The old city of Dubrovnik is possibly one of the best photography locations in the world.
A medieval wonder. Stark stone walls rise from the Adriatic Sea protecting a mosaic of iconic orange tiled roofs within. One of the must see places in Croatia for tourists, it is also one of the best places in the world for travel photography, attracting novice and professional photographers alike from all over the world.
On our recent tour of the Dalmatian Isles, Croatia & Slovenia we spent four days exploring and photographing the iconic Dubrovnik Old City. During this time we sought out the best photography sites in order to put together these tips to help you make the most of your time and get the best photos of Dubrovnik.
Here are a few tips for choosing the best photo locations and the best time of day to get the photos of Dubrovnik old town you want. Whether you are a vacation happy snapper with a smartphone or a serious travel photographer, these tips should help you get the best possible images of Dubrovnik.
Get Your Bearings
If you have the time, do a guided tour. This will help you get your bearings within the walled city, load you up with plenty of useful information about Dubrovnik and help you assess the lighting and crowd conditions. If not, just go for a walk before you start snapping. With narrow streets and high walls, you will come up against various lighting challenges, especially on a bright day.
If you go for a tour or walk, stop to look at the postcard racks. This will give you some inspiration for angles and lighting scenarios.
Dubrovnik Old Town – Outside The Walled City
There are so many wonderful vantage points for shooting this wonderful walled city from outside. You shouldn’t have a problem getting a good shot any time of day.
In the Morning.
*Note: On the Adriatic, you may find you have to desaturate in post due to the crazy blue of the water. This has had a touch of desaturation believe it or not!
Dubrovnik Port From Banje Beach
Head a few minutes south along the coast away from the city, just past Banje beach, there are some stairs leading to the beach which make a great view point of the old city and the original Dubrovnik port. The landing there is suitable for a tripod if you need one or the stone wall is suitable for resting a camera or small tripod. This is one of the best places to take photos in the morning as you will have the sun behind you. It also makes for a very pretty night scene.
Best Time For This Shot:
Morning or night
In the Afternoon
From Fort Lovrijenac.
Head out of the walled city via Pile Gate to the north, across the courtyard and down the stairs towards the fort. If you have already purchased a ticket to walk the wall (see below) entry will be free. Fort Lovrijenac has three terraces which make great vantage points for views across the small bay back to the city. If you only have one day, our preference would be to walk the wall in the morning and head to Fort Lovrijenac in the afternoon. This is when the sun will be behind you which also highlights the clarity of the water below.
Best Time For This Shot:
Mid- late afternoon. It would also make a great spot for a night shot of the city.
In the Evening
The Dubrovnik Port From Ploče Gate
On the eastern side just outside the Ploce Gate overlooking a little boat yard is a lovely vantage point for night shots, especially in the early evening. With just enough backlighting from the street and the lights of the harbour on the water, you can get some very nice results here. There is also a number of good spots to rest your camera if you don’t have a tripod.
Best Time For This Shot:
Beat the Crowds
Dubrovnik is one of the most popular places to see in Croatia. This means crowds, especially in the peak seasons of July through to September. Dubrovnik is also inundated with as many as 5 – 6 cruise ships each day, some carrying up to five thousand passengers. This can definitely impact on your photos of Dubrovnik. However, all is not lost.
Apply these simple tips to help combat the crowds in your shots and get more than just a sea of heads in your images.
Timing is Everything
Get in early and come back late. It goes without saying, the earlier you can get to any popular destination the better. Dubrovnik is no exception. The cruise ship crowds tend to start arriving after 10 or 11 in the morning and will be gone by early evening.
If you have more than one day in Dubrovnik, get to the old city as early as possible to capture open scenes like this with just enough people to give the town life. Plus you will be treated to some very nice light.
The same goes for the end of the day. Wait until the ships have left for the day and return for some lovely night scenes. More below on night photography.
The middle of the day can then be spared for a long lunch, some people watching or a sensible siesta.
