Photo Essay: The Tiled Roofs of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, Croatia: a sea of red/orange tiles surrounded by the sea

Tiled roofs seldom tell such a vivid story as they do in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  Stories of war.  Stories of reconstruction.  The war of the early 1990s destroyed most of the tiled roofs of this jewel of the Adriatic.  Not enigmatic like Venice but inviting, though both are definitely charming in distinct ways.

I wrote earlier about the charms of this Adriatic town loaded with history from older times and recent times.  Its emblematic roofs catch your eye from up high as you approach the town from the airport.

Dubrovnik, Croatia: a sea of red/orange tiles surrounded by the sea

It is quite a view even if this photo is not the best as it was taken from a moving bus.  Walking along the old walls that surround the town is one of the best things to do to see the town from a very unique angle that most cities do not offer.  From there, the tiled roofs caught my eye in a different way.  This post will share some of those roofs, the new and old (most are new, repairs from the most recent war) as I keep pondering the stories the town could tell us…  Enjoy them!

Tiled roof of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tiled roof of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tiled roof of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tiled roof of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tiled roof of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tiled roof of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tiled roof of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tiled roof of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tiled roof of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tiled roof of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tiled roof of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Photo of the Week – Harbor in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Harbor or port in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Everything in Dubrovnik is picturesque (check out other sights in this jewel of the Adriatic!), including the view below of a harbor used by smaller craft including local fishermen.

Harbor or port in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Exploring Old Town Dubrovnik – Architecture and Ambiance

Architecture detail in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Walking the streets of Old Town Dubrovnik is beat ONLY by walking the city’s walls.  Yes, the entire city is walled still and you can pay to walk the couple of kilometers which affords great views of Old Town from every angle and of the sea and hills outside of Old Town (read more about it here!).  I enjoyed walking the walls the most out of my days there.  The present city walls, though finished for the most part in the second half of the 16th century, actually were started around the early 15th century.  One of the bridges on the western gate (the Pila Gate) dates from the 1470s!  By the way, there was a massive earthquake in 1667 that caused a lot of damage and these walls survived it quite well.

Cannon along the city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Cannon along the city walls

Guard post in the city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Guard post in the city walls

View through the city wall of Dubrovnik, Croatia

View through the city wall

From the city walls you can more easily find old tiled roofs that survived the attacks of 1991-2, and see how creative townsfolk are about using the space ABOVE their buildings since land is at a premium in this charming city.

Rooftop in Dubrovnik, Croatia doing double duty as a sports court

Rooftop doing double duty as a sports court

In Old Town

Along the way, depending on where you entered the walls (I did by the Pila Gate entrance), you will run into the Fortress of St. John which sort of stands guard on the eastern bay of the town.   This fortress houses a very interesting maritime history museum which I highly recommend.

Old Town looks small from the walls but you can get lost down there – and you should!  Old Town is rich in architecture gems and its shiny stones on the ground add to the ambiance of the place.  My approach to a town like this is to walk pretty much aimlessly down streets and alleys (Old Town is all pedestrian).  A great starting point is the Pila Gate where you enter the main pedestrian street called the Stradun.

The Stradun in Dubrovnik from the Pila Gate

The Stradun street from the Pila Gate

Narrow streets of Old Town Dubrovnik, Croatia

Narrow streets of Old Town

Lots of neat buildings and sights no matter where you turn.  I found the oldest pharmacy in Europe still open (it is said to be the 3rd oldest overall having opened in 1317; located within the Franciscan Monastery) and a neat little museum of local countryside life (the Rupe Ethnographic Museum) built on a former granary (you can still see the holes used to move grains from one level to another).

