The city of Dubrovnik is one of the favorite destinations among those traveling to Croatia. And there’s a lot of reasons why! It is not everywhere that you’ll find a medieval city so well preserved, with intact walls. In addition to Dubrovnik’s stunning history, the city is surrounded by the beautiful Adriatic Sea. A perfect union of history, natural beauty, great beaches, and delicious food.
Why visit Dubrovnik?
The city of Dubrovnik, also known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the Adriatic region. Nowadays, Dubrovnik is popular due to its beauty and cultural heritage. But, during history, it was an important harbor and a major center of trade in the Mediterranean.
Dubrovnik has a great localization, right at the “entrance” of the Adriatic Sea. Ever since the 1st century BC, there was a settlement on the site of today’s Old Town Dubrovnik. Even as early as the 10th century Dubrovnik was an important harbor and trade center in the Adriatic. During the Middle Ages, the town rose to political and economic prominence. In the 14th century, Dubrovnik developed a certain autonomy and began to refer to itself as a Republic of Ragusa (Republica Ragusina).
The Republic of Ragusa was one of the most successful maritime and trade powers in the Mediterranean. The Ragusans traded in textiles, salt, gold, timber, and manufactured goods. They rose to money and were among the wealthiest merchants in the region. Dubrovnik remained independent until 1808 when Napoleon took over the rule in Dalmatia. Since then, Dubrovnik was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It finally became part of the independent Republic of Croatia in 1991.
centuries of history
years of the Republic
meters long wall
million visitors a year
Where is Dubrovnik?
Dubrovnik is located in the very south of Croatia. The Old Town of Dubrovnik lies on the Adriatic coast and is surrounded by the sea.
What to see in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik City Walls
The city walls are the symbol of Dubrovnik. The walls that have been built from the 13th to the 16th century are considered one of the most beautiful fortification systems in the world. The 1.940 meters long fortification system of Dubrovnik consists of several elements. The main city wall, over fifteen towers and forts, and three city gates – Pile Gate in the west, Ploče Gate in the east, and Buža Gate in the north. At its highest point, the wall reaches a height of 25 meters. The thickness of the wall on the land side is up to 6 meters. On the seaside, however, it reaches only 3 meters. This is because the sea itself was protection and Dubrovnik had a strong fleet.
There are several fortresses that stand out for their size or beauty. One of the most beautiful fortresses is Minčeta. With its 80 meters of height, Minčeta dominates the city walls on the land side. Other significant fortresses are those on the seaside, Bokar and St. John (Sv. Ivan), that houses a museum. There are two additional forts detached from the wall – fort Lovrijenac and fort Revelin.
The city walls are very worth a visit. The walk along the walls offers a lovely view over the roofs and gardens of Dubrovnik Old Town, as well as a beautiful view of the sea. There are two entrances to the walls. One is right next to the Pile Gate, at the entrance to the main street. The other one is located on the St. Dominic Street, in the east part of the Old Town. The entrance fee is 200 HRK and to make the entire length of the walls you will need approximately two hours. However, if you find it tiring or if you are short of time, you can make only a half of the length.
By entering the Pile Gate you will find yourself at the beginning of the main city street – Stradun. Stradun is the widest and longest street inside the city walls. It extends at a length of 292 meters from the Pile Gate to the main city square. Traditional stone houses extend all along the street, on both sides. Among them, narrow side streets extend vertically from the main street to the city walls.
Stradun used to be the center of life in the times of the Republic. Until today it remained the most popular street of the Old Town. All the palaces and buildings on the street house business on the ground floor. You can find everything from souvenir and jewelry shops to cafes and pastry shops. Restaurants are mostly situated in the two streets parallel to Stradun. These are Prijeko Street and Ulica od Puča street.
Stradun connects two squares, both of which house a fountain. The 15th century Onofrio’s Great Fountain lies near the Pile Gate. The smaller one is situated next to the St. Blaise Church, at the other end of Stradun.
The Old Town is full of beautiful architecture, but there are two palaces that stand out due to their beauty and architectural value. These are Rector’s Palace and Sponza Palace.
The Rector’s Palace is a beautiful Gothic palace with Renaissance and Baroque elements. As the name indicates, it was a seat of the highest authority of the Republic – Rector. Rector was the highest official in the government. He was ruling the Republic with the support of the Senate, the Major Council and the Minor Council. Rector was chosen from among the nobility at the length of one month. During his term of office, the Rector was living and working in the palace. He was forbidden to leave the palace or to have any contact with his family.
