Dubrovnik, one of the most popular and attractive city in Croatia is situated at the eastern end of the country. It can be reached via shuttle flights, boats or car. Since we are on a road trip, our preferred choice of travel, driving is the natural choice. But for this trip, it is also our only choice because shuttle flight services are not available during low travel season (November/December).
Read about our experience on: Driving to Dubrovnik Old City
The old city of Dubrovnik is surrounded by a 2 km city wall. The most prominent of the city gates is the Pile Gate. Outside this gate is where the public and tour buses will alight or pick up their passengers. The other popular gates to enter the old city are the Ploce Gate and Buza Gate.
Great Onofrio Fountain
Immediately upon entering the old city via Pile Gate, visitors are greeted by this gigantic structure known as the Great Onofrio fountain.
This well was originally constructed in 1438 to bring water from the Dubrovacka River 12 km away into the old city. The city’s modernisation means it no longer requires the service of this old dame. Nevertheless, fresh drinkable water continues to sprout from the well. *PS: just bring an empty bottle to refill and save on buying bottled water.
If you stay in one of the old houses in the old city like we did, you might come across an abandoned well in the house like this one here (the coffee table).
The Great Onofrio Fountain is the starting point of the main street of this old town known as Stradun.
There are many shops and cafes here but they are only a small fraction of all the shops and cafes available in the old city. There were always pleasant surprises as we explored each of the alleys. In fact, the shops in these alleys are much more interesting and the food are cheaper.
Continued walking down the Stradun brought us to the main square where a cluster of attractions were located. There is also a small scale supermarket here (great for the budget-conscious us in this expensive town).
On the left (in the above picture) is the Rector’s Palace which is currently a museum. You will also find the statue of Marin Držić, the finest Croatian playwright and prose writer; and don’t forget to look out for the Small Onofrio fountain too.
However, the main attractions in the main square had to be The Church of St Blaise and the Dubrovnik Cathedral.
The Church of St Blaise
This baroque style church is the most beloved church in Dubrovnik built in honour of the patron saint of Dubrovnik, Saint Blaise.
Unfortunately, it was closed for restoration during our visit. Nevertheless, items and relics related to Saint Blaise are kept in the Cathedral’s Treasury. That sort of compensated our disappointment.
Right next to The Church of St Blaise is the Cathedral of Dubrovnik. It was originally built in the 12th century and rebuilt in 1673 after being destroyed in an earthquake.
However, excavation found a Romanesque cathedral beneath it. Further digging found another Byzantine style cathedral beneath it dating from the 7th – 8th century. So, it is three churches in one!
The highlight here is the Treasury of the Cathedral which houses the skull and throat of St Blaise, a piece of wood from the holy cross and many other relics of various saints.
A Walk on Dubrovnik’s City Wall
A walk on Dubrovnik’s 2 km city wall offers fantastic view of the Adriatic sea and the old town. The walk is easy except for the initial climb up a short flight of steep stairs to enter it. There are numerous entry/exit points throughout the old town, but ticket had to be purchased at the ticket office located just across the Great Onofrio Fountain. The wall is extremely crowded and hot. So choose your entry time wisely to avoid the crowd and the heat!
Unmarked Openings on City Wall
Besides Pile Gate, Ploce Gate and Buza Gate, there are another two unnamed openings on that side of the city wall that faces the sea (western/southern side). You can’t enter Dubrovnik old town from these openings unless you intend to swim. One of the openings leads to a nice and secluded spot for sunbathing or to enjoy some quiet time gazing into nothingness. The other opening leads to a cocktail bar, perfect for a romantic night.
There is no specific markings or name to indicate these openings. In fact, the entrance looked almost like a door to someone’s home! To find the entrance, during your stroll on this side of the city wall, look out for a small terrace on the rocks (we didn’t take any photo since there was a sunbather). It is not too far from this statue…
Back on the street, find the alley (expects climbing lots of stairs in this maze like alleys) that runs along this side of the city wall. Keep on walking till you come across a narrow wooden door with no markings (it can be easily missed). Good luck and have fun!
Alleys of Dubrovnik Old Town
The best memories we had from Dubrovnik old town is its complicated and extensive network of alleys. The old town is not just a tourist destination. It is also home to many Croatians. Roaming and exploring these alleys that have remained very much the same centuries ago brought many surprises and is an invaluable experience.
During your exploration of the alleys, you will definitely climb some stairs. But, if you didn’t had the chance or are short of time to cover the alleys, then at least try climbing one of these super long staircase to get the real taste of living in Dubrovnik old town!
To fully soak in the atmosphere of this fascinating old city, two days would be ideal. However, if you are short of time like we do, then all the above is doable in a day.
If you intend to explore the surrounding islands, then add in another day. We did not have time for the islands but we did had two wonderful side trips to wrap up our journey to this part of Croatia.