(Edited November 2018)
Last stop and a grand finale of my bus road trip along the Adriatic cost was Dubrovnik.
|Best of Dubrovnik: Architecture, mountains, and the deep blue sea.|
However, due to the large crowds and the flaws that come with tourist sellout, it was not my trip’s highlight.
Remember what I wrote about Rijeka? How I enjoyed taking part in the everyday life there? “Just being” – no sight-chasing, no fomo – just being there?
Well, Dubrovnik is quite the opposite. Whereby, you can just be – but be prepared of being bored.
Info, Facts, and Figures
However, I assume that no visitor will ‘just be’, everyone will rush to the historic old town and that, indeed, is a jewel. Just entering the area surrounded by the world famous walls is just breathtaking – I was overwhelmed and almost moved to tears.
|View of the historic old town surrounded by the turquoise waters.|
This shall pass at about 9:30 a. m. when visitors in incredible numbers conquer the premises and the majestic fortress becomes an entertainment park.
Ivan Gundulić, a famous Croatian poet at the turn of the 17th century, created the beautiful credo Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro – Liberty is not well sold for all the gold.
|I’m not sure about this gold-thingy: At least in the morning sun the streets of the old town look as if they were paved with gold.|
Well, I have the strong feeling that this ship has sailed long ago for the 43,000 good people of Dubrovnik: Every year, approximately 3 million visitors are conquering the city, concentrated at the historic old town; that means, that every Dubrovniker – from the baby to the grandma – has to welcome 20 visitors, if he likes it or not.
Just like in Venice, the traveller is killing what he loves.
|So this picture proves that there are real people living in the old town of Dubrovnik – doing real laundry.|
Here too, the cruise passengers are the biggest problem since the float the city in masses all at the same time.
Far more destructive, though, was the Croatian independence war that lasted from 1991 till 1994 when Dubrovnik was under siege by the forces of Serbia and Montenegro.
|Boninovo cemetery in Dubrovnik: Graves of Croatian soldiers who died in the Croatian war between 1991 and 1994.|
Today, most of the material damage has been rectified and Dubrovnik is the most popular tourist destination in that region; especially after HBO introduced the city even to those who usually are not so much into UNESCO World Heritage Sites; but Game of Thrones does the trick – and the situation not better.
Visiting the Walled Historic Old Town
Everything is happening at the historic city center, of course, way up high on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
If this wall could talk, it probably would be an even more thrilling tale than the popular series: After all, it’s been there since the 16th century. Actually, it’s the wall that gives the visit an even more surreal, theater-like sensation – and at the same time a claustrophobic one.
|The fantastically well-preserved wall.|
The wall is between 4 to 6 meters /13 to 20 feet thick and runs about 2 kilometers/ 1.2 miles around the historic center. A system of turrets and towers was installed to protect the city and its inhabitants.
There are three gates to access the old town, whereby the Pile Gate to the west is the most important and busiest one. It opens to the Brsalje Square where also the tourist office is located. There, you can get valuable info and a free map.
City of Dubrovnik Tourist Board
Brsalje ulica 5
Phone: + 385 – 20 – 323 887
|The Ploče gate in the east. The visit to the wall is also included in the Dubrovnik card.|
Ask them about the Dubrovnik card: It comes in three versions – for one, three, and seven days and costs between 180 and 315 HRK. There are nine attractions included – like the wall and some museums – and some free rides on public transport.
Since this is a bit complex – truth be told confusing – please check their website for further information. Anyway, if you buy the card there, you get an extra 10 percent off.
|Looking from Fort Minčeta at Fort Bokar to the left and Fort Lovrijenac to the right.|
To walk the walls, I urge you to be there as soon as they open at 8 a. m. I visited in September and even then it was very warm – also at 8 a. m. I don’t even want to imagine how it must be in July or August at noon.
Another relevant aspect for being an early bird is the crowds: Most people, especially the day tripper and cruisers get to the old town around ten. So if you have the chance to be first, be first.
The main entrance to the wall is right next to the Pile Gate and so it the Onofrio’s Fountain, built in 1438. The water coming from 16 spouts used to be the main source of water till the end of the 19th – and is still drinkable!
|A refreshing drink – for free!|
Across the Placa, the main artery is the St. Saviour Church – beautifully decorated like many buildings in the old part of Dubrovnik. Next to this Renaissance building is the Franciscan Church and Monastery.
|La Pietà – so painful yet so alluring.|
At the eastern end of the Placa are some restaurants where after your wall-tour an overpriced breakfast is awaiting you. More interestingly, this is one of old Dubrovnik’s architectonic hot spots with Orlando’s Column in front of the baroque St. Blaise Church, built in the 18th century and housing an impressive Treasury.
|Orlando and Blaise – Dubrovnik’s power couple.|
The Orlando Column was erected in 1418 and has been a symbol of loyalty to a handful of various Emperors. These statues are classic symbols for city autonomy – just remember my post on Bremen and their Roland statue – actually, these guys could be twins.
Across the square is a Renaissance highlight, the Sponza Palace from the 16th century. It serves as Dubrovnik’s National Archive.
|Sponza Palace and Clock Tower.|
On the square’s west side, the clock on the Bell Tower, built in 1444, tells you what time it is and also the phases of the moon.
