Visiting Dubrovnik: what are the best things to do and see in the Pearl of the Adriatic?
Dubrovnik, known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, will seduce many of you! Its seaside location, with its beautiful historic old town, contributes to making Dubrovnik one of the most interesting places to visit in Dalmatia and the Adriatic Sea. Founded in the 7th century, Dubrovnik has experienced a series of dominations, including those of Venice and Hungary, and has even become its own Republic, called the Republic of Ragusa. The city of Dubrovnik experienced its strongest growth during the 15th and 16th centuries, which is reflected in the impressive architecture today. The old town was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The city is home to Croatia‘s artistic and intellectual elite, and cultural events are frequently organised.
No matter if you come to Dubrovnik for the first or the hundredth time, the feeling of wonder will not stop when you look at the beauty of the old city. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine that anyone will get tired of its marble streets, its baroque buildings and the infinite shimmer of the Adriatic Sea, or failing to be inspired by a walk along the ramparts that have protected a civilized and sophisticated republic for centuries. Although the bombing of Dubrovnik in 1991 horrified the world, the city bounced back with its characteristic vigor to enchant visitors once again.
Here are the best things to do in Dubrovnik:
Also read : The best areas to stay in Dubrovnik
1. The ramparts of Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik’s ramparts are one of the city’s most famous features, they are really the first thing to do in Dubrovnik. Built in the 10th century and modified in the 13th and 14th centuries, the walls, some as thick as 20 feet, provided a solid line of defense against invaders. The total length of Dubrovnik’s ramparts is about a mile and a half, making it an ideal place for a relaxed stroll. They also offer a wonderful view over the Adriatic Sea and the interior of the old city. As part of the ramparts, two towers (the Minceta tower and the Bokar tower) and two forts (Lovrijenac and Revelin) can be visited. The main entrance giving access to the ramparts is located just to the left of the Pile Gate and the entrance is charged (100 kuna, or 13€). These walls surround the Old Town and you will see them irregardless of your itinerary through the Old Town, whether you are leisurely walking around or following a guided tour of the Old Town.
2. The Cathedral of the Assumption
Built on the site of a 7th century basilica, Dubrovnik’s original cathedral, the Cathedral of the Assumption was enlarged in the 12th century, allegedly financed by a donation from King Richard the Lionheart, who was saved from a shipwreck on the nearby island of Lokrum. Shortly after the first cathedral was destroyed in the 1667 earthquake, work began on it, transforming it with a Baroque flair, and was completed in 1713. The cathedral is remarkable for its beautiful altars, including the altar of Saint John Nepomuk, made of purple marble.
Its religious paintings are particularly noteworthy, including the polyptych of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, hung behind the main altar, created in the studio of the 16th century Italian painter Titian. It is difficult to see Titian’s painting without having to buy a ticket for the Treasury, located next to the main altar. Dripping in gold and silver, it contains relics of Saint Blaise, as well as 138 other reliquaries, most of which were made by the goldsmiths’ workshops in Dubrovnik between the 11th and 17th centuries.
3. The Dominican monastery
This imposing Dominican monastery is an architectural gem, built in a transitional Gothic-Renaissance style, and containing an impressive art collection. Built at the same time as the city’s fortifications in the 14th century, the exterior looks more like an austere fortress than a religious complex. The interior contains an elegant 15th century cloister built by local craftsmen according to the designs of the Florentine architect Maso di Bartolomeo.
The large church, with a single nave, features some modern and bright stained glass windows, and a painting of Vlaho Bukovac above one of the side altars. Other invaluable pieces of art are hung in the rooms outside the cloister, including works from the 15th and 16th centuries by Lovro Dobričević, Nikola Božidarević and Titian.
4. The Rector’s Palace (Knežev dvor)
The Republic of Ragusa was governed by a rector, elected every month. He was housed in the rector’s palace, where he received neither friends nor family, devoting himself entirely to his task. Built at the end of the 15th century, this Gothic-Renaissance palace contains the rector’s office, private apartments, public rooms, administrative offices and a keep. During his one-month term, the rector could not leave the building without the authorization of the Senate.
Today, the palace has been transformed into a museum of cultural history, with rooms, portraits, coats of arms and coins skillfully restored, evoking the glorious history of Dubrovnik. During the Summer Festival, in summer, the pleasant inner courtyard hosts classical music shows. The rector’s palace also houses the bust of Miho Pracat, a former wealthy businessman from the island of Lopud. In this palace (especially on the stairs in the photo), and in other parts of the city, scenes from Games of Thrones have been shot so this is one the things to do in Dubrovnik if you miss the series already!
5. Take the funicular to Mount Srđ
To have the best view of the whole city of Dubrovnik, its tiled roofs, the Adriatic Sea, the island of Lokrum and the Elaphites, nothing beats the panorama offered by the summit of Mount Srđ. In less than four minutes, the Dubrovnik cable car takes you from the north of the city’s ramparts to Mt Srđ. If there is wind or a storm coming, the cable car will not work. You can also walk up to the top of the 1300 feet mountain to avoid paying 100 kuna for a round trip ($14). Why not go up there for sunset? Choose a day when the sky is clear to enjoy beautiful colors before your eyes and to see far into the horizon.
