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How to Make the Most of One Day in Dubrovnik

A short visit to any destination can be tough to plan; you want to maximize your time to see as much as possible. The same is absolutely true for Dubrovnik, Croatia – a small city with enough sites and experiences to fill far more than a short trip.

The walled city of Dubrovnik with the blue adriatic sea in the foreground.

It is not uncommon for people to spend as little as a few hours in Dubrovnik or may stretch it to one or two days. If you find yourself in a similar situation while planning your Croatia itinerary, it’s entirely possible to spend only a day in Dubrovnik and still experience the best this uniquely beautiful and historic city has to offer.

Views of Dubrovnik Old Town from the top of the city walls.

No matter the reason you only have a day to spend in Dubrovnik – whether it’s during a cruise port stop or as part of a larger itinerary in Croatia or the Balkans, here’s how to spend one day in Dubrovnik from sunrise to sunset to experience the best of Dubrovnik.

You Might Also Like: Consider adding a side trip to Montenegro to your Dubrovnik itinerary. The border is only 45 minutes from Dubrovnik with buses leaving Dubrovnik for Montenegro a few times a day. See the best things to do in Montenegro here for some inspiration and tips to plan a five day Montenegro Itinerary.

A narrow, empty side street in Dubrovnik Old Town with the iconic steep stairs at the end.

One Day Dubrovnik Itinerary

Early Morning – Sunrise over Dubrovnik 

Rise early to enjoy the sunrise over Dubrovnik from Mount Srd, The mountain, part of the Dinaric Alps. While no comparison with “the Alps” in altitude, they attribute to Dubrovnik’s dynamic hills and stairwells.

Sunrise over Dubrovnik walled city with the islands of the Adriatic in the background.

Once the sun is up, go for a walk toward the Old Town. Along the way, stop to enjoy the rocky shoreline in constant view. As you arrive in the Old Town, stop to admire the Lovrijenac, a 16th Century fortress overlooking the Adriatic and thick walls of the city. 

16th century Lovrijenac fortress sits on the cliff above the adriatic overlooking the walled city of Dubrovnik Croatia.

8:00am – Get Exploring

Once inside the walls of the Old Town, be sure to stop and see the statue of Orlando outside the Church of Saint Blaze. You’ll find many interesting statues and churches within Old Town – a surprising number for such a small city.

Looking up at the cross on top of the Church of Saint Ignatius in Dubrovnik Croatia.

Wander to the Church of Saint Ignatius and the Jesuit Steps. As with many parts of the city, the steps were featured in Game of Thrones. Inside the church, you’ll find cool, dark beauty and calm. 

Tourists on the Jesuit Stairs in Dubrovnik Old Town as featured on Game of Thrones.

10:00 am – Exploring the Walls 

Be sure to spend the money (120HRK/$17US) to explore the Walls of Old Town Dubrovnik. As part of its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the walls are the primary site (and sight) people come to see in Dubrovnik. From the walls, you have an excellent view of the entire town with some great vantage points for some iconic photos of Dubrovnik

Views down the main street in Dubrovnik Old Town from the top of the city walls.

Afterwards, walk to the harbour and explore the city views from outside the walls of Old Town. Here, you can appreciate the history of the port and imagine how happy visiting sailors would have been arriving in such a safe port. It’s also a great spot for a breath of fresh air in summer as the sea breeze blows gently around the harbour walls. 

Boats moored in the Dubrovnik harbour outside the walled city.

11:00 am – Lunch

After a morning of climbing stairs and walking the walls of Dubrovnik, duck into one of the small restaurants in the Old Town for an early lunch. Consider Taj Mahal Bosnian Cuisine, a Bosnian restaurant that serves delicious homestyle food – it’s a bit of a hole in the wall, but might inspire you to visit Bosnia next. It’s a taste of the local culture.

12:30 pm – Beach Time 

After lunch, make your way to a nearby beach. There are lots, but Bellevue Beach, behind the Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik, is a good choice. You can take the stairs down through the hotel, or walk around to take the winding stairs on the west side of the harbour. Croatian beaches are sandy… sort of. If you have beach shoes, they’ll help protect your feet.

The blue water of the Adriatic on the beach next to Old Town Dubrovnik.

While you’re there soaking up the Mediterranean sun, take a swim in the refreshing Adriatic sea. Even as late as September and October, the water is comfortable enough to swim. 

At Bellevue Beach, there is also a small cave you can swim to and explore in the calm water. Because of the shape of the natural harbour, you swim and sunbathe until the late afternoon. 

5:00 pm – Sunset in the Old Town 

As the day winds down, wander back to the Old Town. There’s no ‘Golden Hour‘ quite like the one you’ll see when the city lights come on and the beautiful stone buildings and streets light up. 

Night scene in the streets of Old Town Dubrovnik.

As the sun starts to set, wander to Beach Bar “Buža”, on the rocks outside the Old Town – you have to pass through a small opening in the wall to reach this chill watering hole. Watch boats pass by on their way back to harbour for the night as the sun sets beyond the Adriatic. 

People waiting for sunset over the Adriatic on the cliffside bar outside the walls of Dubrovnik Old Town.

8:00 pm – Dinner 

For a customary late dinner, treat yourself to a delicious local meal, such as at Magellan Restaurant & Caffe bar. The restaurant is located outside the Old Town but is worth the journey. The dishes are upscale traditional Croatian and Balkan, but the price is really reasonable for the quality, like so much of what makes Dubrovnik and Croatia great to visit.

Other Tips for Visiting Dubrovnik

As you plan your day in Dubrovnik, here are a few last tips to help you plan your trip. These aren’t specific to how long you spend in Dubrovnik, but will still help you make the most of your trip.

  1. The best months to visit Dubrovnik are the shoulder seasons, especially late August through October. The weather is warm and mild during these months, and the sea is still warm enough to swim in. During our stay throughout September, we enjoyed sunny days, 90% of the time. We also saw beautiful storm clouds over the sea from time to time.
  2. If you stay in Dubrovnik for more than a day, opt for an apartment rental outside the Old Town. There are plenty of locals who have proper licensing to rent their apartments, and many are listed on Airbnb.
  3. The currency in Croatia is the Croatian Kuna (HRK). 1 Kuna is worth ~$0.16, so you’ll get roughly 6 Kuna for a dollar. Croatia is generally affordable compared with other European countries, although Dubrovnik is one of the more expensive cities due to tourism.
  4. If you want to enjoy the sights of Dubrovnik with fewer crowds, get up early. Dubrovnik suffers from massive cruise ship tourism which dock in the morning and leaves mid to late afternoon. If you get up at 6 am, for example, you can arrive at the Old Town before any tourists, which was our tip for getting photos without other people in them. The same goes for the evenings. While there will be more people around than early morning, you won’t suffer the flood of cruise tourists.
The rarely empty streets in the early morning in Old Town Dubrovnik Croatia

About the Author

Valerie Stimac Bailey

Valerie of Valerie & Valise grew up in Alaska, so it’s no surprise she loves sharing stories from there and the rest of the American West. On her blog, you can find resources for unforgettable experiences throughout the western U.S. including California, Hawaii, and yes, The Last Frontier.