Dubrovnik is a Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea, in the region of Dalmatia. It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, a seaport and the centre of Dubrovnik-Neretva County. Dubrovnik is nicknamed “Pearl of the Adriatic”. In 1979, the city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
With its sublime location, overlooking the calm blue waters of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is one of the world’s most magnificent walled cities. The city of Dubrovnik (Latin: Ragusa) was built on maritime trade. In the Middle Ages it became the only city-state in the Adriatic to rival Venice. Supported by its wealth and skilled diplomacy, the city achieved a remarkable level of development during the 15th and 16th centuries. During its Golden Age in the 16th century, it had one of the largest merchant naval fleets in the world, with consulates in more than 50 foreign ports.
Today Dubrovnik is the proudest feather in Croatia’s tourist cap, an elite destination and one of the most beautiful towns in the Mediterranean. Dubrovnik used to be an independent republic, surviving mostly on trade. It managed to survive many centuries, with constant threats to its territory, particularly from the mighty Ottoman Empire and Venice. As early as 19th century, it was discovered by celebrities as a place to be seen. George Bernard Shaw once said that “those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik and find it”. Royalty, presidents and diplomats have all favoured the city. The late Pope John Paul II was a fan of Dubrovnik and was even made an honorary citizen.
The history of Dubrovnik is remarkable. An independent, merchant republic for 700 years (abolished by Napoleon in 1806), it traded with Turkey and India in the East and had trade representatives in Africa, in the Cape Verde Islands. It even had diplomatic relations with the English court in the Middle Ages. (There is a letter from Elizabeth I on display in the City Museum in Dubrovnik). Its status was such that powerful and rich Venice was envious of this Croatian-Slav city
Originally called Ragusa, the city was founded in the 7th century as a refuge for coastal residents fleeing the advancing barbarians. From the outset, the city was protected by defensive walls.
Dubrovnik expanded considerably from the 9th century onwards and as part of the Byzantine Empire, so by the 12th century it was even considered as somewhat of a threat to Venice and its Republic. It came under attack from Venice, and from 1205 to 1358 fell under its rule.
The old town was completed in the 13th century and remains virtually unchanged to the present day. Tall ramparts surround it and there are only two entrances to the old town which lead to Stradun, the city’s promenade.
In 1358 the Treaty of Zadar saw Dubrovnik cease being under Venice’s rule and instead become Croat-Hungarian, although it had a great deal of independence. Višegrad agreement on 27 May 1358 determined the relationship between Dubrovnik and the Hungarian kingdom. With Višegrad agreement Dubrovnik became a independent city-state, from 1409 known as the Republic of Ragusa, remained so til 1808. King Ludovik granted Dubrovnik a protection and privileged position among Dalmatian towns and thus enabled independent development. Dubrovnik’s obligation was to receive all the obligations that it had until then towards the Venice.
Dubrovnik’s ascent received a major blow in 1667 as a catastrophic earthquake destroyed a large amount of the Renaissance art and architecture in the city. The Sponza and the Rector’s palace were the only buildings that survived the natural disaster. The city was reconstructed in the baroque style that has survived intact until today. Despite the reconstruction, the decline of the Mediterranean as a hub for trade meant that Dubrovnik, like other Mediterranean ports, began a steady decline.
The city was much weakened, and when in 1806 Napoleon entered Dubrovnik there was little resistance. The Republic of Ragusa was officially dissolved in 1808 but, after Napolean’s fall, Dubrovnik became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1815. After World War I, Dubrovnik became part of Croatia which itself was part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which became Yugoslavia after World War II.
