21 Best Sights in Dubrovnik, Southern Dalmatia

City Walls

Stari Grad Fodor's choice

Dubrovnik's city walls define the Old Town and are one of the world's most stunning architectural achievements. A walk along the top is the ultimate Dubrovnik must-do for the magnificent views of the sea outside the walls and the terra-cotta rooftops and gleaming white streets within. Most of the original construction took place during the 13th century, though the walls were further reinforced with towers and bastions over the next 400 years. The walls completely encircle the Old Town as part of a fortification system that also includes the Pile Gate (still the main entrance into the Old Town) and Ploče Gate (the main entrance coming from the east); both have drawbridges that used to be raised each night so no one could come in or out—the keys were given to the Rector. There are also six fortresses, including freestanding Fort Lovrijenac to the west and Minčeta Tower to the north (the highest point in the Old Town). On average, the walls are 80 feet high and 2 km (1¼ miles) long, 10 feet thick on the seaward side, and 20 feet thick on the inland side. The inland walls are thicker because when they were constructed, the largest threat came from the Turks who might attack from that direction. (Ironically they got the direction right, but not the source: it was Napoléon, attacking from the inland fortress atop Mt. Srđ, who finally conquered the Republic.)

The entire circuit takes a couple of hours. Tickets can be purchased at the main entrance inside the Pile or Ploče Gate or at a quieter entrance beside the Maritime Museum. Note that the walk can be strenuous, especially in the heat, and involves many stairs with very little shade, so bring water and sunscreen; there are a couple of shops along the way if you need refreshments. In summer months it gets crowded from around 11 am to 3 pm, so it is best done first thing in the morning or later in the day.

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Dubrovnik Cable Car

Ploce Fodor's choice

Originally built in 1969 and reopened in 2010 after being destroyed in the siege, this is one of the top experiences in Dubrovnik. The ultramodern cable car whisks you up to the top of Mt. Srđ for the best view over the Old Town, Lokrum, and the Elafiti Islands. You can also join an hour-long buggy tour of the area, go for a hike, have a cocktail at the smart Panorama Restaurant, or just grab a seat and enjoy the view. At the top you'll also find the Imperial Fort, built between 1806 and 1812 by Napoléon during his short rule of the city and now home to the Homeland War Museum.

To reach the cable car, follow the signs from the Pile or Ploče Gate along the outside of the wall or climb the steps from the Stradun toward the mountain and exit via the Buža Gate. Buses from Gruž will drop you off right outside the entrance, where tickets can be purchased. If possible, try and plan your visit for sunset, when the views are magnificent and the line is shorter.

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Lokrum Island

Fodor's choice

Some of Dubrovnik's most natural and peaceful beaches can be found on Lokrum, the island just off Dubrovnik's Old Town. It's a wonderful place to spend a day spotting peacocks (a Hapsburg legacy), feeding wild rabbits, or just enjoying the fresh air among the pines.

Tiny Lokrum has swirled with legend and mystery ever since Richard the Lionheart was supposedly cast ashore there in 1191 upon returning from the Crusades. The story goes that when the Benedictine monks who owned the island at the time were expelled to make room for aristocrats in the 19th century, they left behind a curse on any future owners of the land, including Hapsburg Emperor Maximilian I, who was executed in Mexico just eight years after he turned the monastery into his summer residence. To this day, it is considered bad luck to stay overnight on the island, though many a pair of romantics have tried.

Lush and fertile, Lokrum is home to the ruins of the abandoned 11th-century monastery, which is set among exotic botanical gardens. At the top of the island is a star-shaped fortress built by Napoléon's troops during French occupation and later used by the Austrian army. Footpaths leads down to the rocky shoreline, past the "dead sea" lake, where there are cliffs to jump from, coves to bathe in, and a small stretch of coast reserved for nudists. You can also visit a small Game of Thrones museum with the original Iron Throne (Lokrum was one of many filming locations around town).

To reach Lokrum, take a taxi-boat from the Old Port (€7); tickets can be purchased at the tourist information center beneath the Bell Tower on the Stradun. Boats run every half hour from April through November, and the ride takes approximately 15 minutes.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Love Stories Museum

Fodor's choice

A counterpart to the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb—except with happier endings—this delightful museum a short walk outside the Pile Gate is a simple life-affirming celebration of romance spread over four floors. Each room has a different theme, from Croatia-specific tales and local lore to celebrity love stories to an exhibit about the movies and series filmed in Dubrovnik (yes, Game of Thrones is represented). The top floors are perhaps the most moving, with items sent in from real people and notes scribbled on heart-shaped Post-its tacked all over the "love wall." 

Red History Museum

Fodor's choice

Located in an industrial factory in Gruž, the Red History Museum tells the story of the rise and fall of communism in Croatia. Founded by a young group of entrepreneurs in 2019, among them a designer, a historian, and a couple who worked on film sets, it is a fun and fresh museum designed to be touched and explored. Taking a steadfastly neutral approach, the exhibits focus largely on everyday life under communism, from the clothing of the era to kitchen sets to sex education, with historical information weaved effortlessly throughout the colorful displays.

