Thanks to Game of Thrones, Instagram, Mediterranean cruises and killer marketing strategies targeted at young travelers, Croatia has become a popular tourist destination for people spending the summer in Europe. The rate that it exploded at is almost tragic – homes in the old city are being turned into Airbnb’s, prices have skyrocketed for locals looking to take advantage of tourists, and native Croatians are forced out into the outer rings of the cities. Similar to how there are no locals in Venice, Dubrovnik and Split both seem to be headed the same way.
It’s easy to understand why tourism exploded here; the Adriatic sea sparkles in the relentless sunshine and the white buildings with the red roofs cluster together in a maze in the old town. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, but the crowds can be stifling if you don’t go with a plan. We woke up early, took the bus from our hostel to the old city and spent about half a day wandering around before making our way back for the evening.
Old Town Dubrovnik
My biggest piece of advice to anyone looking to visit the old city is to get up early and beat the rush of crowds. Spend time wandering around before it completely fills up. Wear your swimsuit under your clothes and bring a towel to dry off, you’ll want to jump in at a swimming spot at some point during the day. Wear sunscreen if you visit in summer and bring a huge bottle of water.
House of Soul Coffee Shop
Start your day in the old town here with an iced coffee in the quaint little alley where this spot sits. It definitely feels like a locals joint, and it’s tucked away out of the sun.
This bar was literally on the edge of a cliff of the outer wall of the city. It was an incredibly beautiful setting, with the blue water sparkling as far as the eye could see. We sort of stumbled upon it by accident while exploring old town Dubrovnik, and stopped for an early afternoon beer to cool down. The drinks are overpriced, but you’re definitely paying for the view. You can also watch daring individuals jump from high cliffs into the sparkling water below.
Old Town Cheap Eats – Tutto Bene
For when your stomach starts growling, stop at this place if you want a quick bite without breaking the bank. Giant slices of pizza, burgers and other fast food options for dirt cheap, just look at the excitement on Molly’s face!
Walking the Walls
So the entry fee to walk these walls is a total ruse and scam. Nearly €20 to walk around some walls in the blazing sun? Outrageous! Did we do it anyway? Yep. I wouldn’t say I “regret” it but it was definitely an experience that was overpriced solely to exploit dumb tourists (us) who would pay such a price. The views were beautiful, it was cool to walk around and climb up to the top of the Minceta tower, which symbolizes the unconquerable city of Dubrovnik. There are places to stop for ice cream, shade and bathroom breaks along the walls, so don’t worry too much about being trapped on a long, hot walk!
This experience was of surprisingly high value, considering it was an all-day endeavor. For under €30 we did a boat booze/lunch cruise where we visited 3 small islands, Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan. There was unlimited free wine, a tasty fish or chicken lunch, and hours and hours of cruising around in the sparkling waters of the Adriatic. It was also cool to see the more remote, quiet islands surrounding Dubrovnik – all of them would be great places to stay on a return trip to Croatia.
Accommodation – Hostel Dubrovnik Center
Due to the massive influx of tourism, accommodation in the major cities near the old town are very expensive, especially during peak summer months. Due to this, we were forced to pick a hostel that was a bit outside the city center (ironic considering the name) but overall, we were really happy with our decision! Hostel Dubrovnik Center helped me keep my budget of less than €20/night for a bed, it had a pool, a full bar/restaurant, clean bathrooms and comfortable beds and security lockers. Despite the dorm being 14 people, it was very quiet at night AND IT HAD AIR CONDITIONING! This was really a lifesaver in the July heat. It sits right on the water, in a beautiful, remote location and is close to a bus stop for a direct bus to take into the city center.
Located really close to the hostel was this gem of a restaurant. It is completely tucked away next to a waterfall. The menu is full of great options and it’s not terribly expensive considering the ambiance and great service. We had an awesome meal here and enjoyed the sunset and tranquility of the waterfall and being far away from the tourist crowds.
Ferry from Dubrovnik to Split
After spending so much time on buses, planes, and trains, it seemed appropriate to opt for the ferry option to get to Split from Dubrovnik. The tickets were relatively cheap and the ferry was large and comfortable. It took under 3 hours, and we brought our own alcohol on board to make the journey a bit more entertaining.
Split was the final destination of my 5-week journey around Europe. By the time we arrived, I was tired, unmotivated to film or take lots of pictures and tired of doing touristy things. To be honest, besides going to the beach and wandering around the city, we didn’t do very much in Split. And it was nice. Spending time just relaxing and enjoying the sunshine was a good way to end the trip. We even met up with my friends Lauren and Lindsey who are on a huge adventure of their own, going all around the world. We stayed at Cicada Hostel which I’d highly recommend even though it was a bit outside the center. The owner is super nice and helpful, it’s very homey and there is air conditioning. We went to Bacvice Beach for a day of lounging and swimming and ate at the famous-amongst-budget-travelers joint Fife, a restaurant with an extensive menu of cheap and delicious food.
Croatia is a beautiful country that has been blindsided by the tourist explosion. While I have fond memories of my time here, I think if I were to go back, I’d opt for a shoulder season, like late September or early October to avoid the hoards of summer crowds and secure lower prices for accommodation and transport. Don’t forget sunscreen and a swimsuit 🙂
Thanks for reading <3