Lokrum Island is a stunning and uninhabited nature reserve 600 metres from Dubrovnik’s historic harbour out in the Adriatic Sea which contains the ruins of a former Benedictine monastery among other remains.
The name Lokrum comes from the Latin ‘acrumen’ meaning ‘sour fruit’, a reference to the oranges and lemons that still grow on the island today.
It was first mentioned in 1023 by the Benedictine monks who built the (now ruined) abbey and monastery and in 1192. Legend has it that the island gave shelter to Richard the Lionheart who became shipwrecked on his return from the Third Crusade. By way of thanks, he built the Romanesque cathedral on the mainland.
The island changed ownership many times and after remaining untouched for centuries, Maximilian of Habsburg, the brother of Austrian emperor Francis Joseph I bought the islet in 1859 and set about turning it into a stunning nature reserve.
Today you can find the fascinating the ruins of the Benedictine monastery nestled among olive groves, citrus trees, forests of pine, laurel, oak, cypress and ash trees. If you go to the southern tip, you’ll find a small saltwater lake, all under the protection of UNESCO. In addition, the only inhabitants of the island are exquisite peacocks and ‘moments in their company can feel wonderfully decadent.’
Perhaps Lokrum Island’s biggest claim to fame in recent times is it’s place on the Game of Thrones map as the interior of Qarth, the place where Daenerys is granted access to the city by Xaro Xhoan Daxos.
Less than a mile wide at its widest point, Lokrum Island is accessible by a taxi-boat from Dubrovnik and the return price of around £10/€13 includes the island’s entrance fee.
To avoid suprises, it’s worth noting that to the southeast of the island is a naturist beach. It’s clearly marked ‘FKK’ which stands for ‘Freikörperkultur’ or ‘free body culture’ so if you’re of a sensitive nature, stick to the ruins and the amazing plants, trees, flowers and peacocks!
The Legend of Lokrum island
In 1023., on the tiny island of Lokrum opposite Dubrovnik, the monks of Sv. Benedict founded the abbey of St. Mary which was subordinated to the Abbey of Monte Casino. "The black Benedictines" as the citizens called them because of their black religious clothing, lived on the island for almost seven centuries exposed to the winds, waves and pirate pillaging. They survived the terrible earthquake of 1667. not knowing that it was the beginning of the end of their presence on this beautiful island of the Dubrovnik Republic.
After the earthquake the economic power of the Republic started to weaken. In need of money, they turned to the Benedictines, but all of their income was transfered to Italy. Quite angry, the Dubrovnik Republic no longer wanted the monks on Lokrum, and on the proposal of three of their nobles the Senate sold Lokrum to nine of Dubrovnik citizens in 1798. As the monks couldn't oppose the decisions of the Republic and the Pope (Pio the 6th verified the decision), they had to leave the island, their properties and their monastery.
Before leaving, in a unique and macabre way they "thanked" the ones because of which they had to leave.
The procession started in the middle of night night, just before leaving the island. Holding candles upside-down, they circled the island three times, cursing those because of whom they were expelled after seven centuries. At dawn, dead-tired, the monks embarked on a boat and left the island, never looking back. Nevermore did they return. The legend of the curse got its actual verification as the curse reached all the island's owners until the end of the 19th century.
Death first struck three of those Dubrovnik nobles who suggested the Senate that the Benedictines should leave Lokrum. One was killed by his servant, the other drowned, and the third jumped into his death from Lovrijenac fortress.
The nine citizens who were the first to purchase it got so scared that they immediately sold the island to Captain Tomasevic, an extremely wealthy man that suddenly became bankrupt and was forced to sell it further on.
Maximilian I of Mexico
The archduke Maximilian, the younger brother of the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I became the new owner. Maximilian discovered Lokrum in 1859. when he, as Navy Commander of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, had to honour seaman who died in the explosion of the warship "Triton". He was impressed by the silence of the thick aromatic forest that he immediately decided to purchase the island and to turn it into his summer manor.
However, when he became Emperor of Mexico and left for his duties, the curse caught up. His close friend and military advisor Colonel Miguel López betrayed him and Maximilian was executed by a firing squad. His wife Archduchess Charlotte of Austria (princess of Belgium), who also resided on the island where they thought themselves to be the happiest married couple on Earth, went completely insane.
Maximilian's nephew inherited the island. Already on the first day of his arrival, a very strong wind overturned his boat between Dubrovnik and the island. He drowned.
Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria
Rudolf (the heir to the throne of Austria and the only son of the emperor Francis Joseph I. and the empress Elisabeth of Bavaria) took a liking to Lokrum and moved there. After a while, Rudolf fell in love with the beautiful mistress Maria Vetsera. Vetsera and Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria were found dead, an apparent murder suicide, at his hunting lodge in Mayerling in Vienna woods. They committed the sensational double suicide, which was never quite explained (the Mayerling Incident).
Getting rid of the island
The empress Elisabeth offered the island to the Benedictines in order to "get rid of it" but Benedictine monks remained faithful to the vow of their elder brothers. The Habsburgs even gave their money to Dubrovnik Dominicans for their purchase of the island as the new owners, under one condition: that Habsburg's could re-purchase the island when and if they so desired. But neither that was the end of the curse.
Back to Habsburg hands
An auction was held for the sale of Lokrum, and as bids were made a telegram ordered the auction to be stopped. Princess Elizabeth Windischgratz (the daughter of Rudolf) persuaded her grandfather Francis Joseph I to buy the island. Five years later he registered it under his name and shortly after, the empress Elisabeth, who thought escaped her faith by selling the island, was killed by the Italian anarchist Lucceni, in a case of mistaken identity.
The fall of house Habsburg
The archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sophia intended to spend the summer of 1914. on the island, but were prevented by an assassin's bullet in Sarajevo. In 1918., after 700 years, the family lost their crown.
Lokrum today is an excursion site for tourists but also due to its calmness a very popular day break for locals. Its flora amazes its visitors, thousands of crickets chirp and the untouched shore attracts swimmers, divers and cliff divers.
Feeling the urge to buy the island? It is said that the curse will be lifted when all the wax from the candles is picked up.
No. The island itself has a unique history, and it is supposedly cursed for anyone who stays overnight on the island.
Lokrum island is easily accessible via ferry service. There are also small boats that will organize tours for you and private transport but I suggest the ferry service. A round trip ticket costs ____.
Dubrovnik legends and tales
The legend is associated with the founding of the Benedictine monastery on the island of Lokrum. According to this legend, a great fire erupted in Dubrovnik somewhere around the year 1023. The inhabitants of Dubrovnik made a vow to Saint Benedict that they would construct a monastery in his name if the city would be spared. The fire was extinguished instantly, and the thankful citizens of Dubrovnik then built a Benedictine monastery and church on Lokrum, which they dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In reality, the fact remains that the Benedictine monastery was founded in the year 1023, for real copies of the original documents dating to the 13th century do exist. Further, the fact remains that in 1023, and precisely on the Day of St. Benedict, most of Dubrovnik was consumed by fire, as it was mostly constructed out of wood. Some even insist that the archbishop's palace was also destroyed.
The establishment of the monastery and the donation of the land on Lokrum were decided on by the Dubrovnik archbishop Vital and by the preses, the Latin term for the head of the city of Dubrovnik, Lampridija, together with all the aristocracy. The Benedictine founders were the monk Peter from St. Mary's Monastery in Tremit near Puglia, and the Dubrovnik priest Leo, who took the vows of a Benedictine monk at this time. A direct link was established with the Benedictine seat in Monte Cassino, immediately after the establishment of the monastery.
The Benedictine's also had a monastery and church in Rožat in Rijeka Dubrovačka by either the end of the 11th or the beginning of the 12th century. Desideria (1058-1087), the Abbot of the Benedictine monastery in Monte Cassino, ordered the fabrication of the church doors for the monastery in 1066. The door posts were covered with silver plaques that depicted the names of all the churches belonging to the monastery. Later, the Abbot Oderizia II (1121-1126) added on sixteen more plaques with the names of new churches, which also lists St. Mary's Church in Rožat. The Benedictines abandoned the monastery during the 12th century.
The descendants of Count Savin in Dubrovnik took advantage of this and appropriated the monastery with its entire property. The Lokrum monks protested sharply against this move, as Savin's bequest indicated that the monastery would belong to the monks if there were no Benedictines from Monte Cassino in the regional monastery in Rožat. On this basis, the Dubrovnik consuls passed a decision on April 09, 1198, whereby the monastery with its church and property in Rožat became the property of the Benedictine monastery on Lokrum. The Pope's legate, Ivan, who was the curate of the Apostolic Succession, threatened anyone who would oppose this with a curse.
However, from 1295 to 1321, the Benedictines gradually abandoned Rožat, moving completely to Lokrum. In the Dubrovnik region, there was one more male Benedictine monastery, the "St. Andrew of the open seas" (in pelago). In the 12th century, they owned the entire island of Mljet with its monastery and the Church of St. Mary. Mention should be made of the notable cultural workers in the Benedictine order, the poets Mavra Vetranoviæ and Ignjat Ðurdeviæ, as well as the historian Mavra Orbin.
