Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik is the most beautiful city in Dalmatia, and why not in all of Croatia! Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, the city center attracts millions of tourists annually! The crowds are so big that even the local government is trying to contain them… According to many it’s expensive and boasted, but in my opinion it is extremely charming and majestic!
Where is located and how to get there
It’s located in the southernmost part of the Croatian coast, 612 km from the capital Zagreb. The second largest city in the country, Split, is 232 km away. Dubrovnik has its own airport, which greatly facilitates the options for visiting. Arriving by plane, car, ship or organized tour bus are the most common ways to reach the city.
See car rental options in Dubrovnik.
If you have a car, parking near the center is a very difficult and expensive task… The prices are extremely inflated, especially during the summer season. The closest and most convenient parking is Parking Zicara.
Descending from the western part of the Adriatic coast, we were able to enjoy a wonderful view of the bay cut into the shore, where the new port of Dubrovnik is located and the cruise ships dock. And the road passes through the relatively new suspension bridge (2002), named after the first Croatian president – Most dr. Franja Tuđmana.
See places to stay in DubrovnikBooking.com
Through the central part
Exploring the old town is one of the most interesting things to do when visiting Dubrovnik! To get to it, one passes through a narrow bridge and the Pile Gate, built in the 15th century. As this is the main entrance and where the tour groups gather, it’s usually packed with people, traffic is heavy and it is difficult to even lift your camera to take a picture…
The main street Stradun
Immediately after the gate we find ourselves on the elegant main street Stradun, called by the locals “Placa” and dividing the city into two parts. She is a place for a pleasant walk or a perfect choice to drink a coffee while watching everything happening in the heart of Dubrovnik. In the evening, it becomes an attractive place for young people… And despite the noise and the many establishments, the upper floors of the buildings are residential and mostly inhabited by heirs of the deep local aristocracy…
First steps in Dubrovnik
At its very beginning is Onofrio’s Large Fountain, built in the 15th century and distinctive with its sixteen uniquely decorated walls and the brick dome at the top. Unfortunately, it was partially damaged by the great earthquake that struck the city in 1667. Directly opposite are the Church of St. Spas and the side facade of the Franciscan Monastery, whose construction began in the 14th and ended in the 15th century. The earthquake also affected it, necessitating an almost complete restoration. The complex extends northwards around the fortress wall, including a museum section and can be visited for an entrance fee. It also has one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe!
💡 The dome of the fountain is the work of the master mason Petar Martinov from Milan, for whom I have never been able to find any connection with Bulgaria, but judging by the name, it most likely there is… He is known by several other names – Pietro di Martino da Milano, Pietro da Sormano and Pierre de Milan. He led a nomadic lifestyle and worked on the Duomo in Milan, buildings in France, Venice, Dubrovnik and Naples…
Around Luža Square
If you don’t stray into the tempting side streets, the 300-meter white pavement of the main street will lead you to the former market Luža square. The clock tower rises above the rest of the buildings, in the corner next to it is nestled one of the few surviving Renaissance palaces from the 16th century (the Sponza Palace), and the baroque church of St. Blaise took center stage in the square, giving tourists the opportunity to sit on her shadowy stairs. The charming urban environment is complemented by several other landmarks, such as Antonio Raguzzino’s “Orlando’s Column” and Small Onofrio’s Fountain.
Rector’s Palace and Dubrovnik Cathedral
The main street makes a 90 degree turn to take us to perhaps the two most important historical buildings of Dubrovnik! The Rector’s Palace, with its beautiful loggia and a mixture of architectural styles due to the many destructions it has suffered, was once the seat of the high council and the rector of Ragusa (the old name of Dubrovnik). Today, its interior, the courtyard and the city museum housed there can be viewed for an entrance fee of 15 euro. If you decide to enter, don’t miss the famous inscription above the entrance to the Great Council Chamber, which reads: “Obliti Privatorum Publica Curate” (Forget private affairs, take care of public ones).
