Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a must-see destination in Croatia as it is known for its gorgeous architecture and long-standing past. The city walls, streets and alleys are captivating and many of the structures, such as the Rector’s Palace and Stradun Street, date back to the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In this amazing pace there is something for everyone; whether you are a history buff, an art enthusiast, or just looking to have a great time, visit to Dubrovnik’s Old Town will be an experience you will never forget.
City Walls of Dubrovnik
The walls of Dubrovnik are recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are among the most well-known landmarks of the city. Constructed from the 13th to the 17th centuries, they were put up to protect the city from any potential attacks. They span 2 km in length, with a maximum width of 8 m and a maximum height of 25 m when measured from the sea level. The walls of Dubrovnik are an excellent starting point for a tour of the Old Town. You can climb up to the Bokar Fortress for a spectacular panoramic view of the city or simply relax and marvel at the surrounding beauty. There are various entrances to the walls with the Stradun, next to the Onofrio fountain, being the best place to start. As you walk the walls, you can easily spot the other attractions in the city worth visiting. When you reach the top just bellow the Minčeta tower, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the whole Old Town.
The Rector’s Palace in Dubrovnik was once home to the Rector of the Republic of Ragusa from the 14th century to 1808. Along with being a hub for the Minor Council and state administration, it also served as an armoury, a powder magazine, a watch house, and a prison. The palace showcases elements of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture, all blended beautifully. Originally a defense building during the Middle Ages, it was destroyed by fire in 1435 and rebuilt by master builder Onofrio della Cava in a Gothic style. After suffering damage from a gunpowder explosion and an earthquake, the palace underwent reconstruction in Baroque style.
Stradun (main street)
Dubrovnik’s main street, Stradun, is a 300-meter long pedestrian street made of limestone which runs through the historic Old Town surrounded by the Walls of Dubrovnik. The street stretches from the western entrance of Pile Gate to the eastern Ploče Gate, marked by fountains and bell towers. Stradun became Dubrovnik’s main street in the 13th century, and its current appearance was created after the 1667 earthquake. Many of the historic buildings and monuments in Dubrovnik are situated along Stradun, making it a popular spot for tourists. It is also the site of concerts and New Year’s Eve celebrations.Churches and Monasteries
Fort Lovrijenac is a fortress overlooking the city of Dubrovnik. Its plays and resistance against Venetian rule make it a significant landmark, overshadowing the city’s entrances by sea and land. In the 11th century, Venetians tried to build a fort on Lovrijenac’s spot, but the city’s residents beat them to it. The fort was constructed in just three months and regularly rebuilt. Lovrijenac’s triangular shape includes three terraces with 12-meter walls facing the outside and 60-centimeter walls facing the city. It now serves as a stage for productions such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet and similar art performances.
Sponza Palace is a 16th-century masterpiece that got its name comes from the Latin word “spongia”, which refers to the spot where rainwater was collected. Built in a mix of Gothic and Renaissance style by Paskoje Miličević Mihov, the palace has served numerous public functions over the years, from customs office to school. It even survived an earthquake in 1667 without damage. Today, the palace is home to the Dubrovnik State Archive, holding documents dating back to the 12th century. Sponza hosts numerous art and culture happenings, while the Luža square in front of the palace hosts the Dubrovnik Summer Festival’s opening ceremony.
Constructed in 1271, the Dominican Monastery is among the oldest structures in Dubrovnik as well as one of its most essential holy sites. It is a treasure trove of cultural and art heritage. The complex, which includes St. Dominic’s church, was built by the Dominicans in the 14th century and is predominantly Gothic in style. The monastery’s library houses over 220 incunabula and numerous illuminated manuscripts, while the monastery museum features an impressive collection of paintings by Dubrovnik’s 15th-16th century art school, including works by Nikola Božidarević and Lovro Dobričević. The museum also boasts a large collection of ex voto jewelry that is trully impressive. The monastery is a harmonious architectural unit and a major part of Dubrovnik’s history and heritage.
The Franciscan friary and church is a fascinating historical complex belonging to the Order of the Friars Minor. It features a sprawling friary, church, library, and pharmacy, all located on the main street Stradun (Placa). The friary was first built in the 13th century, with parts of the complex undergoing several rebuilds over the years. The church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1667, with only the beautifully decorated portal remaining. The interior was reconstructed in Baroque style, with a marble pulpit and stunning side altars. The friary contains two cloisters, one in Renaissance style and the other in Romanesque-Gothic style. The library has an impressive collection of over 20,000 books, including valuable old manuscripts and liturgical artifacts. The pharmacy, dating back to 1317, is the oldest functioning pharmacy in Europe and third oldest in the world.
