We only write about destinations we have personally visited with our family.
We are grateful to Dubrovnik Tourist Board for their generosity during our visit. All opinions are our own.
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We always worry a little bit when visiting a place with as much hype as Dubrovnik. We had visions of multiple cruise ships being there at the same time and walking along the city walls shoulder to shoulder with hordes of tourists. Thankfully, this wasn’t our experience and we had no need to worry - Dubrovnik lived up to its advance billing and we were lucky enough to be there without many cruise ships. To top it off, not only was the city beautiful, the scenery amazing, but it had lots of fun stuff for the kids too!
Here’s what we did with our two small kids (aged 2 & 4) during our two days in Dubrovnik:
Things to Do With Kids in Dubrovnik
Mount Srd Cable Car and Hiking
If you follow our travels, you know we are the types who love to hike up the mountain wherever there are cable cars. After our ferry ride from Korcula to Dubrovnik and checking into our Airbnb apartment in the heart of Old Town, it was late afternoon and we didn't have the luxury of time to hike up Mount Srd, so we took the cable car to the top. When we arrived at the lower terminal around 2:30PM there weren't many people in line, so before long we were on our way to the top.
The cable cars have floor to ceiling windows, which were great for our little kids who could enjoy the views without being picked up. The views were pretty amazing, but they didn't last long as the smooth trip to the top was pretty short. The kids aren't used to taking cable cars, so they thought it was pretty cool!
At the top, we stopped at many of the viewpoint platforms within the upper terminal. The views of Old Town and the many Croatian islands dotting the Adriatic Sea were spectacular. These platforms are rightfully busy, so we walked down to the lower level to the giant cross and enjoyed the views from there.
Our favorite hiking app showed there were several trails to the north-west of the terminal, so we set out on foot to check them out. Once we passed the Homeland War Museum, we entered a large plateau with trails leading through large, precariously stacked inukshuks. Before long, the paths start winding around trenches and bunkers, which are remnants of the recent Homeland War. There are many good vantage points of Old Town from this plateau and even if you go no further, it's worth a visit.
We continued on and soon found ourselves on a dirt road, with desert scrub vegetation on both sides. The views of the Old Town are gone at this stage, but the views of the mountainous Croatian countryside are equally spectacular here. We were having a great time walking along this amazing path with barely a soul in sight. The odd dune buggy (rentals available at the terminal) would go whizzing past, but outside of that we were practically alone.
Along the way, we encountered more war remnants including some touching memorials to fallen soldiers. We had to walk carefully past a few cows which had escaped a nearby fenced area on our way to our final destination, the ruins of a military complex from the war. The complex was built on high ground and as such, has excellent views in all directions. Our kids love exploring ruins and were running around all crazy, when one of the dune buggy tour guides came over and warned us about the poisonous snakes in the area. Needless to say, we picked up our kids and left the complex in a hurry! We didn't see any snakes on either leg of the hike, and I'd say this hike is definitely worth it - just keep one eye on the ground when you are walking, just in case!
Game of Thrones Mini-Tour & Dubrovnik City Walls
We began the morning bright and early and took advantage of the nearly empty streets with a mini- self-guided Game of Thrones tour.
We started our tour at St. Ignatius Church. The stairs leading down from this church to the square below are where Cersei Lannister began her infamous walk of atonement (Shame! Shame! Shame!). Getting here at 7:30AM had its benefits as we had the place nearly to ourselves.
By this time the city walls had opened. Based on a tip from our Lonely Planet, we entered the walls at the Ul. Svetog Dominika entrance gate. This gate has many advantages:
1) It allows you to get all the hard sets of stairs out of the way right off the bat. This took advantage of our kid's excitement levels at the beginning and they climbed all the stairs themselves.
2) If you arrive early enough in the morning, you will have excellent sun for pictures of Old Town from the highest walls on the north side, looking south. If you wait too long, the sun will be right behind Old Town and your pictures will be backlit.
