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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?