VEGAN DUBROVNIK │3 Days in Dubrovnik - Travel Guide!
When people think of Croatia, vegan food is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. However, there's no reason to miss out on a visit to the beautiful city of Dubrovnik if you're vegan. This three-day guide is intended to help ensure that you make the most of this wonderful little city, and that you can keep your vegan tastebuds satisfied whilst doing it.
Whilst vegan food can be found, it is a rarity, so don't expect to be able to walk into any restaurant off the street and ask for it. Also be wary, as not everybody is fully aware of what veganism is, and if you're unlucky you could end up with a plate of something that isn't actually vegan.The old town of Dubrovnik is expensive. If you are dining there, don't expect to do so on a budget.Consider renting an apartment with a kitchen. Having the option to cook a few meals yourself (even if it's just something simple for breakfast) will come in useful.
Day 1: The Old Town
Your first day in Dubrovnik should be spent exploring some of the most popular sights in the Old Town. It's important to start this day early as the Old Town gets VERY busy later in the day, particularly during the summer months (you have been warned).
My advice for breakfast is the same every day. If you took my earlier advice and decided to rent and apartment, then this would be a great opportunity to put it to good use. If not, then stop by one of the local convenient stores and pick up a snack to eat on the go. There are plenty of small stores in and around the old town where you should be able to find something simple to keep you going until lunch.
One of the most popular attractions in Dubrovnik is the walk along the old city walls. I recommend getting there just after they've opened (8am April-October / 9am November-March), particularly if you're visiting during the summer months. Firstly this lets you miss the crowds and avoid queuing, and secondly you'll want to finish the walk before the midday heat. If you're intending to walk the whole circuit then expect it to take an hour or two, allowing for time to stop off at some of the Towers and to take in the views.
The walls will give you some of the best views of the city and are a real must for anybody visiting Dubrovnik. There is an entrance fee (200 kn) but it's definitely worth it, and the ticket will also get you in to Fort Lovrijenac, which is a separate but equally worthwhile sight to visit during your trip. The ticket is valid for a few days after purchase, so I'd recommend doing the walls one day, and then holding on to the ticket and visiting the fort on a different day.
And finally, a word of warning. This activity does involve a lot of walking and there are quite a lot of stairs. If you don't want to make the entire round-journey, then there are a few opportunities to exit along the path, so you can choose to only walk a portion of the whole route.
Whilst there are many restaurants in the Old Town, finding ones that serve decent vegan food can be a challenge. There are nonetheless several which have already caught on to a switch in tourists eating habits, and correspondingly added vegan items to their menu. One of those restaurants who has already caught up with the times is Marco Polo.
Situated fairly centrally in the Old Town, this small, attractive restaurant has several vegan options on the menu, including a Tofu steak (no doubt their most popular vegan dish) as well as wok fried noodles. Portion sizes are not huge, but the food is of a high quality. An additional bonus is that the seating area is located in a small, private alleyway outside of the restaurant (something rare in dubrovnik as most are located on public streets). This creates a nice, quiet place to sit and enjoy your food, away from the flow of tourists on the busier streets.
It is worth noting that, like some other establishments in the city, this restaurant runs on seasonal opening times, and is only open April - October. If visiting during other times of the year, you may find that it is closed.
Exploring the Old Town
After Lunch you have the opportunity to further explore the endless, narrow streets of the Old Town. After seeing it from above all morning, it's a very different experience to be down in-amongst the alleyways, popping your head in the small shop doors and politely declining the endless invitations into restaurants. Be sure to take a walk down the 'Stradun': the main street that runs through the length of the Old Town, which is home to many popular sites such as Onofrio's Fountain and the Bell Towers.
However, after all the walking you did in the morning you may feel like spending your afternoon doing something a bit more relaxing instead. Because Dubrovnik is conveniently situated on the coast, you can combine your trip here with a little bit of R&R on the beach.
The closest beach is Banje Beach, which is situated just outside of the Old Town Gates. This small sandy beach is definitely the most convenient to get to, but be warned that because of this it also gets very busy. There's also a bar here where you can buy refreshments, and a more private fenced-off section of the beach where you can rent sunbeds, but these are criminally priced, so be warned.
