Aerial view of Dubrovnik's Old Town, showing the famous medieval city walls

Dubrovnik Cruise Port Guide: Old Town, City Walls & Game of Thrones

From its stunning medieval walls to the sparkling Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is a city that captures the imagination. If you’re arriving by cruise ship, exploring this UNESCO-listed gem independently is easier than you might think!

Discover convenient transport options, must-see sights (including some Game of Thrones magic), and tips for navigating the crowds. Let’s dive into your perfect Dubrovnik DIY shore excursion!

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Dubrovnik Cruise Port: Is a DIY Excursion Easy? ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž (Smooth Sailing)

My DIY Shore Excursion Rating for Dubrovnik Cruise Port is ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž Smooth sailing! Here’s why:

  • Easy Bus Trip to Old Town: Since the bus station is opposite the cruise port, the trip to Old Town is quick, easy and cheap!
  • Compact Walkable Old Town: Most attractions in Old Town, including walking the city walls, are within easy walking distance
  • Cable car to Mount Srd means no hiking to the summit for views, unless you want to!

If you’re curious about how my DIY Shore Excursion Rating works, check it out here!

Dubrovnik (Croatia) Cruise Port Essentials: What You Need to Know

Dubrovnik Cruise Port Address: Obala Ivana Pavla II, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia

  • Large Ships: If you’re visiting Dubrovnik on a large cruise ship, your ship will most likely dock in Gruz, about 3 km (~2 miles) northwest from Dubrovnik Old Town. On the day I visited, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity & MSC ships were docked at Gruz.
  • Small ships may tender in: If you’re visiting on a small cruise ship, it may anchor in front of the Old Town and you will be tendered into Old Harbour, where you can walk directly into Old Town. On the day I visited, Ponant Cruises tendered in.
  • Currency: Euro
    • Kuna no longer accepted: Croatia changed its currency to the euro on January 1st, 2023. The Croatian Kuna is no longer accepted as legal tender.
  • Language: Croatian
  • Official Websites: Dubrovnik’s official tourism website offers helpful downloadable brochures to guide your visit. Like many popular Mediterranean destinations, the Old Town can get crowded during summer, especially when cruise ships are in port. If you’re planning a cruise, use Dubrovnik’s “Visitors Prediction” tool to estimate crowd levels.”
  • Recommended Transport App: Google Maps worked perfectly for me when I visited Dubrovnik โ€“ its public transit directions were spot on. Want a quick guide to the bus routes most useful for cruise visitors? Check out my overview below!
  • eSIM for roaming in Croatia: For a great data connection without the huge roaming fees, use an eSim data pack from Airalo. I always recommend having a smartphone with a valid plan when youโ€™re at port touring independently. Get US$3 off your first eSIM data pack from Airalo when you use ROXANN1666 when you sign up or apply it at checkout

Getting from Dubrovnik Cruise Port to Old Town

Dubrovnik cruise port is conveniently located right across from the central bus station. If your cruise line is not offering a free shuttle to Old Town, the public bus is a cheap and easy alternative. If you prefer a taxi, there’s a stand at the port, and the ride to Old Town should cost โ‚ฌ10-15, depending on traffic.

1. Finding the bus station from Dubrovnik Cruise Port

Disembarking is a breeze โ€“ you’ll walk down a ramp right from your cruise ship and the central bus station (“Autobusni kolodvor”) is just across the street! Note: On busy days with multiple ships in port, you might need to walk a short distance along the port.

2. Key Bus Routes from Dubrovnik Cruise Port to Old Town

Dubbrovnik's City Bus Map, showing bus routes from Dubrovnik cruise port to Old Town Pile Gate
Source: Libertas Dubrovnik – download a PDF version on its’ website

Port Gruz, in the centre of the map, is where large cruise ships dock. Buses 1A, 1B, and 3 all go to Pile Gate, the main entrance to Old Town, and will also take you back to the cruise port. They run frequently, so you don’t need to stress about timetables.

