Exploring this ancient Croatian wonder through the camera’s eye
In southern Croatia, Dubrovnik’s great-walled old city is a series of defensive stone walls perched above the sapphire crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic Sea. The Wall dates back to the Middle Ages and is one of the largest in Europe. The ancient city seems almost surreal and frozen in time, something out of a fantasy novel. Built on a rocky cliff, the city hangs over the water on one side and opens to a port on its eastern end. The massive Wall remains intact and was built between the 13th and 16th centuries and continues to protect the ancient city of Dubrovnik. It is difficult to grasp the scale of this magnificent walled city until you see it in person.
In 1979, the ancient city of Dubrovnik was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a living city with many residents residing within the city walls. It felt like a community during our visit. Young children in the early evening ride their bikes and play in the streets. Families take strolls, and neighbors catch up on their day. People in the barbershop are getting a trim, and women walk by with their purchases from the local market. This is a community and one of great strength and resilience. You are a guest in their home; please be a good and respectful one as you explore beautiful Dubrovnik.
The defensive stone walls of Dubrovnik run an uninterrupted 6360 feet long, reach a maximum height of 82 feet, and are up to 20 feet thick. The Wall includes 16 towers, three fortresses, six bastions, two corner fortifications, three bulwarks with rows of turrets, three moats, two flank fortresses, one breakwater, and two draw bridges. The most recognized elements are to the north of the Minceta Tower and the east side of the city port Revelin Fortress. The leading Wall that faces the sea stretches from St. John’s Fortress in the south to Fort Bokar in the west.
There are four city gates, two that lead to the harbor and two (with drawbridges) that lead to the ma land. The moat that ran around the outside section of the city walls was armed with more than 120 cannons, providing Dubrovnik with impressive defense capabilities. The walls are well built; the devastating earthquake of 1667 left the Wall virtually unscathed. Dubrovnik has gone through many restorations over all the years and battles they have seen. Walking along these walls, gazing down on the town, it is hard to fathom it has existed for over 900 years and so many battles.
The Wall of Dubrovnik in modern times
These walls continued to protect this city in modern times as well. The most recent siege on Dubrovnik occurred in 1991–1992 when the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) attacked the town. The siege ended in mid-1992, but over 50% of the city was damaged, some severely, during the war. The work to restore this ancient city has been a long road since the siege and continues to this day. Most of the buildings have been restored to their former appearance, though just outside the walls, you can still see visible damage from the attacks. The patchwork of old and new in the roof tiles is also a tell-tale sign. Look closely, and you will see the scars left by bullets and shrapnel, reminders of the conflict. There are many plaques of remembrance on houses in many of the old town’s streets as a reminder.
Are you considering a trip to Croatia? Check out our blog post on beautiful Croatia.
The Photo Essay
Our focus here is walking the Dubrovnik Wall. We started the Wall walk at Pile Gate and completed a full circle exiting from Pile Gate. All photos were taken from the Wall except the first one, which is the Piles Gate entrance. It took us two and a half hours to complete a full tour; we constantly stopped to take photos and to enjoy the view. We did stop for a cold drink by a cafe along the seaside.
Further details on opening hours, cost, tips on how to make the most of your visit, and where to stay will follow the photos.
We will have a photo gallery of the city’s interior and exterior at the end of the post.
Dubrovnik Wall Entry Points
There are three ways to enter the walls. The most popular is Pile Gate, on the northwest side, in the busiest part of Old Town. That is where we entered. We suggest entering at either Ploce Gate or St John’s Fortress during busy times of the year.
Buy tickets online to avoid standing in long queues. Opening hours vary, but in most cases, it is 8 am to 6:30 pm; check with the site for current hours before your visit. The Dubrovnik Wall is only closed once a year on Christmas Day. There is a Code of Conduct on its website.
Entry to the Wall also includes visiting the Lovrijenac Fortress on the same day.
Cost for Entry as of April 2023
35 EUR for Adults
15 EUR for Children Under 18
TIPS for the Dubrovnik Wall
- Buy tickets online, as the lines in peak seasons can get very long.
- Bring water even in the cooler months to avoid dehydration. There are few places to buy water along the way, so come prepared. This walk has many steps; if sunny, you will be exposed to the full sun for the whole visit.
- Wear comfortable and sturdy shoes. Surfaces are always even, and steps are everywhere. You are walking on stone; you may regret that choice if you wear poor footwear.
- Go early in the morning to avoid the heat and the worst crowds.
- The Wall walk requires what some would call a moderate level of fitness.
- Plan the visit to be about 2 hours. Between taking many photos, stopping by a cafe for a cold brew, and simply taking it all in, we were there for 2 1/2 hours.
- Lots of tours of offered in Dubrovnik for the city and the Wall. Doing the Wall at our own pace was fantastic, so we would not choose a tour. The war tour would be remarkable, usually within the city, and something we wish we had made time for.
- Go in the off-season if you can. We went in early November, and the weather was perfect.
- Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. There is no shade along the walls.
- Check the cruise ship schedule, and avoid the Wall on days large ships dump thousands of people into Dubrovnik.
- Sadly the Dubrovnik Wall is not wheelchair accessible.
Where is Dubrovnik, Croatia?
Dubrovnik is a port town in southeastern Croatia near the border of Montenegro. Situated on the Adriatic Sea, it is usually regarded as the most picturesque city on the Dalmatian coast and is referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic.”
The city is 153 miles from Split and takes about 3 hours to drive as there is a country border to cross. The capital city of Zagreb is a 6 1/2 hour drive. The drive from Dubrovnik to the border of Montenegro is 45 minutes. We did a day visit to Montenegro, and it was an easy trip with several sites to see along the way.
When to visit the Dubrovnik Wall
There is never a wrong time to visit Dubrovnik. It can get hot in summer, but other seasons tend to be mild. The Dubrovnik Walls are open year-round except for Christmas Day. Hours can vary based on the season. Our visit was in early November. The temps were low 70s and very sunny. We got warm during the walk and got a nice tan. As you will note from the pictures, we had the Wall to ourselves for practical purposes. That will not be the norm, be prepared for many people if you are there during peak season or when a cruise ship is in town.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Imperial Hilton immediately outside the city wall on the north side. It was perfect in every way, and it helped to have a gorgeous view of the walled city from our balcony. There are many options for accommodations within the ancient city and in the greater Dubrovnik area. Keep in mind there are no cars allowed within the city walls. If you have luggage, that could become quite a challenge based on the location of the accommodation.
Check out the links below for what may work best for you. Do not forget to take the time to study current reviews.
Dubrovnik’s stunning beauty draws you in, and Dubrovnik’s painful history, complexness, and contrarieties make you pause. The war memories are still raw, and the scars are still healing in the stone and its residents’ eyes. The strength of these brave and resilient people leaves you in awe. You sense the weight from the past but also undeniably see their incredible faith in God and hope for the future.
Croatia was a country we never expected to adore so much. If you are lucky enough to visit this incredible country and get to know its lovely people make sure to plan a visit to the Dubrovnik Wall. Make sure to look beyond the obvious beauty of this enchanting city and open your heart to the poignant story the walls and people have to tell. It will enhance your experience in ways you could never imagine and stay with you long after you leave.
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Check out the official website for the Dubrovnik Wall for more information.
Photo Gallery of Old Dubrovnik City Interior and Exterior Walls
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