Due to its historic borderland status, Dubrovnik was significantly affected by the break-up of Yugoslavia. In the early 90s, Serb and Montenegrian shelling resulted in Dubrovnik suffering its most serious existential threat. Over two thirds of the historic town’s buildings were hit by artillery. The town’s cobbled streets were struck by hundreds of direct hits. For the first time in history, the medieval city walls themselves received over a hundred direct hits. Many historic palaces were badly damaged by the resulting fires. The renowned Sponza and Rector’s palace, St Blaise’s church, the Franciscan monastery and the Amerling and Onofrio fountain all suffered severely. The total reconstruction cost was said to be some $ 10 million.
Dubrovnik Old City
is known as one of the world’s finest and most perfectly preserved medieval cities in the world. Old City is by all means the most interesting and the most attractive part of Dubrovnik. Since it occupies a rather small city area, it is best to sightsee on foot. While walking through the romantic city lanes you will not only see the most interesting sights, but also feel the specific, somewhat mystic atmosphere rising from the ancient stone walls. The smell of aromatic herbs, the whiteness of the sheets drying in the sun between the houses, the constant chatter of the locals on the narrow, busy streets. The best way to learn, to feel the city is to merge with the crowd and let it take you on an unforgettable journey through the maze of Dubrovnik city streets and through centuries.
The entire historical city core is surrounded by the medieval ramparts, creating the perfect illusion of a well protected settlement from some other, past times. There are several city entrances located below the magnificent forts overlooking the gates. If you approach the ramparts from the direction of the modern Dubrovnik city center, you will enter the old town through the Pile City Gate, the main city entrance. The gates are overlooked by the two forts: Minčeta from the north and Bokar from the south. Minčeta Fort is considered one of the most beautiful fortifying objects in the world. It is one of the recognizable Dubrovnik symbols offering a magnificent view of the entire city. Bokar Fort was designed to defend the city from the sea, today it is the venue for performances of the Dubrovnik Summer festival.
Once you enter through the city gates you will find yourself looking at the beautiful Onofrio Fountain, the favorite meeting place of the city youth. Perhaps the most beautiful and interesting monument of this part of the Old City is the Franciscan Monastery built in the late medieval period. It is one of the finest and most harmonious examples of Gothic and Romanesque architecture in Dubrovnik. The church of the monastery is often a venue for various concerts throughout the year.
As you walk on, you will find yourself on the most famous and beloved Dubrovnik city street, Stradun. With its numerous souvenir shops, galleries, coffee bars and restaurants, Stradun is never quiet. As you make your way through the crowd, you can enjoy in the performances of many street entertainers.
On its other end, Stradun finishes in a lovely square surrounded by some of the most important historical sights of Dubrovnik. You will see the City Cathedral, the Church of St. Blaise, the Sponza Palace (the city archive), the Rector’s Palace, the bell towers and the Orlando’s Column. All those beautiful monuments are the finest examples of the late medieval and early renaissance architecture.
Once you complete this sightseeing route obligatory for every Dubrovnik visitor, you can lose yourself in the maze of narrow city streets and explore other sights. There are numerous museums and galleries where you can enjoy some of the finest exhibits of historic as well as contemporary art.
Dubrovnik City Walls
are built all around the Old Town of Dubrovnik, around the seashore, to protect town from pirates and other unwelcome guests. These enormous walls that encircle the entire Old Town, dotted by fortresses and overlooking the sea are indeed the city’s most famous feature.
The walls were built between 12th and 17th century, and are very well preserved until nowadays. Town walls are about 2 kilometres long and they include 16 smaller and larger towers, among them the Sveti Ivan Tower, the largest one, built at the very entrance to the town’s old harbour Porporela.
The walls are about 25 meters high and up to 3 meters thick at the sea side of the town, while at the mainland, they are thick up to 6 meters. The views from the walls are really nice – probably the best views of Dubrovnik, with patches of red roofs of the numerous houses beneath them. Walking along Dubrovnik’s city walls is considered to be the highlight of any Dubrovnik visit.
Hours: 08:00-17:30. Entrance fee is HRK 120 for adults, HRK 30 for children. Students (with ID – European Youth card etc.) receive 70% discount. You can pay by credit card, but they do not take euros. Keep your ticket, as it will allow you to enter Tower Lovrijenac (near Pile Gate).