Nowadays, the Rector’s Palace serves as a historical museum. It also houses concerts and other cultural gatherings in its beautiful courtyard.
The Sponza Palace is another beautiful palace built in Renaissance and Gothic style. Today it houses the national archives, but during the centuries it obtained several functions. It served as an armory, mint, treasury, bank, warehouse and even as a school. The palace also provides a stage during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, an annually-held festival of drama and music.
St. Blaise Church and Cathedral
Like all the other old towns on the Dalmatian coast, Dubrovnik is home to many lovely churches. One of the main churches in the Old Town is the St. Blaise Church. As its name says, it is dedicated to the patron saint of Dubrovnik – St. Blaise (Sveti Vlaho). This beautiful Baroque church is located opposite the Sponza Palace, at the end of Stradun.
Around the corner, next to the Rector’s Palace, stands the Dubrovnik’s Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. The cathedral we see today was built in the 17th century in the Baroque style, with a grand Baroque dome. What makes this church even more attractive is the Cathedral’s Treasury. The treasury holds, among others, the relics of St. Blaise. On the third of February Saint Blaise’s day is celebrated, together with the day of the city.
The Festivity of Saint Blaise gathers both the residents of Dubrovnik and representatives of Church. Together they take part in the procession in which the relics of St. Blaise are carried around the Old Town. The festivity dates way back and is celebrated annually for more than 800 years. In 2009 it was inscribed on the UNESCO List of Cultural Heritage.
Franciscan Monastery and Dominican Monastery
The Franciscan Monastery is located at the beginning of Stradun. The large monastery complex spreads from the main street all the way north to the city walls. The current monastery was built in the Baroque style (as most of the other buildings in the Old Town due to the 17th-century restoration after the great earthquake) with the Renaissance and Gothic elements. Housing a museum, the monastery is open to public. The visitors can take a walk in the monastery’s cloister, which is by many the most beautiful cloister inside the city walls. They can also visit the famous monastery’s pharmacy. The Friars Minor Pharmacy is the third oldest pharmacy in Europe, and it houses an inventory that dates to the 14th century.
The church of the monastery can be entered from the main street. Its beautiful Gothic portal was the only element of the former building preserved after the earthquake. Next to the portal, there is an ancient stone protruding from the wall. Once the end of the rainfall drainage system, today a stone with magical powers that grants wishes! The legend is, whoever can climb this stone, take off and put back his shirt while standing on the stone, will have his wish granted! Whether this is true or not, it doesn’t hurt to try. After all, it is fun to watch people trying and failing!
In the eastern part of the Old Town, close to the Ploče Gate, stands the Dominican Monastery and its church. The complex includes the gothic-style St. Dominic Church with the bell tower, a cloister, and four other churches. As the former, the Dominican Monastery has also been turned into a museum. The museum holds the works of many great local authors from the 15th and 16th centuries. And the church guards several sarcophagi and tombs of archbishops, bishops, and members of the local nobility.
Other religious buildings
Other catholic religious architecture includes St. Savior Church, St. Nicholas Church, St. Catherine Convent and Former Convent of St. Claire. But there are also several other sacred buildings within the city walls. These are the Serbian Orthodox Church with its Museum of Icons, Mosque and Synagogue. The Orthodox Church and the Mosque were only built in the 19th century. The Dubrovnik Synagogue, on the other hand, is the second oldest synagogue in Europe. The Spanish Jews built it after coming to Dubrovnik at the very beginning of the 15th century.
Orlando’s Column found its place in front of the St. Blaise Church. Placed there in the 15th century, Orlando’s Column is the oldest preserved public sculpture in Dubrovnik. The stone made column is five meters tall. It depicts Orlando, the famous medieval knight, as a symbol of freedom and independence. The column used to hold the flag of the Republic. It also has a little platform on top, from which the messengers would post their provisions and important notices to the people of Dubrovnik. The punishments were also carried out here – the defendants were tied to the pillar and whipped.
Today, a ceremonial is carried out in front of Orlando every year. The raising of the flag on the column indicates the opening of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.
On the same square, surrounded by the Sponza Palace, St. Blaise Church and Orlando’s Column, rises a bell tower. The 31-meter-high tower was constructed in the 15th century. At the top of the tower, there is a dome. It covers the bell and two bronze figures (named Maro and Baro by the residents of Dubrovnik) who ring the bell with their bats. Another interesting fact is that the clock shows not only the exact time but also the moon changes.
