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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

8 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 this city the ideal starting point for a tour or excursions to Mostar and Kotor and get a more complete experience of the beauty of the Balkans.

1. Tour the old town of Dubrovnik

Walk the streets full of history of Dubrovnik| ©Naval S
Walk the streets full of history 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.

Learn about its history

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

Despite a terrible earthquake in 1667 and severe damage during the Balkan War in the 1990s, today it looks pristine thanks to a UNESCO-coordinated restoration program that has restored it to its former glory.

Behind the walls of this ancient city is a piece of the Middle Ages, with priceless monuments waiting for you to discover them. 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 :::link|text=Dubrovnik tours and excursions|element=sc-141-1556::: where you will learn about its history and its most beautiful corners in the company of an expert guide.

2. Walk through the gates of Dubrovnik

Ploče Gate| ©Paul Arps
Ploče Gate| ©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 wall moat, where today there is a children's area. At the Pile Gate you have an unbeatable view of the Fort of St. Lawrence.

Once through the Pile Gate you will reach Stradun, the main street of Dubrovnik that runs through the city from the Pile Gate to the Ploče Gate and where all the other streets lead to. This is a place full of atmosphere at any time of the day and lined with 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 Fortress of St. Lawrence

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

Along with the impregnable walls of Dubrovnik, the Fort of St. Lawrence is the emblem of the city. This defensive construction of the early eleventh century was located just outside the wall on top of a hill to protect the republic of Regusa from the Venetian threat, his rival for hegemony of the Adriatic, as from here was controlled access both by sea and by land.

How to get there

Being isolated, the Fort of San Lorenzo can only be accessed via two bridges. On 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 of 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 you can see the big 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

Currently, Fort San Lorenzo is open for 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 Harbour

Old Port| ©Naval S
Old Port| ©Naval S

Dubrovnik's Old Port, at the gates of the walled city, is a lovely place to enjoy a stroll and to relax 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.

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

5. Marvel at the Dominican Monastery

Courtyard of the Dominican Monastery| ©François Philipp
Courtyard 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 Gothic - Renaissance style.

Located between the Ploče Gate and the Sponza Palace, the complex consists of the church, bell tower, library, museum and 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 late Gothic interior courtyard surrounded by arches, orange trees, palm trees and other species whose colorfulness 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 thirteenth century and was one of the largest in Europe between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. As for its museum, it has numerous sculptures, archives and religious paintings.

6. Dream in the Sponza Palace

Sponza Palace| ©
Sponza Palace| ©

Located in Luža Square, Palazzo Sponza was built in the 16th century in order to host various public functions in the former Republic of Ragusa. Since then, this Gothic and Renaissance style building 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 cannot be visited, the courtyard of the Sponza Palace sometimes hosts temporary exhibitions.

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

7. Stroll along the Dubrovnik City Walls

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

Along with the Fort of St. Lawrence, the walls of Dubrovnik are the other icon of the city. We are in front of the only city of the planet that treasures walls of these proportions in optimal state considering that its construction dates from the 13th century.

With the aim of defending the city from enemy attacks, these walls of 25 meters high were erected and completed in the fifteenth century. They successfully fulfilled their purpose since their solidity resisted the fatal earthquake of the 17th century with hardly any damage and guaranteed the independence of Dubrovnik in the Modern Age until the arrival of Napoleon.

The best way to appreciate their dimensions is to take a walk 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 oldest, and those that had to be rebuilt later, the newer roofs.

8. Visit the 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 that the earthquake of 1667 destroyed, the Dubrovnik Cathedral dating from the 18th century became the most important religious building in the city.

From the outside, the most striking feature of the cathedral is 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 of the painter Titian, The Assumption of Mary.

9. Do not miss the detail of the Great Fountain of Onofrio in Dubrovnik

Great Onofrio Fountain| ©Jennifer Boyer
Great Onofrio Fountain| ©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 16-sided polygonal fountain that expels water through a mask-shaped mouths and has an oculus that decorates the dome. Some travelers who have been to Rome are somewhat 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 fountain was restored and continues to emanate clean water so tourists can refresh themselves in summer and refill their bottles.

Go in search of Onofrio's Little Fountain

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

10. Game of Thrones

Walls, harbor and bay of Pile that recreated King's Landing.| ©chiaki hayashi
Walls, harbor and bay of Pile 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 that will take you to 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 series Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik, where you can relive such mythical scenes as Cersei's walk of shame in the church of St. Ignatius, the Battle of Blackwater in Pile Bay or the revolt of the people against King Joffrey at Pile Gate, among many others.

The best way to discover the anecdotes of the production and see where each scene 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 the neighboring Bosnia: Mostar and Kotor

Mostar| ©Kenneth Sonntag
Mostar| ©Kenneth Sonntag

Take advantage of your stay in Croatia to make an excursion to Mostar and Kotor, two towns in Bosnia and Montenegro declared World Heritage by UNESCO, is one of the best things to do in Dubrovnik as it will allow you to know 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 make a scenic route along the southern coast of Dalmatia and know Medjugorje, a town where in 1981 there was a Marian apparition and today is a place of Catholic pilgrimage in the world.