The natural starting point to any visit to Dubrovnik, this fabulous city gate was built in 1537. The Pile Gates are a well-fortified complex with multiple doors, defended by Fort Bokar and the moat that ran around the outside section of the city walls. At the entrance gate to the Old Town, on the western side of the land walls, there is a stone bridge between two Gothic arches, which were designed by the esteemed architect Paskoje Miličević in 1471. That bridge connects to another bridge, a wooden drawbridge which can be pulled up.While crossing the drawbridge, imagine that this was once lifted every evening, the gate closed and the key handed to the rector. Notice the statue of St Blaise, the city’s patron saint, set in a niche over the Renaissance arch. After passing through the outer gate you’ll come to an inner gate dating from 1460, and soon after you’ll be struck by the gorgeous view of the main street, Placa, or as it’s commonly known, Stradun, Dubrovnik’s pedestrian promenade.
is also known as St. Lawrence Fortress. It is located on a large cliff just outside the western edge of Dubrovnik’s city walls. Lovrjenac has a triangular shape and includes three terraces that rise 37m above the Adriatic. Walls of the tower facing the sea are up to 12m thick, while the ones facing Dubrovnik Town itself are much slimmer at only about 60cm. Above the main entrance to the tower there is an inscription saying Non Bene Pro Toto Libertas Venditur Auro means “Freedom must not be sold for all the gold in the world”.
The tower is accessed by sea via the small Kolorina / Pile bay (locally called U Pilama Kolorina) through a narrow and steep wooded path leading up to the drawbridges and entrance.
Old Port Dubrovnik
Old Port Dubrovnik is located at the Eastern part of the City. The port is encompassed by two breakwaters: breakwater Porporela in front of St. John fortress and Kaše breakwater going perpendicular across the port bay. In the time of the Dubrovnik Republic several forts protected the port: St Luke Fort, St John fortress and Revelin fortress. Today the port is a safe haven for many private boats of local citizens. Alos regular boat line to Lokrum island departs from the Old Port, as well as the boat lines to Cavtat, Mlini, and various sightseeing boat tours.
Located at the top of steep cliff on the western corner of Dubrovnik’s city walls, the Bokar Fortress (Tvrđava Bokar) was built in 15th century with intention to defend the town’s main entrance Pile Gate, its bridge and moat.
Beside Minčeta Fortress it was considered as the key point of defence of the western sea as well as land approach to the town.
The fort was designed by the Florentine architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi as a semicircular two story building, considered nowadays to be one of the oldest casemented forts in Europe.
One of the most prominent and most visited Dubrovnik’s protecting towers as well as the highest point of its defence system, is Minčeta Tower.
It was named after the Mencetic family who owned the ground which the tower was built upon. And it was originally built in 1319 by a local builder Nicifor Ranjina, as a strong four-sided fort after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire (1453).
Revelin Tower (Revelin Fortress)
located just outside the town walls as part of the Ploče Gate entrance to the Old town was built in 16th century as protection of the Eastern side of the Town as well as to its harbour (Old Port) .
The fortress, that features three entrances and large terrace with views of the old harbour and Lokrum is nowadays used as venue of Dubrovnik Summer Festival as well as popular Night Club.
Dubrovnik’s Clock Tower, an elegant 31 m high timepiece, dating from 15th century is a magnificent landmark of the Old Town.
It is located at the very end of Stradun, next to Sponza Palace in Luža Square .
Knežev Dvor (Rector’s Palace)
A well known Rector’s Palace located in Ulica Pred Dvorom, just south of Luža Square was originally built in 13th century and rebuilt later on two occasions in a Venetian-Gothic style designed by Michelozzo Michelozzi. In times of Raguza, the Rector’s Palace housed government and state offices as well as rector’s headquarters and living accommodation. Nowadays, the palace house the Town Museum – Gradski Muzej as well as music concert hall.
