Dubrovnik Introduction Walking Tour, Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Dubrovnik

One of the most visited cities in Croatia – comfortably situated on the Adriatic coast in the south of the country, Dubrovnik is a major seaport and historical location packed with numerous monuments and points of interest. Since 1979, the city has been listed as the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The history of Dubrovnik dates back to the 7th century, when the town known as Ragusa was founded by refugees from Epidaurum (Ragusa Vecchia). Initially under the protection of the Byzantine Empire and later under the sovereignty of the Republic of Venice, between the 14th and 19th centuries Dubrovnik ruled itself as a free state. The prosperity of the city was historically based on maritime trade; as the capital of the maritime Republic of Ragusa, it achieved a high level of development, particularly during the 15th and 16th centuries, as it became notable for its wealth and skilled diplomacy. At the same time, Dubrovnik became a cradle of Croatian literature.

The entire city was almost destroyed when a devastating earthquake hit in 1667. During the Napoleonic Wars, Dubrovnik was occupied by the French Empire forces, and then the Republic of Ragusa was abolished and incorporated into the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy and later into Illyrian Provinces. During most of the 19th and 20th centuries, Dubrovnik was a part of the Austrian Empire, Austria-Hungary and then Yugoslavia.

In 1991, during the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik was besieged by the Yugoslav People's Army for seven months and suffered significant damage from shelling. After undergoing repair and restoration works in the 1990s and early 2000s, it re-emerged as one of the Mediterranean's top tourist destinations, as well as a popular filming location, especially known for the HBO television series Game of Thrones.

The latter, in large part, was due to the picturesque Old Town of Dubrovnik, encircled with massive stone walls completed in the 16th century. Its well-preserved buildings range from Baroque St. Blaise's Church to Renaissance Sponza Palace to the Gothic Rector’s Palace, which is currently a history museum. Paved with limestone, the pedestrianized Stradun (or Placa) is lined with multiple shops and restaurants. To explore these and other most famous attractions of Dubrovnik, take this self-guided introduction tour.
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Dubrovnik Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Dubrovnik Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Croatia » Dubrovnik (See other walking tours in Dubrovnik)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 15
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Pile Gate
  • Fort Bokar
  • Large Onofrio's Fountain
  • St Saviour's Church
  • Franciscan Monastery & Museum
  • Stradun Street
  • War Photo Limited
  • Sponza Palace
  • Luža Square
  • St Blaise's Church
  • St Ignatius Church
  • Dubrovnik Cathedral and Treasury
  • Rector's Palace
  • Dominican Monastery and Museum
  • Dubrovnik Cable Car
Pile Gate

1) Pile Gate (must see)

The Pile Gates are a well-fortified complex with multiple doors, defended by Fort Bokar and the moat that runs around the outside section of the city walls. At the entrance gate to the Old Town, on the western side of the land walls, there is a stone bridge between two Gothic arches designed by the esteemed architect Paskoje Miličević in 1471. This bridge connects to another bridge, a wooden drawbridge that can be pulled up. During the republican era, the wooden drawbridge was hoisted each night with considerable pomp in a ceremony which delivered the city's keys to the Ragusan rector.

Today, it spans a dry moat whose garden offers respite from the crowds. Above the bridges, over the arch of the Old Town's principal gateway, there is a statue of the city patron Saint Blaise (Croatian: Sveti Vlaho) holding a miniature replica of the Renaissance-period Dubrovnik. After passing the Pile Gate's original Gothic inner gateway, it is possible to reach one of the three access points to the city walls.

*** Game of Thrones Tour ***
The Pile Gate has been featured in a number of episodes of Game of Thrones Seasons 2 and 3, most notably in Season 2, Episode 6 ‘The Old Gods and the New’. In a scene where King Joffrey returns to Red Keep after Marcella is sent away to Dorne, he gets attacked by the angry mob gathered at the entrance and screams ‘Kill them, kill them all’. The Gate also shows in Season 3, Episode 10 ‘Mhysa’ when Jamie Lannister returns to King’s Landing.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Fort Bokar

2) Fort Bokar

Fort Bokar, otherwise known as "Zvjezdan", is considered to be among the most beautiful examples of harmonious and functional fortification architecture. This two-story casemate fortress was built by the Italian architect and sculptor Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi from 1461 to 1463 as part of the city walls which at that time were under reconstruction. The cylindrical fort protruding into the sea almost entirely was conceived as the key point of defense of the Pila Gate, the western fortified entrance to Dubrovnik, and, after the Minčeta Tower, is the second most key point in the defense of the western land approach to the city.

