George Bernard Shaw wrote upon visiting Dubrovnik in 1929, “If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik”.
With such a sterling endorsement, it is hard to manage expectations when visiting the city. A Unesco World Heritage site since 1979, its most distinctive feature are the intact city walls that encircle the city, measuring almost 2km long. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will instantly recognize it as Kings Landing but in Lord Byron’s day, he simply nicknamed it – the Pearl of the Adriatic.
So, you may be surprised to learn that we were a bit unprepared for the crowds when we arrived at the entrance to the walled city. There were seemingly people everywhere outside Pile gate – from visitors like us to big organized tour groups. I wondered in hindsight if we just caught the tourist peak hour but really, we should have expected no less. I guess, we were simply spoilt rotten all week by Croatia’s idyllic islands!
However, despite this, it is hard not to be bewitched by the beauty of the city once you cross in between those walls and into the ‘Stradun’ with its smooth marbled streets and baroque buildings. Some say you will never tire of the sight. The City or the “Grad”, as locals refer to it, is a tribute to centuries of culture and advancement. It has survived much, most recently of course, the shelling it took in 1991 on St Nicholas day.
We marvel at how quickly it has recovered and has easily become the jewel in Croatia’s tourism crown. It is a reflection perhaps of the locals summed up by the Latin inscription on Lovrijenac Tower (on the West of the City) which simply reads “Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro” translating to mean “Liberty should not be sold even at the price of gold”.
Deciding to walk along the city walls was perhaps the best solution to the crowds. Braving the afternoon sun, we bought our tickets and climbed up the steps to the top of the wall. It was well worth it. Something not to be missed. The surrounding views are some of the best and against the shimmering Adriatic sea, it is hard to go past this place without just saying to yourself “Wow”.
Be prepared though with hats and refreshments as it can get quite dehydrating with not much shade (although they are is a drinks kiosk and another juice bar which was pricey). We took our time, stopping frequently because the sun was really quite hot that day.
After the walls, we decided to then stroll the Stradun (for shopping) and get some afternoon tea. By this time, the crowds had thinned out and there’s plenty of choice when it comes to food. (I am sure we would not have been allowed by the boys to go any further without sustenance!)
After the pit stop, we walked the short distance (albeit up some steps) to the start of the Dubrovnik Cable Car. This short ride takes you up Srd Hill for some panoramic views of Dubrovnik and its surrounding area which is well worth it. It is 512m above sea level and if you are really really keen, you can take the hike option. That thought however never crossed our mind for one moment.