Playwright George Bernard Shaw famously said, “Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik.” Shaw was right. Visiting the old city of Dubrovnik, basking on the Croatian coast against a backdrop of the sparkling Adriatic Sea, is an enriching experience. Dubrovnik Old Town, the city’s ancient, pedestrianized walled center, is a neat enclave brimming with things to see and do.
Having played a starring role in many movies and TV shows, Dubrovnik will seem familiar, even if you haven’t been before. Along with intriguing museums, historical buildings, and mesmerizing views from the ramparts of the nearby forested islands, Dubrovnik Old Town also boasts fantastic shops, restaurants, and bars. Here’s what to see and do in this jewel of a city.
Walk the Old Town Walls
One way to get Dubrovnik’s compact center in perspective is to walk the ramparts that encircle one of the best medieval cities in Europe—with the chunky stone walls a mile and a quarter all the way around.
The solid walls, in places 18 feet wide, were built between the 11th and 13th centuries. For views from every angle, the Adriatic sparkling tantalizingly below, walk between the fortresses hugging each corner: Minceta Tower, Revelin Fortress, St John’s Fortress, and Bokar Bastion. You’ll be rewarded with sweeping vistas of the coastline, nearby islands, and the terracotta roofs of the old town.
Stroll Down Stradun
A broad pedestrian thoroughfare of polished limestone that slices through Dubrovnik Old Town, Stradun begins just past the main entrance, Pile Gate. An elegant street of landmarks and ancient buildings, brimming with al fresco cafés, restaurants, and shops, this buzzing spot is the heart of Dubrovnik.
Strolling down Stradun is one of the best things to do in Dubrovnik. Stop by the 14th-century Franciscan Church and Monastery, home to a cloister, library, and the Friars’ pharmacy and museum, which is said to be one of the oldest operational pharmacies in the world.
Sit at a café or restaurant to enjoy a spot of people-watching. Shop for souvenirs such as Croatian wine, arts, crafts, and jewelry before tucking into a delicious meal at Proto, a fish restaurant on the corners of Široka and Vara, just off Stradun. Located in a shuttered, stone building, this is the place to linger with local wine to wash down a platter of Dalmatian oysters, shrimps, or fresh fish from the Adriatic.
Discover the Dominican Monastery & Museum
Located in the northeast corner of the Old Town, the 13th-century Dominican Monastery is one of the most visited attractions in Dubrovnik. Admire the meld of Romanesque, baroque, gothic, and renaissance styles of the monastery.
Explore the pretty cloister, home to the monastery’s museum, and the extraordinary paintings on display, including those by 15th- and 16th-century artists Lovro Dobričević, Mihajlo Hamzić, and Nikola Božidarević.
Step inside the church, built by a local Dubrovnik builder named Paskoje Miličević, who is buried there. You’ll find his name engraved on the wall of the church.
Admire Sponza Palace
Dubrovnik Old Town’s gorgeous Sponza Palace, also known as the Customs Palace Divona, was built in the 16th century on the vibrant Luža Square. Marvel at the Palace’s stone-arched inner courtyard.
Seek out the shade in the gothic and renaissance-period portico facing the square. During the annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival, both the Palace and the square are used as performance venues. In the center of the square, stop by Orlando’s Column, unveiled in 1418 to honor Dubrovnik’s heroic knight.
Visit the Church of Saint Blaise
Lying in Luža Square, opposite Sponza Palace, is the beautiful Church of Saint Blaise, one of Dubrovnik Old Town’s finest attractions. Built in the early 18th century in the Venetian baroque style, this exquisite church, with a marble altar, is home to a 15th-century silver statue of St. Blaise, the patron saint of Dubrovnik. The saint is depicted holding a scale model of Dubrovnik town as it was before a catastrophic earthquake hit in 1667.
Admire Onofrio’s Fountain
The formidable main entrance to Dubrovnik Old Town, Pile Gate is a stone-arched walkway adorned with lush greenery in what once was a moat. Cross the drawbridge of the 15th-century gate and you’ll come to the elaborate, 16-sided Onofrio’s Fountain.
This European landmark was built in the 15th century as the endpoint of a complex water supply system that brought drinking water to the city from a spring some eight miles away. The fountain’s ornate sculptures were damaged in the great earthquake of 1667 but some remain. You can still drink the water here today and the fountain is something of a cooling-off spot on a hot summer’s day, as well as a popular meeting place.
Tour the Rector’s Palace
Situated near the east wall of the old city of Dubrovnik, the Rector’s Palace was built in the 15th century as the administrative center of Dubrovnik and the residence of the city’s rector.
The Palace showcases a remarkable blend of gothic and renaissance architecture, having been reconstructed twice due to gunpowder explosions during its first century. When the earthquake of 1667 struck, the palace was damaged again, with a sweeping baroque staircase added as part of the renovation work.
Wander through the imposing front portico to the central atrium. Tour the rector’s residence, the courtroom, prisons, and former arsenal and gunpowder storehouses. Inspect the exhibition halls, filled with antique furniture, objects of art, and paintings by Croatian and Italian masters.
Look out for the collection of old coins that are safeguarded at the museum from the period of the Dubrovnik Republic, dating from 1358 to 1808.