Avoid at all costs to visit the walls at noon, especially in June, July, and August. The heat will be intense, and the climbs and stairs on the wall will make it even harder. Take a hat and a bottle of water with you. And remember, the entrance ticket to the walls also gives you access to the Fort Lovrijenac.
What to do in Dubrovnik
Being a historical monument itself, the Dubrovnik Old Town counts numerous museums and cultural institutions. Many of them were already mentioned, such as the Franciscan Monastery Museum, the Dominican Monastery Museum, Historical Museum, Treasury, or Homeland War Museum. But there are also other interesting places that you can visit. The Aquarium and Maritime Museum are located near the Old Port. Museum of Dubrovnik, Natural History Museum, and Ethnographic Museum Rupe are all situated within the city walls. You can also visit Fort Revelin, which houses the archeological exhibition. Or the Home of Marin Držić, one of the greatest writers of the Croatian literature.
Dubrovnik Cable Car
A great and unique way to experience the Old Town from another angle is to take a cable car ride up to the Hill Srđ. From the above, you will have one of the most beautiful views of the walled city.
The cable car ride lasts for about 4 minutes. The lower station is just outside the city walls, and the upper station stands in a fort on the top of the hill. The Fort on the top is called the Imperial Fort and was built by Napoleon more than 200 years ago. For a fee of 170 HRK for a round-trip ticket, you can also visit a Homeland War Museum. Other services include the souvenir shop, cafe, and restaurant.
Due to its position and the beautiful archipelago, Dubrovnik offers amazing boat tours. At a 15-minute boat ride from Dubrovnik lies the island of Lokrum. Full of vegetation, parks, and beaches, the island was declared a nature reserve. The only inhabitants of this paradise are peacocks, rabbits, and many other animals that move freely around the island. In addition to the natural beauty, the island houses several historic buildings. These are an old monastery, the 16th-century quarantine, ruins of an old church, and a well.
In the central part of the island, you will find a large park with lots of shade and several picnic tables. It’s an ideal place to enjoy your brunch. If you haven’t taken anything with you to the island, don’t worry, there are various food and beverage options available. After exploring the island, look for a beach and plunge into the wonderful Adriatic Sea. Another important information is that the island of Lokrum is one of the settings of the popular series Game of Thrones. It is here that you will find the famous Iron Throne!
Karaka Boat Tour
Another unique experience Dubrovnik has to offer is a boat ride in the replica of a traditional 16th-century wooden ship known as Karaka. Karaka is a large armed merchant ship with sails, which was originally among the largest ships in the world. The one you can take is a bit smaller, but it guarantees an unforgettable experience.
There are many options for a Karaka boat tour, depending on what you are looking for. You can take a ride to see the city walls from the sea, cruise among the islands that surround the Old Town or even have a romantic sunset dinner with music.
Besides enjoying the stunning medieval town, Dubrovnik also offers a good old beach vacation. Some of the best-known beaches in Dubrovnik are Banje Beach, St. Jakov Beach, and Lapad Bay beaches (many of which are reserved for hotel guests only) and Copacabana Beach. Whichever you choose, it will always have a crystal blue sea for you to dive in. The waters of the Dubrovnik Riviera have been rated “excellent” by the European environmental regulators. With an average water summer temperature around 25°C it guarantees a perfect day on a beach!
Banje Beach, popularly known as the “city beach”, is the closest one to the Old Town. Unfortunately, it is also the most crowded one during the summer season. The beach has a great infrastructure, with chairs and umbrellas to rent. You can reach the Banje Beach within a short walk from the Ploče Gate.
Sv. Jakov Beach lies a bit further, about 20 minutes’ walk from Banje Beach. It is more isolated and therefore a better choice for those that don’t mind walking. If you feel like having a more adventurous day on a beach, and have more time for it, explore the beaches on the nearby islands of Lokrum, Šipan or Lopud.
St. Blaise – the patron saint of Dubrovnik
If you are looking for a way to turn your tour of the Old Town a bit more interesting, try counting the numerous statues of St. Blaise. The beloved patron saint of Dubrovnik can be seen around every corner!
Dubrovnik Game of Thrones
Due to the famous HBO series Game of Thrones, the city of Dubrovnik became internationally known as the King’s Landing. Dubrovnik was one of the main locations for the series based on the novels by George R. R. Martin. Those who visit the walled city will have the opportunity to see the actual locations used as a series set. Besides the Old Town, some other locations such as Fort Lovrijenac, Lokrum Island, and Trsteno Arboretum were also used for filming. If you are a fan of the series, you can take the Game of Thrones city tour. It will focus on the curiosities, locations, and plot of the series. And you can even recreate some of the iconic scenes!
