As a local, every time I’m asked, “What is Dubrovnik famous for?” I can’t help but smile. This coastal gem, my home, is more than just scenic landscapes and towering walls; it’s a treasure chest of tales waiting to be discovered.
Dubrovnik isn’t just a city, it’s a living story. From its age-old Republic to the tales spun by renowned writers, its allure goes beyond mere sightseeing. Let me guide you through the city’s beating heart and tell you the top ten things Dubrovnik is famous for.
10. The Ingenious Dubrovnik Water Systems
In a city as historic as Dubrovnik, it’s no wonder that even the water systems are a source of fascination. With their inception in the 15th century, the water systems showcased the advanced engineering capabilities of the Dubrovnik Republic. It was a vast network of wells, fountains, and aqueducts that ingeniously collected and distributed water across the city.
The Onofrio’s Fountain, a major part of this system, still stands tall today. It’s not just a symbol of architectural prowess but also a testament to the city’s advanced medieval society.
This system, at its time, was so revolutionary it played a crucial role in maintaining the health and hygiene of the city’s populace. A sip from these fountains and you’re transported back in time, tasting the essence of Dubrovnik’s history.
9. First Ever Quarantine in The World
History often repeats itself, and Dubrovnik is no stranger to this concept, particularly with the world’s first quarantine. The historical Lazarettos of Dubrovnik is a stark reminder of the city’s prudent measures during the height of trading in the 14th century.
Fearful of the plague and other diseases that sailors could bring to the city, the Dubrovnik Republic established these quarantine stations. People and goods arriving from suspect areas had to spend a period of 40 days in isolation here. It was a health precaution that was far ahead of its time, showcasing Dubrovnik’s innovative approach towards public health.
This quarantine system, known locally as “Trentina”, set a global precedent. Even in today’s world, where quarantines have become a common phenomenon due to pandemics, it’s intriguing to trace the concept back to this ancient city on the Adriatic shores.
8. Dubrovnik Republic
Dubrovnik isn’t just famous for its beauty but also for its compelling history. Notably, the city was home to the remarkable Dubrovnik Republic, also known as the Ragusa Republic. An advanced maritime city-state that flourished between the 14th and 19th centuries, it was one of the few regions that maintained its autonomy during the era of powerful empires.
With a sophisticated system of governance that favored diplomacy over conflict, the Dubrovnik Republic was an emblem of peace and prosperity. Its coin, the “Dubrovnik perper,” was recognized and used across the Mediterranean. This thriving period of the city’s past is evident in the well-preserved architecture, providing a vivid glimpse into the grandeur of that era.
For history enthusiasts, the city-state’s past is meticulously documented in the State Archives in Dubrovnik, one of the richest archives in the world. Here, the legacy of the Dubrovnik Republic lives on, providing a fascinating insight into its golden age.
7. Home to Successful Writers
Dubrovnik has long been a haven for poets, playwrights, and novelists. Its idyllic setting and rich culture have inspired many creative minds, leading to a wealth of literary output. Among these is the renowned Croatian Renaissance poet and playwright Marin Držić, whose works are celebrated for their humor and critique of society.
In a fitting tribute, his life-size statue graces Gundulić Square, named after another famous poet from Dubrovnik, Ivan Gundulić. His epic poems are so embedded in Croatia’s cultural identity that passages from his work, “Osman,” are included in the national currency.
The city’s literary heritage is not confined to the past. Contemporary writers, both local and international, find inspiration in Dubrovnik’s alluring landscapes and fascinating history. From these cobblestoned streets and sun-soaked vistas, many tales have been born, further cementing Dubrovnik’s reputation as a literary hotspot.
6. A Famous Location for Filming Movies
Another brush with fame for Dubrovnik is its prominence as a coveted film location. Over the years, filmmakers from around the globe have been drawn to its historic walls, baroque architecture, and picturesque surroundings. The most prominent among these is the blockbuster TV series “Game of Thrones,” which used Dubrovnik as the backdrop for the capital, King’s Landing.
Not just a set for dragons and political intrigue, Dubrovnik has also played host to other high-profile productions. From Hollywood hits like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” to Bollywood blockbusters, its stunning scenery provides a versatile backdrop.
Related: Top Movies Filmed in Dubrovnik
Yet, the city is more than just a photogenic set. It’s a character lending its unique charm and ambiance to each scene. As the cameras roll, it’s almost as if the city’s centuries-old stones whisper their tales, adding an extra layer of depth to every frame.
5. Srdj Mountain and Cable Car
Dubrovnik’s geographic charm isn’t limited to its walled city and Adriatic coastline. Rising above it all is the Srđ Mountain, offering panoramic views of the city and the sea. This site is easily accessible via a cable car, a beloved tourist attraction since 1969.
The Srđ Mountain isn’t just a place for breathtaking vistas. It also hosts the Museum of the Homeland War, which offers a poignant look into Croatia’s struggle for independence in the 1990s. The iconic Fort Imperial, built during the Napoleonic Wars, also sits atop the mountain, adding a historical perspective to your visit.
Related: How To Visit Srdj Hill
As the cable car ascends, leaving the terracotta rooftops behind, you’re treated to a bird’s-eye view of the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic.’ Whether it’s a golden sunset or a blanket of stars, the beauty of Dubrovnik from this vantage point is truly unforgettable.
4. Forever Independent City
Dubrovnik’s spirit of independence is an integral part of its identity. Even under the rule of powerful entities like the Byzantine Empire, Venice, and the Ottoman Empire, the city always managed to maintain a degree of autonomy. This was largely due to its strategic location and astute diplomacy.
This autonomy led to the flourishing of the Dubrovnik Republic, which I touched on earlier. It’s an aspect of the city’s history that locals take immense pride in. The famed City Bell Tower houses the “Libertas” bell, bearing the word that symbolizes liberty and has been the city’s motto for centuries.
Even today, the essence of independence is ingrained in the city’s fabric. The Freedom of the City is a tradition maintained with honor, offering symbolic keys to respected individuals. It’s this enduring spirit of liberty that truly sets Dubrovnik apart.
3. Lovrijenac Fortress
Perched on a 37-meter-high rock overlooking the Adriatic Sea is the Lovrijenac Fortress. Often called “Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar,” this stunning fort is an iconic symbol of the city’s resilience. Built-in just three months in the 11th century, it’s a testament to Dubrovnik’s strategic defense capabilities.
The fortress played a crucial role in safeguarding the city from Venetian attacks. The inscription above the fortress gate, reading “Non Bene Pro Toto Libertas Venditur Auro” (Freedom is not to be sold for all the treasures in the world), emphasizes the city’s enduring devotion to liberty.
Today, Lovrijenac Fortress is a popular venue for cultural events, notably the Summer Festival’s performances of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” It also starred as the Red Keep in “Game of Thrones,” making it a must-visit for fans. This fortress, with its dramatic views and rich history, is an embodiment of Dubrovnik’s past and present.
2. The Enchanting Old Town
If there’s one part of Dubrovnik that perfectly encapsulates its beauty and history, it’s the Old Town. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a labyrinth of narrow, winding cobblestone streets framed by Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque palaces, churches, and houses.
The main street, Stradun, is the heart of the Old Town. Lined with shops and cafes, it’s a bustling hub where locals and tourists mingle. The Luža Square at one end hosts important structures like the Sponza Palace and the City Bell Tower. While on the other end, Onofrio’s Fountain stands, offering a refreshing stop for travelers.
The Old Town isn’t just a walk through history but also a sensory delight. From the inviting aroma of local cuisine wafting from restaurants to the soothing sounds of church bells, it’s an immersive experience that embodies the soul of Dubrovnik.
1. The Magnificent City Walls
At the heart of Dubrovnik’s fame and glory are its formidable City Walls. These stone walls, which have protected the city for centuries, provide an unparalleled insight into Dubrovnik’s past. A walk along them is like a voyage through time, offering stunning views of the city and sea.
Built between the 12th and 17th centuries, the walls stretch for about 2 kilometers. They incorporate several forts, towers, and bastions, each adding to the city’s defense.
The round Minčeta Tower, the highest point in the walls, offers an exquisite panorama of the entire city. In contrast, the Bokar and Lovrijenac Fortresses, perched on the edge of the sea, have borne the brunt of waves and enemy attacks alike. It’s a formidable architecture that truly stands as a symbol of the city’s resilience.
Being atop these walls is an enchanting experience, allowing you to comprehend the city’s strategic layout and architectural grandeur. No wonder it’s often said that you haven’t really seen Dubrovnik until you’ve walked its city walls.
As our journey through Dubrovnik’s famous facets comes to an end, it’s clear that this city is a blend of the past and the present, history and culture, architecture and nature.
Each of these ten facets, from the City Walls to the Water Systems, tells a unique tale about this captivating Croatian city. From a local who loves his city, I invite you to discover the tales that Dubrovnik is waiting to tell you.