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How to Avoid the Crowds on a Holiday to Dubrovnik Croatia

Discover how to avoid the crowds on a holiday to Dubrovnik. Learn about things to do in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
We love visiting places at non-crowded times of year so we embarked on our holiday to Dubrovnik in October. We flew directly from Dublin to Dubrovnik, Croatia, where we spent four days. 

Upon arrival, we took a 45-minute bus ride to the Old Town, which offered breathtaking views of the crystal-clear sea and solid stone walls. A small fortress sat opposite the Old Town on a prominent outcrop. 

I liked the little cut-outs in the stone that framed the scene beyond along the walkway leading up to the Old Town entrance. We joined the masses of people (the cruise ship traffic was just starting to trickle in) and walked across the inviting drawbridge. 

Did you know that Old City Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site? I could immediately see why with it's stone facades and fortified wall.

Main Square and Bell Tower in Old Town Dubrovnik

The buildings inside seemed almost whitewashed with a slightly rusty hue. Visitors loitered around the impressive fountain near the entrance. Apparently, the water is potable direct from the taps emerging from the ornate carvings. 

Fountain in Old Town Dubrovnik

We took a quick walk around the main pedestrian road through town (no cars are allowed in the Old City). We also admired the bustling sidewalk cafes tucked down narrow lanes. We were excited to explore all that Dubrovnik had to offer.

Where to Stay in Dubrovnik

The Vicelic Guest House is a Croatian Sobe style apartment with a common area for making tea and coffee, and facilities to store food for breakfast. It is located up a long, narrow stairway lined with potted plants. 
Staircase lined with plants in Dubrovnik. Stay overnight to avoid the crowds on your holiday to Dubrovnik

The room was tastefully decorated and comfortable, but the managers were not always on site. They did not clean the room every day unless requested, and there was no documentation in the room about the post-it system that was supposed to be used to request cleaning. 

The manager took offense when we gave feedback about this, and argued with us instead of taking the feedback constructively. Overall, the guest house was positive except for the manager's customer service skills.

Lunch in Dubrovnik

We found lunch in Dubrovnik easily by following the gaze of a wide-eyed cat that led us to Antonini, a short walk from our hotel. We were seated and immediately served a complimentary glass of iced liquor, which was a nice start. 

We admired our surroundings in the narrow alleyway while waiting for our food to arrive. A basket of fresh bread was served first, followed by fresh grilled fish with vegetables and a salad with warm Croatian farmer's cheese. 

Halfway through our meal, we noticed a visitor, a small cat that slowly approached us. It became clear that the cat had its eyes on our fish, but as cute as it was, the food was too tasty to share. Fully satisfied, we decided to walk in the direction that the jaunty gentleman was pointing us.

Kitten under a table on a holiday to Dubrovnik

A Walk on the Dubrovnik Old Town Wall

A walk along Dubrovnik's Old Town wall is a must-do for any visitor. If you are staying overnight, it is best to do the walk in the late afternoon after the cruise ship passengers have left. We had the place to ourselves at around 4 pm on a Saturday in October.

We started by admiring the harbor with its neat rows of small boats. Turning inland, we were rewarded with views of the red-roofed skyline of Old Town Dubrovnik. 

Small boat harbor on a holiday to Dubrovnik Croatia

We decided to pick up the pace when we saw a larger group of tourists entering the wall. However, the one-way traffic flow on the wall meant that the walk was quite orderly and not crowded at all.

We really enjoyed the views of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea beyond. Shiny domes punctuated the scene. We continued our ascent of the wall, taking in grander and grander views as we went. 

Red roofs an an island views from the Old Town Walls in Dubrovnik

I liked looking out to sea with the view framed by the crenellated facade of the wall. I particularly enjoyed the way the rooftops played with the sun-dappled clouds above.

Dubrovnik Old City Wall at Golden Hour

We spotted a number of tourists walking up the main street of Dubrovnik. A constant flow of people milled about near Dubrovnik's signature fountain below.

Fountain on a holiday to Dubrovnik viewed from above

We looked over the wall into a protected grotto. A steep drop led the eye down to the sea. Beautiful homes featured gates leading out onto the path. Imagine living with a view like that! 

Bell tower casting a shadow on a holiday to Dubrovnik

The wall slowly sloped downward. I loved how the light played off the bell tower, casting a shadow on the town wall. We rounded a turn back towards the harbor again. 

Bell tower and sea views from the Old City Wall in Dubrovnik

Before we finished our circuit of the wall, we took time to admire the stone roof tiles; some weathered and faded with age. 