Stradun

Stari Grad Fodor's choice

The Placa, commonly referred to as the Stradun, is the main street and the beating heart of Dubrovnik's Old Town. Stretching 300 meters from the Pile Gate to Luža Square and the Bell Tower, it was once the shallow sea channel separating the island of Laus from the mainland; although it was filled in during the 12th century, it continued to divide the city socially for several centuries, with the nobility living in the area to the south and commoners living on the hillside to the north. Today, the Stradun is the best people-watching promenade in town, with enough cafés, gelaterias, and boutiques to keep you busy for days.

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Bell Tower

Stari Grad

All walks down the Stradun lead to one point: the Bell Tower. The centerpiece of Luža Square, this bright white structure from 1444 is one of the main symbols of the city, reaching 31 meters (102 feet) high and featuring a moon dial and the original bell from 1506. Look a little closer to see Dubrovnik's two favorite mascots tolling the hours on either side of the bell; known as Maro and Baro, the current figures are made of bronze, while the original wooden men are now found in the Rector's Palace.

Crkva Svetog Vlaha

Stari Grad

This 18th-century Baroque church on Luža Square was built on the foundation of an earlier church that had been destroyed in a fire. Of particular note is the silver statue on the high altar of St. Blaise holding a model of Dubrovnik, which was the only thing that survived the fire. It is paraded around town each year on February 3, the Day of St. Blaise.

Fort Lovrijenac

The only freestanding part of Dubrovnik's fortification system, this impressive tower stands on a 37-meter-high sheer rock overlooking the sea outside the Pile Gate. Construction began sometime in the 11th century; the story goes that the Venetians planned to build a fortress atop the rock from which to conquer Dubrovnik, but the Republic learned of their plans and beat them to it. The seaward walls are 12 meters thick while the walls facing Dubrovnik are only 60 centimeters thick, so that in the event the fortress was captured it could easily be destroyed from within the city walls. Above the entrance a Latin enscription reads: "Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro"—"Freedom is not sold for all the gold in the world." The fortress makes a particularly memorable venue during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, when it is the setting for Hamlet, and it is also recognizable to Game of Thrones fans as the Red Keep.

Od Tabakarije 29, Croatia
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Rate Includes: €15; included with City Walls ticket

Franciscan Monastery

Stari Grad

Built in 1317 in Romanesque-Gothic style, this solid-stone Franciscan monastery on the Stradun has a delightful cloistered garden; a 17th-century library that contains more than 20,000 books; a small museum; and its chief claim to fame, a pharmacy that was founded in 1318, making it one of the oldest in Europe. Much of the original church was destroyed in the earthquake of 1667; the striking Pietà, located atop the door on the Stradun and sculpted by local masters Petar and Leonard Andrijic, was one of the only things that survived. In the Treasury, a painting shows what Dubrovnik looked like before the disastrous earthquake. Ivan Gundulić, the Republic's most prominent poet, is buried in the monastery. Watch for locals and tourists jumping up on a small gargoyle's head attached to the outer wall of the monastery along the Stradun. Legend has it that if you can stand on the head facing the wall and take off your shirt without falling down, you will find love. Give it a shot, but it's harder than it looks.

Placa 2, Dubrovnik, 20000, Croatia
020-321–410
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Rate Includes: €6

Jesuit Steps

Stari Grad

Find this monumental Baroque staircase, Dubrovnik's very own version of the Spanish Steps, at the south side of Gundulićeva Poljana. At the top is the lovely Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, built between 1699 and 1725. This staircase will be particularly familiar to Game of Thrones fans as the steps from Cersei's walk of shame scene.

Poljana Ruđera Boškovića 6, Dubrovnik, 20000, Croatia
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Rate Includes: Free

Katedrala Velika Gospe

Stari Grad

Legend says that when Richard the Lionheart was shipwrecked on Lokrum Island, he vowed to show his thanks to God for saving his life by building a cathedral on the spot; locals convinced him to move his plans to Dubrovnik instead. The present structure was completed in 1713 in Baroque style after the original was destroyed in the 1667 earthquake. The interior contains a number of notable paintings, including a large polyptych above the main altar depicting the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, attributed to Titian. The treasury displays 138 gold and silver reliquaries, including the skull of St. Blaise in the form of a bejeweled Byzantine crown and an arm and leg of the saint, likewise encased in decorated gold plating.

Držićeva Poljana, Dubrovnik, 20000, Croatia
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Large Onofrio Fountain

Stari Grad

Built between 1438 and 1440, the Large Onofrio Fountain is one of Dubrovnik's most iconic sites and popular meeting points, and it's the first thing you'll see upon entering through the Pile Gate. The 16-sided stone fountain is topped by a large dome and was designed by architect Onofrio di Giordano della Cava. Along with the Small Onofrio Fountain at the other end of the Stradun, it was part of a complex water-supply system designed to bring water into the Old Town from a well 12 km (7½ miles) away. It originally had more sculptures, but they were damaged during the earthquake in 1667; the 16 that remain spout water that is still cold and drinkable.

