Dubrovnik is known as the number one Croatian destination. It has always been known as a symbol of tourism in Croatia. But recently it has become widely popular all around the world thanks to Game of Thrones. GOT created a huge hype around Dubrovnik.
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How did I arrive in Dubrovnik
I went there by car from Split. I took A1 highway from Dugopolje to Ploce, then continued by a local road. I had to pass the BiH border crossing in Neum, then continued down the peninsula Pelješac and arrived in Dubrovnik. All the roads were good and the trip was comfortable. I waited less than 5 minutes at the border crossing.
Croatia is currently constructing Peljeski Bridge, which should solve the territory division problem. Neum, a small BiH city has to be surpassed to reach south Croatia, including Dubrovnik.
The trip took me approximately 3 hours (not counting stops). I could avoid the highway by taking local road D8 from Split to Ploče, which is full of beautiful sights along the sea and nice Mediterranean places like Omis, Makarska, Tučepi, and Živogošće. But the trip would take me one hour more (it would be a total of 4 hours of driving from Split to Dubrovnik). Furthermore, D8 road is occasionally clogged during summer due to high traffic.
The city features a large underground garage for cars, with a parking price of 2.5 euros/hour.
After we accommodated ourselves in the apartment and bought the necessary groceries, we decided to go to the old town. We were walking downstairs through many of Dubrovnik's old stairs. I could immediately feel the mystical atmosphere of this town, which was a Republic for many centuries. In my mind was a fact that this small town survived for so long as an independent country in an uncertain environment, with constant Venetian and Turkish threats.
When you see the faces of native Dubrovnik people, you can feel the spirit of that centennial freedom. You feel that those people, with their environment, form mystical and fascinating unity, which can be experienced only while being on the spot.
The Dubrovnik dialect is especially interesting and seductive. It belongs to the Dalmatian-speaking area but still differs from it in many details, which makes it original and unique.
Jure Kastelan, famous Croatian literate, wrote this about Dubrovnik:
If there were more Dubrovniks in the world, only one of them would be real: this truly unadulterated, the only Dubrovnik of stone and light. This open palm under the stars extended to the world. A unique stage in which the past and the future have a common meaning, their own creative measure. Dubrovnik is not only a work of art but also a creator, for centuries. Exposed to influences, and always his own. Facing the winds, and always stamen and firm.
The walk down the Stradun was an amazing and unique experience. I've been to Dubrovnik before, but I didn't appreciate it like this time since only locals and a few visitors were there in the town.
Immersing myself in the reality of Dubrovnik, its history and present, I enjoyed walking past the magnificent Church of St. Vlaho, the Dubrovnik Cathedral, the Prince's Palace and other baroque masterpieces.
Stradun is the site of action for many stories, myths, love, and nightlife during history. It features the most beautiful architectural art in the town as well. Church of St. Blaise is a Baroque masterpiece of art. The same is palace Sponza, the former place of residence of the rich Dubrovnik family, and the Prince's palace, the former prince's residence.
After (or before) taking a walk on Stradun, it's time for a coffee or food in some of its restaurants or bars.
One of the most imposing facts about the town is its centennial freedom.
Dubrovnik was an independent republic for more than 500 years.
It's quite incredible taking into account the fact that we are talking just about the small city.
The Dubrovnik Republic resisted the Turkish and Venetian attacks thanks to its walls, but above all, thanks to the greatest skills of the Republic's diplomacy. Whenever there was a chance for it, politicians would try to negotiate peace with their enemies. It was common for them to pay notable amounts of money for freedom.
Dubrovnik walls tour
After sightseeing Stradun, it was time for the best part of my visit: sightseeing Dubrovnik walls. I paid 28 euros for the ticket. That was the most expensive ticket I paid for a visit to a single locality in Croatia, but after I finished the tour, I can say it was worth the money.
It took me two hours to finish the walk on the walls. Sights were amazing. It's hard to describe with words my experience. It was unique. The main attractions were the forts and panoramic views of the city.
