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Best things to do in Dubrovnik

Surrounded by mountains and bathed by the intense blue of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is a hidden jewel between the historic white walls.

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

Jul 21, 2021 • 9 min read

Best things to do in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik city rooftops | ©Martin Zanger

Declared a World Heritage Site, it is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and is popularly known as the Pearl of the Mediterranean.

On the other hand, the proximity of Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina to Dubrovnik makes Dubrovnik the ideal starting point for a tour or excursions to Mostar and Kotor to get a more complete experience of the beauty of the Balkans.

1. Tour the old town of Dubrovnik

Walk through the history-filled streets of Dubrovnik | ©Naval S
Walk through the history-filled streets of Dubrovnik | ©Naval S

A trip to Dubrovnik should begin with a visit to its fascinating old town, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Know their history

Built on a peninsula on the Dalmatian coast, Dubrovnik was an important maritime power since the Middle Ages. An example of the city's wealth and power in the past are the beautiful examples of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture in the squares and streets of the old town.

Despite the terrible earthquake in 1667 and the severe damage suffered during the Balkan war in the 1990s, it is now in pristine condition thanks to a restoration program coordinated by UNESCO that has restored it to its full splendor.

Behind the walls of this ancient city lies a piece of the Middle Ages, with priceless monuments waiting to be discovered. In addition, these places have served as the setting for the Game of Thrones series, so many fans visit Dubrovnik to see these locations in person.

Take a guided tour

The best way to discover this impressive city and its surroundings is on its tours and excursions in Dubrovnik where you will learn about its history and its most beautiful corners in the company of an expert guide.

2. Through the gates of Dubrovnik

Gate of Ploče | ©Paul Arps
Gate of Ploče | ©Paul Arps

To access the historic center of Dubrovnik you have to go through the Pile Gate on the west side of the city walls, which has remained almost intact since its construction in 1537. In the old days there was a drawbridge preceding the entrance gate, which was closed every night.

The Pile Gate

Today, the Pile Gate is a small tower that connects two bridges over the old moat of the wall, where today there is a children's area. At the Pile Gate there is an unbeatable view of the Fort of San Lorenzo.

Once we cross the Pile Gate we will arrive at Stradun, the main street of Dubrovnik that crosses the city from the Pile Gate to the Ploče Gate and where all the other streets lead. It is a place full of atmosphere at any time of the day and is full of art galleries, restaurants and cafes.

The Ploče Gate

A second gate was built later on the eastern part of the walls, the Ploče Gate, which is protected by the Revelin fortress. Its former drawbridge was replaced by the present stone bridge from which there are wonderful views of Dubrovnik's Old Port.

3. Visit the Fort of San Lorenzo

The Fountain of St. Lawrence from the walls of Dubrovnik | ©Gary Bembridge
The Fountain of St. Lawrence from the walls of Dubrovnik | ©Gary Bembridge

Along with the impregnable walls of Dubrovnik, the Fortress of St. Lawrence is the emblem of the city. This defensive construction from the early 11th century was located just outside the city walls on the top of a hill to protect the republic of Regusa from the Venetian threat, its rival for hegemony in the Adriatic, since from here it controlled access by both sea and land.

How to access

Being isolated, the Fort of San Lorenzo can only be accessed through two bridges. Over the main entrance to which one of them gives access there is carved in the stone an inscription in Latin that says: Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro (Freedom is not sold for all the money in the world). A declaration of principles from the Ragusians to the powerful Republic of Venice.

What to see inside

To reach it you have to climb about 200 steps but the effort is worth it because at the top of the fortress the views of the bay of Pile and the city are absolutely fantastic. Here is the large Croatian flag that can be seen from all over the city.

Inside you can see cannons, the most famous being the Guster, the rocks that served as ammunition and even a small chapel.

When to go

Today, Fort St. Lawrence is open to tourists all year round. During the city's Summer Festival, a theatrical performance of Hamlet, one of William Shakespeare's most brilliant tragedies, takes place here.

4. Stroll through Dubrovnik's Old Port

Old Port | ©Naval S
Old Port | ©Naval S

The Old Port of Dubrovnik, at the gates of the walled city, is a charming place to enjoy a stroll and to rest on a terrace of the restaurants by the sea. A beautiful reminder of the glory of the ancient republic of Ragusa from which to admire the coast and the old city with another perspective.

The Dubrovnik Aquarium, the Dominican monastery and the Ploče Gate are located within walking distance of the Old Port.

5. Marvel at the Dominican Monastery

Patio of the Dominican Monastery | ©François Philipp
Patio of the Dominican Monastery | ©François Philipp

At the beginning of the 13th century, Dominican monks settled in Dubrovnik and began to build within the walls the monastery of St. Dominic, which was not completed until the middle of the 15th century in a gothic - renaissance style.

Located between the Ploče Gate and the Sponza Palace, the complex consists of the church, the bell tower, the library, the museum and the cloister. After the catastrophic earthquake of 1667, much of the facade had to be restored.

What to see in the Monastery

Most travelers agree that the most beautiful part of the Dominican monastery is its interior courtyard of late Gothic style surrounded by arches, orange trees, palm trees and other species whose color contrasts with the white tone of the walls of the building. In the cloister garden there is a stone well that during the Balkan war was the only source of drinking water available to the inhabitants of the city.

