What better way to learn about Dubrovnik than with a complimentary guided tour by Sandra Milovcevic, the Public Relations Department Co-ordinator, from the Dubrovnik Tourist Board. We caught up with Sandra one afternoon at 4pm when the crowds were dissipating at Pile Gate at Dubrovnik Old Town. Pile Gate is the hub of Dubrovnik, it is where the buses depart from, tour groups meet and where the Dubrovnik Tourist Board has one of their Offices.
(Editor updated April 2018)
We have written an e-book on What to Do in Dubrovnik.
Our guide covers what to do, where to go, where to stay and recommendations for restaurants as well as tips and tricks.
- 1 Dubrovnik by Drone
- 2 Where is Dubrovnik
- 3 Dubrovnik Map
- 3.1 The Walls of Dubrovnik
- 3.2 Fort Lovrijenac – or Kings Landing Croatia if you are a Game of Thrones Croatia Fan
- 3.3 The Early Days of Dubrovnik
- 3.4 Other Buildings To Visit Within The Walls
- 3.4.1 St Savior’s Church
- 3.4.2 St Franciscan Monastery
- 3.4.3 Small Canals inside the City Walls
- 3.4.4 Lazareti (Quarantine Hospital)
- 3.4.5 The Orphanage
- 3.4.6 Onofrio’s Fountain
- 3.4.7 Houses along the Stradun
- 3.4.8 The Synagogue Dubrovnik
- 3.4.9 Luza Square
- 3.4.10 Bell Tower
- 3.4.11 Sponza Palace
- 3.4.12 Rectors Palace
- 3.4.13 Gundulic’s Square
- 3.4.14 Cathedral
- 3.4.15 Old Port
- 3.4.16 Cruises from the Old Port
- 3.5 Life Within The City Walls Today
- 4 Where to stay in Dubrovnik
- 5 Where to Stay Outside Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik by Drone
Dubrovnik Croatia is located on the beautiful Adriatic Sea. Croatia borders the countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia.
The Dubrovnik City Walls are 1,940m in length. They are the biggest and the best preserved in the whole of Europe.
Can you believe this? The City Walls were built between the 11th and 15th century to defend the city, but they never saw a war or an evasion until 1991 when Dubrovnik came under attack from Serbia. If you were a visitor to the city during its construction you were required to bring stone with you from the outlying areas of Dubrovnik as your entrance fee to the city.
The walls are made up of 3 round, 12 rectangular, 15 bastions and 2 corner fortresses and at some parts the walls are 25m high. Take your time to walk the walls, morning is best it is cooler and less crowded, and check on opening times as they differ throughout the year. It took us nearly 2 hours to walk the walls as there were so many photographic opportunities. There are also cafes along the walk to enjoy a coffee, cold drink or just to have a rest and enjoy the views. When you walk the walls you must walk in a counter-clockwise direction due to its narrow pathways.
Fort Lovrijenac – or Kings Landing Croatia if you are a Game of Thrones Croatia Fan
The Fort is also known as the ‘Dubrovnik Gibraltar” and is located on a sea cliff 37 meters high outside the main walls of the Old City. On the North side, the walls are between 4-6m thick and on the South side only 1.3 – 3m thick whilst the walls on the West side are the thickest coming in at 12m thick and on the city side only 60cm. If the enemy attacked the city side the thinness of the walls made it easy for those in the city to push back the attackers. At the entrance to the Fortress above the door. you will see a Latin inscription it means “You can’t sell freedom for any gold in the world” – this has been the Republic of Dubrovnik’s motto for centuries.
The Games of Thrones TV series is filmed in many locations around the world. Kings Landing Dubrovnik stands out as one of the most impressive sites used in the series. The TV series has put Dubrovnik on the tourist track with many Games of Thrones Tours available. Some of the best Dubrovnik Games of Thrones tours are:
- 3 hour Dubrovnik Games of Throne Tour – prebook your tour before you travel
- A private Dubrovnik Games of Throne Tour
- A full day Dubrovnik Games of Throne Tour
Dubrovnik was founded by the Slavs during the 7th Century. 20km outside Dubrovnik lies the town of Cavtat which was settled by the Romans and was originally named Epidarum. Refugees from here built a new settlement on the island of Lausa and other occupants in the area settled along the coastline across the narrow channel which was known as Dubrovnik. During the 9th century this channel was filled with earth, which connected the two settlements, and today it is known as the main street of the Old City – Stradun.
Some important dates:
- From the 9th century to 1205 Dubrovnik was under the rule of the Byzantine Empire.
- 1205 – 1358 Venetians ruled the city
- August 16, 1296, saw a fire that nearly destroyed the whole city
- 1358-1806 – the Republic of Dubrovnik was a free state, it had its own currency, own laws and ruled by the Senate which contained 50 members, an executive body, who made all the decisions
- During the 15th century – Dubrovnik was a Maritime State with 500 sailing vessels and 5000 sailors. Their shipbuilding industry was well developed. Trade by sea and land was very important to the State.