Views from the Old City wall on a holiday to Dubrovnik

Many had been lovingly restored to the roofs of the Old Town after the ravages of war just 20 years ago. It's hard to believe that such a beautiful, peaceful place could have been so disrupted by conflict.

Sunset at Buža Bar

Locals tipped us off to the best spot in Dubrovnik to watch the sunset. We followed the gaze of three wise men to our destination. We could tell from the way the light played off the harbor that we didn't have much time. 

We hurried as fast as we could as the setting sun cast the lower reaches of Dubrovnik into shadow. We climbed a series of steep steps, topped by a stately church and a tattered Croatian flag. 

Three marble statues decorating a facade in Dubrovnik Croatia

We wound our way through a maze of alleyways for another five minutes before arriving at Buza Bar. We were lucky to find a table for two, the last one available. 

We ordered a glass of Croatian wine and enjoyed a clear view of the sun as it sank below the horizon. After a long day of walking around the city walls and traveling, it was so peaceful to just sit, have a drink, and watch the sun set. It was a great experience.

Sunset views at Buža Bar in Dubrovnik Croatia

Old Town Dubrovnik After Dark

The Old Town of Dubrovnik takes on a new life after dark. The walls are illuminated with bright spotlights, reminding us that our visit was not long after Croatia was officially welcomed into the EU. 

The main street through the Old Town was eerily quiet, with only a few people making their way to dinner. We stopped inside a museum of sorts, which featured an open courtyard and historical pictures on display. 

Dubrovnik city wall viewed after dark

A piano was tucked into a corner, and a surly, one-eyed figure stood watch. Spotlights highlighted a beautiful church, near which a small cat sat nonchalantly. 

We took a final walk along the main square in the Old Town before wandering back into the maze of alleyways in search of dinner.

Light Bites for Dinner in Dubrovnik at Gusti Wine Bar

After a heavy lunch in Dubrovnik, we went looking for a lighter dinner. Gusti Wine Bar seemed like the ideal spot. We looked over the menu outside before taking a seat inside because it was a bit chilly on this October evening. 

The owners offered us a complimentary glass of homemade aperitif, which was delicious and tasted like bubblegum. We ordered a glass of crisp, white Croatian wine. 

Entrance to Gusti Wine Bar on a Holiday to Dubrovnik

We were also offered a complimentary goat cheese salad, which went well with the fresh bread that was brought to the table. 

We admired our surroundings, which included many artistic sea creatures. A plate of octopus rings and chicken with roasted vegetables was light and satisfying, the perfect way to end the day.

Dubrovnik Market Square

The next morning, we woke up and went downstairs from our hotel in Dubrovnik to the market square. Dubrovnik was already bustling with tourists from the arriving cruise ships like the Regent Seven Seas Grandeur

A large black dog was taking a nap in the middle of the square, unfazed by the commotion. The dog seemed to be pointing us towards the small food market in town, so we followed its lead. On the way, we passed a peaceful sculpture. 

The market vendors were already doing a brisk trade, and the scent of lavender sachets wafted through the air. We saw bags of pomegranate seeds and decided to splurge. At 3 euros a bag, they seemed like a good deal. Plus, they are delicious and have amazing antioxidant properties. 

Bags of pomegranate seeds at the market in DubrovnikOranges on the vine on a holiday in Dubrovnik

The vendor who sold us the pomegranate seeds also recommended that we try some small oranges still on the vine from a different vendor. We enjoyed the juicy, tart fruit for the next three days - another great snack. 

We walked to the other end of the Old Town and out of the gate. We saw a vendor making deep-fried dough balls sprinkled with powdered sugar. They were definitely not as healthy as the fruit, but since they seemed to be a local specialty, we had to try them. 

We ate our treat while loitering near a stately fountain. Our final stop was a small pekara or bakery for a loaf of fresh bread. We had a picnic lunch in mind for later... 

🔎 Sidewalk Safari Spotlight

Looking for more ideas of places to visit in Croatia and along the Adriatic Coast? I recommend a trip to Istria where you can explore Rovinj for a day and spend some time in Piran and the Slovene Riviera. If you are feeling ambitious, you could also add a city break stop in Trieste Italy onto the same trip.

Walk Along the Adriatic Coast

We had planned to take a boat from Old Town Dubrovnik to Lokrum Island for a hike, but it was the shoulder season and there were no departures scheduled that day. Instead, we walked along the coast to one of the secluded beaches near Old Town Dubrovnik. 

