How to make Dubrovnik with kids a special city break
Our visit to Dubrovnik with kids happened almost by accident. While preparing for what has been an unforgettable road trip in Montenegro I came across a London-Dubrovnik flight for £60 (in total for the four of us, skyscanner my friend!) and it seemed impossible to give up. Even before researching the city, I had the flight confirmation in my mailbox.
It was better this way, because if I had begun to document myself before the purchase I might not have included this enchanting city in the itinerary.
Visiting Dubrovnik with kids in the low season is feasible, but unfortunately it is another destination that suffers heavily from too much tourism and in my opinion it is difficult to organize a pleasant visit in high season.
The enchanting historic center is enclosed by massive high walls that protected the pearl of the Adriatic (as it is often called) for centuries.
Dubrovnik is not only part of the UNESCO world heritage list but in recent years has become more famous thanks to the Game of Thrones series. Every day the cruise ships unload hoardes of tourists that run desperately in the hope of seeing as much as possible before to board again their cruise towards the next hit and run destination.
Obviously, everything contributes to making it almost unlivable, putting the dream holiday at risk. Well, do not give up! In this guide you will find all the information you need to make the most of your visit.
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Things to do in Dubrovnik with kids
Walk over the city walls
The walls are spectacular, and they deserve the visit even though I consider the cost of the ticket to be disproportionate.
HOT TIP: If you plan to visit some museums in addition to the Dubrovnik city walls, then I recommend you buy the Dubrovnik card, which will allow you to save some money.
The ticket to access only the city walls costs:
• adults 200 HRK (about 27 euro)
• children and students 50 HRK, (about 7 Euro)
• children under the age of 7: free entrance
Closing times vary depending on the season, opening takes place at 8am except in the winter months when it is postponed to 9am. Specifically in the summer it is best to start the visit early considering that the path is all under the strong sun.
• April & May: 08.00 – 18.30
• June & July: 08.00 – 19.30
• August & September: 08.00 – 18.30
• October: 08.00 – 17.30
• November to March: 09: 00 – 15:00
There are 3 entrances, at the Pile gate, at the Ploca gate and the Maritime Museum. We have used the entrance near the Pile gate (as soon as you enter through the Pile Gate on the left), this is the most used so it can be very crowded, in high season it is probably more convenient to use one of the others.
The visit to the walls is extremely scenic, when you walk inside the historic center you forget that this is a seaside town. On the walls instead you feel completely enveloped by the intense blue of the Adriatic.
Contrary to what I had read, along the walls there are 2 or 3 sites where you can rest a little in the shade and find water in case you forgot it (obviously expect to pay 3 times the normal price)
Along the way there are various staircases, in case your children still do not walk very far it would be better to consider bringing a baby carrier (even if I have to be honest I saw a couple of people with super light pram venturing onto the walls!)
The visit, considering stops, photos, and various child related delays lasted more than two hours.
We decided not to go to the Lovrijenac Fortress (the access is included in your ticket) for lack of time. Inside you won’t find much, but you should be able to get a picture postcard of the old city.
Take a ride on the cable car to Mt. Srd
While visiting Dubrovnik with kids you will make them happy if you venture by cable car on the hill behind the old town.
To get to the base of the cable car you can exit the Pile gate and walk to the right following the slightly uphill road (useful route to avoid the stairs in case of strollers).
Alternatively, from the Strandum you can go left (with the Pile gate at your back) into Boscoviceva street. This little street shortens the route, but requires a good number of steps.
Once on the top you can simply admire the sunset / panorama, stop for dinner or drinks in the panoramic restaurant, take a quad tour, or (if you have climbed during the day) go back down on foot.
If you decide for the last option you will have to follow the zigzag path under the cable car (in my opinion indicated for children from at least five years old)
The ticket costs 170 kuna round trip for adults and is free under 4 years.
Picture hunting for Game of Thrones locations
Even if you are not a big fan of Game of Thrones you probably won’t be able to escape from the attraction of mixing in with the crowd of fans looking for the hidden corner for the perfect selfie in the locations made famous by the series.
Here are the most famous:
- Fort Lovrijenac is used as Red Keep in King’s Landing
- Fort Bokar, one of the towers part of the walls is used on various occasions
- Pile gate, between the external and internal wall is where the riots scene is filmed
- Miceta tower on the Dubrovnik wall is the house of undying location
- The Jesuit steps or “Spaniard steps” by Saint Ignatius church is where the famous walk of shame takes place. On the same scene you will see the Ploce gate and the steps out
- The Rector’s Palace, which was used as the set for Qarth
Walk the Strandum
Surely you will not have to walk long to find yourself on the main street of Dubrovnik.