*** Game of Thrones Tour ***
Fort Bokar frequently appears throughout all seasons of Game of Thrones when they show people walk past the city walls of King's Landing. One of the most memorable scenes is in Season 2, Episode 8, where Tyrion and Lord Varys are looking out at sea discussing the defense strategies for King's Landing with the Red Keep visible in the background.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Large Onofrio's Fountain

3) Large Onofrio's Fountain

Dominating a small square between the Franciscan Monastery and the Pila Gate is a round polygonal structure, called the Big Onofrio’s Fountain. It was built in 1438 by the prominent Italian architect from Naples, Onofrio di Giordano della Cava, who is also responsible for designing waterworks and other fountains in the city, as well as the Rector's Palace. Throughout 1435-1442, he had designed and constructed in total 12 km of water supply lines which brought water from the Knežica spring, Šumet River in Rijeka Dubrovacka to the Old Town. These waterworks remained in use up until the late 19th century.

As for this fountain, it is indeed big and, perhaps, the most popular creation of Onofrio in Dubrovnik. The fountain is topped with a cupola and embellished with 16 stone water taps carved in the form of masks (maskerons or maskeroni), plus a statue of a dog sitting on top of the fountain wall. Lovingly referred to by the locals as “kuchak”, which means the fountain dog, this is a replica of the original dog statue that was badly damaged and then reinstalled in 2016. The entire fountain also suffered severe damage during the 1667 earthquake but has been painstakingly rebuilt ever since.
St Saviour's Church

4) St Saviour's Church

This marvelous old house of worship is a major attraction in the Old Town of Dubrovnik. The building was erected in honor of Jesus Christ, in recognition for the town's deliverance from a great earthquake that struck in the early 1500s. In fact, you can find a monument to that located on the front side of the building. The construction was finished in 1528 led by the famed architect Petar Andrijich.

The overall design of the church is a Gothic cross, with a ribbed vault and one nave. The appearance of the outer walls is also Gothic, even down to the classic pointed windows. A keen observer of architecture will note, however, the bits and pieces of the Renaissance styling in the main building, as well as in some of the trimming.

This church is very important to the city because it is one of the few buildings that had survived the earthquake of 1667, which makes it particularly unique from a historical standpoint.
Franciscan Monastery & Museum

5) Franciscan Monastery & Museum (must see)

The Friary of St. Francis of Dubrovnik was formed in 1317. The original structure that used to house this religious order was largely destroyed during the earthquake of 1667, upon which the monks rebuilt their home incorporating more modern styles into the new structure. As a result, just like many other buildings in the area, it shows elements of Baroque and Renaissance architecture. The main component of the building which had survived the earthquake is the old cloister.

Access to the monastery is open from the St. Savior Church. While there, make note of the door that you walk through, as it is one of the oldest surviving pieces of the original building. This piece was added in 1499 and represents a classic style, known as Venetian Gothic.

There is a wonderful little museum located on the grounds, which most people tend to overlook. The museum is open to the public for a small fee, every day, and houses valuable copies of ancient manuscripts and chorales, paintings by unknown masters, plus a 14th-century head relic of St Ursula, and a collection of ex-voto jewelry.

Why You Should Visit:
Well worth a quick visit, particularly the lovely garden/courtyard area (perfect for reflection) and the 700-year-old pharmacy.
There are some lovely murals and pieces of art, lots of objects for photography, and things to learn more about Dubrovnik's history as well.
Although right by the Pile Gate and the main entrance to the Walls, this is an oasis which the large tourist groups happily do not have on their itinerary.

While you can enter the cloister garden without a ticket, it is required for the apothecary museum.
Photos are only allowed in the cloister part, if you visit the old pharmacy shop where you can also buy potions made from old recipes!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6pm (Apr-Oct); 9am-2pm (Nov-Mar)
Stradun Street

6) Stradun Street (must see)

Stradun is the biggest and longest street in Dubrovnik. Stretching through Stari Grad (Old Town) for 292 meters, it has been the city's main thoroughfare since the 13th century; its current appearance, for the most part, was created following the devastating 1667 earthquake in which most of the buildings in Ragusa (as Dubrovnik was called back then) were destroyed.

Prior to the earthquake, houses along the street were not so uniformly designed as they are today – many of them featured arcades and elaborate decorations. Following the earthquake and a large fire that broke out immediately afterwards, the Republic of Ragusa passed a law which specified the layout of all future residential buildings in the city.