Ride the Cable Car to Mount Srđ
Srđ Mount is not strictly in the Old Town, but you will get to witness one of the best views of Dubrovnik’s famous terracotta rooftops by ascending the mountain by cable car. A short ride will see you transported 2,500 feet above the city to the summit of Srđ, part of the hulking Dinaric Alps mountain range, for a magnificent view.
While the views are breathtaking, there are also numerous activities to try at the top. Embark on a guided, one-hour, off-road Buggy Safari to explore the flora and fauna.
Or learn about the region’s recent past at the Homeland War Museum, which details the Homeland War that took place between 1991 and 1995 through exhibitions housed in Fort Imperial. The fort played an important role in the war, serving as the headquarters of the 163rd Dubrovnik Brigade of the Croatian Army.
View photographs, read memoirs, and documents that detail life during this difficult period of Dubrovnik’s history.
There’s a hiking trail that leads from Fort Imperial to Fort Strinčjera for more big-sky views and stunning scenery of Dubrovnik, Lokrum Island, Gruž Harbor, and the Elafiti islands. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the peak before you make your descent.
The restaurant at the top is a great spot for cocktails if time permits. You could walk down to the Old Town, too, through the pinewoods and past the gardens of the suburbs; allow about 40 minutes.
Tour the Old Town’s Wine Bars
The side streets of Dubrovnik’s Old Town are packed with cozy, upmarket wine bars offering an impeccable selection of local and international wines by the glass or by wine flight.
Get to know some of Croatia’s best wines at Škar Winery’s Old Town outpost. Sample the dry white, dry rosé, and the local plavac mali varieties of red that are produced at this family-owned winery. In Croatia, it’s customary to enjoy some snacks when drinking wine, so order a platter of local cheese and cured meats as the perfect complement.
Explore Dubrovnik’s Seafaring History
Dubrovnik has a rich seafaring history and the best way of learning about it is at the Old Town’s Maritime Museum, located on the first and second floor of St John’s Fortress.
The significance of the museum’s location within the fortress is also told inside the museum, with St. John’s one of the most important points of the city’s defenses. Explore the Maritime Museum’s studies and exhibits, with over 11,000 objects divided between 15 collections.
One of the most fascinating treasuries is the Collection of Underwater Finds from Ancient & Medieval Shipwrecks, containing 1,055 objects gathered through seabed archaeological explorations. Items gathered from deep in the Adriatic date back as far as the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C. Other items on show include flags, postcards, maps, charts, coins, and paintings.
Dine at a Michelin-Starred Restaurant
Dubrovnik-born Marijo Curić leads the culinary team at the superb 360, Dubrovnik Old Town’s only Michelin-starred restaurant. The restaurant’s terrace lies on the Old Town’s city walls, offering starry views of the southeast corner of the Old Town and the yachts and fishing boats bobbing in the harbor below.
The menus, consisting of either á la carte or two tasting options, are inspired by Dubrovnik and the Mediterranean. Dishes focus on simple, but exquisite ingredients such as carrots, slow-cooked and served with cream and chips, black garlic, and pine nuts. A standout dish is the turbot, served with scampi, fennel, white wine, and oyster sauce.
Leave room for the chocolate dessert, a satisfying apogee of cocoa biscuit, chocolate parfait, hot chocolate foam, raspberry sorbet, and basil. Take your camera, as the presentation of each dish is astounding.
Shop for Artisan Goods
A happy way to pass the time in Dubrovnik Old Town is to shop, particularly for wonderful artisan goods. Stop by Uje on Stradun to pick up a bottle of one of Croatia’s best olive oils. Uje also stocks cosmetics, accessories, and other gourmet gifts.
Stock up on fragrant rose, orange, or lavender face cream at the historic Male Braće Pharmacy, specializing in organic natural remedies and located inside the Franciscan Monastery, also on Stradun. Other items on offer here include hand cream and face cleansers.
Head to Croata Museum Concept Store, across from Rector’s Palace, for luxurious silk scarves, shawls, cravats, and neckties. Browse the morning market in Gundulić Square, which sees locals bustling around the statue of 18th-century poet Ivan Gundilić.
The market mainly sells fresh produce, which is always fun to taste your way around. You’ll also find some souvenir stalls and gorgeous organic honey sold among the fruit, vegetables, jams, cheeses, and bouquets of dried lavender.
Treat yourself to a selection of heavenly chocolate at Kras, on Stradun. The moreish flavor combinations include coconut and coffee, or ginger and lemon. If you’re buying gifts for family and friends, buy double, as you’ll want some for yourself.
Note Bene, located on a quiet corner near the Ethnographic Museum, is a delightful find selling handmade and hand-harvested souvenirs such as fig jam, dried spices, and even quirky treats for pets.
Learn About Traditional Life at the Ethnographic Museum
If you’re intrigued by traditional Croatian dress and other aspects of the region’s culture, bookmark the Ethnographic Museum, near Fort Bokar, located in the Old Town’s former grain store, built in 1590.
The museum has amassed a considerable collection of 6,500 items, with four floors covering traditional and festive dress, the workings of the former grain store, rural architecture of the Dubrovnik area, and traditional economic activities of the region. Discover the collections of elaborate regional attire from areas including Dubrovačko Primorje, the Elafiti islands, Konavle, Mljet, Lastovo, and Pelješac, among others.
From its ancient fortified walls to the richness of its churches and palaces, the old city of Dubrovnik is a shining highlight of any Adriatic voyage. Explore Celebrity Cruises’ luxury cruises to Croatia on the website.