14 November 2023

Dubrovnik, pearl of the Adriatic Sea

city walls, forts and bridge
Lonely Planet

Dubrovnik Croatia (pop 41,000) is the Pearl of the Adriatic and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979. The city was founded c614 as Rausa by Roman ref­ugees fleeing the Slav and Avar sack of Epidaurus. A Slavic colony soon joined the Ro­mans th­ere and the city soon formed a link between two great civilis­at­ions. 

After Rome fell, Dubrovnik was ruled by the Byzantine Empire. The city was planned in 1292, when the port was reb­uilt after a fire. The elegant limestone-paved Stradun-main street has beautiful late-Renais­sance houses. The ground levels had shop fronts under a semi-circular arch, while the upper fl­oors were living spaces.  Except for the Stradun, the old city is a maze of pict­uresque narrow and twisting streets, so no cars are allowed in. In the C9th-C12th Dubrovnik defended itself against foreign powers, and in 1205-1358 era it acknowledged Ven­etian suz­er­ainty, though it re­tained independence.  

English King Richard I Lionheart  had landed on Lokrum Island on his return from the Crusades and via treaties and tributes, it enlarged its territ­ory along the Dalmatian coast. In 1272 the city’s statute incorpor­ated Roman and local pr­actices. Situated on overland trade routes to Byz­antium and the Danube, it became a gr­eat mercantile power.   
limestone-paved Stradun
Dubrovnik Times

When Dalmatia was sold to Venice in 1420, Dubrovnik largely remained a free city. For centuries citizens were able to pres­erve their city-republic by skilful manoeuvring between East and West. A tr­eaty with Turkey extended Dubrovnik’s liberty and maintained a major trading role between the Ottoman Empire and Eur­ope. In C16th Dubrov­nik traded with India, and gave ships to Spain for Arm­ad­a invasion of England (1588).

Two C14th convents stand at the ends of the city; the Dominican Monast­ery was founded in 1225, dominating the Eastern corner. The cloisters and courtyard in this Gothic-style monastery were built to be solid and defensive. There's also a mus­eum containing a wide collection of art and artefacts, incl­uding outstanding C15th-C16th paintings.

Dominican Monastery
Times of India

The Franciscan Mon­astery guarded the west­ern gate. Passing through the Pile Gate, see St Sav­iors Church then a small walkway lead­ing to the Franciscan monastery’s museum. Its library has 70,000+ books and the pharmacy is one of the oldest functioning one any­where. Construct­ion started in 1317 and the Monastery in 1360, all of which has been rebuilt and repaired after wars and ear­th­quakes, creating a Gothic Baroque complex. The Bell tower can be seen all over the Old City.

The Rector’s Palace, built in the late Gothic style in the C15th, was the Republic’s seat of government and is still an arch­it­ect­ural trea­s­ure. Other notable sites include fortresses, a 16-sided fountain and a C15th bell tower.                
Rector's Palace
now the Dubrovnik Cultural History Museum
You Tube

The Jewish synagogue
is one of the oldest in Europe, formally in­au­gur­ated in 1546. Baroque style decoration was completed in 1652 and is st­ill intact, although partition separating the women’s gallery was ad­ded later In the central hall, the wall has 3 arches, which divides the fenced Bimah. The Ark holds Torah scrolls which came with the exiles from Sp­ain. On the steps leading to the Ark is a C13th Moor­ish carpet, given to a Jewish doctor by Spanish Queen Isabella. The ceiling has stucco reliefs, sky blue with golden stars and C19th chande­l­iers.

Sefardi Synagogue
Dubrovnik Guide
A flourishing of art and literature in C15th–17th continued. But in 1667 an ear­th­quake destroyed parts of the city, including the cathedral and many monast­eries and palaces, and killed c5,000 residents. The rep­ub­lic did not regain prosperity until the Nap­oleonic Wars. From 1800-5, it was a neutral Mediter­ran­ean state until Nap­oleon I conquered it in 1808. The Congress of Vienna 1815 gave Dubrovnik to Aust­ria and in 1918 it was incorporated into Yugoslavia. Many his­t­oric sites were dam­aged in 1991–2 in Croatia’s independence struggle, but since rest­or­ed

The Museum of Dubrovnik, in the Rector’s Palace, contains extensive collections of fur­niture and unif­orms, inventory of Dub­rovnik’s C14th ph­armacy, embroid­­eries and jew­ellery. The Marit­ime Museum, estab­lished in 1941 in a form­er fortress, chronic­les the sea­faring past. The Dubrovnik State Arch­ives, with manu­scr­ipts in many languages and some 800 years old, are located in the Renaiss­ance Sponza Palace. There are also theat­r­ical museums, and festivals of theatre and music.

Small boat harbour

Stroll Old Town/Stari Grad’s streets with a guide, learning the secrets behind palaces and plazas, clois­ters and cath­edrals. Go on the tour from the clock tower to the Assumption Cathed­ral, travers­ing the entire Old Town while discovering history. Vi­s­it the Catholic Cath­edral of the Assumption’s Baroque architecture.