Today, Stradun remains a commercial, entertainment and spiritual center of Dubrovnik. As the main walkway of the Old Town, its marble pavement is lined with numerous restaurants, bars and small shops catering to the needs of multiple tourists.

Why You Should Visit:
A really nice, fast way to get from one end of the Old Town to the other – you'd only wish Venice had a central concourse like this!
Also, if you're a cat lover, you'll get to see plenty of lovely cats around this area.

Check to see when the cruise liners are in and try to avoid those days to visit, as it may get very crowded.
Do slip off down some of the narrow side streets: not only are they quieter, but also a lot cooler. And food & drink there are considerably cheaper, too.
War Photo Limited

7) War Photo Limited (must see)

A relatively new addition to the cultural landscape of Dubrovnik, this photo center was opened in 1990 by the famed New Zealand photographer, Wade Goddard, who specializes in photos from the war zones and areas of conflict around the world. When Goddard came to this region, he decided to make it his home. As one might expect, he extensively documented the Croatian-Serbian War of 1991 from Yugoslavia.

If you are going to visit this place, be prepared for some graphic nature of the content. Needless to say that it is not the best venue for children. Those who are willing to visit, however, will see some very moving, graphic, and eye-opening images shot during wartime. Sometimes shocking and always interesting, the presented images are very much worth the while of those wishing to learn about the tragic moments in the modern history of Croatia and the neighboring states.

Why You Should Visit:
Well-documented photo history that tries to provide an objective view of events and the harsh realities of living in a war zone.

The gallery has excellent air conditioning, so if you are overheating in the summer sunshine, use it as a cooling off stop.
Make sure to pick up a free guidebook at the ticket desk, as it provides brief description for each photo displayed.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-10pm (May-Sep); Wed-Mon: 10am-4pm (Apr, Oct)
November through March: CLOSED
Sponza Palace

8) Sponza Palace

The Sponza Palace is a 16th century Gothic-Renaissance edifice that has played an important role in the day-to-day business of Dubrovnik over the centuries. Money used to be minted here and the whole area surrounding the palace was crucial to commerce, back in the past.

In fact, there are still reminders of the bonded warehouse that was once stood here. One is a sign that says in essence “the weights are true and accurate, because the Lord watches those who do the weighing to ensure there is no cheating”. There are also the names of saints inscribed on the arches of the warehouses.

Today, the palace is used to house a memorial to the Dubrovnik Defenders who died protecting the city in the early 1990s. There is also an archive that details the city’s history. The memorial is free to enter; the archive is also open to the public, but only by appointment.

Also, each year this area hosts the opening ceremonies of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, during which the actors and performers engaged in the theatrical and musical events of the festival are presented to the “dignitaries” of the city (played by actors). They are demanded to perform and entertain the group as an audition of sorts. In the end, the performers are deemed worthy of performing at the festival and allowed to enter the city. As in the old days, the Palace still remains the center of the city's daily activities.
Luža Square

9) Luža Square

Luža Square has been the hub around which life in Dubrovnik has revolved for many centuries.

The buildings surrounding this busy square have stood for hundreds of years and the square itself has been a gathering spot for the locals just as long. Today, this wonderful medieval plaza is a home to cafes, a bell tower, and Orlando’s column, and is quite spectacular a place to watch people in the afternoon.

The history of the square also has a serious side. Not only is it where that the Croatian sovereignty was proclaimed, but it also saw numerous trials, pronounced judgments and executions performed. It is rather easy to feel lost in time here amid the Gothic-Renaissance architecture and cobblestone pavement – pretty much as it was back in the 14th century.

Presently, Luža Square is a venue for the opening ceremony of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, the Feast of St. Blaise and many other events. Being the heart of the city, it continues to be teeming with people just as it was originally designed to do.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most beautiful old town areas in Europe!

Go at night to avoid crowds when the city is particularly lively and buildings floodlit.
St Blaise's Church

10) St Blaise's Church (must see)

This church is named after the local patron saint of Dubrovnik, St Blaise (Sveti Vlaho) – formerly the protector of the independent Republic of Ragusa – whose relics: both hands and a bone fragment of the face are held inside. The image of the saint is carved in stone on all Dubrovnik's fortresses and the bastion, as well as above all the city gates and on all official seals and coins. A feast in his honor is held each year on February 3rd.

The church was originally built in the 14th century, featuring the then very popular Romanesque style which was prevalent in that period's local architecture. The great earthquake of 1667 damaged the building extensively. It was totally lost to a fire in 1706, following which - in 1714 - the church was remodeled on Sansovino's Venetian church of San Maurizio in a Baroque style.