Sveti Jakov Beach
Another great (and in my opinion better) option is to take the journey slightly further away from the Old Town to Sveti Jakov Beach. Supposedly this is the beach that the locals choose, and as such it is far less busy. You still have a small bar and cafe there to grab some refreshments, and some much more affordable sunbeds and umbrellas that you can rent. You can walk there from the Old Town, but after trekking there in the summer heat, we decided an Uber back was the best option, so you may want to consider this from the start. You'll also get some great views of The Old Town and Lokrum island from here, particularly during sunset, and it's a great spot to relax and watch the boats ferry back and forth between them.
Another interesting point regarding this beach is it's neighbour: The abandoned Hotel Belvedere. Exploring further along the beach, past the cafe and most of the people, you'll discover remnants of this once luxury hotel: a tall, broken elevator seemingly to nowhere, and a mysterious amphitheatre-type stage looking out to sea (which Game of Thrones fans may recognise as a dressed-down version of the spot where *spoilers* Oberyn Martell met his fate at the hands of the Mountain). This hotel has a colourful and slightly depressing history which you can read up on, but it's presence here is definitely an added quirk of this wonderful, less-visited spot along the Dubrovnik coastline.
After a day in the sun, it's time to head back to the Old Town. By far my favourite restaurant in Dubrovnik (and the only fully-vegan one in the city) is Nishta. Situated on one of the side-streets of the Old Town, Nishta has a great selection of fully vegan and even raw vegan food on the menu. The restaurant uses a rotating menu, meaning that you can return each day and the dishes available to you will be completely different (which is great if you're visiting for a few days and want to return more than once, like we did). The food is of very high quality, and we enjoyed everything that we tried whilst we were there. For us it ticked all the boxes, and if there is one place you have to try whilst you're in Dubrovnik, this is it.
One important thing to note is that it is a very popular spot to eat, so booking ahead is really essential: particularly for evening meals.
Day 2: Lokrum Island
Just off the coast of Dubrovnik is the beautiful island of Lokrum. Whilst from a distance it may look like little more than rocks and trees, the island actually has a number of worthwhile sites and a interesting history to accompany it. Oh, and you'll want to bring your bathing suits too...
It should also be noted that, aside from the ferry to the island and any refreshments you buy there, everything on the island is completely free and there is no admission price beyond the ticket included in the ferry price.
Boats travel to Lokrum island regularly from the port in Dubrovnik. All you have to do is show up, buy a ticket from one of the operators at the docks, and board the next departing boat. The journey to the island takes about 10 minutes, and will give you some nice views of the dubrovnik coastline (including a better look at the abandoned Hotel Belvedere, mentioned earlier).
When you arrive at the dock there will be a few paths stretching off in different directions. I recommend heading right, and starting your trip with a little look around the Botanical Garden. Whilst it's not a massive garden, it does have some rather impressive cacti, and is usually very quiet as most tourists seem to give it a miss in favour of other sites.
From there, I recommend heading to the northern side of the island and making the trek up to the tallest point - Fort Royal. The main road up to Fort Royal is a long, fairly steep, straight path lined with tall, thin trees, and whilst it is quite picturesque, it can be a tiring walk if you don't do it before the mid-day heat hits as there is little shade. Also, be sure to take some bottled water with you when heading to this side of the island, as there will be nowhere to stop and buy any there and you'll certainly need plenty whilst exploring.
When you reach the top of the hike you'll be presented with a slightly dilapidated-looking round fort. Built in the 19th century by French troops occupying the area, today the building looks like it has been almost forgotten and left to crumble with time. Despite this, climbing to the top will give you some great views, and all of the exercise should definitely help you work up an appetite.
After your morning hike, it's time to head back down towards the docks. Being a small and somewhat undeveloped island, you won't have much choice when it comes to restaurants. However, luckily one of the main restaurants on the island, Locroma, actually has several vegan options on the menu. During our visit we had the choice between a falafel dish or a vegan risotto. Both were decent, but the falafel was definitely our favourite, even if the portion size wasn't massive.
