If Dubrovnik could talk, it would be such a name-dropper. And rightly so, because the list of people captivated by its centuries lasting beauty and grandeur seems to be endless. Lord Byron famously called it “the pearl of the Adriatic”. George Bernard Shaw said: “Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik.” Beyoncé celebrated her birthday there. It was frequently visited by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. John Malkovich is also a regular. Bill Gates. Magic Johnson. Valentino. Norwegian royalty. Jessica Alba. Seriously — everyone.
Founded in the 7th century by the name of Ragusium, Dubrovnik was at first just a small fortified refuge on the steep cliffs above the sea. In the Middle Ages, the old city got most of the shape we still marvel at today. For centuries, Dubrovnik has been a mercantile, maritime, and cultural stronghold. Today, it’s on most bucket lists. Also, on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. And ours! Here are 13 things we love about it.
1. The magnificent fortification system
The bulk of the existing walls and fortifications was erected during the 14th and 15th centuries but had been continually extended and reinforced until the 17th century. The walls run a course of about 1,940 meters (6,365 feet) in length, encircling most of the old city, and reaching the maximum height of about 25 meters (80 feet). This complex structure is among the largest and most complete fortification systems in Europe — which also offers unforgettable views. It’s a mustmustmust-visit. We cannot stress this enough. Book your visit here.
2. The weather
Dubrovnik has a typical Mediterranean climate, with hot, idyllic summers full of sun and mild, wet winters. In the summer months, you can indulge in the heat and the sea, feel the climate in its full glory. But if you want to avoid the crowds, Dubrovnik is still here all year round. When it’s a stormy day and jugo blows from the southeast, the waves start raging like crazy against the resilient city walls — and the drama is a sight straight off a Caspar David Friedrich painting. When jugo blows, though, minds go raging too. As the legend has it, even the Senate of Dubrovnik Republic was not to make any decisions during that time. Be warned.
3. Strong sense of community and order since the Middle Ages
The first Dubrovnik City Statute was famously codified in 1272 and updated many times since. From the first draft onwards, it prescribed the shape and size of streets and buildings, both private and public spaces. Because it went into details, like setting the mandatory roof tile colour, it kept the city of Dubrovnik so uniform and unique, its structural and architectonic integrity intact.
4. Dubrovnik Summer Festival or Dubrovačke ljetne igre
If you’re visiting during the summer, don’t miss this distinguished cultural festival which brings theatre productions to the most beautiful locations, like city parks and Renaissance atriums. There are also concerts of world-renowned artists, as well as workshops, discussions, and many other programs. To see Hamlet in Dubrovnik is a bucket list thing on its own.
5. Island hopping on the nearby Lokrum, Lopud, Šipan, and Koločep
It’s hard to tell which is more charming. Small Koločep, or Kalamota, as the locals call it, will intrigue you with its rich history and lovely churches, Šipan is bursting with local colours and fresh fish, Lopud has the most beautiful sandy beach Šunj, and nature reserve Lokrum, to which you can paddle, is home to an exquisite Benedictine monastery, a delightful garden full of both traditional and exotic plants, peacocks and bunnies. Basically, it’s paradise.
6. Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro
Or “Liberty is not to be sold for all the gold” — the motto of the Republic of Ragusa. Within 15 minutes of staying in Dubrovnik, it’s imminent that someone will mention the good old days of the Republic, when freedom was considered above all else. And it did succeed in being free for centuries, due to smart diplomatic balancing and maintaining favorable relationships with both east and the west. It was also the first in Europe to officially abolish slavery! You can tell people are from Dubrovnik in a heartbeat. Not just for the very distinct dialect, but also for pride and a generational habit to cherish their heritage very much. And we do mean very much.
Once there was the rector, then the Venetian doge and Napoleon, but today — it’s the cats who rule Dubrovnik. Cats of all shapes and sizes, fat cats, skinny cats, cats eating, cats resting in the flower pots, cats around the churches, cats everywhere.
8. If a new pandemic breaks out, Dubrovnik’s got us.
A very up-to-date fun fact: in 1377, just outside the city walls, the Republic of Ragusa had the first quarantine station in the world. It was the time of plague and cholera, and since Dubrovnik was an active merchant city-state, many people passed through. If suspicious, they had to be isolated for a while. Between 1590 and 1642 the Dubrovnik Lazarettos, a group of interconnected buildings used for this purpose, were built. Today, the structure is a hot spot of contemporary art. But hey, who knows what the future holds.
9. The food
Yes, like any other tourist mecca, Dubrovnik is full of tourist traps. But if you know where to look, you can have dining experiences you’ll remember for life. It’s a guarantee if you book a table at the city’s only Michelin star fine dining Restaurant 360, where the local flavours intertwine with French cooking techniques. It also offers an exquisite terrace stretching along medieval walls and the fortress of St John. From there, you can enjoy a unique view of the old port. And the view of Lovrijenac and Bokar fortresses from Nautika restaurant, especially around sunset, will make you cry. For something more casual, you can always go to Kamenica, where the locals slurp on the fresh oysters. It’s also the perfect place for people watching!
10. Art history and museums
The old city of Dubrovnik is already a museum on its own, with many refined Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque artworks in stone. Carefully crafted Stradun facades, elaborated fountains, the magnificent cathedral, the splendid Jesuit stairs — all are breathtaking. Dubrovnik also has an extraordinary painting tradition, as well as literary. Quite a few masterpieces of Croatian literature came to be during the Golden Ages in Dubrovnik. You can find out a lot about it in the Cultural History Museum, set in the Rector’s Palace — once the centre of government and the official residence of the Republic’s head. Another place you shouldn’t miss is MOMAD, the Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik. It’s home to one of the best modern art collections in the country. And if you want to see how Yugoslavian kitchens or living rooms looked and felt like, or find out more about socialism in general, you should definitely pay a visit to the unique Red History Museum, set in the industrial setting of Gruž. Plus there’s a cool craft beer place just around the corner.
11. Divlja liga
Divlja liga or the Wild League is the most popular amateur water polo competition in the world. Every year, since 1983 (save the last two due to Covid 19 and three more in the war times) more than 40 teams play water polo matches on the beaches of Dubrovnik — Porporela, Danče, Bellevue, Šulić, and a few others, all frequented by the locals. But the final match of the Wild League, the event of the season, plays out in Porat, the old town port. And it’s one great, loud, intense, insane, and unbelievably fun affair.
12. It’s literally the gateway to the fantasy world
It’s not at all surprising that Hollywood producers have spotted Dubrovnik, since its beauty is otherworldly. Most famously, Dubrovnik was King’s Landing in Game of Thrones, but it was also the backdrop for Robin Hood, Star Wars, the Borgia series, and many others. And yes, there’s an Iron Throne you can sit on.
13. Our gorgeous villas
Last, but not least, there’s a great selection of Escapian villas in the Dubrovnik area. Here it is! Whether you want a luxurious property with a private chapel or a sleek minimalist villa, we got you. Book with us and visit Dubrovnik — we promise you’ll cherish it for life.
Dubrovnik is the place to be. UNESCO knows it. Beyoncé knows it. Cats know it! And now you do too.