- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Travel to Dubrovnik, Croatia
‘Those who seek paradise on Earth should seek it in Dubrovnik,’ wrote the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw – and he wasn’t wrong.
A vivid collection of crimson architecture perched on a cerulean bay; few cities can claim to be more picturesque than Dubrovnik. But there’s more to the city than its aesthetic charms and a glimpse at the history books is enough to show you why.
The whole of the mediaeval old town is UNESCO listed, including the ruler-straight Stradun, the 300m (984ft) road that bisects it. There’s much to gawp at, including the Sponza Palace, the Rector’s Palace, St Blasius Church and the Franciscan Monastery. Not all of it is as old as it appears however as 95% was destroyed by shelling during the Yugoslavian War and later rebuilt, giving the place an oddly museum-like quality.
Tourist Attractions in Dubrovnik
The Old City Walls
The old city walls of Dubrovnik are one its best-known features. Built in the 10th century and modified in the 13th and 14th centuries, these formidable walls - as high as six meters and up to six meters thick-provided a solid defense against invaders. Totaling nearly two kilometers in length, Dubrovnik's city walls make a great spot for a casual stroll and offer numerous excellent views over the Adriatic and inwards over the old city center. Other highlights include its two towers, the Minceta Tower and the Bokar Tower, along with two forts, the Lovrjenac Fort and the Revelin Fort. Access to the walls is through the main entrance on the left of Pile Gate (admission is charged).
Stradun of Dubrovnik
The spectacular Stradun is a place where locals and visitors alike gather day and night to watch the world drift by. Undoubtedly one of Europe's most picturesque pedestrian thoroughfares, the Stradun boasts many cafés and restaurants and is a good spot to rest weary feet after a day touring Dubrovnik. Measuring 300 meters in length and famous for its white limestone paving, the street dates back to 1468, although many of the surrounding buildings were built in the 17th century after the devastating earthquake of 1667, when most of Dubrovnik was heavily damaged. The Stradun's unique homes are designed to enable residential living upstairs and business activities on the main level, and are notable for having their main doors and windows under the same arch.
Dubrovnik Cathedral and Treasury
Standing on the site of an older cathedral dating from the 6th century and destroyed by earthquakes, beautiful Dubrovnik Cathedral-also referred to as the Assumption Cathedral (its full name is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary)-was designed in Baroque style by Andrea Buffalini of Rome. Notable for its three aisles, three apses, and splendid interior décor, the cathedral includes highlights such as paintings by Italian and Dalmatian artists from the 16th to 18th centuries, including Virgin of the Chair by Raphael from the early 1600s. A must see is the cathedral treasury with its many important relics, the most famous being a portion of the cross that Jesus is thought to have been crucified upon.
The City Gates
For centuries, Dubrovnik's famous Pile Gate has served as the main entrance and is still the most interesting access point to this fabulous old city. Formerly surrounded by a moat complete with a drawbridge built in 1537, the pedestrian-only Pile Gate - one of two entrances to the Lapad area - also boasts a pleasant garden in the old moat. Other highlights include a statue of St. Blaise located in a niche in the arch and carved by famous Croatian artist Ivan Meštrović, and, within the ramparts, a door dating back to 1460. Another gate worth seeing is the 14th-century Ploce Gate, just behind the Asimov Tower and designed as a "double defense" system that proved effective in times of trouble. Also imposing and located just across the moat from the Ploce Gate is the Revelin Fort, designed by Tvrđava Revelin in 1580.
Dubrovnik's Gibraltar: Fort Lovrijenac
Dubbed "Dubrovnik's Gibraltar" for its location on a rocky promontory just outside the city's western wall, Fort Lovrijenac has long been one of Croatia's most important fortresses. Rising an impressive 37 meters above the Adriatic, this stunning fortress proved impregnable during the many sieges undertaken by the Venetians from its completion in the 11th century onwards (legend has it the Venetians themselves planned to build a fort here but were beaten to it by industrious city folk). Also notable for its unusual triangular layout with its three terraces, Fort Lovrijenac - also known as Fort Lawrence - is accessed via two drawbridges and a gateway through its impressive walls, as thick as 12 meters in places. In addition to serving as a tourist attraction, the fort is also used as a venue and backdrop for Dubrovnik's famous Summer Festival and its many theatrical and musical performances.
The Dominican and Franciscan Monasteries
Built in the early 1300s, Dubrovnik's Dominican Monastery was so large that construction required moving parts of the city walls just to accommodate it. Heavily damaged in the 1667 earthquake, the monastery was completely rebuilt in its present form with special attention given to preserving features such as its splendid late Gothic cloister (the original was designed by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo of Florence in the 15th century). A particular highlight is visiting the monastery's museum with its many 15th- and 16th-century religious paintings in the style of the Dubrovnik (also known as the Venetian) School, along with interesting items of gold and silver and other relics.