Dubrovnik is a maze of narrow streets all tucked safely away behind its’ towering city walls and gates, complete with drawbridges that were raised nightly to protect the city from Barbaric invasions. Today, the drawbridge at the Pile gate remains lowered and Dubrovnik’s patron saint, Saint Blaise, stands watch over tourists as they stream into the city.
Dubrovnik’s main street, Placa or Stradun, runs from one wall to the other, punctuated by its’ illustrious clock tower. The wide, gleaming limestone street is lined with shops and cafes. Strains of music drift through the air as street musicians strum their guitars and colorful macaws entertain wide-eyed adults with their tricks.
The round Onofrio Fountain is surrounded by 16 different carved masks and was the collection point as water flowed into the city from an aquaduct 12 kilometers away. It also served as a fresh water source when the city was on lock down during the 1991-92 siege when Serbian and Montenegrin forces shelled and badly damaged 68% of the city, including the Onofrio Fountain.
The Church of Saint Blaise stands at the end of the Stradun and is the place where all festivals either start or end. The church was almost completely destroyed in the 1667 earthquake and was rebuilt in 1715. All that remains of the original structure is a 15th century statue of Saint Blaise holding a model of Medieval Dubrovnik in his hand.
Orlando’s Column also stands at the end of the Stradun and symbolizes the wish for freedom of the Dubrovnik Republic. The statue’s forearm was also the Ragusan standard of measurement.
Dubrovnik’s Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin, stands atop two other churches that were discovered during excavations. A legend says that a second, larger church was financed by Richard the Lion-heart, who was shipwrecked off Lokrum Island on his return from the Third Crusade. The people of Dubrovnik saved him and he was so grateful that he gifted them with a substantial amount of money to finance the new church around the mid-12th century. The very first church was built there around the 8th century.
Jezuite Street leads to a staircase I ironically mentioned to Tim reminded me of the Spanish Steps in Rome. I say ironically because I later came to learn the staircase is in fact modeled after the Spanish Steps. It leads up to the Jesuit church of Saint Ignacija, modeled after the Gesu in Rome.
Know Before You Go
Plan to do a lot of walking and stair climbing in Dubrovnik! Your feet are the only form of transportation inside the walled city and the limestone can be slick.
Explore the side streets and alleyways. We found great little restaurants, came across merchants selling handmade lace, and enjoyed a few minutes of quiet away from the hustle and bustle. You’re inside a walled city, so you never get too lost.
Where To Eat
We had some great meals in Dubrovnik. Usually we always take pictures of food so we can show just how delicious the food is, but all that walking had us digging right in. We loved Restoran Arka on Jezuite Street. Not only did we have a great view of the lovely staircase modeled on the Spanish Steps, but the food was also delicious! We highly recommend trying the mousaka, which is vegetables layered and topped with cheese and then baked. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Another restaurant we really loved (and made us really excited to visit Sarajevo) was the Taj Mahal, which was traditional Bosnian cuisine. We had the house specialty of veal topped with mushrooms and wrapped in dough and then baked with roasted potatoes. Definitely a good pick!