The legend of the Lokrum curse originated when a French army general ordered the closure of the monastery and the expulsion of the Benedictines. The Dubrovnik aristocratic families Gozze, Pozza and Sorgo were chosen to convey these orders s to the monks.
According to legend, the monks were aghast with the French general's order and did all they could to remain where they had resided for centuries. When all else failed, one night they went to the Church of St. Mary to serve one last mass to God on the island. The monks donned their hooded cloaks and proceeded to circumnavigate the island in a long and solemn, single-file procession. Symbolically, as a curse, they turned their lighted candles upside-down towards the earth, so that the flame licked the wax, which left a melted trail.
They went around the island this way three times, which took the entire night, ceremoniously chanting the terrible and harsh words of the curse:
"Whosoever claims Lokrum for his own personal pleasure shall be damned!"
At dawn, dead-tired, they embarked on a boat and left the island, never once looking back. And, nevermore did they return.
The legend says that the curse laid on the island soon began to take effect. One of the three Dubrovnik aristocrats jumped out of a window, the other drowned in the sea on the way to Lokrum, and a servant killed the third.
Captain Tomaševic became the owner of the island following the fall of the Republic. He was an extremely wealthy man, but he suddenly became bankrupt soon after having purchased the island, which forced him to sell Lokrum. It was sold to the archduke Maximilian, the younger brother of the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I.
Maximilian discovered Lokrum by chance in 1859 when the ship "Triton", following an explosion, sank in front of Lokrum. As Navy Commander of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, he had to honor the dead seamen. On this occasion, Maximilian set foot on the island for the first time.
He saw the ancient Benedictine monastery from the 11th century, which had been damaged in the earthquake of 1667. After the whirlwind of Schonbrunn, he was impressed by the silence of the thick aromatic forest. He decided to purchase the island and to turn it into his summer manor already during the first night that he spent in a monk's cell of the old monastery. He added on a belvedere, placing his initials everywhere, even on locks and keys, so as to emphasize his ownership of Lokrum. He had no idea that his actions only further provoked the curse that was directed against the personal ownership of Lokrum.
Maximilian, as the owner of a paradise, enjoyed marking pathways throughout the forests of pine, bay, palm, cypress, aloja, oleander, orange, lemon, lilies and roses, all around the island and up to its peak, to the fortress "Fort Royal" built by Marmont in 1806, when his troops entered in Dubrovnik. He settled colonies of canaries, parrots and peacocks on the island. He planted vanilla and Indian fig trees. Here, he read verses by Heine out loud, while his Belgian wife, princess Charlotte, embroidered silk pillows. So close, yet so far from Europe and court scandals, they thought themselves to be the happiest married couple on earth. Looking on all of this intoxicating and moving beauty, Charlotte would write letters to her cousins and friends about the happiness that she and Maximilian enjoyed, after having spent hours playing the piano long into the night.
Then, duty, or most probably the Benedictine curse, took him to Mexico, where he was chosen emperor in 1864. After only three years, he was taken prisoner by the soldiers of the rebellious general Juarez. He was shot in Quereteri on June 19, 1867.
The island was then offered for sale to the Dubrovnik County. Legend says it would not buy it even for the trifle sum of 20,000 silver coins. Awhile later, it was bought by Dujmovic from Poljica, who originated from a family that had once received the title "conte de Polisa" from Venice. He also met with quick and complete financial disaster. The island was then purchased by the lawyer Dr. Jakopovic from Budapest, who was renowned for managing some of the business affairs of the emperor Francis Joseph I. However, shortly after having purchased the island, it was discovered that he had quite illegally assigned himself the title of Doctor of Legal Sciences, and that he was in fact - a barber! The investigation, which had caused a huge scandal in Viennese and Budapest societies, revealed that he adopted this title from a dead soldier following the revolution in 1848. His property was not confiscated, thanks to the Emperor's intervention, in an effort to lessen his own personal shame, but he was totally ruined morally. Thrown out of the society that he was accustomed to, he died shortly, unappeased and shamed.
His nephew, a young Hussar officer, inherited the island. Already on the first day of his arrival, a very strong wind overturned his boat between Dubrovnik and the island, and he drowned. The Habsburg's then reappeared as the owners again. Rudolf, the heir to the throne and the only son of the emperor Francis Joseph I, and the empress Elisabeth of Bavaria, took a liking to Lokrum. He invited his wife, Stefanie, to Lokrum. They stayed there for a time, adding exotic plants to the island's park. However, Rudolf soon fell in love with the beautiful mistress Maria Vecer. Together, in the Mayerling palace, they committed the sensational double suicide, which was never quite explained.
The empress Elisabeth (1837-1898), prompted by stories of the curse, decided that the royal family had to rid itself of this island. Before leaving for Corfu, she offered it to the Benedictines, in the hope that the curse would thereby be lifted. However, they remained faithful to the vow made by their brothers previously that they would never return to this island and turned down the offer from the royal court. The emperor's family, obsessed with the fear of losing yet another member, after having already lost two, gave its money to the Dubrovnik Dominicans for them to purchase the island as the new owners, under the condition that any of the Habsburg's could re-purchase the island when and if they so desired.
And so, there really was a femme fatale found to do this. At the auction that was announced for the sale of Lokrum, the bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer appeared with an offer of 30,000 forinths through an intermediary, Mihovil Pavlinovic. However, a telegram ordered the auction to be stopped. The assumption that "someone from the emperor's household wished to buy Lokrum" proved to be true. It was the granddaughter of Francis Joseph I, Princess Elizabeth Windischgratz, who was the daughter of Rudolph, the heir to the throne. She persuaded him to buy Lokrum, which he did on October 01, 1879. Five years later, on May 27, 1888, he registered the island under his name. Shortly after her grandmother, the empress Elisabeth, returned to Geneva from Corfu in 1898, she was killed by the Italian anarchist Lucceni, in a case of mistaken identity.
And. the end of the Habsburg's is well-known. The eldest son of the archduke Francis Ferdinand who was killed in Sarajevo on June 18, 1914, finished as an agronomist: The princess Windischgratz fired shots in a nightclub in Prague at some dancer who was the mistress of her husband, and was then disinherited by her royal parents. Finally, in 1918, after exactly 700 years, the Habsburg's lost their crown as well.
But, this is not the end. The above-mentioned constitutes only a part of the story that ties the Lokrum curse to historically renowned persons. However, superstition also surrounded Lokrum. It expanded the legend of the Lokrum curse with countless stories and tales that were colored by metaphysics to such an extent that the historically true events, which were further warped and twisted by superstition over the centuries, resulted in a certain inexplicableness known as - the mystery of Lokrum.
The superstition became so widespread that no one could be found to live on Lokrum for a very long time. The palace servants would not on their life venture into the palace gardens at night, for demons would cut off the heads of their lovers in a dark erotic rage, and would sew their hearts onto their dresses. Stylish aristocrats, seeking change, loved to mix even with their male servants, so that they very carefully kept up this legend. Under its protection, they could rendez-vous freely at night in the garden of love.
Fantasy wove a number of mysterious stories around the Lokrum caves as well, where the seas rage during storms. Its echo resounds as earth's harsh blow to the cover of a coffin. According to old documents in the Dubrovnik archives, criminals were cast into the sea from the steep Lokrum cliffs during the Middle Ages, otherwise famous for its cruel punishments. A well-known legend describes how the ship of the English king, Richard the Lion-hearted, was cast upon the Lokrum cliffs during a fierce storm. The legend says the Bosnian king, Tvrtko, also found sanctuary amid the walls of the Benedictine monastery. But, Lokrum knew how to be merciful towards the unfortunate as well. In 1859, the Austrian ship "Triton" exploded in the Lokrum canal. Only one survivor remained after the tragedy - a prisoner who was imprisoned in the bowels of the war ship for some crime. The whirlwind of the fierce explosion expelled the unfortunate wretch with remnants of the chain onto the shore, completely unharmed, while the rest of the crew perished. The Austrian Admirality entrusted the investigation of this catastrophe to a commander of the imperial fleet - Maximilian. He fell in love with Lokrum, purchased it and so started the wheel of fortune that led him to such a tragic end. During his stay on Lokrum with his wife Charlotte, the enamored Maximilian engraved a heart containing the first letters of his and Charlotte's name into a huge oak dating to the 14th century, located next to the palace. According to romantic legend, he thereby incurred hostility, as it was a historical oak, under which the Dubrovnik Senate met frequently. A storm appeared before he returned to the shores of Lokrum. Lightning struck this oak tree and the engraved monograms disappeared, leaving only the heart. This was considered as a sign of impending disaster.
After Maximilian's death, Charlotte visited Lokrum in the company of a count - her admirer. On approaching the island, she barely managed to avoid death, as her yacht overturned inexplicably, sinking quickly. Coral hunters saved her. According to legend, the same ones that cursed her while Maximilian was still alive. Legend has it that she experienced this misfortune because she was wearing a necklace made of the coral taken from the sea depths near Lokrum. According to tradition, the poor coral hunters had for centuries followed the perilous trade of their fathers in the hope that they would eventually come across a secret underwater cavern with a reef containing beautiful coral, and so become rich. After a long time, one day they really did find this reef, but it contained only one coral. Disappointed, they then cursed the aristocrat that would wear it.
The new owner of Lokrum became Rudolf, the heir to the throne. He spent his honeymoon here with his Stefanie. The story goes that Mount Srd shook when the young couple disembarked on the island shore. This small earthquake, it is said, was a forewarning of the misfortune to follow at Mayerling.
Queen Elisabeth, wife of the emperor Francis Joseph I, once visited the island. However, due to superstition, she refused to spend the night there. The archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sophia intended to spend the summer of 1914 on the island, but were prevented by an assassin's bullets in Sarajevo.
Today, Lokrum is a quiet excursion site for tourists, and all these legends have contributed perhaps to the steadfastness of the citizens of the ancient Republic in keeping true to their own motto - famous and free.
Source: "Dubrovnik - between history and legend"
Writen by: Dr. Marko Margaritoni
The arrival and the departure to and from Lokrum island are organized from the Dubrovnik ancient Old Town port. Regular departures are available every 30 minutes during summer season.
Guide to Lokrum
Small and handy visitors guide and map which you get in printed version free of charge if you visit this lovely island. I got this brochure in summer 2017 when I visited the island for a short swimming break. If you need ferry and admission ticket to the island, see here: Book Lokrum ferry and admission ticketThe front page of the Guide Map and points of Interest of Lokrum
Introduction to the island in several languages Brief info about the island
Lush Lokrum is a beautiful, forested island full of holm oaks, black ash, pines and olive trees, only a 10-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik's Old Harbour. It's a popular swimming spot, although the beaches are rocky. Boats leave roughly hourly in summer (half-hourly in July and August). The public boat ticket price includes the entrance fee, but if you arrive with another boat, you're required to pay 120KN at the information centre on the island.
The island's main hub is its large medieval Benedictine monastery, which houses a restaurant and a display on the island's history and the TV show Game of Thrones, which was partly filmed on Lokrum. This is your chance to pose imperiously on a reproduction of the Iron Throne. The monastery has a pretty cloister garden and a significant botanical garden, featuring giant agaves and palms from South Africa and Brazil. Near the centre of the island is circular Fort Royal, commenced during the French occupation in the early 19th century but mainly used by the Austrians. Head up to the roof for views over the old town.
To reach the nudist beach, head left from the ferry and follow the signs marked FKK the rocks at its far end are Dubrovnik's de facto gay beach. Another popular place for a swim is the small saltwater lake known as the Dead Sea.
Make sure you check what time the last boat to the mainland departs. Note that no one can stay overnight and smoking is not permitted anywhere on the island.
7:30am (or later if you’d like a sleep-in) – Take a Walking Tour with a Local Guide
My favourite way to explore a city is to wander around with a local. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a friend from Dubrovnik, I suggest booking a Withlocals walking tour. I chose an early morning walking tour with local guide Mia, since I wanted to get some photos of the picturesque walls and streets before the cruise ship crowds descended.
I was impressed by how well Mia knew the background of her city, and it’s no short, simple history either. Life in Dubrovnik dates back to a 7 th century settlement, possibly older, although its golden years were 1358 to 1806 AD when it was a profitable trading city operating as an independent republic. Dubrovnik then became part of the French and Austrian empires, amalgamated in Yugoslavia and is now a bustling city in modern Croatia. Mia shared a handful of stories from each era highlighting differing architecture styles to reflect historical events.
Mia isn’t a Game of Thrones fan (can we still be friends?) but she still knew a thing or two about the filming locations of Kings Landing. She pointed out a couple of spots, like Cersei’s walk of shame, while we meandered along the smooth cobblestone streets.
Mia kept to the backstreets as much as possible to show us parts of the city we’d never have found by ourselves. She highlighted her favourite photo spots and pointed out a few of her favourite restaurants and cafes. By the end of the 3-hour tour, Mia had a pretty good feel for what my wife and I would enjoy in Dubrovnik and suggested a few places to visit, many of which we tried and are included in this itinerary.
11am – Reflect at the War Memorial Room at Sponza Palace
Our tour ended just outside Sponza Palace, which contains a small museum to commemorate the 1991 Yugoslav War, of which Dubrovnik fought front and centre. According to Mia, Dubrovnik had no army to defend itself so local citizens stepped up to fight with little training and few weapons. It was a bit of a David and Goliath story, as she put it.