Best Time For This Shot:
From early morning until around 9.00am
Choose Your Angle and Re-Compose.
If you only have one day in Dubrovnik and can’t beat the maddening crowds, try some of these composition tips to reduce the volume of people from your shots.
Focus on Detail
Focus on the many intricate details of the cities facades instead of the wider scene. You will still capture the essence of Dubrovnik without the crowds.
This composition can be used in any busy tourist destination to give a sense of being there on your own. Simply squat down slightly and angle the camera above the heads of the crowd. If you are far enough away from your intended scene, you will be surprised at how much of the scene you can actually get in without any people in it.
Keep it in Perspective
While it is always nice to give the appearance of having a popular tourist destination to ourselves, it is also good to use other people to show perspective and sense of space.
Patience is everything here. Find the angle you want and have your camera ready. Wait until the shot has just the right amount of people (or birds!) in it and snap! This can result in some lovely candid shots, provides atmosphere and captures the size of the structure or space.
It may take a number of shots because inevitably someone will walk in front of you at the wrong moment or a large tour group will arrive – Patience.
The three terraced design of this magnificent 11th-century fortress overlooking the walled city from the west lends itself to the theatre. Just as it sets the stage for the popular TV series Game of Thrones and for such classics as Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, it also cuts an impressive picture from afar. The contrast of colours of the Adriatic sea and the red terracotta roofs of Dubrovnik compliment the stark rock face of the fortress as it rises from the sea.
To make the most of this imposing building and the beautiful blues of the clear Adriatic, climb the walls of the city starting from the main Pile Gate and head west towards the water (the walls are very narrow in parts and have a one way traffic system). Keep heading around towards the south-west until you are looking right back into the bay towards Fort Lovrijenac, around the point of Fort Boka. The best time to get this shot is early to mid morning when you will have the sun behind you. Not only does this make good photography sense, it also illuminates the shallows of the bay around the fort. By being on the wall at this time, you will have also beaten the cruise ship crowds. Win, win.
If you have a wide angle lens or functionality, this is the time to use it.
Best Time For This Shot:
Early to mid-morning for both light and crowds.
There are a lot of stairs involved when climbing the wall and it can get very hot in the warmer months so have water with you. It is also very narrow in parts so consider this if planning on taking a tripod.
The City Walls of Dubrovnik
Walking the city walls of Dubrovnik is one of the most popular things to do in Dubrovnik as it offers a whole new perspective of the old town and some wonderful views such as the previous view of Fort Lovrijenac. However, for a photographer, the wall can pose some challenges. The wall will cost 120 Kuna (~€15) for a ticket. While this is no princely sum, it only allows you to enter the wall once. If you leave the wall, you pay again to enter. So with this in mind, you may want to choose your time of day according to the shots you hope to get. Ideally, it would be good to plan both a morning and afternoon walk.
Unfortunately, the wall closes at 17.30 so night shots from here are out of the question. Unless you happen to know Jon Snow of course!
Any shots looking out to sea, especially from the south and western parts of the wall are best taken in the morning. This is why I have no shots from the western seaward wall looking in, as we walked the wall in the morning.
If you have a wide and zoom lens, I suggest you take both as you will find plenty of detail across the rooftops and looking down for some lovely close-up or cropped shots as well as the sprawling scene of red terracotta. For those using smart phones, don’t forget your panorama functions while on the wall but keep them well under 180° so you don’t stretch or warp the image. Around 90° – 100° will produce a lovely result similar to a quality wide angle lens and are better for posting to social media.
Here are some examples of angles as taken mid to late morning.
This shot was taken from the southeastern wall late morning. Sun behind.
From the North Eastern Wall late morning.
This was taken from above the Pile Gate looking down the main street, Placa Stradun, mid-morning. This shot would have been better taken late afternoon as I had to angle the lens to avoid the direct sunlight therefore not getting the exact shot I would have liked. It wasn’t a total loss but afternoon would have been preferable for this scene.
