When it comes to famous tourist attractions in Dubrovnik there are a number of fascinating places that are waiting to be explored including the Rector’s Palace, Bokar Fortress and the historic City Walls. The sheer diversity of these the sites is staggering, with other popular attractions including Lokrum Island, St Dominika Street and Stradun and these places are definitely worth considering if you have a little more time on your trip. Wherever your travels take you, we’ve compiled a fantastic selection of the best tourist sites and free activities in Dubrovnik with our editor’s picks followed by a few hidden gems you won’t want to miss.
What are the main tourist activities in Dubrovnik?
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 thirteenth century, the walls continued to be strengthened and improved up to the sixteenth century. Now measuring 2km in length, the walls are dotted with imposing forts and gates. The walls themselves are generally 6 metres thick and 24 metres in height. Today, a walk along the walls is very much part of one’s visit and gives a good overview of the city’s history.
The Minceta Tower is a huge round fort dominating the north-western section of the city. It was completed in 1464 and even though the 750 steep, winding steps to the top are a challenge for even the fittest cultural tourist, when you get to the top and see the sensational views of the old town to one side and the Adriatic Sea to the other, you’ll understand that the climb was worth it. Fans of Game of Thrones may recognise the Minceta Tower as being the House of Undying in Qarth, where Daenerys Targaryen searches, ultimately successfully, for her stolen dragons.
The Rector’s Palace dates back to 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 first incarnation of the palace was destroyed and rebuilt in the 15th century. Indeed the palace underwent several rebuilds, at least twice due to gunpowder explosions from the armoury that was housed within. This was just one of many roles the Rector’s Palace fulfilled. Not only was it the place the rector lived and worked, but it was also a prison, administrative offices and home to public halls. Today, the Rector’s Palace takes one back to the Ragusan Republic as a cultural museum of the time.
Designed and mostly built during the 1460s, Bokar Fortress was built to defend the western entrance to the city. In fact it was the key defender of the strategically vital Pile Gate. Often called ‘Zvjezdan’, a Serbo-Croat word meaning ‘starry’, presumably for the amazing views of the light pollution-free night sky as you look out into the Adriatic Sea, parts of the magnificent, almost perfectly cylindrical fort are perched on a detached rock allowing the sea water to pass beneath it – which can still be seen today. It is said that Bokar Fortress is the oldest casemented fortress – that is a fortified structure from where guns are fired – in Europe. Today, the fort is open all year round and is perhaps most famous as a venue for performances of 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 and 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 as smooth as glass by the millions of feet that have walked its length.
Lokrum Island is a stunning and uninhabited nature reserve 600 metres from Dubrovnik’s historic harbour out in the Adriatic Sea which contains the ruins of a former Benedictine monastery. Today you can find the fascinating the 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, all 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…
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. Fans of Game of Thrones may recognise St Dominika Street as the route the shorn Cersei Lannister walked naked as penance for her sins. In fact, Dubrovnik’s Old Town is home to many of King’s Landing’s most famous locations including the Red Keep, the House of the Undying, the set of the Purple Wedding and many of the market scenes.
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 guards the western entrance to the city from the Adriatic Sea. Game of Thrones fans will recognise the fortress as the Red Keep in King’s Landing. Legend has it that the fort was built on a 37m high cliff in in merely three months in the eleventh century by the people of the Republic of Dubrovnik to head off an imminent attack from the Venetians. At the time, the Venetians were intent on building their own fort in this location, but Dubrovnik’s citizens completed Fort Lovrijenac first, thus frustrating the Venetian plans for military superiority. Today, the parapets once used to defend the city have been transformed into some of the most dignified theatrical stages in Europe, famous for performances of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’.
Dubrovnik Cathedral is one in a long line of cathedrals built on the current site since the seventh century. The current Baroque-style Dubrovnik Cathedral was completed in 1713, the previous one having been destroyed in an earthquake in the seventeenth century. One of the highlights of a visit to the cathedral is its treasury, which contains a large collection of relics, some belonging to the city’s patron saint, St. Blaise.
With St Blaise, Dubrovnik’s patron saint looking out from its imposing stonework, Pile Gate is the grandest entrance in the city walls. Built in 1537, Pile Gate with its drawbridge and inner and outer sections, is the western entrance to the city and a good starting point for exploring the medieval walls.