Talking about Croatia, city of Dubrovnik usually pops out first in every search engine. Talking about motorcycle tours in the Adriatic region, Dubrovnik will be marked as a ‘rest day’ on almost any of them. Although a very commercialised city that some of you will may want to skip, due to its historical background and architectural beauty, it still makes a fantastic stop on every, including motorcycle, tour. We in MotoTrip think of it as a ‘must see’ of Croatia- even if it’s in the middle of season and the city is packed with tourists- we’ll find a way for you to experience it properly. And we’re pretty sure you’ll like it after.
City of Dubrovnik: UNESCO World Heritage Site in the southernmost part of Croatia
Once an independent city-state that rivalled Venice and whose main achievement was the preservation of its freedom from Venetian rule despite the noticeable discrepancy in size between the former and the latter and the Venetian ambition to subdue its chief competitor in the Adriatic.
The Dubrovnik Republic was exceptionally skilled in diplomacy. Every traveler coming by road to Dubrovnik will notice that Dubrovnik (with its region) forms a small exclave of Croatia – fully surrounded by Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. This remains a living monument to the diplomatic skills of the gentry that once ruled Dubrovnik.
Menaced by constant territorial expansion of Venice, which managed over several centuries to get hold of almost all of Dalmatia – the Dubrovnik Republic did the unthinkable: They ceded small parts of their territory to the north (Neum-Klek) and to the south (Sutorina) to the Ottoman Empire, thus gaining lasting guarantee of Dubrovnik’s independence. Both these territories represented the only access Bosnia-Herzegovina had to the Adriatic Sea. Sutorina in the south was lost to Montenegro in the process of demarcation of the then-federal units of Yugoslavia after 1945.
History: Diplomacy above fighting
Dubrovnik was founded in the first half of the 7th century by a group of refugees from a nearby town of Epidaurum (present day Cavtat). It became prominent in the 13th century when it developed as a prosperous merchant city-state, and became independent from the Venetian Republic in the mid 1300s.
The City, as the locals call it, reached the apex of its power in the 15th and in the 16th century. Soon a slow but steady decline ensued. The centre of economic activity shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, and once serendipitous geographic location no longer provided a competitive advantage. The downfall of the City was precipitated by a massive earthquake of 1667 which destroyed many of its architectural heritage. The earthquake was a major turning point in the history of Dubrovnik as it created long-lasting devastation from which the Republic never fully recovered.
It remained independent until 1808 when the Republic was abolished by the Napoleonic regime – over 10 years after the dissolution of its arch foe – the Venetian Republic. Subsequent to Napoleon’s fall Dubrovnik became a part of Austrian Dalmatia, a part of Yugoslavia after WWI, and finally Croatia after the country gained independence in the 1990s.
The city of Dubrovnik played a major role in the Croatian War of Independence (1990-1995). Today it hosts a museum of war photography and the museum of the War of Independence that leaves no-one indifferent. For sure, you will not regret if you choose to visit these museums.
Unlike many other similar cities, Dubrovnik managed to fully preserve its medieval fortification system around the town core which today remains its most notable hallmark. The earthquake of 1667 destroyed a lot of the original renaissance (and gothic) architecture. In the decades following the earthquake, a lot of buildings were restored in the baroque style. However, many older edifices were fully or partially preserved, and this gives you the ability to grasp how the city looked like before the earthquake of 1667.
City of Dubrovnik today
Today, city of Dubrovnik with its Old Town stands out as the biggest highlight of Croatia, offering its visitors many options- from guided Old Town tours where you’ll get to know all about the history, architecture and of course, diplomacy; to many activities in- and around the city itself. Sea kayaking around the Old Town, hiking up to the Mount Srđ from where the nicest city panorama can be caught, dining in world-class restaurants and not to miss, tasting famous Rožata- traditionally prepared custard pudding typical for Dubrovnik area. Options are numerous.
Of course, all this fuzz brings more and more tourists every year. As the city is nicely located on Adriatic coast, many cruise ships stop by- sometimes turning this city into a 20.000 people madness. On those days, it’s better to stay away in a kayak or relaxing in a nice view from Mount Srđ. But normally, a walking tour is more than recommended. At the bottom of this post, we prepared a brief overview of 10 not-to-miss attractions for all you arriving on your own; and for all MotoTrip guests, we planned the rest day so you get to see, feel and even taste all the highlights.
Game of Thrones- HBO TV series also recognised its beauty
The city’s architecture, along with its history, make it easy to guess why the producers of the “Game of Thrones” chose Dubrovnik as the city which embodies King’s Landing – the capital of the fictional Westeros. Indeed, some periods of Dubrovnik’s history are no less impressive than George R.R. Martin’s saga.
City of Dubrovnik in a nutshell
Sites to visit within the Old Town and its adjacent quarters are numerous and almost every street has something of great importance. Here is a small list of the most recommended sites by MotoTrip:
- Lovrijenac Fortress – an impressive fort on a cliff outside the city walls that dates back to the 11th century; prime example of medieval military architecture; best viewed from the observatory just in front of the Gates of Pile.
- Gates of Pile – an impressive entrance into the Old Town that reveals an even more impressive intramural core.
- DUBROVNIK WALLS – to the left of the Gates of Pile upon entering the Old Town are the stairs that lead to the Walls; it is best to start the tour of the Old Town with a tour of the Walls – it takes about an hour to walk the full circle; this is the best way to get the impression of the city before descending into the core of the Old Town; if your time is limited, this is definitely the tour every visitor of Dubrovnik should do.
- Stradun – the main street of the Old Town; in summer packed with tourists; the central setting of Dubrovnik’s social life.
- Franciscan Monastery – immediately behind the Pile Gates at the beginning of Stradun; home to one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe, and the oldest pharmacy still in operation; it also houses an impressive library with books and other inventory that span centuries.
- Rector’s Palace – situated near the far end of Stradun, architecturally impressive former seat of the government of the Republic.
- Opposite the Rector’s Palace are the two most notable pieces of Dubrovnik’s sacral architecture – the baroque Church of St. