‘Game of Thrones’ has given Dubrovnik a new claim to fame but you don’t need to be a fan of the show to appreciate everything this compact, historic city has to offer. Discover what lies inside and along the top of the ancient city walls, from the white limestone streets to the baroque buildings and endless shimmer of the Adriatic. Even if you’re only visiting for the day, it’s easy to experience the best things to do in Dubrovnik.
Explore Dubrovnik’s Old Town
Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th century by Roman settlers and, thanks to its location on a major sea trading route, it developed into one of the most powerful economic entities in the southern Adriatic. The wealthy republic built nearly 2,000 metres of heavily fortified walls to enclose the city and spent large sums of money on architectural treasures that were safely housed inside. The best way to experience Dubrovnik’s history first-hand is by strolling along the famous limestone street known as the Placa and filling your water bottle at the octagonal fountain which has been providing drinking water since the early 1400s.
Explore the city walls
Just inside the Pile Gate, where a drawbridge was once raised every night, you’ll find the main entrance and ticket office for the City Walls. It’s best to do this self-guided tour as early as possible, as the heat and tourist numbers both build as the day goes on. The route is one-way and takes you past towers, bastions, and angular fortifications, plus a few atmospheric cafes if you feel like stopping for a rest.
This walk is best enjoyed slowly, with time to stop and take photographs and enjoy the varied and spectacular view along the walls. Game of Thrones fans will recognise Lovrijenac Fort where the unsuccessful attack on King’s Landing, known as the Battle of Blackwater Bay, was filmed. If you are a fan of the series, there is a Game of Thrones Walking Tour which includes stories about what the cast got up to while they were in town.
Soak up the atmosphere at Luza Square
Luza Square was once filled with the sound of vendors spruiking their wares and ancient scales clanking as exotic spices from across the sea were weighed and measured. You can still see the Dubrovnik Republic’s ancient unit of length, the ‘ell’, which was the distance between the fingertips and elbow of the statue of a knight in the middle of the square. Luza Square remains central to life in Dubrovnik, with a lively café and bar scene and great people watching from the many outdoor tables. You can easily spend a few hours here with a coffee or glass (or two) of excellent Croatian wine either before or after your walking tour of Dubrovnik.
Visit a 700 year old apothecary
Ancient tonics and poisons dating back to the 15th century line the shelves at the Old Pharmacy Museum which can be found inside a Franciscan monastery just off the Placa. This pharmacy remains the third-oldest operating pharmacy in Europe and it is filled with fascinating artefacts. Original prescription books describe remedies dispensed by the Franciscan friars, many of whom were self-taught pharmacists. For a truly unique souvenir, it’s possible to purchase scented cremes and potions made according to the friar’s original recipes in the working part of the pharmacy.
Go swimming at Buza I
Look for the sign reading ‘Cold Drinks With the Most Beautiful View’, find the right archway and you’ll emerge on the ocean side of the castle walls where concrete steps wind towards the water. About halfway down there is a bar clinging to the side of the cliff and you’ll see people swimming in the Adriatic far below. Black rocks form natural platforms and everyone lays out brightly coloured beach towels before jumping into the sea. While the bar is nothing fancy, and there are no change rooms, the view is breathtaking and the swimming is superb.
Disclosure: The writer has visited Dubrovnik at her own expense and as a guest of various cruise lines.
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