3 Days in Dubrovnik, Croatia on a Budget

Dubrovnik is one of the most stunning cities in Europe – and it has the crowds, and prices, to reflect that popularity. It’s usually jammed with cruise ship visitors who pack into the tiny streets of the old town and drive up the prices for pretty much everything.

But it’s possible to enjoy a long weekend or a stopover in here without going broke – or going insane from the crowds. Here’s your perfect Dubrovnik 3 day itinerary on a budget. 

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Dubrovnik in 3 Days

Just a warning – it will be crowded. It will probably be massively crowded. Dubrovnik is the most crowded tourist site I’ve ever visited – and I went in May, which is not even peak season in Croatia. It can be a lot, especially within the small alleys and streets of the scenic town. It’s one of the only places I’ve ever felt claustrophobic. So if that’s a big concern… skip it. It’s really beautiful, for sure. But that beauty does come with downsides. 

My plan for managing the crowds was to time my activities strategically – and also to head out of the city for two out of three days during the peak cruise crowd hours in the middle of the day. Unconventional? Sure. But it gives you plenty to do in the surrounding area, because Dubrovnik is a great base. And staying in the old city lets you ramble around alone at odd uncrowded hours. 

My fondest memories of spending a long weekend in Dubrovnik are wandering around at 6 am and 1 am, alone except for the friendly cats and the cool stone streets. So if you’re willing to get a bit flexible, and eat a lot of bakery meals, you too can experience Dubrovnik in 3 days without going broke and/or insane. 

How Many Days in Dubrovnik Do You Need? 

How many days do you need in Dubrovnik? This really depends on your other plans and what you want to do. I preferred to spend three days there to be able to get enough uncrowded time to really explore this beautiful city, but that was also when I was traveling the world and had more time. 

You could also do less if your plans are tight in the rest of Croatia, or do a weekend in Dubrovnik as a city break. But if you’re just here for a day or so, you’ll probably be forced to smush in with the cruise ship crowds to see everything, and it won’t be as enjoyable. Plus Dubrovnik is a great base for some daytrips! 

But if needed, you can cut my three day itinerary for Dubrovnik down to just one or two days – see my suggestions below.

Is Dubrovnik Expensive?

In a word, yes. This is especially true if you’re traveling in peak season, which is May through October (and if you aren’t, a lot of places in the old city will be closed). And in the old city, it’s especially true because it caters to well-off tourists spending a day or a weekend in Dubrovnik.

But if you’re savvy and willing to be flexible, you don’t need to spend a ton of money to enjoy the city. Consider visiting in the off-season when it’s still beautiful and less crowded, stay farther out of the center to save on accommodation, and be selective about your meals (follow my recommendations!).

And be sure to check out the best times to visit Croatia when you’re planning your trip here!

Don’t miss: 8 things you need to know before visiting Croatia

How to Spend 3 Days in Dubrovnik on a Budget

Day 1 in Dubrovnik: Get Your Bearings

A detailed stairway in Dubrovnik, Croatia carved in stone Game of Thrones
This is a real-life King’s Landing detail

If you only have one day in Dubrovnik, this day’s itinerary is the one to pick to see the best of the city itself!

Your first day of this Dubrovnik itinerary starts with a cheap and cheerful breakfast, sold at any one of the small bakeries in the old town – a burek. This classic Balkan pastry is very popular all over Croatia, and it comes in many flavors. I’m partial to a chocolate one with a macchiato to start my day.

All the sit-down places within the old town are overpriced, so get breakfast on the go instead. This is a great strategy for every morning of your trip, tbh. 

This is the time to head out on a walking tour of the city, if you’re so inclined. I went on a Game of Thrones tour about three days after the (fairly awful, don’t argue with me) series finale so that blunted a bit of the enjoyment, but it was very cool to see how they transformed Dubrovnik into King’s Landing. 

And you get to see much of the city, so it’s a good tour. But if you’re uninterested in GOT, or you just aren’t willing to drop all that cash on it (valid!), there are a few free walking tours available so you can get a look at the history of the old city from an expert. Don’t forget to tip your guide! 

Next, I suggest a pizza lunch from a bakery, a sit-down sandwich from Buffet Škola, or the fairly reasonably priced seafood at Barba to keep you going. And perhaps a nap while you wait for the crowds to thin, and the heat to lessen, or at least a beer in the shade. 

Once you’re full, it’s time for one of the really touristy but also gorgeous experiences of Dubrovnik – walking the old city walls. That’s right – you can walk the whole of the old city up above. 

The views are stunning, the whole experience is great, but you need to time your visit right. It is HOT up there – in early May I was sweating the whole time. And it’s crowded. And it’s not particularly cheap. But it’s worth it. Go around 3-4 pm (or even later in the summer) when the crowds have thinned out and the heat is less intense, and take your time enjoying the sights. It’s truly stunning. 

For dinner, I actually cooked in my hostel most nights after a quick trip to the tiny grocery store nearby. I don’t typically do this, since I love street food, but whew the food in central Dubrovnik is both expensive and mostly mediocre. You can grab a sandwich or pizza from a bakery, open a beer, and sit somewhere scenic too. 

Day 2 in Dubrovnik: Get Out

(If you have only two days in Dubrovnik, do yesterday’s plan and today’s!)

Grab that burek (the spinach and cheese ones are particularly nice) and a macchiato to go, because it’s time to head out of Dubrovnik today. Actually, before your day trip leaves is the perfect time to wander the old city in relative peace at 6 am, watching the locals start their work day and having photo ops to yourself. 