3. Buying Bus Tickets before Boarding

It’s easiest to buy your bus tickets at the Libertas kiosk at the bus station. Since the bus fares are an odd amount, the kiosk tends to have change. (The odd ticket prices are because Croatia switched from kunas to euros in 2023.)

  • Kiosk: The easiest way to get tickets is the Libertas kiosk at the central bus station. One-way ticket costs โ‚ฌ1.73.
  • Bus Driver: You can buy a single ticket directly from the driver for โ‚ฌ1.99, but large notes won’t be accepted.
  • Day Pass: If you plan to explore Dubrovnik more extensively, consider a one-day unlimited bus ticket for โ‚ฌ5.31.

Helpful Tip: Buy two single tickets at once per person and use the second for your return trip. Tickets don’t expire, but remember to validate them each time you board the bus!

Visiting the Dalmatian Coast?

Check out my DIY Excursion Guide to Split: From Roman Ruins to Beach Bliss: Your Epic Split (Croatia) DIY Cruise Excursion

Top Things to See & Do on a DIY Dubrovnik Shore Excursion

I personally found Dubrovnik to be a truly beautiful city, but it’s important to be prepared for the realities of visiting such a popular destination.

During the summer, the crowds can be overwhelming, particularly within the Old Town. Additionally, Dubrovnik is a very expensive city, especially when it comes to the major attractions. If you’re planning to see the highlights, the entry fees alone can easily add up โ‚ฌ80+ per adult for the day.

Do bear this in mind if you decide to join a walking tour, many will not include admission to the city walls or the palace, adding to your overall costs. The high demand, fuelled in part by its Game of Thrones fame, has driven up prices significantly.

1. Walk the City Walls of Dubrovnik (DIY Sweat Index: ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜… Straightforward)

Panoramic view of Dubrovnik's terracotta roof tops while walking the City Walls, Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the City Walls are the crown jewels. It’s rare to find such extensive, incredibly well-preserved medieval fortifications anywhere in Europe! So while the entry fee is steep, walking the full loop (about an hour) is an unforgettable experience.

Fans of Games of Thrones will recognise the city walls as the imposing defenses of King’s Landing. When I did the walk, it was hard not to imagine dragons flying over me!

The initial climb involves a steep staircase, but the rest of the walk is manageable. Just remember, there’s virtually no shade, so bring a hat, sunscreen, and water. Crowds can get intense in summer, so make this your first stop โ€“ the earlier, the better!

To get there, take the bus from the cruise port to Pile Gate as above. Tickets are โ‚ฌ35 for adults and โ‚ฌ15 for kids over 7. Walk through the gate, follow the signs to the ticket office, and you’ll find the main staircase nearby.

2. Visit Luลพa Square, Rector’s Palace & the Cathedral (DIY Sweat Index: ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜… Straightforward)

Luลพa Square is the vibrant heart of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Here, the beautiful Church of St. Blaise, built in the Venetian Baroque style, commands attention. St. Blaise is Dubrovnik’s beloved patron saint, and according to legend, he appeared in a vision to warn the city of an imminent Venetian attack, ultimately aiding in its defense. Inside the church, seek out the striking 15th-century silver statue of St. Blaise holding a model of Dubrovnik.

Almost directly opposite the church stands Sponza Palace (“Palaฤa Sponza”), a stunning blend of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. This remarkable building is one of the few in the Old Town to have largely survived the devastating 1667 earthquake. Today, Sponza Palace houses the Dubrovnik State Archive. While the archive itself isn’t open to the public, you may find fascinating displays on the ground floor.

Dubronvik Old Harbour, accessible just behind Sponza Palace through the archway

Stroll through the small archway, and you’ll emerge at the charming Old Port where you can walk alongside the magnificent city fortifications.

