If you want to take a short, peaceful, but eventful break, there’s no better place to visit than Dubrovnik, Croatia. Situated in the Adriatic sea, it is truly a unique destination because it is one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in the world. In the past, it was a powerful city-state and a major port, the proof of which are the tall stone walls surrounding the old city.
Nowadays, various parts of the old city of Dubrovnik were featured as the medieval setting of several popular films, TV series and plays, such as Game of Thrones, Robin Hood (2017), Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and several others.
At the same time, it is a peaceful and affordable location for those who want to relax on the beach and absorb the beauty of the rustic limestone mountains, lush green islands, and the sky-blue sea. If you want to get a glimpse of this mysterious medieval city and learn more about the past and present of this ancient city-fortress, here is our list of the 10 best destinations to visit in Dubrovnik, plus a special bonus for the most adventurous of travelers.
1. Pile Gate
What better way to start your exploration of this historic city than through the ancient Pile Gate? This is the way visitors arrived to Dubrovnik in medieval times!
Note that leading to the gate is a beautiful decorative stone bridge – but, it wasn’t always there. Its predecessor was a wooden draw-up bridge that was pulled up every evening and used to protect the fortified city from foes.
2. Ancient City Walls
One of the most attractive features of Dubrovnik are the ancient city walls, which were first built around the city before the 8th century. However, the walls got their present look in the 14th century, as they had to be expanded to defend the city from Ottoman Turks.
You can take a mile-long stroll through these historic walls with scenic views on the bay and the city from virtually every location. Can you imagine, these walls protected the citizens of Dubrovnik without a fail for centuries?
Like many European cities, Dubrovnik too has a main street that used to be the center of social and cultural life. It’s called Stradun, and this is a spacious promenade paved with limestone that connects the two main gates on the opposite sides of the old city: the Pile Gate and Ploce Gate.
If you take a walk through Stradun, which we highly recommend, you’ll see several historical buildings, churches, and fountains. An alternative to history-hunting is to simply enjoy the city atmosphere in one of the numerous local restaurants and cafes.
4. Fort Lovrijenac
While strolling through the city walls, you will encounter several fortification structures that were used to wield off enemies in the past. One of them is Lovrijenac, a later addition to the walls with an interesting history. Despite the scarcity of building materials in the area in the early 11th century, it was built by the citizens of Dubrovnik in less than a year.
This was done to quickly prevent the Venetians from building a fort in the same place, as otherwise, Dubrovnik would surely fall under their rule. Hence, this building stands as a testament of communal effort and independence and has a special place in the history of Dubrovnik.
5. St. Saviour Church
Situated right between the Pile Gate and the Franciscan Monastery, this church is by far not the biggest and fanciest one in Dubrovnik, but it is unique in another way. It is one of the few remaining examples of classic Renaissance architecture in the city, as it was among the very few buildings that withstood a devastating earthquake in 1667 that wiped out most of the city and killed 2000 people.
Once you’re tired of walking through the narrow city streets and climbing steps to fortresses and churches for hours on end, relax at one of the beaches in Dubrovnik, you’re visiting the pearl of the Adriatic sea, after all. It’s difficult to recommend only one beach. If you’re looking for a beautiful beach with lots of cafes and restaurants, try Copacabana or Banje beach.
If, however, you fancy a dive into the painful recent history of Croatia before going for a swim, you can try going to Kupari beach, a former tourist haven that was destroyed in the fight for Croatia’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. The half-destroyed abandoned luxurious hotels serve as a reminder of the recent war.
7. Fort Bokar
This is one of the most beautiful surviving fortification structures in Europe and a prime example of how medieval castle cities like Dubrovnik would protect themselves from attackers. It is amazing how it managed to withstand time and numerous attacks, as it is incredibly well-preserved. This is a must-visit location on your route through the city walls.
8. Dominican Monastery
Now a museum, this marvelous piece of gothic architecture was built in 1301 and partially rebuilt in 1667 when an earthquake struck the entire city and destroyed many of its landmarks. Apart from its breathtakingly beautiful architecture, the monastery features a beautiful green indoor park-courtyard and a museum of priceless religious art from the area.
9. Gradac Park
Take a short walk outside of the old city to catch some peaceful atmosphere in Gradac Park. This is one of the few parks situated not far from the old city. You can relax in the shade of evergreen trees and admire yet another picturesque vista.
10. Cable Car
If you’re not a fan of walking, but you still want to get the best views of the city and its surroundings, jump on the Dubrovnik cable car.
It glides up from the old city to a series of terraces, which reveal a truly stunning panoramic view of the city. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see even the neighboring islands, that’s how mesmerizing the vista is.
If you simply can’t be contained in the confines of one city, take advantage of the availability of sea travel and hop on a boat to the neighboring islands. Lokrum island is one of the most popular locations, as it is just a short ferry ride away from the old town and features a beautiful botanical garden.