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Did You Know … ?
- The Placa (the main street) follows a path that was once a strait separating Dubrovnik from the mainland.
- Dubrovnik’s historic drawbridges were used in Croatia’s 1991-1992 war of independence.
- Dubrovnik sailors traveled with Columbus on his journeys to the New World.
- The cravat and, later, the necktie were invented in Croatia; cravat was a Croatian word.
- Dubrovnik is a planned city, first completed by the end of the 15th century.
A pearl on the rocks
Dubrovnik, its old town wrapped snugly within 1.2 miles of thick walls, is a small city on the Adriatic Sea with a reputation that far outstrips its diminutive size. With mountains at its back, idyllic islands in the blue sea at its feet and, within its walls, rows of matching stone houses topped with red tile roofs — Dubrovnik is called the pearl of the Adriatic.
It rests in such a beautiful seaside setting and retains so much of its heritage in those ramparts and historic buildings that it is popular with all types of travelers, from those who look for a watery playground to those who contentedly sail into the harbor on a cruise liner just to soak up the ambience.
The metropolis and lands it controlled beyond the walls thrived for several hundred years as an independent city-state. Its fortunes peaked in the 15th and 16th centuries when its merchant fleet rivaled that of Venice, another powerhouse trading center on the Adriatic. Dubrovnik’s fortunes were already in decline when, in 1667, a catastrophic earthquake destroyed many of its medieval structures — although not the ramparts. Dubrovnik was a planned city by the 15th century, and post-quake reconstruction was the occasion for further planning.
Considerably more recently, during Croatia’s 1991-1992 war for independence, 70% of Dubrovnik’s buildings were damaged by Yugoslav Army shelling. The city wasted no time repairing the damage afterwards.
As can be guessed, this is a city for lovers of history and architecture, and for them, it is essential to explore its ramparts, streets, alleyways and interiors of churches, monasteries, palaces and forts.
It also is a city of culture. Dubrovnik is the stage for its famed Summer Festival and for other entertainments, such as folklore shows or live music in its clubs. Further, the walled city center is jammed with bars, eateries (good for sampling local foods) and shops for buying locally made souvenirs.
The area’s rugged terrain provides opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast, but the sea offers the greatest variety, where active travelers can choose diving or snorkeling, fishing, sailing, waterskiing, windsurfing and more. Nude bathing is on this menu, too.
Things to do for Venturers
- Hire a kayak at Pile at the foot of Fort Lovrijenac, and paddle to the Island of Lokrum. Or, rent a sailboat and plan your own itinerary in the waters near Dubrovnik.
- Explore the nearby Konavle countryside in an all-terrain vehicle, or do this on horseback. The area includes Cavtat, a seaside resort about nine miles south of Dubrovnik and owner of a history dating to the Greeks.
- Prevlaka Park occupies the southernmost part of Croatia’s coast. Head south for climbing or cycling — or for a tour of tunnels once constructed for the military in the park’s rocky terrain.
- Sunbathe on a nudist beach. Choices include Lapad Beach and some island beaches.
- Stretch your legs and get some culture at the same time. Climb the steep stairs and cross the drawbridge to enter Fort Lovrijenac, which sits above a steep cliff. It is used as a theater for plays, including Shakespearean plays during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.
- Join a game of beach football. The contests are professionally organized and occur in late July/early August.
Things to do for Centrics
- Grab your camera and stroll along the top of the city walls for a unique perspective on this small city tightly packed with tile-roofed buildings of historical significance.
- Also, walk up Mount Srđ and get a stunning view of the city and the sea. Or, choose the cable car option for another way to view the Old Town and area vistas.
- Sample Dubrovnik cheese, made with sheep’s milk and doused with olive oil during maturation.
- Sign on for a folklore excursion to the village of Cilipi. It is a charming place that has had to deal with severe damage inflicted by the Yugoslav Army in 1991-1992.
- Join a wine tour of the Peljesac peninsula. Or, opt for a tour to see oyster and mussel farms, then order oysters at your next meal.
- Visit the Dubrovnik Cathedral and Treasury for the usual reasons. Take note of the Treasury’s unique collection of relics. Those relics allegedly include one of John the Baptist’s hands, various other saints’ limbs, part of Christ’s cross and the head of St. Blaise. The relics are encased in gold.
Things to do for Authentics
- See paintings that depict Dubrovnik in other eras. They are on display at the Cloister of the Franciscan Monastery.
- Saunter down the Dubrovnik Stradun, or Placa, the old city’s marble-paved main street, which is lined with nearly identical 17th century houses. If you turn north off the Stradun, you won’t be walking the streets, you will be climbing them.
- Play tennis at Lapad, west of the walled Old Town.
- Attend one or several performances at the famed Dubrovnik Summer Festival. Musical, theatrical and folklore program are presented in churches, monasteries, palaces and public squares.
- Shop for tablecloths and other linens that are made locally. Also, buy a handmade and extravagant Ronchi hat.
- Buy tickets for a performance of the Lindo Ensemble, a Dubrovnik folk dance troupe,
For more information, consult the Dubrovnik Tourist Board at www.tzdubrovnik.hr and select your language if needed.