An added bonus of eating in the garden here is that you'll likely be visited by some of the wild animals on the island during your meal. Lokrum Island has a number of wild rabbits and peacocks roaming freely around the place, and they enjoy sneaking under your table whilst you're dining to pick up any scraps. We were lucky enough to have a group of baby peacocks interested in us during our visit, which certainly added some entertainment to our meal. However, if the idea of baby animals interrupting your meal doesn't sound like your idea of a good time, don't worry. There's a more private terrace out the back of the restaurant, as well as an indoor dining area where you can get some more privacy away from the wildlife.
If you haven't had enough of the wild rabbits and peacocks by the end of your meal, you can start your afternoon by wandering through the gardens around the restaurant and admiring the local wildlife. This area is very shaded, so even in the heat it's still quite a pleasant place to take a stroll, watching small rabbits hurry around you as you go.
Right next to this you'll find one of the main attractions on the island: the remnants of the former Benedictine monastery. Whilst there isn't too much of the former monastery left to explore, what is left is still a very beautiful building, with an attractive courtyard at it's centre. The interior of the monastery has been transformed, partly into a small museum, and partly into a Game of Thrones exhibition. Whilst neither are particularly large or impressive, they are worth taking a few minutes to appreciate (both free and no queue to enter), and the latter even includes a replica of the Iron Throne, giving Game of Thrones fans a photo opportunity posing as the next ruler of Westeros (The courtyard here was also used as a set for scenes in Qarth, so feel free to live your dragon-princess fantasy whilst walking through it).
The Dead Sea
Next you should make your way to the nearby 'Dead Sea', which is actually a small saltwater lake, linked by underground caves to the ocean. This is a nice spot to relax and take a swim, as the water here is generally quite a bit warmer than the ocean. As one of the main attractions on the island, it can however get a bit busy.
Just a short walk from here, along the rocky western coastline of the island, you'll find another hidden gem which wont show up on any official maps. One of my favourite things about Lokrum was exploring the unusual rock formations along the coast, and this one (which I have failed to find any official name for despite my searches online) is definitely one of the best. Despite looking like something that belongs on the front page of a travel magazine (see photo below), this natural saltwater pool, with it's stone arch overhead and rock-formed window overlooking the ocean, remains almost completely off the radar for most visitors to the island. So much so that despite being just a minute walk from the Dead Sea where most of the tourists seem to head to, this spot was completely empty during our visit. To find it all you need to do is head towards the coast from the Dead Sea, and then turn left, following the rocks a short way until you reach it.
After your day exploring the island comes to an end, you'll want to make sure that you get the last ferry back to the mainland. Legend has it that the island is cursed (supposedly as a result of the monks who lived there being expelled), and as such, it is forbidden to stay there overnight.
Mex Cantina Bona Fide
After getting off the boat back into the Old Town, you'll probably want to find somewhere good to eat. Mex Cantina Bona Fide is a nice Mexican restaurant that has several vegetarian options that you can easily adapt to become vegan. Options include tacos, burritos, quesadillas, fajitas and nachos: all of which can be made vegan by leaving out the cheese and sour cream. Whilst the waiters here are generally aware of veganism, it's important to make it clear to them before ordering.
Day 3: Fort Lovrijenac & The Old Town
For your last day in Dubrovnik you'll want to check out all the sites in and around the Old Town that you haven't yet had a chance to explore.
Just outside of the gates of the western gates of the Old Town (Pile Gate), lies Fort Lovrijenac. If, like I suggested before, you kept hold of your ticket to the City Walls, then you'll be able to use this to gain entrance to the fort by handing it to the person in the ticket booth at the entrance.
To get to the fort you'll have to walk up quite a few stairs, as it's located at the top of some rather tall rocks. The fort itself is not huge, and you'll likely only want to spend a maximum of half an hour or so exploring it. It is nonetheless a nice experience and, although there's not much to see here, it does give you some fantastic views over the ocean, as well as giving you a look at the Old Town from a slightly different perspective. It is also usually far less crowded here than many other sites in dubrovnik, even during the busy season, so chances are you'll be able to explore the fort in relative peace without having to worry about fighting the crowds.