Lazareti

Ploce

A series of interconnected medieval buildings located just outside the Ploče Gate, these were the original quarantine stations where traders had to spend 40 days (quaranta giorni in Italian, hence the word "quarantine") before they could enter Dubrovnik to ensure they didn't bring any diseases with them. Because the Republic was involved in so much trade with other countries, they were always at risk of catching serious diseases, such as the plague or cholera, which were killing thousands of people across Europe and Asia at the time. In 1377, the first quarantine stations were built on remote Dalmatian islands (first fully outdoors, then in small wooden stations so they could be burned easily if disease was detected). In 1647, construction was completed on the lazarettos, which were strategically located on the road that led to Dubrovnik from the south and right next to the main port. The quarantine requirement was finally abolished in 1872. Lazareti is now a sleepy area that's home to a couple of restaurants, art galleries, and shops.

Maritime Museum

Stari Grad

Above the aquarium, located on the first and second floors of St. John's Fortress, this museum's exhibits illustrate how rich and powerful Dubrovnik became one of the world's most important seafaring cities. On display are intricately detailed models of ships as well as engine-room equipment, sailors' uniforms, paintings, and maps.

Kneza Damjana Jude 2, Dubrovnik, 20000, Croatia
020-323–904
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Rate Includes: €20, Closed Wed.

Orlando's Column

Stari Grad

Dating back to 1418, Orlando's Column, located at the end of the Stradun and serving as a popular meeting point, is dedicated to legendary 8th-century knight Roland, who is said to have saved Dubrovnik from a Saracen attack near Lokrum. The white-stone column has become a symbol of freedom for the city, and the white Libertas flag is traditionally flown from the top during important events, such as the opening ceremony of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.

Rector's Palace

Stari Grad

One of the most significant buildings along the Croatian coast, this was the administrative center of the Dubrovnik Republic. It's where the Grand Council and Senate held their meetings and the chief citizen, the Rector, lived and did business during his one-month term. It also held a courtroom, prisons, meeting halls, and a gunpowder room, which exploded twice in the 15th century. The explosions, plus the earthquake of 1667, required the building to be reconstructed over the years in varying Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic styles. The palace is now home to the Cultural History Museum, containing exhibits that give a picture of life in Dubrovnik from early days until the fall of the Republic.

Rupe Ethnographic Museum

This charming museum is worth the visit for both the building itself (built in 1590, it was used as a grain storage during the time of the Republic), as well as the collection of 6,000 heritage pieces from around Croatia and neighboring countries, including tools, folk costumes, lace, and other handiwork. Rupe means "holes," which refers to the underground grain storage pits carved out of tufa below the building.

Sponza Palace

Stari Grad

The original location where all trade goods coming into Dubrovnik went to be taxed, this 16th-century Gothic-Renaissance palace has served as the city's mint, an arsenal, and eventually a place for the Republic's most educated citizens to discuss cultural matters called the Academy of the Learned. It now contains the city's archives, as well as the occasional art exhibit; the shady arcaded interior is a lovely spot to escape the heat and crowds.

Turn left as you enter to find the Memorial Room for the Defenders of Dubrovnik, a heart-wrenching little gallery with photographs of those who died defending the city, along with remnants of the flag that once flew atop Mount Srđ.

Trsteno Arboretum

Within the grounds of a small Renaissance villa, 14 km (9 miles) up the coast from Dubrovnik, Trsteno Arboretum was originally established during the 16th century by the noble Gučetić family and has been continuously developed over the centuries, acquiring Renaissance and Baroque additions along the way. Today, it is filled with hundreds of exotic species of trees and shrubs, most of which were brought home by local sailors from distant voyages. An original aqueduct is still in use, and a beautiful Baroque fountain of Neptune and two nymphs dates from 1736. Buses run regularly to Trsteno from Dubrovnik (€3; 30 minutes), and it makes a great stopover on the way to the Pelješac Peninsula.

For something a little different, organize a cooking class with Katja at her house within the grounds of the Arboretum. Katja's family has lived there for four generations, and together you will prepare a feast that might include black risotto, peka, or pašticada. The price includes admission to the arboretum, and Katja will also take you on a walking tour of the grounds. The cooking class can be booked through Culinary Croatia ( www.culinary-croatia.com).

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Potok 20, Trsteno, 20233, Croatia
020-751–019
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Rate Includes: €7

War Photo Limited

Stari Grad

Shocking and impressive, this modern gallery run by New Zealand photojournalist Wade Goddard, who drove from London to Croatia in 1992 to document the war and never left, devotes two floors to war photojournalism. The permanent exhibition showcases photos and video from former Yugoslavia, while recent exhibitions have been dedicated to conflicts in Ukraine, Myanmar, and Vietnam. It's a sobering, illuminating, and extremely worthwhile gallery.