Remember to look directly down from the wall. You can get a new perspective of some of the most iconic shots of Dubrovnik Old Town.
Go Through the Wall
Head up the stairs towards the west wall then south-west along the wall. You will come across people coming through small holes in the wall. Go through the wall and you will come out to the most spectacular view with a cold beer waiting for you at bars such as the famous Buza Bar. You will feel as though you have slipped through the rabbit hole. These bars are one of the top tourist attractions in Dubrovnik. You can swim directly from the rock ledges outside the walls, have a cold drink and enjoy some pretty special views. This is also a popular spot for sunset so early afternoon until sunset you will have the sun directly in front of you.
Best Time For This location:
Early morning to midday and sunset.
All is not lost for an afternoon shot. Stand at the top of the stairs leading from the hole in the wall and angle your shot down, blocking the direct sun from the top of the frame. You will still get the shot plus the glistening sunlight on the water. This shot was taken mid afternoon.
These bars also present a wonderful opportunity to get some photos outside the seaward wall without getting wet or having to go to sea. This was taken mid afternoon as above. Standing at the furthest edge of the bar to try to get the sun behind me and angled the lens towards the wall to keep the sun out of the frame.
These were taken late morning from another hole in the wall bar on the western wall. As you can see, the morning sun is ideal for these shots and in Dubrovnik it is never too early for a beer!
Night Photography in Dubrovnik – Embrace the Rain
Most cities are beautiful to photograph at night but Dubrovnik has its own special reasons for attracting night photographers.
- The crowds have left for the day. Like Venice, Dubrovnik suffers from a daily influx of visitors from very large cruise ships. And, much like Venice, Dubrovnik is very pretty at night especially when the crowds have thinned.
- The roads in the old city of Dubrovnik are made from limestone, polished through thousands of years of foot traffic. This means when the lights come on, the streets really shine.
- When it rains, Dubrovnik takes on a very special sparkle. This is the time to grab an umbrella and your camera and head for the streets.
While the main squares may hold the greatest appeal at night, don’t forget to sneak down the back streets. You will find some lovely night scenes that speak volumes about the old city of Dubrovnik.
Hit the Back Streets for a Look at Daily Life
One thing everyone wants to do when they arrive in a place like Dubrovnik’s old town is to explore. However, sometimes we get caught up in taking pictures of the main attractions. Some great places for photography can be in someone’s back yard so to speak.
Dubrovnik’s population has changed dramatically over the years. Increased tourism has meant the cities residential population is now less than 1000 inhabitants. This means a glimpse of daily life in the old town of Dubrovnik may be less common than you may think.
As you explore the back streets, keep an eye out for the small details that capture the residential side of Dubrovnik.
Tip: Remeber to be respectful
As with anywhere in the world, be respectful of people’s privacy and private land. Also keep in mind, not everyone is open to having their picture taken. So be polite and ask if you think it is required.
Finally, From Above
There are two ways to see Dubrovnik old town from above.
- Spend 120 Kuna for the cable car ride to the top of Srd Hill. This will give you a lovely view point looking straight down on the city over the north east wall.
- Head further up the hill to a designated panoramic point where you not only get a lovely view of the city from the front of the old Dubrovnik port, you get a nice long shot giving you all the islands and bays along the coast in the background. This way is a little further and best reached by car or bus, but we feel it offers a much nicer view point.
Best Time For These locations:
Early morning to midday. These locations could also work nicely for a night scene.
Hopefully, these tips will not only get you the best photographs of Dubrovnik, they will help you make the most of your visit. Whether you are a professional photographer or just use a smartphone, we all want to get the best pictures possible, especially of such a beautiful place like Dubrovnik.
Want to know what photography gear we use? You’ll find our travel photography kit here
We travelled to Dubrovnik with Discovery Tours By Gate 1 Travel as part of the 14 Day Dalmatia Isles, Croatia & Slovenia tour. You can find out more about small group tours here – The Merits of Small Group Travel