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Here Is How To Beat The Crowds & Have A Good Time in Dubrovnik (Well Kind Of)
You are guaranteed a good time in Dubrovnik. It is packed with amazing sights, history, beautiful scenery, delicious food, great nightlife, and there are plentiful shopping opportunities to be had.
Dubrovnik has become so darn popular, but, when a destination becomes as popular as Dubrovnik has, there are always downsides to the upsides. The downside to all of this popularity in Dubrovnik is that the crowds are now (almost completely) unavoidable.
Dubrovnik has been popular for many years, but a real drive towards more tourism in the area, and the deals made with cruise liners has been very successful. That’s great for local businesses because it means more money coming into the local community (unless we are talking about day trippers from the cruise liners – those cruisers hardly spend anything according to all reports).
On top of that, you have the huge success of the Game of Thrones TV series, which was a filming location for the show. Fans flock to Dubrovnik to check out the various locations they are familiar with from the TV, but along the way, they fall in love with the city for what it is in the here and now. They go home, and they come back, they tell friends and family to visit and the cycle repeats. And. that’s just one reason why Dubrovnik has become so popular!
Couple with the huge amount of history that can be found in the city, especially in the Old Town. The walls which span the city are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the whole of Europe, dating way back to the 16th century. Dubrovnik has some impressive beaches too, it has amazing weather, and Dubrovnik has a very busy airport – making it easy to travel Croatia without much hassle at all.
Let me tell you, Dubrovnik is pretty darn special.
Crowds flock to all the marvelous places in Dubrovnik, and without a doubt, one of the busiest places in the city is the UNESCO-Listed stone ramparts. A few years ago you could wander around Dubrovnik without many people getting in your way, but these days you’ll find people everywhere.
Crowds are unavoidable, but there are some ways you can visit Dubrovnik overall without having to elbow people out of your way!
Mato Franković, Dubrovnik’s mayor, took UNESCO’s warnings in 2017 (and again this week) about stripping the town of it’s much-prized UNESCO listing seriously. He announced ways he planned to monitor and track the large crowds. For example last year, people-counting cameras were installed at the town’s entrances and a plan was set to limit the number of visitors allowed in Old Town this year to just 4,000 people at a time. Time will tell how that works out for 2018 and beyond.
So, When Is The Best Time To Visit Dubrovnik?
If you’re trying to avoid the crowds, do not visit during June, July, and August. No joke. Really just skip it. If you’re planning to come to Dubrovnik in summer and dislike crowds, you’re going to become very frustrated indeed!
Peak season is when the Old Town is at its hottest – old stone walls and paths reflecting the summer sun added with the crowds make for a very bad combination if you ask me. I have not been to Dubrovnik in summer since 2008 and can’t see it happening anytime soon.
Winter in Dubrovnik is very pleasant temperature-wise, and although it can rain a little from time to time you’ll get plenty of clear and dry days. Just be sure to pack a coat. Wintertime is the most ideal time to wonder about Dubrovnik, as the crowds are at the lowest, the locals are claiming back their city and enjoying the Christmas markets.
In early February, the Day of St Blaise Day is celebrated – this is the day (well actually several days) when Dubrovnik’s patron saint is celebrated and the town comes alive.
The shoulder months of April, May, September and October before and after the peak season, are also grand. There are mild temperatures, plentiful sun, and far less in the way of crowds. You’ll even find a few days in there that are good for swimming and beach days.
Tips For Avoiding The Dubrovnik Crowds
You already know why so huge numbers of people want to visit Dubrovnik (and why you should want to go too), and now you know when is the best time of year to go to Dubrovnik is – now, let us help you avoid the those maddening, crushing (literally) crowds in Dubrovnik.
You do really want to try to take some of this advice as Dubrovnik’s wall circumference is 2km and is only 140000 square meters or 34 acres – that is not a lot of space for ten thousand tourists
Pick The Time Of Your Visit to Dubrovnik Carefully
Really, I can’t say it enough. So, I will just say it one more time – do not come in peak season. Come in the off-season. Simple.
Also, it can help to come mid-week. On the weekend you’ll naturally get more people in Dubrovnik – as the domestic tourists need a break too! If you can avoid the weekend warriors you’ll have a (little) extra room to yourself.
Be Cruise Savvy
Dubrovnik is a very popular cruise destination; cruise ships have people on them, lots of people. And, all those people have just one day to experience the Old Town of Dubrovnik – so they all land in the city at one time! Some days last year there are an extra 10,000 bodies, all trying to see the same Dubrovnik attractions as you.