Its library, which has a collection of more than 16,000 copies and 240 incunabula, was founded in the 13th century and was one of the largest in Europe between the 15th and 17th centuries. As for its museum, it has numerous sculptures, archives and religious paintings.

6. Dream at the Sponza Palace

Palacio Sponza | ©wiredtourist.com
Palacio Sponza | ©wiredtourist.com

Located in Luža Square, the Sponza Palace was built in the 16th century in order to host various public functions in the ancient Republic of Ragusa. Since then, this Gothic and Renaissance style building that reminiscent of Venetian palaces has served as a school, customs house, armory and mint.

Today it houses the historical archive of Dubrovnik and here is located the memorial to the fallen Croatians in the Balkan War during the siege of Dubrovnik. Although it is not open to visitors, the courtyard of the Sponza Palace occasionally hosts temporary exhibitions.

Unlike other buildings in Dubrovnik, this was one of the few that after the earthquake of 1667 remained unscathed.

7. Stroll along the Dubrovnik City Walls

The Walls of Dubrovnik | ©jjmusgrove
The Walls of Dubrovnik | ©jjmusgrove

Along with the Fortress of St. Lawrence, the walls of Dubrovnik are the other icon of the city. We are facing the only city on the planet that treasures walls of these proportions in excellent condition considering that its construction dates back to the thirteenth century.

In order to defend the city from enemy attacks, these 25-meter high walls were erected and completed in the 15th century. They successfully fulfilled their purpose as their solidity withstood the fatal earthquake of the 17th century with little damage and guaranteed the independence of Dubrovnik in the Modern Age until the arrival of Napoleon.

The best way to appreciate its dimensions is to take a stroll along them and contemplate the amazing views of the Adriatic Sea and the city where monuments such as the Fort of San Lorenzo, the Dominican Monastery or the Fountain of Onofrio stand out.

As a curiosity, from the walls of Dubrovnik you can observe the differences in the picturesque reddish roofs of the buildings as some survived the bombing of the war, the older ones, and those that had to be rebuilt later, the newer roofs.

8. Visit Dubrovnik Cathedral

Dubrovnik Cathedral illuminated at night | ©Son of Groucho
Dubrovnik Cathedral illuminated at night | ©Son of Groucho

Built on the remains of an ancient Romanesque church destroyed by the earthquake of 1667, the Dubrovnik Cathedral dating from the 18th century became the most important religious building in the city.

From the outside, the most striking features of the cathedral are its dome and baroque facade while inside is the cathedral's treasure, kept in one of the chapels, which contains the relics of St. Blaise the patron saint of Dubrovnik and the painting by the painter Titian, The Assumption of Mary.

9. Don't miss the detail of the Great Dubrovnik Onofrio Fountain

Great Source of Onofrio | ©Jennifer Boyer
Great Source of Onofrio | ©Jennifer Boyer

The main meeting point in Dubrovnik is the Great Fountain of Onofrio, a structure that was built in the 15th century by the Neapolitan architect Onofrio della Cava to provide drinking water to the Republic of Ragusa.

It is a large polygonal fountain with 16 faces that expels water through a mask-shaped mouths and has an oculus that decorates the dome. Some travelers who have been to Rome are somehow reminded of the famous Pantheon of Agrippa. What do you think?

Despite the damage caused by the famous earthquake of 1667 and by the bombings of the Balkan War, the source was restored and continues to emanate clean water so that tourists can refresh themselves in summer and refill their bottles.

Go in search of the Little Fountain of Onofrio
As a curiosity, the architect Onofrio Della Cava erected a second fountain in Dubrovnik, known as the Small Fountain of Onofrio. Originally located in the center of the city, it was moved during the Balkan War and is now located in Luza Square.

10. Game of Thrones

Murallas, harbor and Pile Bay that recreated King's Landing | ©chiaki hayashi
Murallas, harbor and Pile Bay that recreated King's Landing | ©chiaki hayashi

If you are a big fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire saga, one of the best things to do in Dubrovnik is the Game of Thrones tour with which you will tour the most important monuments of the city that served as the setting to recreate King's Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms.

Discover with an expert guide the locations of the popular Game of Thrones series in Dubrovnik, where you can relive such mythical scenes as Cersei's walk of shame in St. Ignatius Church, the Battle of Blackwater in Pile Bay or the people's revolt against King Joffrey at Pile Gate, among many others.

The best way to discover the anecdotes of the production and see where each of the scenes of your favorite series was filmed is to take the Game of Thrones tour in Dubrovnik. Not only will you tour the original sets but you can also take home as a souvenir a photo on the replica of the iron throne as the real king of Westeros.

11. Get to know neighboring Bosnia: Mostar and Kotor

 Mostar | ©Kenneth Sonntag
Mostar | ©Kenneth Sonntag

Taking advantage of your stay in Croatia to take an excursion to Mostar and Kotor, two towns in Bosnia and Montenegro declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, is one of the best things to do in Dubrovnik as it will allow you to learn about the history of these towns and their beautiful old town, the beauty of its architecture embodied in the small villages and towns of the Adriatic.

Also take a scenic drive along the southern coast of Dalmatia and visit Medjugorje, a town where in 1981 a Marian apparition took place and today is a place of Catholic pilgrimage in the world.

Things to do in Dubrovnik