Hike along the coast near Dubrovnik

We could see Lokrum Island framed by the stone walls along the way, as well as Old Town Dubrovnik behind us. We continued along the quiet road parallel to the Adriatic Sea, which was a brilliant blue. 

View of the walled city of Dubrovnik from along the coast

We approached a tiny church and paused to get our bearings. While we were standing there, we made a new kitty friend who led us to a partially hidden stairway down to a deserted beach that seemed to be closed for the season.
Secluded beach near Dubrovnik Croatia

We took a couple of the lounge chairs nearby and set up a picnic with the bread, cheese, jam, and oranges we had bought that morning. 

Beach bar closed for the season near Dubrovnik Croatia

The sound of the waves crashing was soothing. I noticed that the sea was quite rough and was suddenly glad that the boats weren't running that day. 

After about an hour, we climbed back up the steep staircase and headed back to Old Town Dubrovnik. The beautiful wild flowers added a splash of color to the scene.

Water Break at Grand Villa Argentina

It was a hot day, and we were very thirsty, so we stopped at Grand Villa Argentina on our way back to town. We sat outside on the patio overlooking Lokrum Island and enjoyed a large bottle of sparkling water. 

We were delighted to watch the sun sparkle off the Adriatic current. We looked all around, admiring the views of the Old Town walls and the green hillside in the opposite direction. 
Water with a view at Grand Villa Argentina near Dubrovnik

We soon found ourselves back at the town gate. That's when I saw a few playful birds foraging in a nearby palm tree. Beautiful creatures indeed.

Relax in Old Town Dubrovnik

We spent a leisurely afternoon in a quiet alley in Old Town Dubrovnik, sipping coffee. We saw a curly-haired puppy running after a stick that his owner threw, which reminded us that some things are universal, like playing fetch. 

We used the opportunity to read about the activities that awaited us the next day in Montenegro. As the sun began to set, we moved to an outdoor table at nearby d'vino. We again whiled away the rest of the afternoon sipping Croatian red wine.

Lamp above the entrance to d'vino wine bar in Dubrovnik

A Bosnian Meal at Taj Mahal

After a long day, we went out in search of dinner. The sun had set and the lantern outside the wine bar was lit. 

We ended up at the immensely popular Taj Mahal, which we nearly walked past because we thought it was an Indian restaurant. We were surprised to learn that it was a Bosnian restaurant, such a confusing name. 

Bosnian dish at Taj Mahal in Dubrovnik

After a 20-minute wait, we were seated at an outdoor table under an old stone building. We started with a light soup in a metal tureen, followed by a puff pastry stuffed with cabbage and ground meat. 

We balanced this out with a skewer of mixed meats and vegetables. For dessert, we had a delicious baklava-style dish with lots of ground nuts soaked in honey. 

The Taj Mahal is a great place to eat if you're ever in Dubrovnik, even though the name is confusing.

A Visit to Cavtat

On our last day in Dubrovnik, we had a few hours before our flight back to Dublin, so we decided to visit Cavtat. We had to walk up a long flight of stairs to get to our rental car, but the view of the Dubrovnik city wall from the top was worth it. 

We drove for 30 minutes to Cavtat and found a parking spot near the harbor. We walked along the waterfront and saw red-roofed buildings nestled in the trees. 

Church of our Lady of the Snow in Cavtat Croatia

We then walked through the small village and found a path that led to a small grotto where kayaking tours depart. On the way back to our car, we met a one-eyed cat who wanted to play with us. 

Unfortunately, we had to rush to the airport because we had spent too much time enjoying the views of Cavtat.

tl;dr: on ways to avoid the crowds on a holiday to Dubrovnik

If you want to avoid the crowds on a trip to Dubrovnik, here are my top 4 tips:
  1. Go in the shoulder season. We visited in October
  2. Consult the Dubrovnik cruise port schedule and try to time your visit for when there are fewer ships (or even zero ships in port).
  3. Fly into Dubrovnik and spend a few days rather than coming on a cruise ship
  4. Rent a car and go on a day trip to Montenegro, especially if you can't entirely avoid the cruise ship traffic in Dubrovnik.
Square covered in white umbrellas on a holiday to Dubrovnik

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: How to Avoid the Crowds on a Holiday to Dubrovnik Croatia
How to Avoid the Crowds on a Holiday to Dubrovnik Croatia
Discover how to avoid the crowds on a holiday to Dubrovnik. Learn about things to do in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog