Croatia,  Europe

Dubrovnik, I’m Just Not That Into You

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When you think about Croatia, the first city to come to mind is probably Dubrovnik. At least it was for me, and I couldn’t wait to get to this famous city. With it’s towering walls, and impressive history, I was more than a little excited to finally see Dubrovnik in real life. On paper, it was everything I wanted in European cities. I was convinced I would fall in love with it.
I wanted to fall in love with it.
But I didn’t.

Dubrovnik from the walls
Dubrovnik from the walls

From the moment I stepped off the bus at the Pile Gate entrance I was overwhelmed, and not in a good way. Of course I knew it would be busy; this is Dubrovnik- a port city and now famous for it’s Game of Thrones filming locations, but I was bombarded.

I spent three days in the city, and I’m convinced I spent more time hiding instead of exploring. It didn’t seem to matter how early I got up; the city was always packed. I spent my days ducking down any alleyway that wasn’t packed with a shuffling cruise group, which was few and far between. I frequently found myself just outside the city walls, sitting on the cement overlooking the sea and Lokrum island where it was a little more quiet and peaceful. I choose to travel in off season for a reason; I don’t deal well with massive crowds, and those in Dubrovnik were completely overwhelming.

I'd come here to watch the waves and escape the masses
I’d come here to watch the waves and escape the masses

My second day, while waiting for my friends from Hvar to arrive, I thought I would take one of the walking tours. I love hearing the history of old cities and although it was a little pricey, I was ready to pay for some good stories. But then I stumbled across one already in progress and quickly changed my mind after listening in. The guide looked bored and spoke in a monotone voice, leaving those in the group looking equally bored as well.
There was no way I was wasting my money on that.

One of the houses that was bombed... it should have been an interesting story, but the guide didn't seem to care.
One of the houses that was bombed… it should have been an interesting story, but the guide didn’t seem to care.

The only thing people did seem to get excited about here was Game of Thrones. From the men in costume yelling to the crowds about their offered boat or walking tours, to the flags and t-shirts waving from the windows of every souvenir shop, Game of Thrones was everyone. I get it, although I haven’t watched the whole series I loved the books, but when this city has so much more to offer, how does a tv show get all the attention? To me, it felt a bit like a GOT version of Disneyworld.

Apparently these stairs are in Game of Thrones... I guess thats why EVERYONE was taking photos
Apparently these stairs are in Game of Thrones… I guess thats why EVERYONE was taking photos

By the time my friends arrived and asked what I had done so far I didn’t really know what to tell them. Sure I had walked around a bit, but having spent more time concentrating on pushing my way through the crowds, I couldn’t tell them exactly what I had seen other than pretty buildings and hundreds of people. Twenty four hours in a new city and I didn’t know what I had seen. That really bothered me.

The three of us spent the rest of the day together wandering through the city, again trying our best to avoid the crowds. Moving away from the masses we ended up in a quiet, residential area. We actually all stopped dead for a moment, listening to the complete silence; no shouting tourists, no Game of Thrones tour advertisers, and no poor, tropical birds being forced into visitors hands for photos. Just silence. We were in awe.

The one time where the boys and I were the only ones around
The one time where the boys and I were the only ones around

Thankfully the cruise ship crowd clears out in the afternoon, which meant we could finally do the main things, like climb the wall and go up to the fort, without massive crowds. Don’t get me wrong, it was still busy and we still had to wait, but it wasn’t quite as suffocating.

Happy to finally be (sort of) away from the crowds
Happy to finally be (sort of) away from the crowds

Of course the crowds weren’t the only problem I had with Dubvrovnik, the majority of locals working in customer service were incredibly rude. After climbing the wall the three of us decided to get a beer. We stopped at a bar overlooking Old Port and asked to look at the drink menu. A little pricey (like everything in Dubrovnik), but we wanted the view so we asked for a table. We were seated close to the road, and upon asking for a table with a better view we were told no, it was for dinner guests. It wasn’t busy, no one was there, and we just wanted one drink but we sat where we were told anyway. Then, 20 minutes later after no service despite trying to catch multiple server’s eyes, we left. One of the girls just looked at us as we walked out and I shrugged,”I guess no one wanted to serve us”. That was the worst example, but aside from a couple staff in my hostel, I didn’t find any of the locals friendly.

So when the time came for me to leave and head for Montenegro, I wasn’t too upset. It was bittersweet, because after being pretty much inseparable since we met in Hvar, my new friends and I were splitting up after Dubrovnik, but aside from losing them, I was more than happy to move on.

