If you are planning a Mediterranean Cruise in the near future, you should know, The Port of Dubrovnik, Croatia is worth the price of your entire cruise.
So make sure it’s on your ports of call when you book.
Settled on the Adriatic Sea coast of Croatia, this little gem of a port city is one of the greatest examples of a preserved (and oft-restored) medieval city.
Old city walls completely surround the Old City. Just over a mile long, you can walk the entire distance of the walls, which is the very best way to see the whole town.
We walked from where the Carnival Breeze dropped us to the Old City, which was an adventure of its own. There are also buses and tours leaving from the cruise ships.
As we walked, we knew we were getting close as the surrounding buildings and walkways got older and more quaint.
By the time we arrived at the main street (stradun), we were quite warm from our walk, so we started our time in the Old City with gelato. Never mind that it was 8:30 in the morning! I loved that in Europe the gelato stands are open at all hours of the day!
After a little refreshment we were ready to take on walking the city walls. I had read that this was an absolute must and that it could become oppressively crowded later in the day, so we snapped a few photos as we walked from one of Dubrovnik’s main entrances to the other to enter the walls.
All around the city are these statues of St Blaise, the patron saint of Dubrovnik and he is always holding a model of the medieval city in his hand. He is the protector of the city, and he is everywhere. A fun activity with children would be to spend the day counting all the times you see St Blaise.
We took our time walking the walls. We stopped for tons of photos of these charming orange rooftops. We read all the information signs and marveled at how the city had survived earthquakes and bombings, rebuilding itself over and over again.
Though the strong fortress walls we walked survived most all the damage both man and nature could throw at them, the city’s buildings and especially it’s red rooftop tiles have been restored many times.
Most notably to me was the reconstruction after bombing in 1991 during the Croatian War, when 70% of the buildings were hit by bombs during the Siege of Dubrovnik. One of my favorite exhibits in Dubrovnik was the memorial to those who lost their lives in this war, located in the Sponza Palace.
Even in late September, it was quite warm walking these walls. There are several places to stop and rest along the way. You can even buy a drink or something to eat. The walls became considerably more crowded as the sun got higher, so we pushed on a little quicker through the latter half.
When you look over the sides of the walls, you can still see the spots where the torches were placed long ago to light the city up at night.
Here we are looking down from the city walls at the main street of Dubrovnik where just under an hour before we had stood and had gelato in the nearly empty thoroughfare. We entered the wall at the lesser used city entrance directly opposite this one. My guidebook said that the eastern entrance (Gate of Ploča) is a less frequented entrance, and that we would avoid a line to walk the walls by heading to that one. We are standing here above the western entrance (Gate of Pila) and it was certainly gushing people by the time we reached this side of the wall.
On the western side of the Old City is the Fort Lovrijenac or St. Lawrence Fortress, often called Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar.
This impressive fortress and theater located outside the western wall feels like a setting for a fairy tale.
On the southern side of the wall, there was a lovely breeze from the sea. It was wonderful to stand on the wall and look out over the sea.
You could also see where the sea kayak excursions started. Several people on our cruise did this and it sounded really fun.
Though there were lots of people swimming, the sea was too cold for us Southerners. By late afternoon, it was really hot enough to jump in though.
We also saw this school as we walked the southern side of the wall. You could hear the students inside and I thought their basketball court all marked off by the city walls was so quaint.
When we got off the walls, we toured the Maritime Museum. My favorite part was actually these huge anchors outside.
Mary Polly and I are slightly obsessed with anchors.
At the eastern edge of the city, near the monastery, you can walk out onto this pier. There are even ladders, so you can swim in the sea.
It was a perfect spot to soak in the sun, breathe the sea air and rest after walking the walls.
The view of the city from the pier is also beautiful. You can book one of these boats and do a sea cruise if you want. Or there is a ride that takes you up the mountain behind the city so you can view it all from up high.
I think both of those options would be fun, but we wanted to explore more of the city on our first visit so we wandered back inside the city walls to The Sponza Palace.
The Sponza Palace, first built in 1516, is a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles, with late-Gothic windows on the first floor and Renaissance-style windows on the second floor. And, of course, there’s a statue of St Blaise nestled in an alcove.
The building has housed the mint, the treasury and the bank. Its official function now is to house Dubrovnik’s historical archives, containing over 100,000 documents, books and manuscripts.
We enjoyed walking through the building and its courtyard. All these gorgeous arches!
Like I said earlier, our favorite part of the Sponza Palace was the Memorial Room that told the stories of Dubrovnik’s heros during the 1990s.
After the palace we saw the Church of St Blaise.
Then we wandered up and down many of the enchanting corridors in the Old Town.
There were lots of little shops and restaurants tucked here and there as you walked. All the paths lead you back to the main street, so you couldn’t get lost.
We had a snack in a little cafe and then we found a bus back to the Carnival Breeze.
As we sat on the deck of the cruise ship and flipped through our pictures, we couldn’t believe how beautiful this little town in Croatia had been.
The sun set on this charming city as we sailed away. I would love to return to Dubrovnik one day for a longer stay and see the city at night, but this day really could not have been more perfect!
The Details, for if you go:
We purchased a Dubrovnik Card at a little tourist center near the cruise ship, which is good for riding the bus all day, walking the city walls and a few other museums. However, in retrospect, since we walked into the city and one of the museums on the card was closed on the day we were in town (Rupe), it probably would have been better to just pay for individual tickets at each of the sites.
The cruise ship has a bus that you can ride to and from the Old City for a reasonable fare and I think if you are just wandering the city, walking the walls, visiting museums, you could certainly purchase this ticket and do everything else on your own.
Since we had the Dubrovnik Card, we really tried to see all the museums listed on it, which meant we missed a couple of sites that I really would have liked to have seen, most notably the monastery.
The walk from the cruise ship to the Old City was about 3 kilometers. It felt like an eternity to Mary Polly, who wished we had ridden the bus, but there were so many people waiting for buses. Plus I really enjoy walking around a new place and taking in the local feel of the town.