Dubrovnik faced a major water shortage in the past due to long and dry summers. To solve this, the Senate brought water to the city from a spring 12km away, with the help of Italian architect Onofrio. Onofrio built two fountains, one of which is the grand Onofrio’s Fountain located at the entrance of the Old Town. The fountain, built in 1438, boasted 16 spouts and was ornately decorated. However, it suffered damage from natural disasters and wars over the years. Despite this, locals used the fountain as their primary water source until the late 19th century. Today, the fountain’s water remains drinkable, so take a sip and quench your thirst!
This majestic building stands on the site of several former cathedrals, including 7th and 11th-century buildings and their 12th-century Romanesque successor. Partially funded by Richard the Lionheart, the basilica was destroyed in the 1667 earthquake. Italian architect Andrea Bufalini sent a Baroque-style model, and several other Italian architects completed the cathedral over the next three decades. Crucial changes were made by Tommaso Napoli, including the use of a cross vault and thermal windows that give the interior a brighter feel. The cathedral features a high nave, grand Baroque dome, and main altar holding a polyptych by Titian. The treasury showcases 182 reliquaries and valuables such as the gold-plated arm, leg, and skull of Saint Blaise, a Byzantine-style crown, and a relic of the True Cross.
Dubrovnik Cable Car
The cable car in Dubrovnik is a must-do for any traveler visiting Dubrovnik. The city offers many scenic views, but the panoramic view from the cable car is hard to beat. Sadly, the cable car was destroyed during the 1991 attack on Dubrovnik during the Homeland war. It took years for the city to recover, and in many places, the damage is still visible. However, the cable car was restored and reopened in 2010, offering visitors stunning views of the city and an opportunity to learn about its painful past. The cable car transports up to 32 passengers to the top of Mount Srd in less than four minutes, and passengers can board it just a few minutes away from the Old Town.
The Imperial Fort on Srđ Hill, is a 19th-century fortress that was turned into a museum telling a story of Dubrovnik during the 1990s homeland war. The fort was largely destroyed and burned during fierce fighting in 1991, but it has been restored and transformed into a museum showcasing several hundred exhibits, including war memorabilia, documents, and photographs. The exhibition is divided into sections that cover the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic, Fort Imperial, Serbia’s aggression, and Croatia’s victory and independence. Srđ Hill can easily be reached with the cable car, or by hiking up. Imperial Fort is definitely worth paying a visit to and learn about the fort’s history, from its French beginnings to its role in the homeland war.
The south side of Gundulic Square in Dubrovnik is home to a stunning Baroque staircase leading to the Poljana Rudjera Boskovica. This urban complex is a treasure trove of Baroque architecture and houses the renowned Jesuit college, Collegium Ragusinum, and the Church of St Ignatius. Considered the most exceptional example of Baroque architecture on the Croatian coast, the urban complex has a rich history. In 1555, Bishop Beccaddeli requested the Jesuit order to open a college in Dubrovnik, which finally materialized in 1647. Jesuit Rector Gianbattista Canauli was commissioned to regulate the suburb’s urban structure to make way for the church and college. The breathtaking Baroque frescoes painted by Gaetano Garcia adorn the Church of St Ignatius, while the Jesuit college building leans at a right angle to the St. Ignatius church frontispiece. The building’s hard lines emphasize the Baroque frontispiece of the church and the connected staircase, a masterpiece designed by Roman architect Pietro Passalacqua in 1738.
Church of St. Blaise
The Church of St. Blaise is a Baroque masterpiece and a must-see attraction. It was built in 1715 by Marino Gropelli on the site of a damaged medieval church. St. Blaise, the city’s patron saint, is honored with a stunning Gothic statue on the top of the façade that also features four Corinthian columns with a semicircular gable and two other statues representing Faith and Hope. The interior boasts a barrel-vaulted ceiling, Corinthian columns, and a main altar made of white and polychrome marble. The altar’s Gothic statue of St. Blaise, holding a model of the old church, is a surviving relic from a fire in 1706.