The centerpiece of the interior is the beautiful golden statue of St. Blaise holding a scale model of the Romanesque church which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1667. Crafted in the 15th century by an unknown local master, the statue stands on the main altar of the church and is the only piece that had survived the fire of 1706.

The church’s front steps provide setting for some of the most important events in the life of the city, including New Year’s Eve and the opening night of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. There is also a market out front with numerous crafts and food offerings (honey, jams, olive oils, sugared fruit and nuts).

Why You Should Visit:
Unlike a lot of churches, this one is light, bright, less foreboding, but equally pretty and beautiful.

It can get quite crowded inside, so go early in the morning or later in the evening, or when the service is on to sit by yourself.
Whenever you go, make sure to check out the beautiful stone carvings above the door.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8am-12pm / 4:30-7pm; Sun: 7am-1pm
Free admission; open until midnight in August
St Ignatius Church

11) St Ignatius Church (must see)

A fine example of an old Jesuit-style Roman Catholic architecture, the Church of St Ignatius of Loyola is located on the southernmost edge of the old part of Dubrovnik. The construction started in 1665 and, after a slight delay during the great earthquake of 1667, was completed in 1725. The designer was Ignazio Pozzo.

Just like many other buildings owned by the Jesuit community, this house of worship was modeled on the Gesu in Rome, which is the main headquarters for the Order. The overall architectural style is Baroque. The square in front of the church – decorated with a beautiful stairway, another classic example of Baroque – is a very popular spot for gatherings in the city.

There is a small college associated with the complex here as well, well worth a look, complete with some noteworthy pieces of art. The fresco paintings here are particularly beautiful. The bell is also the oldest in the town.

Why You Should Visit:
The location at the top of the now-famous Game of Thrones 'shame' steps, the lack of tourists, and the old detailed interior all contribute to a memorable landmark.

Try to visit when the mass is on (there's an English mass on Sundays at 11am during the summer – end of March through end of October) as the lights are on and the inside looks spectacular.
You can reach the church either by the Jesuit staircase that offers a wonderful view as you walk up or by climbing gradually through a maze of back streets that spare you the effort of all the steps.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-7pm
Dubrovnik Cathedral and Treasury

12) Dubrovnik Cathedral and Treasury

The Dubrovnik Cathedral, otherwise known as the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, is an imposing structure that, over the years, has undergone many drastic changes. The original cathedral of Byzantine style was built in the 6th century, although a church of some sort had been on this site long before that. The entire building was redone in a construction project that had lasted over 100 years, starting from the 12th century, and resulted in a more Romanesque style of the building.

Local legend has it that the change was financed by King Richard the Lionheart after his rescue here during one of the campaigns. Like most buildings in Dubrovnik, the cathedral suffered major damage during the great earthquake of 1667, after which it was rebuilt in a Baroque style.

On the inside, there is a beautiful painting of the assumption of Mary, done by Titian around 1552, along with a copy of Raphael’s “Virgin of the Chair”. The local sacred art collection is also worth a look, as it is typical of the type of work being done here during the 1500s.

Why You Should Visit:
Albeit smaller than expected on the inside, Titian's polyptych, as well as the very unique and simply beautiful Stations of the Cross, really make a visit here worth the while.
At night, the cathedral is lit and becomes a magical place, which keeps its old aspect – there are no restaurants/bars in the area, just people passing and old stones.

The Treasury within the Cathedral displays a wide collection of religious objects, such as bronze and gold vessels, jewelry, as well as 132 relics of the saints dating from the 11th to the 19th centuries. Among these are the priceless head, arms and leg relics of St. Blaise, the patron saint of Dubrovnik, dated between the 11th and 12th centuries, crafted by the city's goldsmiths.

Opening Hours:
Cathedral – Mon-Sat: 8am-5pm; Sun: 11am-5pm (Easter-Oct), Mon-Sat: 9am-12pm / 4-5pm (Nov-Easter)
Treasury – Mon-Sat: 9am-5pm; Sun & Holidays: 11am-5pm (Apr-Oct); Mon-Sat: 10am-12pm / 3-5pm; Sun & Holidays: 11am-12pm / 3-5pm (Nov-Mar)
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Rector's Palace

13) Rector's Palace (must see)

The Rector’s Palace is a historical museum that provides a live illustration of the 15th century seat of power in Dubrovnik when it was the home of the Rector and the City Council.

The palace itself is rather modest. Opulence has never been much in favor with the local rich. Viewing this location, one may be surprised as to how simple the design is. There is no luxury to be found. Instead, there are great historical collections of metalwork, paintings, and textiles from the ancient period, among which there are pieces of works by the artists like Tintoretto and Bordone.

