We spent three days in Croatia which were punctuated by our visits to Montenegro and Bosnia. We had already been to Croatia on this trip but had heard how different the two regions of Croatia are, so after spending some time in the central region, we wanted to get a complete feel of the country which we loved visiting the first time and decided to travel to Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik lies in the Dalmatia region of Croatia which is the coastal region of the country full of warm sun, secluded beaches, and simply gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea. Dubrovnik is also a great central location in Croatia for us to go out and explore Croatia’s neighboring countries so it worked out perfectly for us.
Our drive into sunny Dubrovnik from the airport was absolutely stunning, with an amazing view from the mountain pass to the walled city below. The miraculously clear bright-blue Adriatic Sea complemented the beautiful orange shingled rooftops of the city, filling us with wonder at the absolute magnificence of the city. The city’s official nickname is the Pearl of the Adriatic and we could definitely see why from our first glance of Dubrovnik. Though now quite beautiful, as is common with countries in this part of the world, the now city was heavily damaged in the 1990s during the Croatian War of Independence but has since been restored to its stunning current condition.
Due to this beauty, Dubrovnik has always been popular with tourists wanting to visit its amazing old city. However, its recent connection to the Game of Thrones franchise has launched the popularity of the city from relative obscurity into the hugely popular city it is today. The result is great for the local economy and the greater economy of Croatia, but this increase in tourism is bad for tourists like Lauren and me who hate crowds and are not major Game of Thrones fans. Today, Dubrovnik serves as the main filming location for King’s Landing in the show, taking over from Mdina in Malta after season one, a fact I had no clue of before we visited Malta in April/May.
As we found in our brief few days in the city, the weather in Dubrovnik is several degrees hotter than the surrounding area and we arrived sweating like pigs having hopped off a hot, stuffy bus. The steep walk up the stairs from hell to our hotel did not help matters and tensions were high between Lauren and me due to the 90-degree weather, so we did the most logical thing in that situation (no, not go to a bar for once) and went to the beach!
We took off toward the Copacabana Beach which was situated nearby, hoping the water would be warm enough to swim in. Luckily, the temperature of the water was nothing short of perfect and we spent a couple hours there relaxing and swimming. Just off the coast was a massive inflatable obstacle course that was virtually unpopulated. We spent an hour there slipping and falling off the many obstacles and laughing our asses off at each other’s poor attempts at balancing on the wobbly surfaces of the obstacle course. We had an amazing time in the beautiful Adriatic which served as the perfect remedy to the sweltering heat we had to endure all day, though I unfortunately left my lucky hat at the beach and was unable to recover it (RIP). After, we made it back to the hotel in a considerably better mood and, after showering, walked over to the nearby Dubrovnik Brewing Company for dinner and a few craft beers, a first successful day in Dubrovnik in the books.
We left the next day to visit Kotor, making our way back to Dubrovnik the following day to finally get a chance to explore the gorgeous walled old city which had teased us from the first minute we laid eyes on it. Though I have not seen Game of Thrones (I have only read the books) and Lauren has only seen half the duration of the show, we made sure to visit some of the sites in which scenes from the show were filmed in Dubrovnik.
The city walls of Dubrovnik are some of the most commonly used film locations in the show, featuring in the show whenever something – usually a conversation – occurs on the walls of King’s Landing. The most iconic filming location in the city, however, is the Jesuit Staircase where Cerci performs her walk of atonement naked through the city streets in season 5. The elegant staircase sits just in front of the gorgeous Church of St. Ignatius, one of the most impressive sights in the city.
As I mentioned earlier, there are so many other places in Dubrovnik where scenes for the show were filmed, but as neither of us are huge followers of the show, we did not go out of our way to see any filming locations. We did, however, inadvertently come across the Rector’s Palace where the scene in which Daenerys requests ships at the spice king’s mansion to carry her army across the Narrow Sea was filmed, though she is ultimately refused. Many other important places in Westeros are scattered throughout the walkable city which makes it a must-visit for any huge fans of the show.
Of course, Game of Thrones related sights are not the only things to see in Dubrovnik. It is a real treat wandering through the meandering streets of the old town to see some of the impressive buildings hidden away throughout the city. The Dubrovnik Cathedral is one such building, the third of its kind built at that exact location, the first dating back from the 7th-century. It is also impossible to miss the amazing 16th-century Sponza Palace and the Church of St. Blaise (the patron saint of Dubrovnik), both of which sit in the same square. Perhaps the most enjoyable activity to partake in while in Dubrovnik, however, is a stroll along the impressive city walls.
Our trip to Croatia coincided with and ultimately suffered from occuring during the beginning of the World Cup which I have been eagerly waiting for for the past four years. As a huge soccer fan, I couldn’t help but watch as many games as possible which in turn caused us to spend less time sightseeing in Dubrovnik then we normally would have otherwise. Instead, we found a nice sports bar which, besides showing the World Cup, also serves enormous liters of beer, the combination causing us to spend a lot of time there.
After our second day in the city, we picked up a rental car which luckily for us got upgraded from a Volkswagon Golf to a beautiful brand-new Mercedes-Benz to take to Bosnia. Near the border to Bosnia, we were rewarded with one last gorgeous view in Croatia after turning a corner in the relatively barren Dalmatian land and being presented with a stunning view of the fertile Nereteva Valley below. The wide valley floor has the perfect climate for growing watermelons and mandarins and is surrounded on all sides by mountains, the unexpected combination taking our breaths away.
Though there were several wonderful things about Dubrovnik that we got to see, our visit was marred by both visiting during the World Cup and by how we split up our three days with visits to Croatia’s neighboring countries which didn’t let us get a cohesive experience of the city. Regardless, our fun day at the beach and the sightseeing we actually did was definitely worth it and our regrets just give us a good reason to go back. Besides, the view from our bus into Dubrovnik would have been worth the trip alone. I am glad to have gotten the opportunity to see the coastal region of Croatia which I firmly believe should not be missed on any visit to Croatia.