Definitely very touristy as are some of the restaurants and shops that populate it, but an essential link between the various tourist attractions from the St. Onofrio fountain to the Old Port.
Choosing carefully it’s also a great place to stop for a coffee, while children have some space to stretch their legs safely, since there are no cars around
Escape the crowd at the Franciscan Church and Monastery
This small Monastery is a little haven of peace. If you have bought the Dubrovnik card, you can also go just inside to isolate yourself for a half hour from the crowd of tourists on the Strandum.
It consists of a Monastery, a Church, a Library and a Pharmacy. The internal cloister entertained Liam and Santiago for a while. We left them free to explore without fear of losing them because they were quite content. The Pharmacy (one of the 3 oldest pharmacies still operating in Europe) is worth a visit
Learn the city history at the Rector palace
I would include a visit to Rector Palace if you are really passionate about the history of the city or if you want to see another of the Game of Thrones locations.
The building has an interesting architecture, but if you have little time available while visiting Dubrovnik with kids, maybe give priority to other attractions.
Spend time on the beach
If sightseeing is becoming unbearable in the summer heat then walk 10 minutes outside the old town to the Dance beach and refresh yourself with a quick splash in the clear water. It will probably be very crowded but kids will enjoy playing with the beach stone. (wear shoes or walking on the beach could be uncomfortable)
We visited all the previous attraction, but I wanted to add also the following 2 because I think they’re worth a visit if you have time:
Paddle around Dubrovnik
While searching for activity to do in Dubrovnik with kids, I found these tours to do at sunset. We had little time, but if I were to return I would certainly participate. The tours are very similar, usually if you participate at sunset you will have the opportunity to paddle around the city walls, enter some caves, snorkel and paddle to the island of Lokrum.
This tour specifically accepts children from 5 years
Visit Lokrum island
I am definitely disappointed that I didn’t have time to visit this small island that seems almost not to belong to the Mediterranean scenery. If you have the opportunity, include it in your itinerary.
It can be reached in 15 minutes by boat from the Old Port (at the end of the Strandum coming from Pile gate). From June to September you can board the first ferry at 9am, during the rest of the year from 10am.
On the island you can visit the ruins of a Monastery (another location of Game of Thrones), float in a salt lake, climb the hill for spectacular views, have fun watching bunnies and peacocks, or simply lie back and sunbathe on the beach!
Planning for half a day is more than enough unless you want to delay your return to the crowded Dubrovnik streets
Boat tickets are 150 Kuna return
From Dubrovnik you can start an amazing road trip through Croatia. Moving up North stop in Korcula, Hvar, Split, and Zadar, then move inside to the stunning Plitvice lake and of course don’t miss to spend at least one day in Zagreb!
2 Days itinerary in Dubrovnik
Based on all the things to do in Dubrovnik to give you an idea about how to organise 2 days I put together this sample itinerary
After visiting Dubrovnik you can follow our example and move to Montenegro, or another great option is to head northwards and explore the incredibly rich Croatia wine regions.
Is Dubrovnik good for families?Although there are no attractions designed especially for children in the old town, Dubrovnik offers many natural entertainment sites.
The old town is closed to traffic and this already takes away a concern. Running in shady little alleys, getting on and off the many staircases that characterize the city, and an afternoon on the beach, usually guarantees the joy of my 3 year old twins!
When to visit Dubrovnik with kids
Considering that at the end of September we found a huge influx of tourists, I dare not to imagine what it could be in July and August. If you can, avoid it in these months!
May and June as September and October, even if they are still very touristic, offer good weather and excellent temperatures but a bit less crowd… then if you want my sincere opinion then the ideal would be to visit Dubrovnik with kids in Winter to appreciate the medieval atmosphere that is lost in the midst of a thousand tourists who invade it in the Summer.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
If you are planning on staying just a couple of nights, without hesitation I recommend you stay in the old town. The prices are definitely much higher than places right outside the walls, but the experience is totally different.
HOT TIP: to start in the best way your stay in Dubrovnik with kids I recommend you choose carefully the location of your hotel or apartment. If you move with lots of luggage and maybe a stroller (we only had hand luggage, but two little humans and the pram) choose a place near the Strandum. In this way you will almost certainly not have to overload yourself to climb the various staircases!
We have booked an apartment called Sv. Ivan Petra Stradun Dubrovnik with Airbnb and were very satisfied with it. Unfortunately doesn’t seem available at the moment but could be temporary. Entering from the gate, it is located at the beginning of the second little alley on the left. You arrive at the building door without climbing stairs.
