Regardless of whether you are visiting Dubrovnik for the first time or the hundredth, the sense of awe never fails to descend when you set eyes on the beauty of the old town.
5 min read
12 July, 2022
Regardless of whether you are visiting Dubrovnik for the first time or the hundredth, the sense of awe never fails to descend when you set eyes on the beauty of the old town. Indeed it’s hard to imagine anyone becoming jaded by the city’s limestone streets, baroque buildings and the endless shimmer of the Adriatic, or failing to be inspired by a walk along the ancient city walls that protected the capital of a sophisticated republic for centuries.
The first set of walls to enclose the city was built in the 9th century. In the middle of the 14th century the 1.5m-thick defences were fortified with 15 square forts. The threat of attacks from the Turks in the 15th century prompted the city to strengthen the existing forts and add new ones, so that the entire old town was contained within a stone barrier 2km long and up to 25m high. The walls are thicker on the land side – up to 6m – and range from 1.5m to 3m on the sea side.
The most impressive of the three is the Pile Gate, built in 1537, which remains the main entrance to the town. Note the stone Statue of St Blaise, holding the city in his hands, set in a niche over the Renaissance portal. This 4th-century Armenian martyr is Dubrovnik's patron saint, and similar images are positioned in various parts of the wall and above all the major entrances. After passing through the outer gate you'll enter a large court with a ramp and stairs heading down to the inner gate, dating from 1460 and topped by a statue of St Blaise by leading Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović (1883–1962).
Walking the city walls
There are ticketed entrances to the city walls near the Pile Gate, the Ploče Gate and the Maritime Museum. To reduce congestion, you're required to walk the walls in an anticlockwise direction. At busy times it can resemble a sweaty, slow-moving conga line. Don't let that put you off: the views over the old town and the Adriatic are worth any frustration resulting from a busy period.
One of the most charming aspects of the walk (although perhaps not for Dubrovnik's long-suffering residents) is the glimpses it gives into hidden gardens and courtyards in the residential fringes of the town.
Starting from the Ploče Gate entrance, you'll quickly reach St Luke's Tower (1467), facing the Old Harbour and Fort Revelin. The northern, landward section of wall is the highest, reaching a peak at rounded Fort Minčeta at the city's northwestern corner. This massive structure was completed in 1464 to designs by Juraj Dalmatinac, who is most famous as the creator of Šibenik's extraordinary cathedral. The battlements at the top provide remarkable views over the old town's rooftops. You can get a good handle on the extent of the shelling damage in the 1990s: those rooftops sporting bright new terracotta suffered damage and had to be replaced.
View of the city wall of Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik fortress and boats in the port at the Adriatic sea, Croatia
The most amazing set where I’ve shot ‘Game of Thrones’ is definitely Croatia, in Dubrovnik. It’s such a stunning country with lots of good watersports there as well. Just a beautiful, beautiful place.
- Natalie Dormer
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