The palace is opened for visitors daily from 9 am until at least 7pm. The admission is HRK 20.
Sponza Palace was built in early 1500s, designed by architect Pasij Milicevic . It is one of the very few buildings to survive Dubrovnik’s 1667 earthquake.
Initially it was built as the city’s customs house and mint. The facade of the palace is a combination of Gothic and Renaissance architecture including lovely Gothic windows, cloisters and inner courtyards.
The complete stone carving of all beautiful features was done at the time by brothers Andrijic from Korcula who also, among other things, built Korcula Cathedral. The palace features an inscription saying: “Nama je zabranjeno varati i krivo mjeriti; i kad važem robu; sa mnom je važe sam Bog” meaning “We are forbidden to cheat and use false measures, and when I weigh goods, God weighs me”
Today, the palace is a home of the Dubrovnik’s State Archives and the Museum to the Dubrovnik Defenders
Church of Saint Blaise
Church of Saint Blaise in Dubrovnik Old Town is also know as Crkva Svetog Vlaha. It is a Baroque church built between 1706 and 1714 on the site of a 14th-century Romanesque church damaged in the 1667 earthquake. The church has a wide staircase and terrace that is popular place to sit and watch the world go by.
In the interior of the church there are various art objects on display some of them saved from the damaged church.
St. Saviour Church (Crkva Svetog Spasa)
St. Saviour Church (Crkva Svetog Spasa) was built in 1520 s immediately after the earth quake in Dubrovnik in gratitude that the town had been spared from destruction. In 1667 Dubrovnik was hit again by a disastrous earthquake which killed some 5,000 citizens and destroyed much of the city. However, St. Saviour Church withstood the disaster so it can be seen today in its original form, as a fine example of the town’s Renaissance architecture. It is a single nave building with a Gothic-cross-ribbed vault, considered to be the first comprehensive Renaissance style building in Dubrovnik, designed and built by Korcula‘s master builders Brothers Andrijic, who also built Korcula’s Cathedral. The church has survived throughout the history to nowadays, almost intact. Currently, this lovely building is used as exhibition space as well as classical music venue.
The Dubrovnik Cathedral
The Dubrovnik Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was built in 17th century replacing the older cathedral that was destroyed in the earthquake. The cathedral has a lovely interior, with numerous old religious paintings, one of them of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary that is attributed to Titian. The cathedral is free to visit so this is one of the must see sights in the Old town.
Old Pharmacy at Franciscan Monastery
The Old Pharmacy in Franciscan Monastery in Dubrovnik is one among the oldest pharmacies in Europe. It was founded in 1317 as in-house pharmacy for Franciscan friars which was later introduced to the public servicing the whole Town’s population and even beyond the town’s walls.
Nowadays, in the pretty courtyard of Franciscan Monastery’s complex, intricate cloister lead to the Old Pharmacy Museum where among the exhibits you can see various pharmaceutical tools, containers, grinders and similar from the times of old Ragusa. The pharmacy stands right next to the Baroque church among the arches of the atrium of the Monastery. Pharmacy is still in function nowadays and offers some products which preparations are made according to ancient Franciscan’s recipes.
Stradun (or officially ‘Placa’) is the main street in Dubrovnik Old Town. It divides the Old town (part of Dubrovnik built within medieval walls) on two, more or less, equal parts – northern and southern. Stradun is stretched from Pile Gate (western entrance to the old town) to the Old Town’s port. It used to be a channel that divided small island on which Dubrovnik was built from the mainland. Later on, the channel was filled to create the main town’s street.
The street is completely pedestrianised for almost 50 years and acts as main local promenade. As Stradun is closed to traffic, making it accessible to pedestrians only, both sides of the street are stuffed full of cafes, shops and restaurants.