The city walls are Dubrovnik’s most iconic sight, the pride of the city. Erect­ed by the C16th and running c1,940 ms in length, they encircled most of the Old City and reached c25 ms high. With­in the walls lie to­wers, forts and hist­oric monuments. Beyond the walls are villas and gardens.On the walk around them, get spectacular views of the glist­ening Adriat­ic Sea and the charming Old Town, with its bright terra­cotta rooftops. 

Link­ing together the city’s many medieval tow­ers and forts, the walls were 6 ms thick and 25 ms tall. Minčeta Fortress was built in 1319 with the larg­est protective towers, dominating the city’s land­scape. Located on the north side of the Old Town, the magnificent his­toric stronghold is the highest point in the city. In Pile Square, stop at Onof­rio's Foun­t­ain, a drinking fountain conn­ected by aqueduct to a spring 12 km from town, carrying drinking water.
Cable car, over city walls.
Free City Guides

Explore the breath-taking coastline in a guided tour to discover the best coastal spots in a special 3-hour sunset tour. Pad­dle beneath the city walls, exp­lore caves and watch the sun set into the Ad­riat­ic. Lokrum Island is famous for gar­d­ens and orange groves, a fort­ress and mon­astery. Banje Beach is a beautiful beach. The Cable Car starts just outside the Old Town, used for an incredib­le ride to the peak of the city on Mount Srđ.      

Dubrovnik on the Adriatic Coast
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Joe said...

I thought Dubrovnik was a very impressive city, but wasn't it damaged in the 1990s by bombs?

Hels said...


On my first day there, I thought the very thick walls might have been a bit off-putting. But facing the Adriatic from within the city is gorgeous, carefully planned from the beginning to hold up all the important to­wers and forts. So it was always defensive, beautifully functional and totally scenic.

DUTA said...

Dubrovnik is not only an attractive tourist resort, but also a favorite movie location (due to its famous walls). I've been to Belgrade, Serbia. Croatia belonged to Serbia till 1991. A lot of things in Belgrade resemble those described by you about Dubrovnik. Anyway, the countries that made up Yugoslavia in the past, are quite worth a visit.

Hels said...


Dubrovnik wasn't the only city bombed by Yugoslav forces in 1991 but it was the damage to Dubrovnik that aroused the greatest sense of outrage amongst those who cared about preserving old history and beautiful architectural heritage. Thousands of buildings were damaged, although it only took till the end of the 1990s for the rapid rebuilding to restore the city to its earlier splendour (except perhaps for some palaces).

I hope Dubrovnik being a UNESCO World Heritage Site protects the city from any future war damage.

Hels said...


I had no idea that Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and other famous films used Dubrovnik as their perfect location. I am not surprised however; the directors must have thought they died and went to film-making heaven.

Following the modern political history of Yugoslavia is trickier. In 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence, resulting in a Serbian siege. Serbs living in Croatian towns felt at risk and often left. Croatia was finally recognised by the United Nations, having won the war by mid 1995.

By the way, I also loved Belgrade, but I would prefer living on a coastline.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

What an amazing place, never heard of it but the photos are bloody wonderful

roentare said...

The small castle bay looks so wonderful. The history is fascinating to read. You always remind me to learn more history about the world

hels said...

Once travel becomes safer and cheaper, you must get yourself around this part of the Mediterranean. It is stunning.

hels said...

Once the treaty with Turkey established the city its rightful place as a trading centre, Dubrovnik developed its ports, piers and storage facilities right on the coast. The inland trading routes were important also, but the Adriatic Sea was/is gorgeous.

Margaret D said...

It does look lovely there.

Fun60 said...

I visited it in 1978 when it was in Yugoslavia and have wondered what it looks like now after the war. I am pleased to hear that the damaged has been repaired and it is as beautiful as ever.

Hels said...


you are totally correct. I was going to add in more photos, but I ran out of space.

Hels said...


it depends when your friend visited. Yugoslavia had years of political conflict, imminent war, actually bombs and years of repairs.

I would not travel to Ukraine or Afghanistan, fearing for safety there, and I would not have visited Albania (from the 1960s on) or Croatia in the 1990s either.

Hels said...


Spouse and I were also lucky, pleasurably and leisurely seeing the city in the 1970s.

All bombed cities suffer appalling damages and deaths, but Dubrovnik had one stroke of luck.
The Old City became the focus of a major restoration programme co-ordinated by UNESCO, immediately included on the List of World Heritage in Danger. With UNESCO's technical advice and money, the Croatian Government restored the Franciscan and Dominican cloisters, repaired roofs and rebuilt palaces.

The World Heritage Centre still offers vital international assistance to the city

CherryPie said...

So far I have only had the opportunity for a day trip to Dubrovnik. It is a delightful city and I would love to go back.

mem said...

How wonderful , Another one for the list.

Hels said...


ahhh travelling quickly is always frustrating, I know, but often we don't have a choice because of work etc. So now I am smarter... we try to cover a smaller area in a fixed time, allowing at least 3 complete days in a small cities that are gorgeous (eg Dubrovnik, Salonika) and a month in very large cities :)

Hels said...


that is the trouble with older age. The cities across the world are becoming more complex and seductive, but the money and energy are going down. So make a bucket list of doable places that can be sensibly tackled in the next few years. My bucket list includes Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

Hels said...

the longer I have written about art history, the more I have agreed with you.