Celebrating Croatian Independence Day with a look at the Country’s Captivating Capital City
One of our most popular city break destinations, Dubrovnik combines centuries of rich architectural heritage in its stunningly preserved Old Town with a more contemporary Mediterranean vibe, making it one of the Adriatic and indeed Europe’s most popular stomping grounds for the rich and famous. Described by Lord Byron as the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’, the timeless appeal and pure beauty of Dubrovnik is sure to leave a lasting impression. On the eve of Croatian Independence Day, here’s a little look at some of its top attractions.
Undoubtedly the star attraction of Croatia’s capital, not least for their starring role as Kings Landing in the popular television drama Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik’s city walls, still intact to this day, date back as far as the 13th century and stand amongst the finest in the world. Punctuated along the perimeter by fortresses and look-out points, the highest and most famous of which is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Minceta Tower, the walls run some two kilometres around the city and provide some of the most stunning panoramic views over the rooftops of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, as well as over the old port and the Adriatic Sea beyond.
Connecting the Old Town’s two main entrances – the Gate of Ploče in the east and Gate of Pile in the west – Stradun is Dubrovnik’s main pedestrian thoroughfare and perhaps one of the city’s most recognisable sights. Boasting a wealth of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants along its flagstone route, as well as a number of Dubrovnik’s principal landmarks, Stradun is a vibrant and popular promenade both with locals and tourists alike and you’ll be sure to spend a good deal of time on or indeed near this atmospheric avenue.
Pride of place along the Stradun must surely go to arguably one of Dubrovnik’s most attractive buildings, the Sponza Palace. Boasting a mix of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, the Sponza Palace started life in the 16th century as a customs house and has served as a minting house, state treasury and bank in its time. Today home to the Dubrovnik State Archives, there’s also a moving memorial room dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the Dubrovnik siege in 1991-92. Be sure also to take in the Church of St Blaise at the eastern end of the Stradun, named after the Patron Saint of the city and renowned for its beautiful stained-glass windows and marble altars. Another must is the stunning Rector’s Palace, considered a Venetian-Gothic masterpiece and once home to the city bishop although today it serves as the venue for the city’s Cultural History Museum.
Just off the Stradun meanwhile is Dubrovnik’s Franciscan Monastery, largely destroyed in the earthquake of 1667 and yet its mid-14th-century Romanesque cloister is a must-see, framed by frescoed arcades and pillars and scented by fragrant orange trees. Perhaps most famous is the monastery’s working pharmacy, founded in 1318 and still in use today, making it the third oldest pharmacy worldwide. And whilst on the subject of religious buildings, Dubrovnik’s Cathedral of Our Lady was reputedly gifted to Dubrovnik by Richard the Lionheart of England as thanks for having survived a shipwreck off the coast of Lokrum Island, a stunning UNESCO-protected nature reserve and national park situated a short ferry ride from Dubrovnik’s port.
Last but not least, a popular option on Dubrovnik city break itinerary is to take the cable car up the 778-metre journey to the summit of Mount Srd (or Srd Hill) from where you’ll enjoy unrivalled views over the terracotta tiles of Old Town’s rooftops, the waterfront and the Adriatic islands of Lokrum and Elafiti in the distance.
As Sir George Bernard Shaw so aptly surmised, Dubrovnik is quite simply ‘heaven on earth’.