The palace was designed by Onofrio della Cava, the same architect who built Dubrovnik's landmark fountains. The building was extensively damaged in the late 1400s. During reconstruction, some of the more classic Italian Renaissance style elements crept into the design. The palace also suffered from the 1667 earthquake, upon which its atrium was rebuilt and some Baroque style elements were added.

*** Game of Thrones Tour ***
The Rector’s Palace appears in the Game of Thrones series Season 2, Episode 6 “the Old God’s and the New” when Daenerys visits the Spice King’s mansion to ask the Thirteen rulers of Qarth for ships to carry her army across the Narrow Sea, but is refused. The Qarth was filmed on a number of locations around Dubrovnik. The Rector’s Palace is one of them, where the indoors scenes were shot. Also, the courtyard was used to film the scene between Khaleesi and the Spice King (Season 2).

Why You Should Visit:
You can go up the stairs to see the Rector's rooms. There are some gorgeous pieces of furniture and artwork to admire.
On the ground floor, the various rooms house some historic pieces from the jail and armory, plus lovely sculptures.

Try and get to the palace early in the day before the cruise ship crowds get here.
The place is particularly beautiful after dark for taking photos.
There's no English interpretation without the brochure, so make sure you get one if you go inside.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6pm (Apr-Oct); 9am-4pm (Nov-Mar)
Dominican Monastery and Museum

14) Dominican Monastery and Museum

The Dominican Monastery of Dubrovnik is very old and was established in 1315. Much of its original funding came from the local government. In addition, many local builders volunteered to help the Dominican Order to get established in the city. Sadly, the building sustained great damage during the 1667 earthquake and had to be rebuilt in places.

It is a classic example of a Gothic cloister, adjoined by a working medieval well and an old bell tower that combines various architectural styles, from Romanesque to Baroque. The former is attributed to the famous artist from Milan, named Bonino.

A special treasure of the Dominican monastery is the library with 216 incunabula, numerous illustrated manuscripts, a rich archive with precious manuscripts and documents, plus an extensive art collection. The stairway has a balustrade which leads to the south entrance. There is a statue of St. Dominique, founder of the Dominican Order. Also deserve mentioning are the newer Gothic arch and the statue of Christ.

The monastery campus is an example of one of the first multi-faceted construction projects in the city. Part of it is a cute little museum located off a small passageway behind the Sponza Palace which, sadly, many visitors tend to miss. The museum is dedicated to preserving and displaying religious art from Dubrovnik. The collection includes some remarkably well-preserved paintings, church vessels and triptychs, as well as a reliquary purportedly containing the skull of King Stephen I of Hungary.

A big doorway leads to the Church of St. Dominic. The bell tower, as well as an old medieval well, are also there to see – as parts of the overall complex surrounding the museum.

Why You Should Visit:
If looking to go somewhere peaceful, away from the crowds, this is an excellent place to go.

Buy the Dubrovnik one-day ticket that gives you access to several museums, including this monastery.

Opening Hours:
(1 May – 31 October) Daily: 9 am-6 pm; Working hours in winter: 9.00 am – 5.00 pm.
Dubrovnik Cable Car

15) Dubrovnik Cable Car

To enjoy the best possible view of Dubrovnik and the surrounding area, make sure to get yourself on top of the Srd Mountain, 778 meters above sea level. The best way to reach it, undoubtedly, is the Dubrovnik Cable Car. One of the city's top attractions, it was built in 1969 and has since been enthusiastically used by millions of tourists anxious to capture the breathtaking panoramas of the Adriatic sea, Dubrovnik's Old Town, Island Lokrum and the neighboring Elaphiti islands: Koločep, Lopud and Šipan.

On a clear day, this vantage point affords view as far as 60 km (37 miles) away. No wonder that the nearby Imperial Fortress, built in the early 19th century by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte himself, precisely in time for his birthday, was strategically placed upon this privileged position. The best time to take photos is around sunset.

The cable car line employs two carriages, each carrying up to 30 people, making regular three-minute runs to the top of the Mount. Once up there, you may also want to visit the Museum of Homeland War featuring original documents, artifacts and authentic photo and video materials related to the Balkan armed conflict of 1991-1995. Also, at the upper Cable Car station there are a restaurant, café and a souvenir shop.

The most convenient way to buy tickets is directly at the cable car stations. Payments can be made either in cash – with Croatian kuna only (no foreign currencies accepted) – or by credit cards.

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