Dubrovnik is a very popular tourist city which has recently become well known for being quite crowded and busy. During the summer months, and not only summer, but from March to November, thousands of tourists flock down to see the glorious city walls, the charming side alleys and the beautiful palaces. However, there are still some out there who would like to explore this gem in the off season. So here are some things you should know if you are among them.
We usually consider October part of our tourist season as there are still direct flights, cruise ships and everything is open. Sometime around the end of October things start closing up, crowds fade away, and the locals start preparing for winter. The beginning of November also brings different weather, more rain, and lower temperatures. If you are coming at this time of the year, be prepared for the fact that you probably won’t be able to go for a swim (even though there will still be some brave souls out there!). Also make sure you check the working hours of the museums, city walls and similar places. There’s a big chance they will only be working in the morning. Plan your day according to this and in the afternoon go for walks in areas that would be open anyway, such as the St Jacob neighbourhood overlooking the Old city, or the lovely Lapad area with marvellous views and charming hotels. There will also be some bonuses during November, for example the Museum night and the Church museum night, where these will all be open in the evening, and free. In general they will be cheaper than in the high season anyway, as many other things, even a cup of coffee or a meal in a restaurant. If you are in Dubrovnik in winter, you are one of the locals.
A Long December
Creeping up around the end of November is of course Christmas time, and that also means the Dubrovnik Winter Festival. Dubrovnik is not a big city and it is certainly not a city that revolves around winter time, but we’ve learned to adapt and create a cozy winter atmosphere. Views of the City walls will definitely always be stunning, but now imagine them with Christmas lights. Or even under a layer of snow! It doesn’t happen often, but with the climate changes in the last couple of years even Dubrovnik has been getting some snow. Looking completely like it’s come out of a fairy tale, it provides for an absolutely perfect photo opportunity. On the main street of Stradun there will be a little Christmas market, as well as on the Gundulić square, where there’s a farmer’s market in the morning. Up to 20 little wooden houses, offering traditional Croatian winter specialties, as well as some more exotic options. We also won’t pass up a chance to involve some alcohol in the story, so you can help yourself to anything from craft beer, to mulled wine, to hot whiskey.
Many concerts will also be taking place, all leading up to the big concert for New Year’s Eve. However, even though in most places in the world this is the big night, that is not the case here. For Dubrovnik that night is Christmas Eve. And not just night, the whole day. Typically you will get up quite early in the morning to start getting ready and be in the Old city by 10 AM. Everyone and anyone will be there: already starting to drink after a good breakfast. This will go on for a few hours: everyone who’s in college or working somewhere else is back in the city, old friends greeting each other, acquaintances from primary school remembering common memories, it is a day for everyone to get involved in. After the morning part, you go home trying not to have your parents notice you’re tipsy, but chances are, they are as well, so you’re in luck. You’ll have a big lunch and an even bigger nap, so that you can prepare for the evening part, where you repeat the morning, but stronger and longer. It sounds like a lot – and it is, especially when you have to go through all the family Christmas festivities tomorrow. But it’s worth it!
The period after Christmas and New Year’s is a pretty depressing time of the year anywhere, but admittedly it’s especially depressing in Dubrovnik. The tourist season has passed, the resting period has passed, and the Christmas period has passed as well. There’s not much to do but to wait for things to start happening again. This also tends to be the time when most people take their annual leave and some time to relax. For a visitor, this means that many restaurants will be closed. Museums will also have a closing period. City walls will be at their shortest operating hours. The streets will be completely empty.
But if your travelling experience is not about the heat, going to the beach, being among people, and nightlife, this is time for you to visit. You can rent a car and see the beautiful landscape around Dubrovnik, with barely any traffic. You can also explore every single alley in the Old city, without having to worry about sweating while climbing all those steps, or running into hordes of other visitors. This way you can really get to meet this city. Also, while Elite Travel doesn’t offer most of the daily tours in winter, we do offer our walking tours! Why not take this opportunity and get a spontaneous private tour, as you will probably be alone or in a very small group. Our tour guides can then show you the most of the city, and answer as many questions as you may have, with their attention on you only.
While February might not seem as the most exciting month, there are a few things that make it special here. At the beginning of February, we celebrate the most important part of the year for locals: the St Blaise Festival. Saint Blaise is the saint patron and protector of Dubrovnik. While not being historically connected to the city and providing us knowledge of why he became the patron only through a legend, it has been over a thousand years that he’s been holding Dubrovnik on the palm of his hand, and during this time he has become the absolute symbol of the City. Many things happen during this time, from processions and mass to concerts and games, and finally – the Blessing of the throat. Saint Blaise was an Armenian bishop and doctor, who, on one of his travels spreading the Catholic religion, stumbled upon a little boy choking on a fishbone. He saved his life and so became the protector of throat. Therefore during this Festival, we go to the St Blaise church on the main square, or the Cathedral of the Assumption of St Mary, which is right behind it, to have our throats blessed. The priest will hold two candles crossed over one another, and bless your throat for the rest of the year. This will come in handy when the city gets more crowded and all you want to do in the busy coffee shop is to order your third cup of coffee.
This month is also known worldwide for being the most romantic time of the year, with Valentine’s Day. While this is not really a huge thing in Croatia in general, it is still celebrated in some smaller ways. A very nice thing is the fact that many great restaurants will join a festival organized by the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, and come up with original menus for this time of the year. These menus will also offer a huge advantage price-wise, giving you a chance to try some restaurants you maybe usually wouldn’t have. Even if you won’t be using this, there are still many things to do with your significant other in a city like this. The stone walls and intimate beaches are just about the most perfect romantic setting for any couple. Who knows, you might even become one of many who decide to get married in this awe inspiring city.
After all of this, March is coming around again, and the preparation for the next tourist season begins. There is a big chance that this is the time of the year when we will see you here, but if you decide to switch it up a bit this time, and visit in the off season instead – we hope these tips helped you out. Whatever you decide, make sure you enjoy this special place!