Twenty-five years after the Balkan troubles, Dubrovnik has become Croatia’s most upmarket destination, reasserting itself as the Pearl of the Adriatic. Its main draw remains the picturesque Old Town, surrounded by medieval fortifications and century-old palazzi, monasteries, and elegant churches. It’s easy to fall in love with the city’s marble streets and Mediterranean lifestyle. Despite Dubrovnik’s reasonably small size — only some 42,000 people call the city home — there is plenty to see. Here are the five you shouldn’t miss.
1. City Walls
The postcard view of Dubrovnik is of its orange rooftops, dotting the green landscape along the Adriatic Sea. See this view in person from the Ancient City Walls, which date back to the 13th century and run 6,365 feet around the perimeter of the city. Towers were added along the wall in the 15th century to protect Dubrovnik from the Turks, and the unique fortifications have been used in filming the King’s Landing in Game of Thrones.
The walk along the Ancient City Walls has various inclines, so we recommend visiting in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the afternoon heat. Be prepared to walk slowly, as the route tends to be crowded by tourists. The entire walk should take about an hour.
The main entrance to the walls is just inside Pile Gate. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in summer and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in winter. Admission: 100 Kn ($15)
2. Bokar Fortress
Located just outside the city walls, the Bokar Fortress, also known as Zvjezdan, once secured access to the city via Pile Gate (the western fortified entrance), a moat, and a bridge. The cylindrical structure, built atop a cliff, was designed by the Italian artist Michelozzo di Bartolomeo in the 15th century. Bokar Fortress is said to be one of the oldest casemented fortresses in Europe. Inside, it contains a small lapidary collection and well-preserved cannons. It is worth a visit for the views of the tiny inlet and beach between the fortress and Fort Lovrijenac across the bay. If you happen to visit in summer, you can catch a production of a Shakespearean play or the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, which are held inside the fort.
Old Town Dubrovnik: opening hours are the same as those for the city walls, plus extended hours for events. Entrance fee is reduced for city wall ticket holders.
3. Dubrovnik Cable Car
The best view of Dubrovnik and surrounding areas is, hands down, from the top of Mount Srdi (1,329 feet), which you can reach by cable car. Originally opened in 1969, the Dubrovnik cable car was completely destroyed in the early ’90s during the Croatian War of Independence. Re-opened in July 2010, the car now takes visitors up to the lookout point in three minutes. From here, you’ll get fantastic views over the Old Town, the Adriatic Sea, and Elaphiti Islands, plus amazing sunsets. On a clear day, you might be able to see as far as 37 miles. The viewing complex includes a restaurant, coffee bar, and a souvenir shop.
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or later depending on season. Admission: 70 Kn ($11) one-way or 120 Kn ($18) round-trip.
4. Rector’s Palace and Cultural History Museum
Rector’s Palace is one of the few buildings in Dubrovnik to survive the earthquake of 1667. Dating back to the 15th century, the palace has seen much destruction — from fires to gunpowder explosions — and as a result has a unique hodgepodge of architectural styles from various reconstructions and repairs over the years. Under the Republic of Ragusa (from 1358 to 1808), the chief citizen of Dubrovnik — known as the Rector — resided on the first floor of the palace throughout his appointment. These former living quarters have been converted into the Cultural History Museum, which displays period furniture, costumes, and paintings of influential aristocrats. The ground floor housed the city council’s meetings, a gunpowder store, an armory, and a dungeon. The palace’s façade is depicted on the back of the Croatian 50 kuna banknote.
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (April to October) and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (November to March). Admission: 80 Kn ($12). The ticket covers the Cultural History Museum and Maritime Museum, plus several other venues.
5. Maritime Museum
Prior to modern Croatia, the Republic of Ragusa’s enormous wealth was based on merchant shipping. In the 16th century, Ragusa’s navy had one of the world’s largest fleets, with more than 180 ships and 4,000 sailors. In the Maritime Museum, located on the first and second floors of St. John’s Fortress, you can trace the development of the republic’s naval power. The exhibits on the first floor give an overview of the development of Dubrovnik’s maritime trade and shipbuilding. The displays on the second floor show the strength of its steamships through World War II and afterwards. Exhibits include sailors’ uniforms, model ships, flags, and maps.
Open Tue. to Sun. from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (April to October) and until 4 p.m. (November to March). Admission: 100 Kn ($15). The ticket covers the Maritime Museum and Cultural History Museum, plus several other venues.