The War Memorial Room brought these heart wrenching stories to life with portraits of 300 young men who lost their lives fighting for their home.
Hours: Daily 8am – 7pm. Cost: Free.
11:30am – Explore Rector’s Palace
Walk 1 minute south to Rector’s Palace. As the name implies, this 15 th century palace was the former home of the Dubrovnik Republic’s Rector (a bit like a governor). The palace is now the Museum of Cultural History and tells of Dubrovnik’s glory days as a wealthy trading city. Exhibits include religious paintings, portraits and coats of arms of nobles, furniture, coins, silverware, weapons, and restored palace rooms like the courtrooms, and prison chambers.
Inscribed on the palace entrance is a Latin phrase which roughly translates as “forget about your private interests”. This apparently reminded the Dubrovnik Republic officials to lay aside their own interests and focus on the good of the people whenever they met to govern. I think some of today’s politicians and public servants could use a bit of that philosophy!
Hours: Daily 9am – 6pm. Cost: 100kn for adults, 50kn for children.
12:30pm – Dine in Luxury at Above 5 Rooftop Restaurant
You’ll probably be hungry by this point so walk 4 minutes west to Above 5 Rooftop Restaurant, one of Dubrovnik’s few Michelin-recommended restaurants. Climb the stairs to a chic small dining area with fabulous views over the old city. This restaurant serves a 3-course menu with limited options, all of which the chefs have expertly mastered using fresh, local ingredients wherever possible. I enjoyed Dalmatian pogača, homemade pasta, and basil apple sorbet.
Bookings are required for dinner but we snuck in without a reservation for lunch. Be warned, this is a relatively expensive lunch but since you’re on vacation – treat yourself!
Hours: Daily 7.30am – 11am, midday - 4pm, 6pm – 11pm.
2pm – See the Reality of War at War Photo Limited
After lunch, take a short 1 minute walk east to War Photo Limited, a gallery featuring photography from the front line of modern wars. While the quality of photography is out of this world, what makes the gallery extraordinary is the bravery of the photojournalists who risked their lives in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia to capture the turmoil of war, touching both soldiers and civilians.
It’s a sobering exhibit that reveals the destruction and loss of war but also how life goes on despite it. Babies are still born, children still play, people still laugh. These images showcase humanity’s hidden resilience that we don’t know we have until we need it.
Hours: Daily 10am – 10pm. Cost: 50kn.
3pm – Window Shopping
Dubrovnik offers unique shopping opportunities like artisan lavender stores, boutique fashion stores, local jewellery stores, and, of course, 2 official Game of Thrones merchandise stores. Take an hour to wander around the shopping streets and pick up a souvenir or two. Serious GoT fans might like the shoulder-mounted realistic dragon!
4pm – Walk Along the City Walls
An essential part of any visit to Dubrovnik is climbing the city walls – one of the best preserved in Europe. Learning about the city’s history during the morning walking tour gave us a deeper appreciation and understanding as we walked along the walls. There are 2 main entry points to climb the walls, Mia wisely suggested we enter at the south-east entry near the old port where queues are shorter on the ground and the walls are less crowded.
It can get pretty hot on the walls, as shade is minimal. While it should be okay by 4pm, I suggest bringing a hat and sunscreen. Unless you’re super-fit, I recommend just doing half a loop – to the west entrance/exit near Pile Gate.
Hours: April & May: 8am – 6:30pm, June & July: 8am – 7:30pm, August & September: 8am – 6:30pm, October: 8am – 5:30pm, November to March: 9am – 3pm.
Cost: 200kn for adults, 50kn for children and students, free for children under 7.
6pm – Climb Fort Lovrijenac
Just when you think you can put your feet up, there’s more steps to climb! But the views are worth it, I promise. Fort Lovrijenac is located outside the city walls, a 4-minute walk west from the Pile Gate. Make sure you still have your city walls ticket handy as you’ll need it to enter Fort Lovrijenac.
GoT fans should immediately recognise this fortress as the filming location for many scenes set inside the Red Keep, like Joffrey’s Name Day tournament in season 2.
Hours: April & May: 8am – 6:30pm, June & July: 8am – 7:30pm, August & September: 8am – 6:30pm, October: 8am – 5:30pm, November to March: 9am – 3pm.
Cost: included in your City walls ticket (if used within 72 hours).