If you come in Dubrovnik, there is no way you can miss this promenade. Not for the reason that all routes simply lead to it, but because if you follow the crowd you will arrive there sooner or later. Nevertheless, it is important to mention that most of the streets in the Old Town leads to Stradun.
The best way to enjoy Stradun is to take a walk up and down the street. Once you get tired a bit, sit in front of one of the cafes, get your drink and enjoy watching passing crowd. You can do the same if you sit on the steps of Sveti Vlaho Church or in front of Orlando’s Column. Another nice place to enjoy views of the street is to get to the top of Dubrovnik Town Walls from where you can see Stradun (as well as rest of the town) from the bird-eye perspective.
Although the official name of Stradun is Placa, no one calls it by that name – except (sometimes) tourists. So, if you want to do as locals do, always refer to it as “Stradun”.
Luža Square is a busy Dubrovnik’s square located at the eastern end of the Stradun. It is bordered by Sponza Palace, Clock Tower, Gradska Kavana Café, Theatre Marin Drzic , Knežev Dvor (Rector’s Palace), Dubrovnik’s Cathedral and east to Sveti Vlaho Church.This is one of the most impressive squares in town which also features Orlando’s Column and Onofrio’s small fountain.
The opening night of Dubrovnik’s Summer Festival takes place on the square as well as February’s procession of Sveti Vlaho’s day.
One of Dubrovnik’s most famous landmarks, this large fountain was built in 1438 as part of a water-supply system that involved bringing water from a well 12km away. Originally the fountain was adorned with sculpture, but it was heavily damaged in the 1667 earthquake and only 16 carved masks remain, with water dribbling from their mouths into a drainage pool.
Orlando’s Column (Orlandov Stup) in Dubrovnik is a well known monument situated in the very heart of the Old Town, in the centre of Luža Square right in front of St Blaise’s Church.
The column, erected in 1418, features armoured knight Orlando who according to the legend, helped the people of old Dubrovnik (Ragusa) defeat invaders in the middle ages and therefore helped Dubrovnik to remain a free trade city-state. Being a monument to freedom, nowadays the column also features Libertas (freedom) flag of town’s Summer festival as well as St Blaise festival flag.
Dubrovnik Summer Festival
Dubrovnik Summer Festival (Dubrovačke Ljetne Igre) is held annually in Dubrovnik from 10th July to 25th August. The Festival started back in 1950’s and includes daily performances of theatre plays and classical and folk music and dance.
The shows are held in several open-air stages within the Old Town created exclusively for that purpose around Dubrovnik’s squares and towers. The indoor stages inside Crkva Svetog Vlaha, Knežev Dvor and Sponza are also used as Festival venues.
Being one of the most important art festivals in Croatia, Dubrovnik Summer Festival attracts the best Croatian artists as well as some international names. It also attracts all sorts of crowds – from snobbish to fun and unpretentious arty types.
Dubrovnik as a filming location
The HBO series Game of Thrones used Dubrovnik as a filming location, representing the cities of King’s Landing and Qarth. Locations used in filming include Arboretum Trsteno, St. Dominic Street, Lokrum Island, The Knežev dvor and Sponza palaces, Lovrijenac, the abandoned Hotel Belvedere, Fort Bokar, and the Minčeta tower. Parts of Star Wars: The Last Jedi were filmed in Dubrovnik in March 2016. Dubrovnik was one of the European sites used in the Bollywood movie Fan (2016), starring Shah Rukh Khan. In early 2017, Robin Hood was filmed on locations in Dubrovnik.
Getting to Dubrovnik
Regardless of Dubrovnik’s geographic location and somehow isolation at the very south of Croatia near the border with Montenegro, getting to Dubrovnik is not complicated as there are various ways to get here – flights, buses, ferries and roads.
Dubrovnik airport (IATA: DBV) is located about 20km to the south of the city.