The adjacent complex consists of the City Hall, the Marin Držić Theater, and the Cultural History Museum at the artistically elaborated Gothic-Renaissance Rector’s Palace.
|Marin Držić with his shiny nose and knees.|
Poor Marin Držić, whose house can be visited on the Široka ulica 7, the broad street, is sitting in front of the theater and everybody is rubbing his nose and his knees; poor Marin Držić.
After a visit to the Cultural History Museum which is a must not only because of the exhibition, but also for the building itself, you walk towards the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dubrovnik. You can enter for free and admire the works of some great Renaissance painters, but if you want to see the treasury, you need a ticket.
|Many treasures, i. a. the triptych of Ascension of Mary by Tizian – and his elfs aka his workshop.|
Continue your visit to the west, you’ll get to the Gundulić square – remember? Gundulić is the one that wouldn’t trade liberty for gold. Now he’s standing in the center of a square where every day many of his compatriots are selling regional products like honey, oil, lavender, dried fruits, nuts, and more to tourists. And even if you’re not shopping for souvenirs, you’ll probably shop here since on this square is one of two – very small – supermarkets where you can stock up on water.
|Good old Gundulić watching over business.|
And water you’ll need since now you’ll do the reversed walk of shame.
The walk of shame – a pretty drastic scene from Game of Thrones that even I have seen on youtube: Some woman, obviously a sinner, has to walk down this street that you are now walking uphill. She’s naked – and I assume you’re not.
|The legendary stairs – but this woman is fully dressed.|
Up the stairs, there is the Poljana Ruđera Boškovića square with more souvenir stalls – more handicraft, less food – and the St. Ignatius Church.
Coming back down the stairs – of shame – turn left into a narrow alley called Strossmayerova and walking it all the way down to the Ethnographic Museum, make sure to turn your head left and right – not for the traffic but because all the views in these narrow alleys are so picturesque and a major part of Dubrovnik’s charm.
|View from the Museum’s window.|
A visit to the Ethnographic Museum is nice for the exhibition, but actually mainly for the views from the windows in the hallways; but the exhibition is nice, too, lots of rural appliances and traditional costumes.
For the last part of the tour, walk down the street Od Domina that leads into Široka – where you can drop in at Držić’s house, but actually it’s not that great if you haven’t been a big fan before; and I must admit that I haven’t even heard of him before I visited Dubrovnik.
Once you get back to the Place, walk all the way to the Clock Tower, but now you pass underneath and find yourself in a street with a couple of churches such as St. Nicholas, St. Sebastian, and Rosario as well the chapels of Annunciation and of St. Luke.
|A lady wearing traditional attire selling regional handicraft.|
From here you have access to the Old Port from where you can book all sort of tours or just sit on the terrace of one of the many restaurants and be happy that you’ve made – you’ve visited one of the most spectacular cities in the world, I’d say.
Other Points of Interest
What’s really not to be missed is a ride by the funicular up to the top of the Srđ mountain. The cable car shuttles between the stop one block up from the northern gate. Here, too, it’s smart to get up early – for the light and the crowds.
On the top is the Fort Imperijal from the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century, today housing a war museum.
|Me – on top of things.|
More impressive are the views – of the old town, Lokrum island, and the entire bay.
|Like everywhere in Croatia: Not so great beach….|
|….but incredible waters.|
I don’t know how it is if you spend more than just a couple of days in Dubrovnik, if then you feel like getting away from it all fleeing to an island – but even if so, I’m sure there are more beautiful and inspiring places than Lokrum.
However, former Austrian archduke Maximilian would probably strongly disagree since he had a holiday home on the island. There is still a monastery and a botanical garden from his era.
|The former Benedictine Monastery.|
Actually, from much earlier times since the Benedictine Monastery was first referenced in 1023. In the 15th century, the Benedictine Monks were forced to leave the island.
Today, a part of the building houses a restaurant and another has been converted into a museum.
Most of the visitors are mainly crazy about the replica of The Iron Throne. To me, it was like monkey see, monkey do since I haven’t seen one single episode of Game of Thrones – neither before nor after my visit.
There is a beach area and also a small salt lake called Mrtvo More, i. e. Dead Sea.
Getting there and around:
Best place to sleep:
Difficult to say and depending on what you like.
I personally was gladly leaving the historic old town after a day in the crowds.
I stayed 10 minutes walk from the main gate on the Andrije Hebranga street in the Gruž neighborhood – which also made accommodation a bit cheaper, I guess.
|It’s nice to come back to such an idyllic spot after a long day of a touristy craze.|
Here, too, the host, Ms Jelka, is cute as a button, but you have less privacy since the two rooms she’s renting out are right in her apartment.
However, it’s squeaky clean and I even had a big balcony with a view of the peninsula of Dubrovnik.
Best place to eat:
It won’t surprise you that the restaurants in the historic part of Dubrovnik are not exactly a bargain. However, if you don’t want to burn a hole in your wallet, it’s better to have lunch there than dinner.
|Seafood is, obviously, always fresh in Croatia and they sure know how to prepare it.|
A nice, relaxed place with good food at reasonable prices is
Ulica uz Jezuite 6
Phone: + 385 – 95 – 535 4150
Open daily from 11 a. m. to 11 p. m.
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Disclaimer: Dubrovnik Tourist Board supported my research by supplying me with a Dubrovnik card, arranged a free visit to Lokrum island, a roundtrip to Srd mountain, and access to some attractions and exhibitions.