Getting off the ferry and onto the pier in the Old City of Dubrovnik was like stepping back in time. Imposing medieval walls rose in front of us in majestic glory as the smooth marble-paved road glistened in the sun before us. Just like many must have done before, we made our way to the Pile Gate, the main entrance to the walled city, with our mouths hanging open and our minds blown.
History of Dubrovnik
The Old City of Dubrovnik is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic.’ The original walls that stand guard around the parameter date back to the 10th century. The walls have been fortified over time by famous architects and leave behind an outstanding example of human determination.
Although it was founded by the Romans, Dubrovnik has also been under the Byzantine and Venetian rule. It wasn’t until the latter part of the 14th century that it became the independent Republic of Ragusa. Its prime location on the Dalmatian coast has positioned the city as an important Mediterranean port for centuries. At one point, it had a fleet of over 500 ships!
Today, much of what makes up the city dates back to reconstruction after the earthquake of 1667. The city’s magnificent architecture is largely due to wealth that was generated by the many trade routes of the past. Dubrovnik was severely bombed during the Yugoslav wars in the early 1990’s and has now been restored thanks to funding from UNESCO.
Love at first sight
From the moment we arrived, I loved Dubrovnik. Maybe it’s the history nerd in me, or maybe it’s the photographer that loves architecture. We were all in our element here. The sun was shining, the ocean waves crashed in the distance and I stood there wondering why it took me so long to get here.
The city within the walls has a great number of churches, museums, shops, cafes and restaurants. You can spend hours just walking around marveling at the beauty around you. If you want to see a bit more, take a walk along the city walls. It’s a walk that really is a must and offers views that will leave you speechless.
I won’t lie, I was very tempted to glide on the sleek stones, made smooth by weather and the countless feel that polished them over the centuries. The buildings, the fountains, the steps are all made out of marble (although some say it’s limestone) and create a sense of being inside a fancy carving. Everything is spotless despite of all the tourists that come there in troves. We were lucky to be there without any cruise ships, which probably would have made the trip less enjoyable.
As you wander along the narrow walls, you can imagine the watchmen that walked along the same walls so many centuries ago. Did they marvel at the city below that was under their watch? Maybe they wandered what lay across the dark blue waters and what dangers lurked out there? Or most likely, the were frying in the heat just like we were. As the walls, like the rest of the city, are built from marble, there isn’t that much greenery around to provide shade so a hat and sunscreen are highly recommended if you’re visiting during summer.
The walls do offer outstanding views of the city and the water around it. All the orange rooftops glisten in the sunshine – uniform and orderly. You can just imagine the hustle and bustle of the days gone by when this was an active shipping port. Merchant and seamen arriving daily to this fortified city that seems to spill into the water from the coastline.
If you want and even better view of the city, you must take the Dubrovnik cable car for even more outstanding views. It’s located just outside the city gates and goes up to the Imperial Port on top of the Hill Srđ. The fort was built by Napoleon and it opened on his birthday. The man didn’t do anything half way.
The Game of Thrones experience
If you are a huge fan of the show, you might recognize Dubrovnik as the setting for some of the scenes in the show. The production has brought a lot of fans eager to visit King’s Landing and other areas. I believe they even have Game of Thrones tours that you can sign up for. I’m not a huge fan of the show, so we didn’t look into it that much.
When we were there, you could get a picture of yourself on a replica of the Iron Throne. I can’t recall how much it cost, but it wasn’t a lot. The memory is much more valuable even now. Knowing that we were there and having now an Iron Throne in my repertoire of pics is really neat. 🙂
Bringing it all together
We stayed in a nearby town called Cavtat and we took a small boat taxi to Dubrovnik. There is another part of Dubrovnik outside the medieval walls that offers a number of accommodations, restaurants and shops. If you want to spend more time here, there are many wonderful options to choose from.
Dubrovnik is a beautiful place, but as many others have become very touristy. We were happy that there were no cruise ships the day we went, or the place would have been packed. It was also very hot when we went so I would recommend going off-season so you can enjoy your visit without the crowds. And if you’re a huge fan of the Games of Thrones show, you will love the experience even more.
Have you been to Dubrovnik? What did you think? Let me know!
Yes, sign me up for more!