If you are coming from abroad, flying to Dubrovnik is probably your best option. There are low-cost airlines from Northern Europe that have regular flights to Dubrovnik even out of season. From Zagreb (the Croatian capital) there are several flights a day served by Croatia Airlines. From Split there is a weekly flight too. Once you arrive at Dubrovnik Airport here is info how to get to town by bus. Croatia Airlines operates buses between the airport and the main bus station in Kantafig (HRK 40, 45min), which is 2.5km northwest of the Old Town. Taxis from the airport to the centre will cost HRK 350. Going to the airport a bus aims to leave the main bus station 2h before each international flight, and costs HRK 40.
There is no train to Dubrovnik. A narrow gauge line used to link Dubrovnik to Sarajevo but was closed in 1976.
The closest rail station is Split, a 4 hr bus ride from Dubrovnik. From there you can take one of the 2 tilting-trains (ICN) to Zagreb. In the Summer-months 2 Night train link Split with the rest of Croatia (one to Zagreb-Osijek and one to Zagreb-Siófok-Budapest). The railway-station Ploče, (less than 2h by bus from Dubrovnik) has been closed since december 2014.
If you are coming from southern Italy, taking Jadrolinija’s ferry to Dubrovnik is probably your best option as there is a regular ferry connection between Bari and Dubrovnik.It is the overnight journey that takes about 12 hrs The ferry line is in operation between March and October. In case you intend to travel from Italy to Dubrovnik in other periods of the year, there is all year around ferry from Ancona to Split which you can consider as an option. Ferry to Dubrovnik is also suitable if you are travelling from Split, Brac, Hvar, Korcula and Mljet between May and October. During other months there is only ferry connection between Mljet and Dubrovnik. The journey takes between 1 and 4 hours depending of your starting point.
A bus to Dubrovnik could be your best option if you’re coming from Zagreb, Plitvicka jezera, Split, Korcula, Peljesac or Bosnia and Herzegovina or Montenegro.
The main bus station is in Kantafig, near Port Gruz and the Tudjman bridge, 2.5km northwest of the Old Town. Local bus 7 operates between this station and Babin kuk, and bus 1abc or 3 serves Old Town (HRK 12 in advance, HRK 15 from driver).
Direct buses run to/from Zagreb (HRK 205-234, 11h), Korcula (HRK 100, 3h), Mostar (HRK 100 or €16, 3h), Orebic (HRK 100, 2.5h), Rijeka (HRK 400, 12h), Sarajevo (HRK 160, 5h), Split (HRK 100-150, 4.5h), Zadar (HRK 200, 8h). In the high season, there are also multiple buses to the Montenegro cities of Herceg Novi, Bar, Kotor, and Budva and at to Prijedor and Banja Luka (10h) in Bosnia. A one-way trip to Budva costs HRK 128, or €15. Return tickets are much cheaper, so check with the different companies. If buying in person, the ticket agent will sell you any company’s ticket.
When coming by bus from Split or cities further north, police officers may board the bus and you may be asked for a valid identity document when crossing the Neum corridor which belongs to Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the bus companies list trip duration of c. 4 h, be prepared for a ride of closer to 5.5-6h, including Bosnian border checks.
When travelling into Montenegro and the Airport sit on the right hand side (not behind driver) for best views, and vice-versa for the return. Travelling to Bosnia, sit on the left hand side (behind the driver) for best views.
The trip from Split along the coastal road (Jadranska magistrala or D8) is a beautiful scenic journey through small, quaint villages and other tourist destinations. Just know that in the summer months the trip is likely to take several hours longer than anticipated. What looks like a short trip on a map can take 6h.
A much faster way of simply getting from Split to Dubrovnik by car is to take the A1 highway to Vrgorac and then continue via Staševica, Opuzen and Neum to Dubrovnik. As you have to pass Bosnia-Hercegovina at Neum and therefore leave for the 10 km section EU, especially in high summer there are long traffic jams entering and leaving Bosnia.