7:30pm – Dinner at Restaurant Lanii
Walk 8 minutes east to Restaurant Lanii, one of my favourite restaurants in Dubrovnik. The restaurant serves local, Dalmatian dishes like risotto, pasta and seafood, using local in-season ingredients. The staff here are always professional, friendly and very accommodating to dietary requirements like vegan and gluten-free.
I suggest booking a table online in advance, requesting an outdoor table to enjoy the refreshing summer breeze.
9pm: Drinks at Café Bar Fontana
Take a short, 1 minute walk south to enjoy a drink at trendy Café Bar Fontana. It’s popular with locals and tourists alike. Try a glass of Croatian wine (my favourite is Posip) or a summer cocktail like Aperol Spritz.
1. Magnificent Medieval walls & forts
The walls of Dubrovnik are the most recognisable symbol of the city, making tiny Croatia well-known all over the world. The walls are 1940 meters long, up to 6 meters wide and 25 meters high. Today a wonderful open-air museum, the walls were originally built to defend the city and the harbour from foreign threat. Tourists enjoy fantastic views over the Adriatic from five different fortresses and sixteen towers and bastions. One of the fortresses, the St Lovrijenac Fort, is often called “Gibraltar of Dubrovnik”.
The main street in Dubrovnik Old Town is Stradun Promenade, today boasting many fine restaurants and small cafes, always full of visitors and locals alike.
Lokrum, a Croatian Island Free of Rubbish and Full of Magic
July 30, 2020 - A visit to Dubrvonik's answer to escaping the crowds - the idyllic and VERY clean island of Lokrum.
Dubrovnik at the moment is perfect. The tourism slowdown due to coronavirus is certainly severely affecting the wallets of the hospitality industry, but the quality of life for locals and the tourism experience for visitors to the Pearl of the Adriatic has been severely enhanced.
An early morning stroll into the old town last week - I almost had the place to myself.
And a similar story on the most famous and exclusive street of them all - Stradun.
My destination was just the other side of the famous UNESCO walls, to the old harbour, where a 50-year-old beautifully restored wooden boat was waiting with Ivica Grilec, Director of the Lokrum Nature Reserve.
Ivica had kindly agreed to show me around the island he clearly loved deeply - that much became obvious within a minute of meeting him. Croatian tourism is full of officials for whom it is just a job. From the moment Ivica started explaining about the work and concept of the beautiful wooden boats that serviced the 10-minute ride to Lokrum from the Old Town, I knew I was in for a special tour. And so it proved.
How about this for a boat departure, as the old town disappeared slowly behind us, as Zrinka glided through the turquoise waters.
Lokrum is a popular escape for the locals from the summer crowds in the city. Indeed, it is the third most popular attraction, after the city walls and the cable car to Mount Srdj.
With plenty of Instagram moments on the way, if that is your thing.
Away from the city, in a protected bay, we reached our destination, about as far from the bustle of Dubrovnik as one could imagine. As I wrote recently after my stay on the island of Kolocep, there are a number of fabulous places just 30 minutes from Dubrovnik, but a world away. Lokrum is close to the top of that list.
The first impression, apart from the nature and tranquillity was one of order and cleanliness. In 18 years of living in this beautiful country, this was the first island I had visited which had absolutely no trash whatsoever. None. Ivica told me that they had invested heavily in the clean-up. The results are spectacular.
The main building on Lokrum is the Benedictine Monastery, which dates back to the 11th century. The Benedictines engaged in agriculture and farmed the fertile Lokrum land, producing wine, olives and olive oil, fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants.
Much of the monastery remains today, despite the passage of time and the extensive damage down in the major 1667 earthquake. This includes the 12/13th century Romanesque-Gothic basilica, as well as the 'new' Gothic-Renaissance monastery on the south side in the 15/16th century.
And all around amazing greenery. The botanical gardens have been fighting a losing battle with the numerous rabbits which roam freely on Lokrum. That situation has been brought under control in the last two years, and the botanical gardens are now starting to flourish.
But the monastery has some rather unexpected secrets inside.
The Iron Throne! Lokrum was an important Game of Thrones filming location, and the island welcomes many tourists each year who want to see the location and the throne.
And in the basement, something even more unusual - an exhibition dedicated to King Richard the Lionheart, who was allegedly shipwrecked here in 1192 on his way home from The Crusades. He vowed to build two churches of thanks if he survived, one in England and one on Lokrum. This church was eventually built in Dubrovnik after an official request.
And a modern-day interpretation of the Curse of Lokrum. In 1798, after the island was sold, the Benedictines were forced out. As they left, they held torches and put a curse on the island, a curse that will only be lifted when that candle wax is collected and made into candles once more.