Many claim that the cruise ships are destroying Dubrovnik (and I agree), but, there is a way to avoid the cruisers even in peak season (see below), but another way to avoid the cruise crowd is to plan your trip in September and October, as that is when the big cruise ships are heading over to the Caribbean. The majority of European cruises are coming to an end around this time as people chase the sun.
There are also certain days when more day trippers from the big cruisers will head into Dubrovnik, compared to others. But how can you know? What if I told you that you can find out when these days are – meaning your time in Old Town Dubrovnik will be less crowded? You’d wanna know right?
There is a way.
Use the color-coded guide here to check the cruise schedules. Look for days when no ships are arriving, or at least look for the green days as these have less than 3500 day-trippers coming into town.
On the other days, not only will you frequently see more people wandering around, but you’ll also see large tour groups touring the main sights, including those stone walls we were talking about. You’ll notice that Thursdays tend to be quite busy.
If you can’t avoid the main cruise ship days, there are a few other ideas on how to beat the Dubrovnik crowds. Like, how about spending some time in the morning and early afternoon at your hotel or villa pool or spa, and then heading out in the late afternoon when the cruise ships have sailed away and most people are heading back to their hotel to get ready for the evening’s festivities.
Avoid Pile Gate
If you are a big Games of Thrones fan then, of course, you’re going to want to head to Pile Gate, as this was where the TV show was filmed in abundance, but this is also one of the busiest spots because of that fact! In addition to this, Pile Gate tends to be a meeting point for large tour groups too. Arrgh, it is madness there. Really do you want to see a gate? Nah, skip it to use another entry point instead.
Choose another gate to enter the walls and start your walk, and again, try and go a little later in the day if you can, when you will manage to avoid those early starters! Buza Gate and Ploce Gate are two equally as scenic starting points and this map above will help you find them and plan your trip.
Walk Around In The Evenings Or Early Morning
During the heat of summer, walking around during the middle of the day can be a tiring experience, all those stones reflect the heat making it feel like you are in a human BBQ.
Instead, wait until you have eaten and then venture out in the evening. Many of the major markets and stores are still open until late at this time of year, and you’ll also benefit from less in the way of heat. It’s a great way to walk off your dinner too!
Or, get up early. Enjoy breakfast early (okay you may see a few locals about) and then head off on a private tour for the day outside of the walls (see below for day trip ideas from Dubrovnik)
Book A Hotel Outside Of The City Walls
You’re going to need to walk a little further and yes, it will include a few steps, but if you want peace and quiet, it’s best to find a hotel that isn’t within the city walls themselves.
This will give you a quieter base, and you won’t have to deal with large groups of people from the moment you open your eyes! Another benefit is that the price is likely to be cheaper too.
We tend to stay in Lapad – there are frequent buses, to and from the Old Town, it is very pretty and Lapad also has excellent bars and restaurants – many of which are much cheaper than the Old Town.
You could choose to stay even further afield, like in Cavtat or in charming Orebic. Orebić is a romantic little town, and if you stay in the off-peak you’ll have the place to yourself. You’ll find it tucked away on the Pelješac Peninsula of Croatia about 2 hours away from King’s Landing.
Leave Town: Find New Spots To Venture To Beat The Dubrovnik Crowds
Sometimes to have a great time in Dubrovnik, you have to leave. Just for a few hours.
We all just want a little peace and quiet, and in that case, where can you go in Dubrovnik to totally avoid the crowds and chill the hell out? Here are a few ideas:
- Banje Beach or St Jacob Beach
- Cable car to the top of Mount Srd
- Konavle region – a rural area of villages, ideal for learning about authentic life and enjoying the outdoor lifestyle
- Lokrum Island and its caves
- Peljesac Peninsula for wine tasting and sampling the amazing oysters
- Day trip to Korcula
- Find peace at one of the national parks. Mljet National Park is the closest. But you can also reach Plitvice Lakes and Krka Waterfalls.
- You could leave the whole country altogether (just pack your passport!) Get a private transfer and head to Mostar, Kravice or Kotor
- Day Tour To Trsteno, Ston & Pelješac
The crowds of Dubrovnik should not put you off seeing this magnificent ancient city. This is a city which is truly remarkable, all you need to do is be savvy and clever with when and how you visit and do what you can to avoid the crowds and have a marvelous time in Dubrovnik.
Got another crowd beating tip? Let us know below.