HOT TIP: Get £30 credit if you don’t have an AirBnb account yet
To enter the apartment there is an internal flight of stairs, but the lobby, even if small, is sufficient to park the stroller and luggage while organizing yourself
The apartment is large: you enter directly into the living room with the sofa bed and the dining table. From there you access a small but functional kitchen and a bedroom with a large wardrobe and a nice en-suite.
The windows overlook the side street, when they are closed they isolate the outside noise very well. Everything was very clean and well kept.
In these cases we usually organize ourselves at least for breakfast and we had no problems finding a small supermarket open until late a few streets further down.
Definitely an excellent solution.
There was another apartment that I wanted to book: the apartment Eleganca, This place looked amazing, really stylish, airy, and inviting.
Like the previous one this is positioned very close to the gate and easily accessible from the Strandum. Unfortunately it got booked while I still decided (never wait)!
Best hotels in Dubrovnik
If you are going to spend only a couple of days in Dubrovnik and you prefer the comfort of an hotel then the best hotels in Dubrovnik in my view are:
- the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik: perfect for families this majestic hotel isn’t in the old town, but just few steps outside the Pile gate. It is hosted in an historic building, but with modern facilities, like the immense pool and wellness center and lovely decorated rooms.
- or the Boutique Hotel Stari Grad: this is a little enchanting place, in the heart of the old town. Only 8 rooms to relax and ensure you get all the attention you need. It is also one of the few places in town with a roof terrace where the Michelin star “Above 5” restaurant is located. Perfect if you travel with kids under 3 who stay for free, but after that they pay a fee.
Obviously in Booking.com you will be spoilt for choice: filter old town and voila.
How to get to the old town from the airport
From the airport you can obviously take a taxi (or better if you pre-book one so you can agree the price in advance)
A good alternative is the Platanus bus service that is very convenient. A bus leaves half an hour after each flight has landed (yes, I was skeptical too, but I contacted them via their Facebook page and they confirmed that it works like this)
There is a ticket counter just in the arrival area.
In twenty minutes the bus will leave you at the Pile gate (if your destination is not within the walls you can get to the central bus station and take a local bus from there)
To return to the airport you will need to consult the Platanus website online timetables. They change based on the flights so consult the day before.
HOT TIP: The road to get to the Pile gate is one-way so the bus to go back to the airport doesn’t stop there, the bus stop is located opposite the entrance to the cable car
Day trips from Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is a good starting point for exploring Croatia, but if you have little time for a full tour then you can consider some interesting Dubrovnik day trips.
If you are tired of the sea then this tour will take you from the coast inland to discover the beautiful Mostar and the Kravice waterfalls in Bosnia. The beauties of the landscape definitely repay the long day.
Remaining on the coast you can join a tour to visit the beautiful Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. Kotor like Perast are enchanting villages coming out of a postcard and you will be enchanted by the calm waters that make the bay with the mountains overlooking it seem a lake at high altitude.
Visit Montenegro from Dubrovnik
In our case, Dubronvik was the starting point for an independent road trip of Montenegro. If you are planning to visit also Motenegro don’t miss to check the rticle about the Best places to stay in Montenegro. Dubrovnik is located less than half an hour from the border.
Renting a car in Croatia to cross the border
You can rent a car in Dubrovnik and start a circular tour that takes you back to the starting point.
If, like us, you don’t want to retrace your steps and prefer to go back home from Montenegro, car rental will cost you a little more because you will leave the car in a different country.
I personally had considered going to Montenegro by public transport and then renting the car there.
It is perfectly feasible, but to be honest, this way needs more time and with children the stress of the various changes in my opinion does not compensate for the minimum savings. Unless the budget for the car exceeds 200 euros for week of renting I would not recommend it. Driving in Croatia and Montenegro was easy and we felt safe, maybe also because we are used to the madness of driving in Italy!
HOT TIP: we spent £160 for 6 days of renting. This amount already included the one-way fee. Car RentaL Net was, as always, the best option for us!
If you decide to follow the path of renting a car in Croatia, do not forget to bring with you an international driving permit ( 1968 UN) before leaving.
HOT TIP: in the UK international driving permit can easily been obtained at most post office with your driving license and a standard passport photograph
To cross the border you will need the green card, most rental agencies will oblige you to take it from them, paying more than you should (prices seem to vary). If you manage to escape then you can buy the green card directly at the border.
HOT TIP: at the end of September we found absolutely no queues to cross the border, but I read that in high season there may be two hours of queues. If you travel with children don’t forget water, entertainment, and some snacks!
Dubrovnik will fascinate you and despite how many people you will find you will definitely want to come back! I hope this guide helps you
Let me know in the comments if I forgot something!