Old Town, of course, has a good share of palaces, churches and other important buildings and structures to see:

  • The Franciscan Monastery and Church – construction started in the 1300s but which was pretty much destroyed in the earthquake of 1667 .  The cloister is considered one of Dubrovnik’s most important architecture pieces.
Cluster in Franciscan Monastery in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Cloister in Franciscan Monastery

Restoration work at the Franciscan Monastery in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Restoration work at the Franciscan Monastery behind a screen

  • The Rector’s Palace – probably my favorite building, it also suffered greatly in 1667 and was repaired/re-built.  I love the arcade on the side of the building.  Inside, it has a museum with interesting artifacts, jail cells on display, and rooms depicting both the decor of the time and the carriages used by well-off folks to travel!
The Rector's Palace in Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Rector’s Palace

Detail of the Rector's Palace - courtyard - in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Detail of the Rector’s Palace – courtyard

Detail of the Rector's Palace - handrail - in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Detail of the Rector’s Palace – handrail

  • The Bell Tower – at the end of the Stradun, it is fairly recent since the old tower had to be brought down and re-built in the early 20th century.
  • Other churches  including the Cathedral, St. Ignatius, and St. Vlaho.
Bell Tower and Church of St Vlaho in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Bell Tower and Church of St Vlaho

Old church in Old Town Dubrovnik, Croatia

Old church near the Dominican Monastery

  • Finally, the old synagogue which is the oldest Sephardic synagogue still in use and second oldest in Europe.  It is tiny and tucked away with a narrow entrance in a side alley.  One could easily miss it but it is well-worth finding it and entering it.

And RIGHT Outside Old Town

One of the neatest things about Dubrovnik is the sea around it.  One can walk towards the Fortress of St. John and see fishermen coming in with the catch of the day.

Dubrovnik fisherman

Just around the fortress, one can walk down the sidewalk to bask in the sun and the serenity of the sea – unless the waves are a-crashing!

Waves crashing in Dubrovnik's sea walkway 2

Waves crashing in Dubrovnik's sea walkway

Dubrovnik is well worth a visit; and the slower the pace, the more enjoyable it becomes – I shall return!

The Jewel of the Adriatic – Dubrovnik, Croatia!

Approaching Dubrovnik, Croatia coming from the airport and meetings its famous tiled roofs

For a long time, Dubrovnik has been in my radar as a destination.  The images of this city sitting on the Adriatic Sea with its tiled roofs has always captured my imagination – as I hope it does yours, if you have not been to this gem of a place!  This initially was going to be one post but there was so much I wanted to share, I decided to split into two, to not short change you, my readers!

Planning a trip to Italy with friends, I began wondering where else I could go after the Italy visit since I was already across the Atlantic.  As I reviewed the map (first mentally, then online), I zoomed in on Croatia.  Very close to Italy… I did not have a hard time making my mind up.  Croatia it was and Dubrovnik within it….

Arriving in Dubrovnik

I landed in the small but very efficient airport and boarded the bus to town, saving tons of money and paying little to be dropped off right outside one of the main gates into the old city.

The main bus stop area outside of Pile Gate in Dubrovnik, Croatia

As I rode the bus along the coast, I kept my eyes wide open waiting for my first glimpse of Dubrovnik.  And that moment was still as impressive as I thought it would be:  this place looked like out of a fairy tale!  Though I didn’t luck out in the weather department that week, it was impossible to not be charmed by Dubrovnik…

Approaching Dubrovnik, Croatia coming from the airport and meetings its famous tiled roofs

Not too bad for a pic taken from a moving bus!

My Home for 4 Days – The Hilton

My hotel, the Hilton Grand Imperial was almost across the street from the bus stop.  Lucky guy!  (In fact, you can see in the top picture on the top right of the picture!)

Grand Hilton Imperial Hotel in Dubrovnik, Croatia

The beautiful Grand Imperial!

Sample architecture in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Building across from the Hilton Grand Imperial Hotel

The hotel was built in the late 19th century and suffered greatly in the attacks in 1991 (I saw a picture of its roof burning in a local museum where a photo exhibit shows the pain the city went through that year…).  It is now a beautiful Hilton property with excellent service, great location, and an incredible buffet breakfast (along with a well prepared gym to burn off any calories you don’t burn by walking around!  Oh and an indoor pool, sauna, and steam room – imperial indeed.).  (Check out my TripAdvisor review for this hotel.)

Hilton Grand Imperial welcome treat in my room in Dubrovnik, Croatia

A nice welcome treat after a long day coming from Rome via Munich at the Hilton!

