Date: November 19, 2019
Vagabonding Day: 50
Location: Dubrovnik, Croatia
After island-hopping along Croatia’s coast, Daniel and I wrapped up our tour of Croatia with a visit to the city of Dubrovnik. We’d visited several grand fortified cities during our trip to Croatia so far but nothing quite like this. The entire city is encircled by a spectacular stone wall with a maximum height of 82 feet (25 meters), complete with a moat and drawbridges.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, Dubrovnik has seen a sharp increase in tourism recently thanks to the television series Game of Thrones. The fictional city of King’s Landing was filmed in the city of Dubrovnik and many scenes were shot there. Apparently the city is so crowded with tourists in the summertime that it’s challenging to simply walk down the street. There were still lots of tourists when we visited in November but it wasn’t bad.
Walking around the city’s walls is one of the top tourist attractions in Dubrovnik. Visitors can climb to the top of the stone walls and actually walk on top of them all the way around the entire city. It’s not super cheap – 200 Kuna ($30 USD) per person – but it’s totally worth it. We bought the 7-day city pass which included entrance to the city walls as well as some other museums and bus passes which helped to defray the cost.
Dubrovnik’s City Walls
Distance: 1.2 miles (2 kilometers)
Elevation Gain: 80 feet (24 meters)
Average Time: 1-2 hours (unless you’re slow like us and take a bazillion photos… then it’s more like 3 hours)
We started our trek around Dubrovnik’s city walls at the Pile Gate entrance. After procuring our tickets, we climbed a set of stairs to the top of the fortifications. All visitors to the city walls are directed to walk in a counter-clockwise direction. So we started walking southwest towards the Bokar Fortress (Tvrđava Bokar).
Located at the top of a steep cliff on the western corner of Dubrovnik’s city walls, Bokar Fortress has fabulous views of Fort Lovrijenac across the Pile Bay. Sadly, Bokar Fortress was not open to visitors during our visit so we had to content ourselves with looking at it from afar. Daniel had researched all of the Game of Thrones shooting locations and filled me in on the thrilling scenes which were shot there.
The path then heads southwest to where the walls perch high atop a cliff above the Adriatic Sea. My stomach lurched as I peeked over to see the ocean waves crashing a dizzying depth far below. The city walls are shortest along this part of the route as the height of the cliff is sufficiently tall to repel any invading forces.
On the other side of the walls, we could see into the backyards of city residents. I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to constantly be on display to a stream of tourists who are gawking at your drying laundry. A few homes had stairs leading to the city walls, and some enterprising citizens were selling beverages and snacks. The Church of St. Ignatius was also visible from the walls as we passed by.
We also saw some houses which appear to have been demolished and were under reconstruction. The city of Dubrovnik is in surprisingly good shape considering the damage it underwent during the Siege of Dubrovnik in 1991-1992. Many buildings in Old Town were damaged or destroyed during the Croatian War of Independence when it was bombarded by Yugoslav and Montenegrin forces. Most homes and buildings have been repaired or rebuilt so that it’s hard to tell the area underwent such destruction less than 30 years ago.
Eventually the path turns away from the Adriatic Sea and loops around Fort St. Ivana to a protected bay full of small boats. We also had a good view of Dubrovnik’s Clock Tower from this vantage point. Dating from the 15th century, the clock tower features two bronze bell strikers popularly called zelenci or “green twins” due to the green patina that they have accrued over time.
As we rounded the northeast corner of the city walls, we found ourselves facing Minčeta Tower – the tallest point along Dubrovnik’s defense system. We climbed the stairs to the top of the fort and were treated to incredible views of Old Town and beyond.
We ended our walk back at Pile Gate and descended the steps to find city workers decorating a Christmas Tree right by the entrance. The entire city is gearing up for the Christmas season with festive decorations and lights. It’s a shame we’ll miss it.
Fort Lovrijenac is strategically positioned across Pile Bay on a rocky outcrop that rises dramatically from the Adriatic Sea. Located about a 10-minute walk to the west of the city walls from Pile Gate, the fort provides amazing views of the city of Dubrovnik and beyond. We spent a couple of hours exploring the fort and Pile Bay on our first day in Dubrovnik, squealing with delight as we rounded each new corner.
Admission to the fort is included in the ticket price for the city walls walk.