From a coastal fortress leaning precariously over the sea to the famous thoroughfare of Stradun, the Croatian city of Dubrovnik features some of the most impressive medieval architecture in Europe. Whether you are interested in visiting the Rector’s Palace or exploring the Baroque city cathedral, you can inspire your next visit with this list of the 10 of the best historic sites in Dubrovnik.
1. Dubrovnik City Walls
The Dubrovnik City Walls are this city’s most iconic site and represent some of the best preserved medieval fortifications in the world. Completely surrounding the city by the 13th century, the walls continued to be strengthened and improved up to the 16th century. Today, a walk along the walls is very much part of one’s visit and gives a good overview of the city’s history.
2. Minceta Tower
The Minceta Tower is a huge round fort dominating the north-western section of Dubrovnik. It was completed in 1464. Though the 750 steep, winding steps to the top can be challenging, the ascent is rewarded with sensational views of the old town and the Adriatic. Game of Thrones fans will recognise Minceta Tower as the House of Undying in Qarth.
3. The Rector's Palace
The Rector’s Palace recalls the time when Dubrovnik was the centre of a republic by the name of Ragusa. At this time, the city was ruled by a rector, whose seat was this historic building. The original palace was destroyed and rebuilt in the 15th century. The palace underwent several rebuilds, at least twice due to gunpowder explosions from the armoury that was housed within. It also served as a prison, administrative offices and home to public halls.
4. Bokar Fortress
Designed and built mostly during the 1460s, Bokar Fortress defended the western entrance to Dubrovnik. It was key to the defence of the strategically vital Pile Gate. Parts of the magnificent, almost perfectly cylindrical fort are perched on a rock, permitting the sea to pass beneath it. Today, the fort is open all year round and features as a performance venue during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.
Stradun is Dubrovnik’s most famous thoroughfare, stretching just 300 metres between the east gate and the west gate. Most of Dubrovnik’s historically important buildings and monuments are on Stradun. The street we see today owes its appearance to wholesale and uniform rebuilding following the earthquake in 1667. Paved in 1468 with limestone, it has been polished to a smooth finish by the millions of feet that have walked its length.
6. Lokrum Island
Lokrum Island is a stunning and uninhabited nature reserve 600 metres from Dubrovnik’s historic harbour out in the Adriatic Sea and contains the ruins of a former Benedictine monastery. Today you can find the fascinating ruins of the monastery nestled among olive groves, citrus trees, forests of pine, laurel, oak, cypress and ash trees.
If you go to the southern tip, you’ll find a small saltwater lake under the protection of UNESCO. Less than a mile wide at its widest point, the island is accessible by a taxi-boat from Dubrovnik and the return price of around £10/€13 includes the island’s entrance fee. To avoid surprises, it’s worth noting that to the southeast of the island is a naturist beach.
7. St. Dominika Street
St Dominika Street in Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a famous cobbled street within the Croatian city’s impressive medieval walls. Today, the street is a narrow, curved and cobbled passageway flanked by very high walls. If you are walking through, it’s worth visiting the Dominican monastery and museum close to the Ploče Gate.
8. Fort Lovrijenac
Fort Lovrijenac is a stunning and imposing cliff-top fort located just outside Dubrovnik’s medieval city walls. One of Dubrovnik’s most impressive structures, it guarded the western entrance to the city from incursions along the Adriatic coast. Game of Thrones enthusiasts will recognise the fortress as the Red Keep in the fictional King’s Landing. Today, the parapets once used to defend the city have been transformed into glamorous theatrical stages, famous for performances of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
9. Dubrovnik Cathedral
Dubrovnik Cathedral is the most recent cathedrals in a long line to be built on the current site since the 7th century. The current Baroque-style Dubrovnik Cathedral was completed in 1713, the previous one having been destroyed in an 17th century earthquake. One highlight of visiting is the treasury. It contains a large collection of relics, some belonging to the city’s patron Saint Blaise.
10. Pile Gate
With Dubrovnik’s patron Saint Blaise looking on from its imposing stonework, Pile Gate makes for the most grand ingress to the city of Dubrovnik. Pile Gate was built in 1537 and features a drawbridge, inner and outer sections. It is the western entrance to the city and a good starting point for exploring the city’s medieval walls.