Dimitri Palace hotel, operated by Relais & Châteaux, the restaurant leans heavily on inspiration from local, seasonal produce. While the restaurant does have a beautiful dining room, try to make sure you can get a seat outside to enjoy the magnificent panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea and the mainland.

The Hotel Excelsior overlooking Dubrovnik’s Old Town and the Adriatic Sea.
Rachel King

Where to stay

Hotel Excelsior: Adriatic Luxury Hotels operates nearly a dozen five-star properties in the surrounding area, but none are as well-situated as the Hotel Excelsior. Just a five-minute walk to Old Town, the hotel has immediate access to all the sights while also offering the ambiance of a remote luxury resort with a full spa, fitness center, indoor pool, private deck and salt pool right on the sea wall along the Adriatic. The rooms are as upscale and contemporary as they come, with light oak paneled walls, HDTVs in the bedroom and living rooms, L’Occitane toiletries, a massive egg-shaped bathtub in the bathroom, and private balconies with seaside views. 

Name a better spot for cocktails at sunset. We’ll wait.
Rachel King

Villa Orsula: Reopening this summer, the boutique hotel truly lives up to the villa part of its name. With 13 rooms and a private beach, it is primarily being let to private parties and families. In case you’re in the area, the hotel’s Victoria Restaurant & Lounge Bar offers breathtaking views of the beach and Old Town—the best spot for a cocktail at apertivo hour.

Patio seating at the Vapor Restaurant.
Adriatic Luxury Hotels

Hotel Bellevue: Just over a mile away from the Old Town, the Hotel Bellevue completed a multimillion-dollar renovation in the spring of 2019. Built into a 300-foot cliff on the Miramare Bay, the hotel has 91 rooms, with exclusive access to a private beach and a luxurious indoor pool at the spa. With a subdued color palette of whites, slate grays, and beige,  layered with blonde wood furniture, it might feel like the Hotel Bellevue evokes Côte d’Azur more than the Dalmatian Coast. But you are not missing out on any of the local culture. In case you can’t make it to wine country, stop into the hotel bar, stocked with 180 fine wines, including a substantial section devoted to Croatian producers.

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