- For 500 years Dubrovnik was a free zone, they negotiated with the Turks to keep their freedom and in doing so paid 12,000 golden ducats for the privilege
- April 6, 1667, an earthquake destroyed much of the city and killed 5,000 people
- In 1806 Napolean tricked the Government, he asked for permission to pass through the State and stayed.
- 1808 the Republic was dissolved
- 1815 it became under the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy
- After World War I Dubrovnik became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia
- During World War II Dubrovnik became under the rule of the Communists – the Socialist Republic of Croatia and the Social Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
1991 – 1995
On October 1, 1991, Dubrovnik was attacked by Serbia, the attack lasted for several months. The worst casualties, 19 killed and 60 wounded, occurred on December 6. For 3 months the city was without power and water, even Onofrio’s Fountain water supply was cut. The last bombing occurred during 1995.
80% of roofs were completely destroyed in the Old City. The 18 Churchs within the Walls all suffered some form of damage. The people of the City managed to save some of their important monuments by protecting them with wood.
When you enter the city from Pile Gate, head towards the Old Map on the Wall which shows the damage during this time. Red spots denote completed destroyed, circles show roof damage and other circles show pavement damage. You will also note as you walk down the Stradun that the tiles are new, they were replaced after the war.
Drawbridge at Pile Gate Entrance
For 500 years from the 14th century to the 19th century, the drawbridge was lifted up first thing in the morning and let back down in the evening. Only the residents of the city were allowed to stay in the city overnight, in this way it kept the city safe. Guards were placed on the city walls and the Rector held the keys to the two gates.
St Blaise is the Patron Saint of Dubrovnik. He originally came from Romania and was a Bishop as well as a Doctor. Legend states that during a dream he had a vision of Dubrovnik under attack from the Venetians, and he was able to warn the residents of the forthcoming surprise attack from the Venetian ships who were supposedly in the harbour to take on fresh water supplies.
St Blaise is also known as the Protector of the Throat. A young boy was brought to him choking on a fish bone, St Blaise positioned his hands on the young boy’s throat, prayed to God and healed him.
Today the Festival of St Blaise starts on February 2 and runs for several days. Locals attend St Blaise’s Church in Luza Square inside the city walls.
There are statues of St Blaise within the city walls and each one shows him holding the city in the palm of his hands.
Other Buildings To Visit Within The Walls
The first church on the left as you enter the City from Pile Gate. The Senate commissioned the construction of the Church in 1520 after an earthquake in the city killed 20 people. It was built in the Renaissance style. It withstood an earthquake during 1667 which killed 5000 residents.
Established in 1317 it contains the 3rd oldest Pharmacy in Europe. The herbs used for medicinal purposes were originally planted by the Monks.
Small Canals inside the City Walls
Look down as you walk around the Old City and you will find small canals in the streets, actually, you may smell it before you see it. This is the oldest sewerage system in the world which dates back to 1317.
Lazareti (Quarantine Hospital)
The Hospital was built during the 14th century and was a home for the elderly people of the Old City.
The Hospital was also used as a Quarantine Hospital for sailors where they needed to stay for 40 days after returning from their voyages.
The oldest Orphanage lies within the City Walls and it is still operating today as a home for orphans. It was forbidden for Noblemen to marry commoners and as a result, many mothers were forced to give up their babies. They would travel to outlying villages to give birth. At night they would come to the Orphanage, ring the bell, the Nuns would open the secret door where there was a wooden turntable. The mother would place her baby onto the turntable with a piece of cloth, so that if her circumstances changed, she would be able to return and identify her child, she then would turn the board back around towards the Nuns. When the child turned 6 years of age he or she would then be adopted out if the Mother had not returned.
The first thing you see as you enter the entrance to the Old City is a huge central dome that is Onofrio’s Fountain. 16 water taps have been supplying water to the city from the mountains since the 15th Century, it is cool, fresh and potable, you will see locals filling up their water bottles daily. We filled our bottles up on numerous occasions and had clear fresh cool tasty water!
The Stradun, the main street of the Old City, houses the Baroque buildings along its length of 292 meters from the main city square. The houses were built with the ground floor containing their shops, the first floor was used for their living areas and bedrooms and the top floor was their kitchens. Kitchens were built on the top floor in case of fire, fire travels upwards and it was more cost effective to replace a kitchen and a roof instead of the whole building.
Dubrovnik houses the 2nd oldest Jewish Synagogue in the world, the oldest is in Prague. The Jews came from Spain as refugees in 1492, they felt privileged to be able to reside there. Many became traders and craftsmen. During World War 2, 250 were taken to the Island of Lopud and then to a Concentration camp. Today there are only 40 left living in the street. Three times a year a Rabbi from Zagreb comes to the City to celebrate their Holy Days.