6. The great fountain of Onofrio
The large Onofrio fountain was built in 1438-1444 by the Neapolitan architect Onofrio della Cava. Of all the monuments in Dubrovnik, it is perhaps the most famous. Walking through and beyond the Pile Gate, you will find the square that contains the great Onofrio Fountain. It was part of a water supply system whose source was a well located 7 miles away. Originally designed with many ornaments and on two floors, the fountain was heavily damaged in the 1667 earthquake.
7. The Stradun (street)
The Stradun (or Placa) is Dubrovnik’s main street and walking down on it is one of the first things people do in Dubrovnik. This paved pedestrian street extends over 1000 feet and is very touristy, with cafés and restaurants all along it. The buildings along the street date from the end of the 17th century, built or rebuilt after the earthquake. At one end you will find Luža Square. Every evening, four ceremonial guards walk along the Stradun River accompanied by a drummer. They guard the two main gates of the city in full period costume until 9:30 pm and then repeat the march down the Stradun. For a while, you’ll feel like you’re back in the Republic of Ragusa!
8. The Franciscan monastery or convent
Not to be confused with the Dominican monastery, the Franciscan monastery contains one of the most precious libraries in Croatia. There is also an interesting pharmacy, the 3rd oldest in Europe. Here, visitors will get a glimpse of the past by seeing the mysterious contents of the pharmacy, various measuring devices, as well as stills and pestles. The pharmacy has been in operation since the Franciscan monastery was built in 1317. Within the walls of this monastery is a magnificent cloister from the middle of the 14th century, which is one of the most beautiful late Romanesque buildings in Dalmatia. The museum inside is also worth a visit.
9. A culinary escapade.
Dubrovnik is renowned for its beautiful settings and the charm of its Old Town, but its cuisine doesn’t make the headlines. And what a shame! With Italian and Mediterranean inspiration mixed with Dalmatian flair and resolutely elegant, it is criminally underrated and you will find many delicacies in the farmer’s market in Gruz neighborhood or in the many local restaurants. Trying them out is one of the most memorable things to do in Dubrovnik. As you might expect, the local culinary culture is heavily reliant on fish and seafood. The oysters from Ston are particularly delicate and delightful and you will find black seafood risotto – dyed with squid ink – or fried calamari dishes in many restaurants. The area also enjoys ideal weather for agriculture and is famed for its oranges and grapes, from which the local wine is made. You can actually visit the Peljesac vineyards to taste it directly from the source.
We particularly enjoyed the local desserts, from Kolač od rogača (an unexpectedly rich cake made with Carob) to the sumptuous Čokoladni tarts ljutom narančom, a dark chocolate tart with the famous local bitter oranges, from which are also made orancini, little bits of candied orange peel. Finally, you’ll have to try Rozada (pictured above), a caramel cream between flan and custard, that will leave you craving evermore. To take full advantage of the local cuisine, we suggest you consider booking a food tour!
10. Other visits not to be missed in Dubrovnik
The city is full of other places and museums to see. Here are some ideas of additional things to do in Dubrovnik:
- The Sponza Palace (pictured above)
- Banje beach, the closest to the historic center
- The Serbian Orthodox Church and its museum
- The War Photo Limited exhibition devoted to photojournalism and war photography
- A guided tour of the Game of Thrones locations!
11. In the surroundings: the island of Lokrum
Lokrum is one of the islands off the coast of Dubrovnik, about 2000 feet from the coast. The beaches are shaded by trees and therefore can be a rare cool spot during the Summer, as well as clean and safe. They are less populated than the few beaches of Dubrovnik. There’s even one for nudists. You can take a ferry from the old port and explore this island. You will also have a superb view of Dubrovnik from the sea.
12. Other ideas for visits in the Dubrovnik area
Do you feel like you’ve seen it all and done everyhting there is to do in Dubrovnik? Then head to the outskirts of the city, as the region is full of beautiful islands and quaint villages.
- An excursion to the island of Korčula (pictured above) ( book your excursion)
- The city and bridge of Mostar, Bosnia (book your excursion, leaving from Dubrovnik)
- A cruise in the Elaphite Islands archipelago
- Cavtat village
- The Arboretum of Trsteno, one of the oldest in the world
- The village of Ston, where you should make sure to try their famed oysters
How to get to Dubrovnik?
Dubrovnik has its own international airport which has direct flights coming from London, Manchester or Edinburgh. Find the cheapest flights available on Skyscanner. The airport is about 30 min away from the city. You can get there by public transport, via the Libertas bus line, for about $4 per ticket, but there are only a few buses everyday. There are private buses as well, that operate on a more frequent basis and will cost a bit more, with $6 tickets. Finally,
you can rent a car directly at the airport.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik?
After spending the day visiting the old town or sunbathing on the beaches and offshore islands, you will greatly appreciate staying in or near the historic center. From traditional rooms in the old quarter to luxury suites by the sea, Dubrovnik has accommodation for all budgets and tastes. Make sure you find the cheapest or most suitable hotel for your stay (with friends, as a couple…) on a online booking service or if you are looking for homestay accomodation, Airbnb will have a large selection of places near everything you’ll want to do in Dubrovnik.
For more details, simply check out The best areas to stay in Dubrovnik
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