Background to appreciate this beautiful place even more…

Dubrovnik competed with Venice, in its heyday (as it does today in my head!), for being one of the most important centers of trade in that part of Europe.  In fact, the Republic of Ragusa, as it was known, was the only contender in the eastern Adriatic to Venice.  It was a skilled center of trade working through complicated politics and centers of power to remain independent until a series of mishaps in the late 17th century started eroding its staying power to be independent.  Little known to me and likely to my compatriots from any of our history courses, this place was definitely unique in history.

Eventually, after many different circumstances, Dubrovnik ended up in Yugoslavia.  When the Yugoslav state began falling apart, Croatia declared its independence along with Slovenia.  Unfortunately, it was not a clean break for Croatia.  Dubrovnik suffered serious attacks in 1991-2 that destroyed parts of the city and most of the tiled roofs that added a lot of charm to the place.  Most of the tiled roofs you see today, in fact, are reconstructions due to the war.  It is very sad not only for the loss of human life and the destruction suffered upon this beautiful city but this city had been demilitarized in the 1970s on purpose to ensure it would never suffer war due to its beauty.  But nationalist zealots don’t respect much…  Dubrovnik paid the price – still visible as bullet holes in some buildings and by the new-looking roofs.   Who is laughing now, though??

Old Town and the City Walls

For sure, the best part of Dubrovnik is what is in Old Town and what surrounds its:  its famed and still intact city walls.  There is so much to share on this that I devote another post to what Old Town offers.  For now, until a few days from now, know that exploring every corner and alley of Old Town is a delight!

The following are views of different portions of the famous city walls as I walked them!

Along the city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Along the city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Along the city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Food – Because You KNEW I Was Going to Go There

I mentioned in my review of the Hilton how good the buffet breakfast was – so that was one meal I did not go elsewhere for!  I had a nice meal at a local place in Old Town one night, and then another meal right between the Hilton and the Pile Gate at a restaurant that was good but pricey.  However, the star of the show for me was Restaurant Posat.  Though in my TripAdvisor review I mention that it was pricey, it was a great deal.  I had mussels for a starter and then a local grilled fish for the main course.  The mussels and the fish were very fresh (and I know fresh fish having lived in Chile for a year!!).  I sat by the waterfront, under the aegis of the St. Lawrence Fortress (or Fortress Lovrijenac).  The restaurant, though outside of the Old Town and very close to the Pile Gate and the main bus stop, was and felt tucked away.  Oh, and they had good wifi!

View from Restaurant Posat in Dubrovnik, Croatia

View from straight ahead from the Restaurant Posat

View of Fortress St. Lawrence in Dubrovnik. Croatia

View of Fortress St. Lawrence – the immediate neighbor of Restaurant Posat!

Great Location!!

Dubrovnik is not just a phenomenal destination unto itself.  It is a great jumping place to many different places.  Island hopping in the Croatian coast, I hear, is incredible.  Heading to awesome Split not too difficult.  Day trip to Mostar, a jewel in Herzegovina?  No problem.  Saunter off to Kotor Bay, the double-bay in Montenegro, or visit Riviera-like Budva also in Montenegro?  Very easy.  Dubrovnik is just blessed with its location as a great place to base a lot of travel in the region.

How Do I Wrap My Head around Dubrovnik?

I have to say that I have seen many places and many places that I like.  I have seen many charming European towns and villages.  I have seen Venice.  And Dubrovnik fares EXTREMELY well when I stack it against any of these.  I dare say its charm is very unique, as is Venice’s.  Except no foul smells, floods, or sinking buildings here…  Stay tuned for part 2 where I hope you will continue to see why I so enjoyed this jewel of the Adriatic!

View of the eastern approach from the sea to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Beautiful view of the eastern harbor, the Fortress of St. John, the Bell Tower, the Dominican Monastery, St. Vlaho’s Church and the wonderful tiled roofs!

Photo of the Week – Lovers in Dubrovnik

Love birds on tiled roof in Dubrovnik. Croatia

I have yet to write about my days in Dubrovnik earlier this year, or about the story behind its tiled roofs but I had to go ahead and share how those tiled roofs are made for lovers… love birds, that is.

Love birds on tiled roof in Dubrovnik. Croatia

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