The rabbits may be famous on Lokrum, but this is also an island of elegant peacocks.
Ivica Grelic, a man with Lokrum in his heart.
It was time for Phase 2 of the tour, and my first ride in an official Croatian firefighter vehicle. And they don't come much cooler than this!
A short video clip of part of our tour to give you an idea of just how ordered everything is on this, an island with no cars.
I was impressed at how well sign-posted everything was for hikers, of which there were several. Our heroic firefighting chauffeur navigated the narrow roads perfectly until we reached the top of the island and the forbidding fortress at the top.
The Lokrum fire fighters do an awesome job. Apart from providing outstanding views like the one above, standing on top of their huge water tank close to the top of the island, water hydrants are everywhere. There are five firemen by day, with two sleeping overnight. Their organisation is typical of what I found on Lokrum - a fantastic island of natural beauty shaped by a little human order and planning.
The view down to the monastery from the fortress at the top. It was hot for hiking, but I can imagine this to be a very rewarding hike in cooler temperatures.
The tour continued with a firefighter buggy transfer to the Lokrum Lazerat, the original quarantine place on the island. Look how straight they built the stone walls in the 16th century.
Dubrovnik became the first state in the world to officially sanction quarantine facilities in 1377 after the first case of the Black Plague arrived on the island of Sipan. The first facilities were set up in Cavtat, followed soon by two islands not far from Lokrum. As with tourism in the current pandemic, Dubrovnik wanted to continue to trade while minimising risk.
My new guide Marija explained that the Dubrovnik Senate made the decision to extend the quarantine facilities to Lokrum in 1534, after which a vast complex went under construction, a square fortress 4 metres high with walls 100 metres long.
There were 150 rooms built into the walls, and you can see (from right to left) the fireplace, the air ventilation, and the toilet for one particular room. And somewhat ironically, a warning to keep your social distance in 2020 in case you might catch something.
The complex was never finished after they realised that it could prove to be a launching pad on Dubrovnik if Lokrum ever got into enemy hands. Some of the stone was removed and used in the famous city walls. The most enchanting thing that remains of the Lokrum Lazerat is the 400-year-old olive grove which was started by the Beneditines.
The first two quarantine islands after Cavtat in 1377.
A truly delightful spot, and one of the nice things I learned is that Dubrovnik schoolchildren visit often to learn more about the history, flora and fauna, but also to conduct occasional classes in this natural paradise.
Just 10 minutes by boat from Dubrovnik Old Town.
We finished the tour with a drink by the Dead Sea - not perhaps as famous as its Middle Eastern counterpart, but a cool place to swim and actually part of the Adriatic and once a cave. An ideal spot if you want to have a drink and relax while the kids splash around.
And, right on cue, the majestic Zrinski appeared to take us back to the real world. Lokrum, a magical place devoid of trash.
King's Landing and the Iron Throne
Game of Thrones filming locations in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik is, among other things, famous as Game of Throne’s primary filming location. Many of those scenes took place on Lokrum island, which is stunning enough with or without HBO’s filming. One of the best parts of this tour is you sitting on the Iron Throne, which is also on Lokrum, as a part of Game of Thrones Visitor Center, where we finish the tour. While filming, HBO gave the Iron Throne to Dubrovnik city, and it’s on Lokrum island, so if you are a true fan, you have to sit down on it and take a picture.
Before going to the island, we first show you Dubrovnik’s old town and Lovrjenac castle (Red Keep), where the majority of King’s Landing scenes happened. Lokrum is the final part of the tour, and you can choose to stay on the island for swimming or sightseeing, make sure to take a towel and bathing suits along with some sunscreen. Amongst Lokrum’s attractions are rabbits and peacocks that are walking freely amongst visitors.
It is immediately evident, once you see Dubrovnik’s streets that it was King’s Landing, the resemblance is uncanny. From Lovrjenac, we have a gorgeous view of Dubrovnik’s Old Town Walls. Here, you can see just how many similarities there are between real life and the fantasy world.
During this tour, we’ll visit:
– Lokrum island (City of Qarth)
– Pile bay
– Lovrjenac castle (The Red Keep)
– Dubrovnik’s old town
Lokrum Island (City of Qarth)
The Red Keep (Lovrijenac Fort)
There is a lot of scenes that happened inside the Lovrijenac Fort (next to the Walls of Dubrovnik) that take place within the Red Keep – like the long dialogues between Cersei and Littlfinger in Season 1.
If you want to have a wedding with style, you can rent the Lovrijenac fort.