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