The alternative way to explore city walls is kayaking. You can rent a kayak and enjoy a ride around the old city.
Museums in Dubrovnik
Day 2 was reserved for a walk through the old town, and visiting palaces and museums.
The first one we visited was the Ethnographic Museum Rupe. The most interesting attraction were granaries located in the underground storage and the grain-making system. The museum exhibition included folk costumes during the Republic. What I liked most was the clothes of a 19th-century bride.
The next place we visited was Marin Držić's house. Držić, who was a priest and writer, is known to be one of the most important people in Dubrovnik's history. His comedies "Novela od Stanca" and "Dundo Maroje" are considered to be a masterpiece of Croatian literature. I liked the museum. What caught my eye the most was Držić's room with his bed, desk, pen, and place for prayer.
Maritime Museum exhibits all types of ships used by Dubrovnik's sailors throughout history. They built merchant ships in a way that they could easily be converted into warships.
Dubrovnik's navy is known to be one of the symbols of the Republic, for which it was known throughout the Mediterranean, alongside the Venetian navy.
Cultural-Historical Museum was the most interesting of all. It features a large exhibition that included weapons, paintings, statues, and other arts that were significant to the republic. The museum is located in the Prince's Palace.
Before visiting museums and other places in Dubrovnik, I recommend buying the Dubrovnik Card. It's kind of a ticket which is valid for all museums (including walls) in the old town. It also includes a few bus rides and a ticket for Vlaho Bukovac Home in Cavtat.
The hill Srđ is located just above the old town, and it was our next destination to visit. You can reach it either by car or by cable car from the old town.
The top of Srđ features a fortress that was built by Napoleon in the 19th century, after conquering Dubrovnik.
Srđ was a key point for Dubrovnik's defence in the Croatian Homeland War in 1991. since it was the base for the Croatian troops. Serbian and Montenegrin forces were never able to capture Srđ and Dubrovnik, despite heavy shelling that damaged numerous cultural and historical sites.
There is a museum having an excellent exhibition of the Homeland War. Another attraction is a panoramic view of Dubrovnik. Srđ is the best position for selfies and photography.
Cavtat from Dubrovnik trip
The last, third day of our visit to Dubrovnik was reserved for Cavtat and Ston.
Cavtat is a small coastal town located 25 kilometres south of Dubrovnik. It's easy to approach, we just needed to drive on coastal road D8. We left our car in public parking in the centre with a price which was less than euro per hour.
The place which we visited first, and which is the most interesting attraction of Cavtat, was the museum of Vlaho Bukovac (Kuca Bukovac), also known as his birth house. It's a place where Vlaho painted his first work of art. During his fruitful life, he lived in Paris, Dubrovnik, and Italy.
I really liked his art. I believe you will also, that's why I highly recommend visiting this museum.
The last thing to do in Cavtat is to walk on Riva, a nice Mediterranean promenade along the sea with a great atmosphere. There are two catholic churches in the town, if you have time, it's worth visiting them. They also feature paintings of Vlaho Bukovac.
After spending three hours in Cavtat, it was time to visit the last destinations of our 3-day trip: Ston and Mali Ston. The places are located on peninsula Pelješac, 1 hour of the ride from Cavtat. The key attractions are fortresses and walls connecting these two small places.
We left our car in Mali Ston. Then we bought the ticket (around 10 euros price) and started climbing the walls, to the Ston. It was a bit tough walk because there were many stairs. Be sure to wear sneakers over flip-flops to feel more comfortable while climbing.
From the walls, we could see saltern, which is the most famous in Croatia.
This activity, which is a bit exhausting, was the last of our trip. We went back to Split, with many new and interesting experiences acquired while visiting Dubrovnik and its nearby area.
Conclusion of my visit to Dubrovnik
I didn't write much about Dubrovnik, and I think there is no real need to write much about it. Dubrovnik is an experience for itself. It can't be explained in words. You can feel its identity, originality, and people only when you arrive there. I urge you to do so.