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Old City of Dubrovnik

By Constance

What is the Old City of Dubrovnik?

Known as “The Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik is famous for its red-orange roofs within its historic fortified walls. The city was an important sea power starting in about the 13th century. Its walls were built between the 12th and 17th centuries and span approximately two kilometers surrounding the city, keeping it safe from invaders. It was considered one of the greatest fortification systems during the Middle Ages as it was never breached during the time period. 

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Text: Old City of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Images: above, a view from the water of a small bay with buildings clustered above it; below a view over the whole old city and its red roofs.
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Why is Dubrovnik a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

The Old City of Dubrovnik was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 due to its beautiful medieval architecture and well-preserved fortified old town. The old town is filled with gorgeous buildings including Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces, and fountains.

A few outstanding monuments in Dubrovnik are:

  • The Town Hall (11th century)
  • The Franciscan Monastery (14th century, but now Baroque), including a Baroque Church, and the Franciscan Pharmacy, one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe (14th century)
  • The Dominican Monastery
  • The customs house (Sponza Palace)

Within the UNESCO designation, there are also a number of churches, notably these:

  • The Church of St. Blaises from 1715 in Baroque style
  • The Church of St Saviour from 1520 in Dubrovnik Renaissance style
  • The Dubrovnik Cathedral, rebuilt after an earthquake hit the city in 1667
  • St. Dominics Church, in Gothic style

Originally this World Heritage site only included the fortifications and the city inside of them, but was extended to include more sites outside the walls, including the following:

  • The Pile suburb dating to the 15th century
  • The Lovrijenac Fortress (11th-16th century)
  • The Lazarets: 17th-century plague quarantine center
  • Kase Moles: protective breakwaters from the 15th century
  • The Revelin Fortress (1449)
Fort Lovrijenac on a cliff over the sea, with a small bay next to it with a cluster of red-roofed houses.
Fort Lovrijenac

What can you expect on a visit to the Old City of Dubrovnik? 

When walking along the walls of the old city, you can catch a glimpse of daily life within the city, seeing the locals go about their business. You’ll also be treated to beautiful views of the bright blue Adriatic sea as well as a closer look at those charming bright red roofs the town is known for. 

If you’re thinking of taking a guided walking tour around the walls or within the Old City, here’s a list.

View over the old town of Dubrovnik: lots of red roofs and the blue sea beyond that.

Is Dubrovnik worth visiting?

Though it is a bit touristy, Dubrovnik is definitely worth visiting. It has a sense of Southern European charm with its amazing architecture and small town feel. Strolling along the walls of Dubrovnik only adds to the city’s charm. 

Many of the various historical buildings are open for viewing, and many include museums within them. If you want to see many of them well, you’ll need to plan several days in Dubrovnik.

Zoom in on the map below to find accommodations in or near the Old City of Dubrovnik:

What sorts of travelers would like Dubrovnik? 

Most travelers would love Dubrovnik, especially people who love architecture, art, and history. Dubrovnik is also a great launching point to other Croatian islands in the Adriatic Sea including Sipan and Lokrum. 

Tips for visiting Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik can be busy in the morning and early afternoon due to its popularity as a cruise ship stop. The cruise crowd typically empties out by mid afternoon and if you stay a few days in Dubrovnik, you’ll definitely get to see a quieter side of the city by night time. 

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes when exploring Dubrovnik. There are stone pathways and extremely steep stone steps throughout the city. 

When in Dubrovnik, go up the cable car and take in the amazing view over the city from Fort Imperial. You’ll see why the city is “The Pearl of the Adriatic.” 

Don’t forget to visit other islands and cities in Croatia. The country is gorgeous and there are so many places to explore including national parks like Plitvice Lakes National Park and Krka Waterfalls National Park as well as other UNESCO-listed cities like Trogir and Split.

Dubrovnik was used as a setting for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. Take this walking tour to see all the main film locations!

Where is Dubrovnik? 

Dubrovnik can be reached by bus or car. You can take a bus from Split to Dubrovnik: the ride takes about 5 hours, however the total time can differ depending on the passport checks of other bus passengers when crossing the border of Bosnia. From Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the bus trip takes about 3.5 hours, and from Sarajevo it’s 6 hours.

By car, the drive from Split to Dubrovnik is approximately 3.5 hours long, from Mostar it’s a 2.5-hour drive, and from Sarajevo it takes about 4.5 hours. 

Have you been to the Old City of Dubrovnik? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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