The city of Dubrovnik also received the filming crew of the latest Star Wars movie. Stradun, Old Port, Rector’s Palace, the ramparts and Banje Beach were all used as the filming locations representing the “galaxy far, far away”. In addition to Game of Thrones and Star Wars, Dubrovnik Old Town was also used as a set for the Knightfall series and the latest Robin Hood movie.
The Pearl of the Adriatic
Many years ago, Dubrovnik earned the title “The Pearl of the Adriatic”. It doesn’t really come as a surprise. It is one of the most beautiful Mediterranean cities and one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea. But this also has to do with its past. During the era of the Republic of Ragusa, the city was one of the richest. Not only in the terms of gold but also because of its wealth in the arts and culture.
How to get to Dubrovnik
Regarding the arrival in Dubrovnik, there are a few possibilities. First of all, you can’t reach the city by train because the railway ends in Split, some 200km north from Dubrovnik. This leaves you three options – car, plane, and boat. When arriving by car, note that you will have to cross the border. Dubrovnik region is detached from the rest of the country. This is because Bosnia and Herzegovina has about 15km of the coast, at the town of Neum. You will enter the Bosnian territory and then enter Croatia once again, continuing to Dubrovnik. A boat is a great option for those traveling the long way. But the most practical and time-saving option is arrival by plane.
When in Dubrovnik, public transportation within the city is very practical and safe. The city has a local bus network that connects all the neighborhoods. It runs from morning until midnight, with the frequent bus schedules. No need to say that the Old Town is a pedestrian zone, being the protected world heritage monument. So the closest you can get is the Pile Gate.
How to get to Dubrovnik from Zagreb
When driving from Zagreb, you will need at least 6 hours to get to Dubrovnik. And this is the perfect scenario, which is impossible during the summer months when the entrances to the cities on the coast are jammed. The good news is that you can take a highway almost all the way. Get on E71/E65 and continue until its end. Exit at Ploče and continue on the state road D8. Pass the border and the town of Neum, enter Croatia again, and continue forward until you reach Dubrovnik.
How to get to Dubrovnik from Split
When arriving to Dubrovnik from Split, get on E71/E65 and continue until the end of the highway. Exit at Ploče and continue on the state road D8. Pass the border and the town of Neum, enter Croatia again, and continue forward until you reach Dubrovnik. You will need approximately 3h30 to get there.
How to get to Dubrovnik from Kotor
When arriving from the Kotor Bay, please note that there is no highway from Kotor to Dubrovnik. There is only one road that passes the state border, so be prepared to wait a while during the high season. The road itself takes you approximately 2h15, without stops. First take E65 until you reach the Croatian border. Next, get on D8 and continue to Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik International Airport, near Čilipi, is situated approximately 20 km from the city center. That’s about 30 minutes by car. There is also a bus that connects the airport with the main bus station in Gruž. However, if you are visiting Dubrovnik in high season, count with an extra hour when planning your transfer. There is only one road that connects the city and the airport, and traffic jam is common in the summer months.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
As one of the main tourist attractions in the country, Dubrovnik has many accommodation options. But, as they tend to fill up early, bear that in mind when planning your trip to this beautiful city.
Finding accommodation within the walls is very complicated, especially if you are looking for hotels. Due to the restricted space and the very high price, there are very few hotels in the medieval city. Most hotels are located outside of the walls but within walking distance from the entrance to the Old Town.
Hotel Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Set in a historic building built in 1895, Hotel Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik offers five-star accommodation a few hundred meters from the Pile Gate. This hotel features a great range of facilities and services for a comfortable and luxurious stay. Among the other amenities, we can single out the garage, valet service, pet services, fitness room, a pool, and a bar. With such an attractive localization and an on-site restaurant, this hotel has everything you may need.
Hotel Lero ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Hotel Lero is a four-star hotel, located 20 minutes on foot from the Old Town. The hotel’s sophisticated modern design will make you feel welcome and relaxed during your stay in this beautiful city. Apart from all the usual hotel services, Hotel Lero also offers wellness and spa facilities. It has an outdoor pool, two bars, two restaurants, and free parking. The guests can choose from the standard double rooms to the luxurious family rooms – with a guarantee of the best value for money.
