This summer I finally managed to visit Dubrovnik, the gem of the Adriatic coast located in southern Croatia. The city was on my travel bucket list for a very long time. My parents had their honeymoon there, and some members of my family enjoyed their summer holidays over the years in this city. However, that was in the good old days, since all ceased in the early 1990s, as the breakup of Yugoslavia began.
Six months ago my husband and I finally decided to buy tickets for a vacation on the Mediterranean coast and visit Dubrovnik. Even after booking this trip, I still couldn’t believe that I will finally walk through the Medieval streets of the old Ragusa town. As a history enthusiast, I was familiar with Dubrovnik’s magnificent interweaving of Renaissance cobbled steep streets and stairs, romantic Gothic buildings, as well as the magnificent Baroque churches, so we planned our stay cautiously.
Dubrovnik Old Town is a unique spot in Europe with an admirable history. More than a thousand years of its presence makes Dubrovnik a European cultural center. Its inhabitants believe it is the most beautiful city worldwide. After all, Dubrovnik is since 1979 on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. With its amazing architecture, pleasant domestic people, and glorious cultural scene, this city has a lot to offer you. Famous writer George B. Shaw wrote in 1991 that “those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik.” He called it “the pearl of the Adriatic”.
Before we entered Old Town and the Walls of Dubrovnik, we visited the isolated Fort Lovrijenac, also an integral part of the fortification system. The fort is known as the Dubrovnik Gibraltar and has the ancient city motto inscribed on its walls – Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro (Liberty is not for all the gold of the world). From this fortress, you can have a beautiful overlook of the sparkling, turquoise Adriatic Sea, and see the glory of the blue infinity, as well as enjoy the melodious song of the seagulls.
Once you cross The Pile Gate, the former drawbridge and main entrance, you arrive at The Placa or Stradun, pedestrian walkway, and the main street. The old Dubrovnik inhabitants used to enter the city through two main doors – Pile, the western gate, and Ploče, the eastern gate. When you enter the old town you got a feeling like you are in one big public museum. You can feel the history in every corner of the city and every building has its value. I had the impression that a visit to Dubrovnik Old Town is like traveling through history. You can feel the irresistible Adriatic coastal living sparkled with its Dalmatian charm that makes Dubrovnik look so dreamy. They say that the first impression is the most valuable one, well mine was more than overwhelming! I fell in love with this city! As we used to walk through the narrow cobbled stone streets fulfilled with a luxury wardrobe and similar, I started to realize that there is something wonderfully clever hidden here – Dubrovnik is an ideal blend of history and modernity.
If you take a walk along the Stradun street you will arrive at the main city square. There you can see The Rector’s Palace. This was the government seat of the Dubrovnik Republic from 15th to 19th century, today it is theCultural History Museum. The exhibition is really impressive, from weapons, clocks, collections of money, seals, and measures to antique furniture and paintings by old masters of the 16th to 18th century, such as Carracia, Tintoretta, and Bordone. All rooms are decorated so they depict time in the period of the Dubrovnik Republic when the Rector lived and worked.
Since Dubrovnik has one of the most stunning and best-preserved fortification systems in Europe, we have decided to take a tour. The Walls of Dubrovnik are 1940 meters in length and it gives you a unique experience of this coastal city. You can discover a new overlook of the old town, have a stunning view on Lokrum island and blue horizon, and see the previous town harbor and The Ploče Gate. It is stunning and wonderful. It has its own charm, romantic sense, and wonderful energy. The Walls of Dubrovnik include three forts (Mirčeta, Bokar, and St. John), sixteen towers, and six bastions. This experience of Dubrovnik brought us a complete impression on this old town. During the city walls walk, we got to visit Maritime Museum with the exhibits of the development of Dubrovnik maritime trade, travelings, and shipbuilding up to WWII and later.
After we descended the Walls of Dubrovnik, the next stop was a visit to the Franciscan Monastery Museum. This museum has manuscripts and paintings, as well as the reliquaries by unknown masters dating to the 14th century. Also, The Small Friar’s Pharmacy is located here, representing one of the oldest ones dating to 15th century.
I was amazed by the efforts that exude the old look. In every second stone, you could see a note of some prominent Franciscan written in Latin. The site is riddled with amusing pureness, vastness, silence, and freedom. One of those spots where you can just sit, breathe, and be.
As we were visiting Dubrovnik in August, the city was pretty much crowded with tourists from all over the world. However, if you are planning to escape the crowd it is recommended to travel from September till May.
We ended up having quite an active trip, as we planned it. Yet, in order to get to know more stories of Dubrovnik, you will need more than five days in the city. In the narrow stone streets and countless stairs, there are still hidden secrets of this Medieval town. That’s its biggest advantage and for us, reason more to visit Dubrovnik again. This pearl won our hearts in vain!
I was especially touched by the very scarce offer of postcards in Dubrovnik. Certain models could be found in museums, souvenir shops, and the like, however, they have a very simple design, almost like a cheap landscape photo. There are also postcards of religious artifacts and icons, yet nothing a bit artsy, attractive, or impressing. And that’s a shame, considering that this city offers ideal opportunities for very interesting postcards.
During our stay in Dubrovnik, we have also visited the Ethnographic Museum and the Natural History Museum. Although they exhibited small and scanty collections, the presented objects give a good insight into the basic cultural and traditional features of this Dalmatian region.
For our last day, we decided to visit The Lokrum Nature Reserve Island, so we took a short ferry ride from the city main port and spend the whole day on this quiet island surrounded by peacocks and rabbits. The island has some historically interesting sites to offer, yet, even more, hidden gems for one to discover. One of the traditionally famous spots is the botanical garden, as well as the beautiful olive groves. These are parts of the Path of Paradise, which occupies the largest part of the island. Walking the stone path to the summer residence of Maximilian of Habsburg, you start to realize the glories of this island. After 2015, when it became known that the famous Iron Throne from the TV series Game of Thrones is located here, the island especially began to attract attention.
Moreover, Dubrovnik has more and more tourists over the years, since Old Town is the setting for the capital city of Westeros, King’s Landing. Additionally, around 19 locations in the wide Dalmatinian area, including Dubrovnik, Cavtat, and Split, are used as the main sites for the GOT locations. Thus, this is not the only blockbuster that has been filmed here. Part of The Last Jedi in the Star Wars saga also took place in the fortress town. This had a major impact on the costs of the living in Dubrovnik. Even though it is a wonderful city, it is also pretty much expensive one. This is particularly true for the old town, as well as for the area inside the city walls. Considering that Dubrovnik is all about a journey through history, vintage atmosphere, and romantic overlooks over the Adriatic sea, it’s not unusual that we went for a swimming just a couple of times. Additionally, the beaches are quite far from the city (Banje beach, Copacabana, Lapad, Bellevue), and it is necessary to rent deck chairs and umbrellas since there is no shade of trees nearby. Yet, with all the beauty around us, we weren’t really missing the beach or swimming. More so, as we were also planning to visit Montenegro and Boka bay after Dubrovnik, so there was still time for casual summer vacation activities.
Dubrovnik is a city in which I will be happy to go back. I know there’s more to see, meet and experience. To be honest, when I think about it, this is one of the cities where I definitely could live. I tried through photographs to convey to you this spectacular gem on the Adriatic coast. What has impressed you the most in Dubrovnik?
Lots of Love,