Dubrovnik Cathedral (The Assumption Cathedral) was built in the 12th-14th centuries on the remains of a Byzantine basilica. The legend associated with its construction is interesting, which tells that King Richard the Lion Heart was shipwrecked near Dubrovnik and was rescued on the opposite island of Lokrum. As a sign of gratitude to God, it was he who financed its construction. Unfortunately, it was completely destroyed by the devastating earthquake and rebuilt in the Baroque style in the 17th century. It houses some interesting relics, such as the skull, arm and leg of St. Blaise.
Gundulić Square and the famous Jesuit stairs
Quite slightly to the side is one of the most impressive squares of Dubrovnik – Gundulić. Every morning there is an open market with stalls offering a variety of seasonal fruits, vegetables and other local products such as rakia, jams, lavender oil, dried figs and what not. We were there in the afternoon and the stalls were no longer there, but the chairs and tables of the several establishments were set up on the square and it was extremely pleasant for a refreshing drink…
And right in its corner is probably the most popular place for all Game of Thrones fans – the Jesuit Stairs, made famous in the movie thanks to the “Walk of Shame” scene. The elegant baroque stairs resemble the “Spanish Steps” in Rome and lead to a small piazza where the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius and the Jesuit college of the 17th century. Stand for a moment at the top of the steps and enjoy the charming narrow alley down to the square…
Along the fortress walls
If there is one landmark that is distinctive for Dubrovnik, it’s the perfectly preserved fortress walls! They create the unique look of the city and are among the must-sees. To avoid going back to the beginning of the main street, where the main entrance to them is, we entered through the fortress of St. John. For up-to-date prices, opening hours and pre-purchase of tickets, you can visit the site – HERE.
The entrance fee is definitely not cheap, but I can say that the experience is worth it! The fortifications were built as early as the 10th century and have been modified over the years to achieve todays imposing appearance. The length of the paths along them is around 2 km and their tour takes about an hour and a half. You literally walk around the whole city, above the heads of tourists and with a view of every landmark… In places, you can almost walk into locals’ terraces or touch the bright orange roof tiles used to cover the damage done to buildings during the Croatian War of Independence.
And the views of the Adriatic are stunning… If you don’t plan to visit Lokrum Island, you can get the best idea of what its shores look like from here. From Kula sv. Marije is reveals the most picturesque panorama of Dubrovnik – the Bokar Tower and the Lovrijenac Fortress, and between them is the nestled western harbor…
A short history of Dubrovnik
It is completely normal if, walking around Dubrovnik, you have the feeling that you are not in Croatia, but in a completely independent country… Founded by Roman refugees in the 7th century under the name of Ragusa, the city was under the protection of Byzantium, later part of the Venetian Republic and the Hungarian-Croatian Kingdom, to reach its greatest heights precisely as an independent republic (Respublica Ragusina) in the period from the 14th to the 19th century!
In the 15th and 16th centuries, its greatness reached such limits that it was the only eastern Adriatic city rivaling in influence Venice and the other Italian maritime republics. All this is also evident in the architectural heritage of this period, which understandably led to the inclusion of the old city in the large UNESCO family.
The gradual decline of the republic was dramatically accelerated by the great earthquake of 1667… The raids of some of the powerful countries were very cruel, and having already captured Venice, in 1806 Napoleon managed to reach Dubrovnik. It was later annexed by Austria-Hungary as part of the Kingdom of Dalmatia, until it became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia) in 1918, when it officially changed its name to Dubrovnik.
During the war for the separation of Croatia from Yugoslavia in 1991, the city suffered huge defeats… The bombing of the old part damaged many of the iconic buildings and places. Thanks to a large-scale project under the auspices of UNESCO, the appearance and atmosphere have been restored, and Dubrovnik is beginning to become the “Pearl of the Adriatic” known from the past…
The cable car above the city
If you love bird’s-eye views, you can’t miss this experience! Dubrovnik’s unique structure is worth seeing from above… That’s why we head outside the walls, to the lift station! Another attraction that isn’t cheap at all… 27 euro for a round trip ticket! You can find more information about the lift and buying tickets in advance on the website – HERE.