There are plenty of possible day trips from Dubrovnik because of its central location along the coastline. And the middle of the day is the best time to be out of the city as the cruise ship crowds pack in, so it’s the perfect opportunity to explore another place. You can hop on a tour to beautiful Kotor in Montenegro, which is a city a highly recommend (it’s the city of cats, what more can I say?). 

Another great option is a day trip to Mostar in Bosnia-Hercegovina. This beautiful old city is well worth exploring, especially for a walk over the thousand-year-old Ottoman bridge called Stari Mosti. It stayed intact until 1993, when it was shelled and partially destroyed in the war.

solo female traveler in Mostar on a day trip when spending 3 days in Dubrovnik
Me on my Mostar day trip from Dubrovnik, loving life.

You can even dive off the bridge if you take lessons – a very popular activity with Australians, according to my tour guide and also an Australian I met on the tour.

Wandering the lovely little shops and having a čevapi (delicious little sausages) and beer in any of the little restaurants lining the river is perfect, and so much cheaper than eating or drinking anything in Dubrovnik, so fuel up. 

Once you’ve returned from Dubrovnik from your excursion, the cruise ship crowds should be gone.

You can wander the streets of the old town nearly alone, except for few other strollers and the cats, and take in the beauty quietly. And sip a beer (I recommend a Karlovačko or Pan) at a cafe bar in the old town and think about all the history you saw today.

Day 3 in Dubrovnik: Get Some Sun

Now that you’ve wall-walked and day-tripped, it’s time for a little relaxation, Croatian-style. Dubrovnik has thousands of years of history – but it also has beautiful beaches and islands just like the rest of Croatia

Start off with a delicious coffee from Cogito, tucked into a quiet corner of the old town. If you’re really feeling the Croatian vibe, linger over that one coffee for a good 1-3 hours – if not you can always sip it and head out. 

Today you’ve got two options – an island adventure, or a lazy day in the sun. 

If you’re curious about the islands close to Dubrovnik, they’re quite beautiful and easily accessible. You can ramble all over and explore them actively, or just check out the beautiful beaches on them and get a different view of the city. 

Lokrum Island is the closest Dubrovnik beach – it’s a 15-minute boat ride from the old town. Head down to the harbor to pick up the ferry, which leaves on the hour. The ride itself is beautiful in those crystal-clear Croatian waters. 

sparkling blue seas in Croatia - how to spend 3 days in Dubrovnik including beaches and islands
The unfiltered color of the Croatian sea.

Once you’ve arrived, you can head to the super-salty lagoon, visit the Visitor Center to learn about Lokrum’s interesting past (Richard the Lionheart was once shipwrecked here!), befriend the peacocks strutting around, or just pick a beach or rock to lie in the sun. There’s even a nude beach for the brave. 

To keep your costs down, be sure to pick up a sandwich/burek (and a couple beers) before you get the ferry from Dubrovnik for your lunch because the cafes on the island are a bit pricey. And be sure to ask about the return time for the last ferry – you don’t want to get accidentally stuck!

If you’d just like to chill and stretch out in the sun, I’ve got you (because same).

Dubrovnik’s old town has many beaches close by. Banje Beach is the closest but gets very crowded in the summer. Dance Beach is more of a local spot and only 10 minutes walk from the old town.

Or you can walk out a little farther and hit up Bellevue or Sunset Beach for more room and less crowds. 

Some things to note about Croatian beaches – getting a sunbed will always cost you money, so you can just plop your towel anywhere that has space for free. Almost every beach in Croatia has pebbles, not sand, and some have sea urchins. I highly recommend wearing swim shoes for this reason! 

For a final cheap meal, head to Surf ’n Fries in the old town. Yes, it’s fast food, but it’s a Croatian chain with great quality. (Their fries have saved me in Split on many a night out.) Plus they have lots of options beyond fries, including salads. 

To cap off your last night here, you can treat yourself to some really rajika at Caffe Soul in the old town – it’s a classic Croatian liqueur that comes in many flavors! I prefer the sweeter ones like cherry or honey. Or just grab a beer and go sit on the rocks by the sea – another classic Croatian experience to round off your time in this incredible place. 

The perfect end to a 3 day Dubrovnik itinerary!

Dubrovnik 3 Days Itinerary Logistics

Where to Stay in Dubrovnik

The Hostel Angelina in the Old Town is not cheap, but it’s really new and quite lovely. And the location couldn’t be more central. This is key for enjoying Dubrovnik, because it means you can wander around late at night or early in the morning when the hordes have yet to arrive. And that’s really the best time to enjoy it without being overwhelmed. 

If you want to save some cash and stay a bit of a walk outside the walls, go for Hostel Lina instead. And if you want more privacy than a dorm with a central location and a low price, private rooms in Hostel Angelina or Old Town Hostel are a great option, or at Eddie’s Sea View Rooms for a basic, super-clean and friendly private room in the old town.

Getting Around Dubrovnik

Buses in Croatia are a great easy and cheap option for exploring. Dubrovnik has a good bus system, and if you want to head to another city like Kotor or Split those buses routes are also excellent. I like to book on Flixbus or GetByBus.  

And that’s all you need to know to have a great time seeing Dubrovnik in 3 days! Enjoy this stunning, historic city – and hopefully you’ll leave with some cash in your wallet too. 

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