Or walk in the opposite direction from Luลพa Square to get to the Rector’s Palace. Today, the Rector’s Palace serves as the Cultural History Museum. Its beautifully restored rooms showcase artworks and period history furnishings, giving a glimpse into the lives of Dubrovnik’s elite. Entry to the Rector’s Palace is โ‚ฌ15.

Walking towards Rector's Palace in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Walking towards Rector’s Palace

When you reach the Rector’s Palace, you won’t miss the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Built in the Baroque style, it rose from the ruins of the 12th century Romanesque Cathedral destroyed in the 1667 earthquake. According to legend, the original cathedral was partially funded by Richard the Lionheart, who was shipwrecked nearby and vowed to build a church in gratitude for his survival. Pop in and have a look; it’s one of the few free attractions in Dubrovnik!

Fascade of the Cathedral of the Assumption of Virgin Mary in Dubrovnik, Croatia

3. Explore King’s Landing on a DIY Game of Thrones Tour (DIY Sweat Index: ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜… Straightforward)

View of Dubrovnik's Old Town, looking like it's straight out from Game of Thrones!
Image by Velimir Marinkovic from Pixabay

Dubrovnik served as the primary filming location for King’s Landing. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, walking around Dubrovnik will feel like stepping right into Westeros!

Here are the locations used in some iconic scenes:

  • Pile Gate was featured in many scenes as the main entrance to Westeros
  • Jesuit Staircase was the site of Cersei’s confrontation with the Faith Militant and forced to walk down the baroque staircase in her walk of shame
  • St Dominic Street (“Ul. Svetog Dominika“) was used for many market scenes
  • Rector’s Palace was used as the residence of the Spice King in Qarth

4. Catch the cable car up to Mount Srd (DIY Sweat Index: ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜… Straightforward)

View of Dubronvik's Old Town from Mount Srd, Dubrovnik
View of Dubrovnik’s Old Town by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay

Mount Srd offers breathtaking views of Dubrovnik’s terracotta rooftops nestled beside the sparkling Adriatic Sea โ€“ a truly unforgettable sight, especially at sunset! If you’re planning to watch the sunset, arrive early to get a good spot. At the summit, you’ll find a restaurant, a historical exhibit about the Homeland War, and trails for a scenic short hike.

Getting There via cable car: The lower cable car station is conveniently located just outside the Old Town walls, north of Ploฤe Gate. Look for the signs, and you’ll be whisked to the top in minutes! Return tickets cost โ‚ฌ27 for adults and โ‚ฌ7 for kids up to 12 (cards accepted).

Hike: Feeling adventurous? The trailhead is a 20-minute walk from Pile Gate (at Staza Prema Utvrdi Imperial). The 2.5km (1.5-mile) hike is fairly gentle, taking around 30-45 minutes. Remember, there’s little shade, so afternoons or evenings are best.

How to avoid crowds from cruise ships in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik’s beauty attracts crowds but don’t despair! To beat the cruise ship rush, here’s my top tips to avoid the crowds as much as possible:

  • Timing is key: Most group walking tours start around mid-morning to early afternoon. If you plan on walking the city walls, get there as early as possible. When the crowds arrive around mid-morning, escape to the outskirts of Old Town, perhaps to Fort Lovrijenac, enjoy the harbour views at Ploฤe Gate or take a dip near the maritime museum
  • Shoulder Season Travel: If you haven’t booked your cruise yet, visiting Dubrovnik during the shoulder seasons (spring or fall) means fewer crowds. Many attractions and shops are closed during winter though.

These tips will help you enjoy Dubrovnik even on a busy day with multiple cruise ships, maximising your shore excursion time.

Featured Image by Geio Tischler on Unsplash

If this article has been useful to you, I would really appreciate you sharing it! I hope that you’ll have a wonderful port day at Dubrovnik.

And if you’re interested in seeing a blog post on a DIY Game of Thrones Tour in Dubrovnik, do drop me a comment below!

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