Medieval churches, secluded monasteries and old-school museums are packed within Dubrovnik’s compact historic centre, a short walk from one other. It’s not all ecclesiastical solemnity, however – there are contemporary attractions too, plus fun, family-friendly ones such as the ever-popular Cablecar ride. Check out the best of Dubrovnik here.
Now used for the traditional al-fresco performance of Hamlet during the Dubrovnik Festival, the stand-alone fortress of Lovrijenac was once manned by 25 soldiers under an elected commander. Rebuilt after the 1667 earthquake, its walls feature the motto, ‘Liberty Should Not Be Sold for All the Gold in the World’.
Climbing from the top of Mount Srđ to the walls of the Old Town, the orange cablecar glides along for only four minutes but it’s a ride to remember. If you’re scaling the slope, you can enjoy a longer view from the top terminus at the Panorama bar/restaurant.
From this landmark outside Dubrovnik Cathedral, all major state declarations were announced to local citizens. Built in 1418, Orlando’s Column symbolised the city’s independence for nearly 400 years. The figure depicted is Roland, known here as Orlando, a military leader under Charlemagne and inspiration for early medieval literature.
Sparkling pristine white against the azure of sea and sky, Dubrovnik’s City Walls are probably everyone’s first port of call on any visit. A tour reveals the craftsmanship involved to create them, and provides unbeatable panoramic views as you stroll round from tower to tower.
Bombed by Serbian forces during the Siege of Dubrovnik in 1991, the Church of the Holy Annunciation is the city’s main Orthodox house of worship. A plain exterior hides a marvellous collection of icons – there’s also a separate display in a museum accessed by separate entrance. Photography is strictly forbidden.
Overlooking the Old Port, Revelin was completed in 1549, its expert construction proven when it survived the 1667 earthquake intact. In fact, it was here that council members assembled to plan the city’s reconstruction. Cathedral treasures were hurriedly stored here. Today, Revelin houses a nightclub and stages Dubrovnik Festival events.
A separate exhibition within the Sponza Palace, the Memorial Room is a solemn, worthwhile reminder of the terrible events that took place from 1991 right up to 1995. Lining the walls are portraits of young men who died defending the city from Serb and Montenegrin forces stationed on nearby hillsides.
Housed in a former granary store of four floors, the Rupe Ethnographic Museum shows the traditional way of life in the countryside surrounding this former maritime power. Textiles, handicrafts, tools and festive costumes are displayed, along with photographs demonstrating that little has changed in villages a short distance away.
Historic evidence of the tolerant nature of this former maritime power, the Dubrovnik Synagogue is one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to the 14th century. Still a functioning place of worship on holy days, the synagogue is mainly used as a museum, displaying medieval objects of ritual.
Overlooking Dubrovnik’s ceremonial main square Luža, the Sponza Palace today houses more than 1,000 years worth of manuscripts that comprise the city archive. Accessed by scholars upon request, the Sponza Palace remains an architectural treasure, its loggia façade created by 16th-century craftsmen in Gothic-Renaissance style. Tours can be arranged.
The Homeland War was the conflict that culminated in Croatian independence in 1995. For five years, Dubrovnik held out against Serb and Montenegrin forces, original documentation, maps and video films detailing the Siege. The setting is the hilltop Imperial Fort, built by Napoleon.
Just inside the Pile Gate as you enter the Old Town, Onofrio’s Great Fountain is one of two that served the medieval city. Still functioning 550 years after it was built by Onofrio della Cava in 1438, the fountain was connected to an aqueduct 12km (7.5 miles) in length.
Behind a stern exterior near the Old Port, the 14th-century Dominican Monastery houses notable works of art, including pieces by Titian and local masters Nikola Božidarević and Lovro Dobričević. The golden crucifix above the main altar is by Paolo Veneziano, considered the most significant Venetian artist of the 14th century.
Set within St John’s Fortress by the Old Port, the Maritime Museum fills two floors with paintings, models and charts related to Dubrovnik’s sea-faring heritage. Gleaming compasses and sextants catch the eye, but look out amid the documentation for a letter from French King Henri II from the 1550s.
Just outside Dubrovnik, the Arboretum at Trsteno was the private domain of the noble Gozze family. Surrounding their summer residence are the exotic offspring of seeds and plants requested from ship’s captains who set sail from Dubrovnik from the late 1400s onwards. Some trees even date back to the age of Columbus.
The Rector’s Palace was where the elected leader of the medieval city lived and governed, aided by a council whose wigs and robes are set out on display here by Dubrovnik’s main square. Many of the clocks are set at 5.45pm, the time when Napoleon’s troops entered the city in 1806.
There has been a church here since Richard the Lionheart allegedly financed its construction in the 1100s. Today’s Dubrovnik Cathedral dates to the post-earthquake rebuild of the late 1600s. Body parts of city patron St Blaise in jewelled casings compete for attention with gold vessels from Byzantium, Venice and the Orient.
Conceived by Wade Goddard who covered the Siege here in the early 1990s, War Photo Limited showcases the brave genre of conflict photography. As well as striking images from Dubrovnik under bombardment 25 years ago, the gallery focuses on contemporary flashpoints, such as Gaza and the Yemen in recent examples.
Close to Pile Gate, the Franciscan Monastery comprises tranquil cloisters, a leafy inner courtyard and one of the oldest pharmacies in the world still in operation. There, medicines are dispensed to locals amid a display of exotic containers, vessels and implements from centuries long past.
One of the prime reliquaries of Croatian art from the late 1800s onwards, the Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art is housed in the sea-facing Banac Mansion, built in the 1930s for a maritime magnate. Its four floors, garden and atrium host temporary shows and the permanent collection in rotation.