At the end of the Stradun is the meeting point for tourists and locals alike at Luza Square. Surrounding the Square are Dubrovnik’s most important buildings – St Blaise Church, The Treasury, Palace of the Rector, the Customs House and sitting proudly in front of St Blaise Church is Orlando’s Column a statue dedicated to the Knight Roland.
The statue is a symbol of freedom for the city, his elbow has been used as the official measurement of length 5.15cm (originally the Ragusan cubit).
Luza Square is the center for Christmas and New Years Eve Celebrations.
Located at the end of the Stradun in Luza Square lies the Bell Tower which dates back to the 15th Century. On top of the 31 meter high Bell Tower are two soldiers made from bronze called Maro and Baro who strike the 2-tonne iron bell. At midday, the bells strike 12 times and then repeating the strike again after 3 minutes – just in case you missed the first! On the half hour the bells strike once.
In Luza Square is the 16th century Sponza Palace built in the Gothic and Renaissance style. It was originally used as the Customs Office and the Mint, today, it houses the States Archives.
The Rector’s Palace was the centre of political power in the city. The Rector was elected from the Noble Families and ruled for only one month, he could be re-elected only after 2 years had passed. During his rule for that one month, he was not allowed to leave the Palace, only for official engagements of religious holidays.
There were 3 classes within the city:
- Nobles who had the money and the power
- Citizens who had the money and no power
- Commoners who had no money and no power
Gundulic’s Square is the only open air market within the walls of the Old City, there is another open market located at Gruz Port where the large ocean liners come into. During the hours of 7am to 12pm, it is a small market selling fruit and vegetables, honey, lavender, and local sweets made from almonds and oranges. After 12pm the Square becomes a busy restaurant and cafe area.
88% of Dubrovnik’s citizens are Catholic. There are 18 Churches, 1 Orthodox Church, 1 Synagogue and 1 Mosque in the city.
The Cathedral was built in 1715 on a site that originally housed a 12th-century Romanesque church which was destroyed during the earthquake of 1667.
Within the Cathedral the Treasury contains many rare relics and paintings and near the main altar is a painting by Titian – Ressurection of Maria.
Legend states that Richard the Lionheart returning from the Crusades was shipwrecked on the island of Lokrum. He vowed to give his thanks by building a church on the island but instead he was coerced to build it in Dubrovnik by the City’s leaders. Crafty leaders!
The Old Port still looks the same as it did during the 15th century. It houses the Maritime Museum, many restaurants and is the port for the ferry to Lokrum Island. Today the restaurants Arsenal and Poklisar are located where the Large and Small Arsenals were based for the building and repairing of the ships, it was the hub of the trading fleets.
Cruises from the Old Port
There are some cruise options available with departures from the Old Port:
Life Within The City Walls Today
Dubrovnik Croatia receives 2 million visitors a year, 1 million who stay in Dubrovnik and 1 million who arrive daily via cruise ships. Dubrovnik has 50,000 residents with 800 of those living in the Old City.
It is expensive to live in the Old City. Deliveries must be by hand which increases the costs of all products. Residents are moving out, their properties are being converted into accommodation rentals. There is one primary school but numbers are dwindling as residents leave. Residents are finding it difficult to live with so many tourists visiting. You don’t need a gym if you live in the Old City, some streets have only 200 steps!!!
Dubrovnik has become a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
We stayed 20 minutes outside Dubrovnik at the Sun Gardens Dubrovnik located at Na Moru 1, Orasac.
The Sun Gardens has all that you want in a resort, great restaurants, a stunning location and activities for couples and families. You must try their Spa and Wellness Centre.
There are 2 hotels within the City walls and 44 hotels outside.
Scalini Palace: Boskoviceva Ulica 3 Dubrovnik City Centre
Hotel Stari Grad: Od Sigurate 4, Dubrovnik City Centre, Dubrovnik, Croatia
For hotel options outside the City Walls:
Where to Stay Outside Dubrovnik
If you prefer to stay outside Dubrovnik we can recommend looking at either the Lapad Peninsula, Ploce, Cavtat or Srebreno.
There are many Airbnb properties in Dubrovnik to choose from that suits all budgets.
If you are yet to stay in an Airbnb we have a special $$$ saving discount for you. Click the link below for more information.
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We thank Sandra and the Dubrovnik Tourist Board for our complimentary Guided Tour of Dubrovnik. In the short time we spent with Sandra we learnt a lot about the fascinating history of Dubrovnik. As always, our opinions are our own.
Click here for more information available from the Dubrovnik Tourist Board on what to do in Dubrovnik.
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