Hotel Lapad ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Located in Gruž Bay, the four-star Hotel Lapad is one of the oldest hotels in the city of Dubrovnik. The hotel was built in 1914 and the building has preserved its Victorian appearance until today. Nevertheless, it was adapted and received a new modern expression to fit all the needs of contemporary times. In its two wings, superior and classic, the hotel offers 157 rooms and 6 suites. All the rooms in the hotel are furnished and equipped to the highest standards.
Hotel Vis ⭐⭐⭐
Hotel Vis is a comfortable three-star hotel located in Lapad Bay, near the beach. It is a more affordable option, ideal for a family vacation and for those that prefer enjoying the beach than exploring the city. Although located 4 kilometers from the Old Town, the hotel has a great connection. The public bus stop to the Old Town is right in front of the hotel, and you can be there in 10 minutes. The hotel has 150 rooms on your disposal, with complimentary breakfast.
Temperatures in Dubrovnik vary according to the season. Situated in the very south of Croatia, on the Adriatic coast, Dubrovnik has a Mediterranean climate. Summers in Dubrovnik are dry and hot, while winters are mild and with rain. Another factor that affects temperature is the wind, mainly Bura and Jugo. Bura is a cold dry wind, and Jugo is a warm and humid wind.
During the summer the highest temperature in the city can reach 35°C. Spring and fall temperatures are more pleasant – generally, between 20°C and 25°C. Winter temperature is not as rigorous as in the rest of the country, it hardly ever goes below 5°C, and the snow is extremely rare.
Where to eat in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is known as the most expensive Croatian city. This means that dining in restaurants isn’t cheap either. But local cuisine being this good, you should definitely try some of the traditional dishes. Many good restaurants are located in Prijeko street, but wherever you go you will have plenty of restaurant options.
Being a Mediterranean city, almost all the restaurants serve Mediterranean cuisine. It makes part of the traditional Croatian cuisine. It includes pasta, fish, seafood, lamb, pastries, etc.
Don’t miss a chance to try oyster soup, octopus salad, fresh fish with mangold and potato, tuna steak, šporki makaruli (a special type of pasta served with meat sauce), green menestra (cabbage and smoked meat stew), roasted lamb or veal, traditional Ston cake (made of macaroni and walnuts), or rozata (a traditional dessert).
If you want to take a “taste” of Dubrovnik with you, make sure to visit a market at Gundulić Square. Arancini (candied orange peel), dried figs, caramelized almonds, tangerine liqueur, limunčelo (lemon liqueur), and homemade rakija are just some of the delicacies you can take as a souvenir or for your own enjoyment.
What to visit near Dubrovnik
The Pelješac peninsula is the second largest Croatian peninsula. Known for the numerous wineries, the region is a favorite destination for wine lovers. You can take a ride along the wine roads on the Pelješac peninsula, make a stop at the local wineries and taste their wine and food. The best-known city on the peninsula is the city of Ston, which houses the second longest wall in the world. The wall spreads from one side of the peninsula to the other, connecting the towns of Ston and Mali Ston. The peninsula is also famous for seafood and the freshest oysters in the country. So, if you enjoy wine and local cuisine, and are also enchanted by medieval architecture, this peninsula is well worth visiting!
Mljet National Park
Croatia is well known for its intact and unique nature. One of the proofs is the fact that, despite being such a small country, Croatia has 19 national and nature parks. One of the best-preserved national parks is Mljet National Park. The park covers the northern part of the island of Mljet and to get there you must take a catamaran from Dubrovnik. Attractions of the island include two lakes, several archaeological sites, ancient settlements, and the Benedictine monastery, situated on the island of St. Mary. You can even rent a boat or bicycle to enjoy your day in the best possible way!
Due to its position in the south of Croatia, Dubrovnik lies close to the Montenegro border. The Kotor Bay is just a two-hour drive from Dubrovnik. The road passes close to the sea so the view while driving is amazing. The main city in the region is Kotor, the country’s most important port, located at the northeast end of Kotor Bay. Kotor is a historic city, full of narrow streets and traditional stone houses. Like Dubrovnik and Budva, Kotor is also a fortified city. The Kotor Old Town is also housing to several palaces and churches, and a fortress that sits on top of the mountain that rises above the bay.
Another city we recommend visiting in Montenegro is Budva. Famous for its medieval walled city, sandy beaches with clear water, and great nightlife, Budva is the center of Montenegro tourism. Budva Old Town is 2.500 years old, which makes it one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic coast. The entire Old Town is closed with defensive stone walls, with its fortification being typical of the medieval walled cities in the Adriatic. Unlike Dubrovnik, for visiting Budva Old Town in the summer you will need to buy a ticket!