No visit to Dubrovnik is complete without a tour of the famed city walls. Inscribed in 1979 as a UNESCO world heritage site, the old city of Dubrovnik has endured its fair share of threatening forces. Construction of the wall began in the 9th century, during the Byzantine Empire and later extended to encircle the entire old town between the 12th to 17th centuries[i]. The stone walls surrounding Dubrovnik are some of the best preserved in the world and are the pride of the modern city.
There’s something about the cerulean sea against the pale, slightly pinkish tone of the stone walls that captivates everyone who lays eyes on it. As you walk in a counter clockwise path along the sometimes 25 meters high wall, you are presented with stunning views of terracotta roofs against a back drop of blue, in the distance you can see the island of Lokrum.
The city harbour is one of the oldest shipyards in Europe and is still used today. You’ll find several restaurants, a café and several small ferries that whisk you to the close by island of Lokrum, and the southern city of Cavtat. If you are able to, begin at the Ploče gate entrance, you’ll get the steepest climbs out of the way. This entrance is found on the eastern end of the city walls, close to the drawbridge and old harbour.
From the westside of the wall, at the Bokar Tower (Tvrđava Bokar), you will see Fort Lawrence (Tvrđava Lovrjenac). Game of Thrones fans will recognize it as the Red Keep. After walking the walls, take a break, then head over to Tvrđava Lovrjenac, the entrance fee is included in the price of the tickets purchased to walk the wall. From this fort you will enjoy gorgeous views of the city walls as well as the harbour below. The climb up the stairs can be difficult for some people. However, if you are able, it’s worth the hike up as it won’t be as busy as the city walls. The old architecture, with it’s curves and pillars are stunning. Although there isn’t a lot of signage giving historical interpretation about the tower, it is fun to explore and if you have kids in tow, they can roam around without getting lost in a crowd.
Most visitors to Dubrovnik spend only a few days in the area, exploring the old town’s Gothic-Renaissance, Baroque and Romanesque architecture. If you enjoy taking photos, you will have plenty of inspiration and photographic opportunities along this walk. The best time to explore is early in the morning when the streets aren’t as packed with tourists and the morning light is gentle and soft against the buildings. Alternatively head over in the late afternoon before the dinner crowd arrives and after the cruise ship tourists have returned to their vessels for the night.
Tips for walking the wall: Plan to explore the walls first thing in the morning if you are visiting during the warmer months. It is very popular with visitors and can get very crowded, often mimicking a conga line as you shuffle along the almost 2 kilometers stretch. There are only a few points to exit and even fewer to enter. Pack water, hat and sunscreen, the wall offers very little shade. It can be a strenuous walk for some. Ensure you are in good physical condition to walk the entire 2 km in the full sun.
Tips for dining: Unfortunately, the gastronomy scene is very average in Dubrovnik. Restaurants are catering to the large influx of cruise ship visitors that come in for a day and leave. There are very few good restaurants. Any decent place will be packed early in the evening. If you find a good restaurant, be sure to arrive early, I would suggest between 5:00 – 6:00 PM to ensure you get a table. Otherwise you will end up waiting or settling for one of the many other average dining venues. In addition, prices for meals (with drink) will generally run average €25 per entrée. If you can venture outside the city walls, you will be able to find some great meals at reasonable prices.
Tips for accommodations: The most affordable accommodations in the city of Dubrovnik can be found by renting apartments or sobe, which translates into rooms. Nowadays most people use Airbnb, HomeAway or Expedia to name a few. If you want to take a chance, you can still find people advertising rooms for rent hanging out at bus stations, ferry terminals or on the side of busy streets. Their English may not be that fluent, but if you can use google translate and secure a room, you might just get the most authentic local accommodation. Use your own judgement.