3) The Pile Gate is the busiest entrance. The Ul. Svetog Dominika gate by comparison was nearly deserted. For the first half of the walk (until we got to the Pile Gate), we had tons of space for the kids to run and for us to take great pictures.
The kids had a great time walking around the wall. There are plenty of walls to climb, windows to look through, corners to hide around, etc. Our 4 year old walked the whole way, while our 2 year old wanted to be carried for the final 30 minutes or so. As for us, the views of Old Town and the Adriatic beyond are spectacular. There were a few Game of Thrones sights along the walls as well (the Minceta Tower is the Qarth House of Undying. Tyrion Lannister commanded his army in the Battle of Blackwater from the walls on the south side near the water). This is simply a must-do while in Dubrovnik. Just be sure to do it early, and if possible try to do it on a day without a cruise ship in port.
The complete walk around the City Walls took us about 90 minutes. Afterwards, we treated the kids to an ice cream cone by the waterfront for a job well done.
Please note, you are very exposed to the sun atop the walls so pack plenty of water and make sure everyone has enough sunscreen on. There was only one bathroom up top (on the east side of the walls), so make sure everyone goes before starting the trek around the walls.
Gradac Park & Beach Sulic
In the afternoon, we left Old Town and walked to Gradac Park. This small, green park is a short walk west of Fort Lawrence and is a good spot to escape the madness of Old Town. This park features a modest fountain with turtles swimming in it (a hit with the kids!) and a nice walk through some trees with views of the Adriatic all along the way. For Game of Thrones fans, Gradac Park is where the Purple Wedding feast was filmed.
On the walk back to Old Town, we stopped off at a tiny beach tucked away in the cove west of Fort Lawrence (the “Red Keep” in Game of Thrones). Beach Sulic is not the finest beach in Croatia by any stretch, but was a nice place for the kids to wet their feet and throw rocks in the water a hot spring day. It was a good pit stop, but if you want to spend anything more than 15 minutes at a beach, we'd recommend going elsewhere.
Our planned visit to Lokrum Island was disrupted by the fact the first ferry doesn't leave the mainland until 10AM - a full two hours after we start our exploring each day. We originally planned to fill this time by taking the kids to Banje Beach which is a short walk east of Old Town.
We walked slowly at the kids pace, a rare opportunity for them to walk without being rushed. As soon as we left Old Town there was a plaza literally filled with pigeons. Well, that was it - the kids just chased and chased and chased pigeons until we finally had to step in to give the poor birds a break.
While the kids climbed on the cannon in the corner of the square, we looked out over Old Town and we noticed a pathway along the ferry harbor which ends at a small lighthouse. We decided to take the kids down there for a slow walk and have a snack while we waited for the ferry. As our son still needs a mid-day nap, we're usually always GO-GO-GO when we're out in the mornings, so this was a nice change of pace for everyone.
The ferry departed at 10AM and a short 15 minutes ride later we were disembarking on Lokrum Island. This island is a nature preserve with pathways running along the coast and through its forested interior. (Wear proper footwear - flip flops won't cut it on these paths). For attractions, there is a small, inland salt lake (the "Dead Sea"), the ruins of a 12th century monastery, a fort atop a hill, and the Iron Throne. Yes... that Iron Throne. The producers of the show sold the Iron Throne to the city and it is now on Lokrum Island. Most blog posts you will read will say it's in the Visitors Center, but currently it's housed in the Monastery complex.
The kids loved the wild peacocks and bunny rabbits which freely roam the island. The peacocks are everywhere and the kids couldn't get enough. The bunnies are mostly in the park near the center of the island, but the kids were more interested in the small playground there.
We spent our time enjoying a nature walk, letting the kids enjoy the peacocks and just soaking in the feeling of relaxation which is so obviously missing back in Old Town. This was the last day of 6 weeks in Eastern Europe and we wanted to just enjoy the experience and not rush anything.
It was perfect...
How to get from the Dubrovnik Airport to Old Town (30 min drive)
Dubrovnik cruise ship schedule (try to plan your visit around the busy days)
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