In just a few minutes, the cable car leads to the 412 m high Srd peak, from where a breathtaking view is revealed… Sit on a rock and enjoy what you will see… On a clear day you can see up to 60 km! On our visit, there was a light mist that skilfully interwoven with the blue hues of the sea. Apart from the city, don’t miss a glance to the right towards the numerous islands… And to Lokrum to the left, of course!
💡 If you have more time, you can stop at one of the other two options for reaching the top – by car (about 15 min in one direction) or on foot (about 40 min ascent and 30 min descent). Or take a boat to the nearby island of Lokrum, which is a green oasis…
The Western Harbor and the Lovrijenac Fortress
Excited by what we saw, we descend the tunnel-like Iza Grada street in the rocks to reach our starting point and visit the western port of Dubrovnik. Hidden between the two fortresses, this bay is a peaceful and frequent choice for a walk by tourists. Would I surprise you if I told you that it has also become very popular, thanks to footage from the series Game of Thrones?
As its proud guardian, the Lovrijenac fortress rises on the opposite rock! The first fortification was built in the 11th century, and legend has it that the main reason was to prevent the Venetians from settling there and attack the city. It subsequently underwent reconstruction, and the current structure dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s especially popular with the inscription carved next to the gate – Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro – Freedom is not sold for all gold in the world. The Walls ticket entitles us to free entry, so it’s worth a visit!
And it gives us the opportunity to see Dubrovnik from another perspective… Don’t miss to look on the other side of the rock, because there is hidden one of the most beautiful bays in the area, a magnetic mixture of crystal green waters and a refreshing aroma of pine – Šulić beach!
The old port
We cross the main street again to come out past the Revelin inner fortress and the less frequented eastern Ploče Gate. On the right is the old port, which, despite the modernization of Dubrovnik and the redirection of the larger sea traffic to the new part, manages to retain its charm! Today, mostly the boats of local fishermen and tourist ships for sightseeing are moored around the fortress walls.
Dubrovnik is far from being just an attractive medieval city with beautiful fortresses and a fascinating history, it’s a preferred summer vacation destination! And as such it has some very good beaches. Just a few meters from the old town is the most popular of them – Banje. The water is crystal clear and the sandy beach seems wide, but it is hardly the case in the active season when it’s most likely difficult to find a free spot… Surprisingly to me, there were beachgoers in April too!
Around villas and gardens
Somewhere around here I made the impulsive decision to follow the road straight on to explore the charming area around Dubrovnik, popular for expensive boutique hotels and lovely secret coves. And more views of the endless waters of the Adriatic and the outline of the city…
Đivovići Beach with a view of the Betina Cave
Our first diversion from the main road was to descend a set of steep stairs that I was sure led somewhere down to the coast… That’s how we ended up at Đivovići Beach! And below, the crystal water was washing the many rocks along the shore… If you climb one of them, you will get a great view of the Betina cave, which has a small sandy beach accessible only by sea…
Next stop is steep steps down again… It’s right HERE. I have no idea what it’s called, but I’m sure it’s a corner of paradise… We could have spent the whole day sitting on one of the rocks, admiring the tranquility and listening to the sounds of the sea… Here I found out why thousands of tourists decide to spend their summer holidays on the coast near Dubrovnik…
Sveti Jakov beach and the view of the city
The end point of this wandering is probably the most attractive beach of Dubrovnik – Sveti Jakov! From above there is a great distant panorama of the fortifications of the old town and the coast surrounding them. The water around the yellowish sand was crystal clear! There is a reason why it is repeatedly included in rankings for the most beautiful beaches in Europe…
For a final
You will hear from many places that Dubrovnik is the most expensive city in Croatia, and it really is! But it’s unique, with a great mood, filled with beautiful scenes around every corner and has retained its greatness to this day! А и може да бъде посетен според бюджета, с който разполагате! Заслужава си! We are left with a few more shots from the return to the heart of the city and the sun slowly creeping in between the thick clouds…