Another bonus is that, if like me you're a Game of Thrones fan (in case you hadn't guessed yet by my many mentions of it already), this is another spot that has been the setting for numerous scenes in the show. In fact, you'll likely run into a tour guide or two showing groups around the fort during your visit, running through how these scenes were shot in detail. If that interests you then there are plenty of Game of Thrones tours in the city, so you shouldn't have trouble finding one. There were two separate tours happening during our visit there, and whilst we didn't personally join one, they looked very interesting from what I overheard of them.
Pile Gate Dock
Situated between Fort Lovrijenac and the Old Town, this small dock is a lovely, quiet place to relax. This also happens to be another spot that Game of Thrones fans may recognise, as it doubles for the docks in Kings Landing (Fort Lovrijenac doubling as the Red Keep in the background), where a number of memorable scenes have been filmed. I recommend taking a moment to find a spot here overlooking the water and watch the fleets of kayakers float past, before heading back into the busy Old Town.
As well as having undeniably the best vegan food in Dubrovnik, Nishta also has a salad bar filled with a great selection of veg, pulses, nuts and more. Whilst you're welcome to enjoy another sit-down meal here, the salad bar gives you the option to fill up a bowl with everything you fancy, and then take it with you to enjoy. There's something lovely about finding a quiet spot on some nearby steps, and tucking into your salad as you watch the locals hanging their washing out of windows and watering their flower boxes.
(Nishta also have some great desserts which you can take-away too. Like the rest of their menu these desserts change depending on the day, so if like me you have a sweet-tooth, check out what selection they have that day).
The Franciscan Monastery
A short walk from Nishta is the Franciscan Monastery. Built in 1360, this is truly one of the most beautiful buildings in The Old Town. There is a small fee to enter, and although the area you can visit is fairly small, I think it's definitely worth it. The inner courtyard features 120 roman-era columns, which surround what is supposedly the oldest garden in dubrovnik, featuring a decorative fountain surrounded by a selection of palms and orange trees. The whole scene is incredibly picturesque.
Other things to see in the monastery include the pharmacy, which is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) working pharmacy in the world, and a museum. As with any building like this in the Old Town, it can get busy if you are unlucky to arrive at the same time as a big tour group, so bare this in mind when visiting.
Rector's Palace & more
Other spots worth considering visiting include Rector's Palace, Gundulic Square (home of the 'shame' staircase - GoT fans know what I mean), and the many churches throughout the Old Town.
Sponza Palace is another attractive building on the Stradum. Whilst most buildings on the Stradum follow a simpler, more uniformed design, Sponza Palace stands out as it is one of the few buildings that survived the 1667 earthquake and as such retained it's traditional, ornate exterior. However, aside from viewing the attractive exterior and the inner atrium, there is little else to see here besides an exhibition regarding the Croatian war (which may have be interesting if it wasn't all in Croatian with no translations available), and sadly it doesn't really warrant paying the not so insignificant entrance fee to see.
If for your last meal you're looking for somewhere different to eat, check out Incredible India. Whilst vegan options are not marked on the menu, the staff here are generally very helpful once you explain to them that you are vegan and will happily show you which dishes can be adapted to suit vegans, meaning that you should be able to choose from several curries and sides, including pakoras and naan.
Two things to note are, firstly, that the space is quite small with limited seating, so you may want to try booking a table in advance if you are hoping to dine at a busy time. Secondly, as is not uncommon with indian restaurants, the food can be quite spicy. If you're not a fan of too much spice then I would make this clear before ordering.
Overall however, Incredible India should make a great choice for your last evening in Dubrovnik. Finish off your evening with a final stroll through the yellow, lamp-lit streets, appreciating for one last time the beauty of this fascinating, old city.
I hope you enjoyed my Dubrovnik Vegan Travel Guide, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. If you tried any of my recommendations then please let me know what you thought! This guide is intended to show as much as possible in three days, but if you prefer a slower, more laid back trip, don't feel obligated to make it through everything that I've mentioned and I hope you can still get some helpful inspiration of what do to during your visit!