Dubrovnik is a city in southern Croatia fronting the Adriatic Sea. It’s known for its distinctive Old Town, encircled with massive stone walls completed in the 16th century. Known as “Pearl of the Adriatic,” beautiful Dubrovnik offers a wealth of attractions for visitors. The city enjoyed its greatest growth in the 15th and 16th centuries, a fact reflected in the impressive architecture and its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Dubrovnik is September and October, when temperatures aren’t stifling hot yet most of the cruise ships have abandoned the port.
Top Places to Visit in Dubrovnik
- The Old City Walls
The old city walls of Dubrovnik are one its best-known features. Built in the 10th century and modified in the 13th and 14th centuries, these formidable walls – as high as six meters and up to six meters thick-provided a solid defense against invaders. Totaling nearly two kilometers in length, Dubrovnik’s city walls make a great spot for a casual stroll and offer numerous excellent views over the Adriatic and inwards over the old city center.
2. Dubrovnik Cathedral and Treasury
Standing on the site of an older cathedral dating from the 6th century and destroyed by earthquakes, beautiful Dubrovnik Cathedral-also referred to as the Assumption Cathedral (its full name is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary)-was designed in Baroque style by Andrea Buffalini of Rome. Notable for its three aisles, three apses, and splendid interior décor, the cathedral includes highlights such as paintings by Italian and Dalmatian artists from the 16th to 18th centuries, including Virgin of the Chair by Raphael from the early 1600s. A must see is the cathedral treasury with its many important relics, the most famous being a portion of the cross that Jesus is thought to have been crucified upon.
3. The Square of the Loggia
The Square of the Loggia in Dubrovnik has long been a central gathering point for citizens and visitors alike. Featuring some of Dubrovnik’s most famous buildings and public monuments, the square of the Loggia is in the north east section of the old city center. Highlights include Orlando’s Column, built and designed by sculptor Antonio Ragusino, as well as the famous Loggia of the Bells dating from 1480 and used as an early warning system by residents in times of unrest. It’s here you’ll find the Church of St. Blaise, of interest for its Baroque façade and its collection of priceless works of art. Also of interest on the square are a clock tower from the 15th century, the main guardhouse, and the small fountain of Onofrio.
4. The Dominican and Franciscan Monasteries
Built in the early 1300s, Dubrovnik’s Dominican Monastery was so large that construction required moving parts of the city walls just to accommodate it. Heavily damaged in the 1667 earthquake, the monastery was completely rebuilt in its present form with special attention given to preserving features such as its splendid late Gothic cloister (the original was designed by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo of Florence in the 15th century). A particular highlight is visiting the monastery’s museum with its many 15th- and 16th-century religious paintings in the style of the Dubrovnik (also known as the Venetian) School, along with interesting items of gold and silver and other relics. Be sure to also visit the city’s Franciscan Monastery, home to one of the most valuable libraries in Croatia and a fascinating medieval pharmacy with its old decorated jars, measuring devices, and mortars (the pharmacy has been in use since 1317). There’s also an on-site museum containing items of historical interest and a fine art collection.
5. The Fort of St. John
On the eastern edge of the old town is the Fort of St. John, known to locals as the Fort of St. Ivan. Once an important part of Dubrovnik’s defenses, this imposing structure now houses several modern attractions to keep visitors entertained. In the upper area is the Maritime Museum of Dubrovnik featuring displays of Dubrovnik’s maritime past illustrated through model boats and naval artifacts, while the lower area contains the Aquarium of Dubrovnik with its many interesting displays of local and exotic fish, as well as a superb collection of seahorses. Also worth a visit is nearby Bokar Fort, designed and built by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi and a great spot to visit for its excellent views over the city and the Adriatic.
6. Fort Lovrijenac
Known as “Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar” for its location on a rocky promontory just outside the city’s western wall, Fort Lovrijenac has long been one of Croatia’s most important fortresses. Rising an impressive 37 meters above the Adriatic, this stunning fortress proved impregnable during the many sieges undertaken by the Venetians from its completion in the 11th century onwards (legend has it the Venetians themselves planned to build a fort here but were beaten to it by industrious city folk). Also notable for its unusual triangular layout with its three terraces, Fort Lovrijenac – also known as Fort Lawrence – is accessed via two drawbridges and a gateway through its impressive walls, as thick as 12 meters in places. In addition to serving as a tourist attraction, the fort is also used as a venue and backdrop for Dubrovnik’s famous Summer Festival and its many theatrical and musical performances.
7. Stradun of Dubrovnik
The spectacular Stradun is a place where locals and visitors alike gather day and night to watch the world drift by. Undoubtedly one of Europe’s most picturesque pedestrian thoroughfares, the Stradun boasts many cafés and restaurants and is a good spot to rest weary feet after a day touring Dubrovnik. Measuring 300 meters in length and famous for its white limestone paving, the street dates back to 1468, although many of the surrounding buildings were built in the 17th century after the devastating earthquake of 1667, when most of Dubrovnik was heavily damaged. The Stradun’s unique homes are designed to enable residential living upstairs and business activities on the main level, and are notable for having their main doors and windows under the same arch.