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I am glad I visited Dubrovnik, despite the crowds and unfriendliness it is a beautiful city. I loved walking the walls, and watching the sunset from the fort. Even sitting outside the Old Port watching the waves, away from the crowds, was kind of nice. But would I go again? Probably not. And although I would never say don’t go, my experiences tell me that there are much better places to visit in Croatia.

Have you been to Dubrovnik? What did you think of the city?

20 Comments

  • Ashlea @ A Globe Well Travelled

    I visited Dubrovnik back in 2006 (my very first international trip!) and it was crowded with cruise ship passengers way back then, so I can only imagine what it’s like now that GoT has hyped up the place even more!

    I’m just like you in that I don’t deal with crowds well (hence why I also didn’t enjoy Paris and Prague as much as I would have liked) so totally feel your apprehension to Dubrovnik! Hope you have more fun in Montenegro 🙂

  • Sanket D.

    This sounds so horrible Hannah,

    Croatia was definitely in my summer plans for next year, and I was intending to in fact spend a lot of time in Dubrovnik, but having read this, I’m not sure that I should. I mean I had no clue Dubrovnik is famous for GoT (obviously coz I don’t follow or fancy GoT at all), and I honestly can’t stand GoT fanatics. I find them rather stupid. I wouldn’t know what I’d do if I were surrounded by hordes of them and being lured into one of their dodgy tours too. Geez. It’s an outright pity though, I really think Dubrovnik looks like a beautiful city. More and more fodder for my belief that GoT is the worst thing to happen to television since I don’t know what.

  • Anca | Globaloud

    I’m Croatian and I’ll tell you one thing about Croatia.
    You’ll find beautiful places all over the cost – all the way from Istria to Montenegro.
    Most of them are built on the ancient ruins, some of them are built in Renaissance, some are old only a few hundred years – but to me they are all beautiful. If you happen to go on the island you’ll find even more beautiful small towns, and trust me, there are hundreds of them. But the thing is, somehow, all the tourists happen to go to Plitvice Lakes, in Zadar, Split (where I live), Dubrovnik or Hvar – and that’s completely wrong. First of all, those places are pricey (especially Hvar and Dubrovnik) comparing to the rest of the coast, they are super crowded and apparently the staff is unfriendly probably cause they are also super exhausted of all that crowd around. If anyone wants to visit Croatia, even in the peak season – just look for a less trendy destinations – go visit Šibenik, Postira, Pučišća, Maslinica, Komiža, Vis, Lastovo…or small towns in Istria and trust me, you’ll find the most beautiful sea, delicious food and really cheap prices comparing to the rest of the Europe.

  • Sarah Ebner

    This is really interesting. I went to Dubrovnik many, many years ago, long before Game of Thrones, so it was very different. But I felt a little of what you say when we went to Prague which was just so busy and overwhelming. I found that disappointing.

  • Dean @ La Vida Global

    When you look back on this it may not seem as bad ass it did while it was fresh in your mind. I have been to places that were so hyped up the thought of never seeing it seemed like my life would be empty.
    However, the reality never quite lived up to my imagination. Looking back they were still amazing places but because they were not the “greatest place ever” I was disappointed.

  • Beth | Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere

    Your “GOT version of Disney World” comment made me smile. This absolutely looks like a gorgeous city, and while I love to watch Game of Thrones, I can definitely see how all that commercialism might taint the city’s culture. You thought the crowds were annoying from day one? Imagine how jaded the locals must be, dealing with them day in and day out!

  • Tamar

    I’m so sad to hear you had this experience and of all the negative comments about Dubrovnik! I went to Dubrovnik in 2013, so just before the GoT tours had assembled, and completely agree with you on how crowded it was – this was my least favourite part of the city. But once the cruise crowds left, I loved walking through the nearly empty streets! My fave were the Bužas, where I’d spend time staring at the beautiful Adriatic. Your pics are gorgeous, and the one with the wave crashing on the pier, I spent a few afternoons there, it was sooo busy! Love that you caught it in a rare quiet moment!

  • Alicia Draus

    I went to Dubrovnik in 2012 and fell in love. It was July but I didn’t think it was really busy at all, in fact I’d say quite the opposite. Game of thrones was also only in its first or second season so I don’t think they were cashing in on it much.

    The highlight for me though was kayaking around all the islands and eating lunch in a secluded beach cave. Sorry it wasn’t everything you hoped it would be!

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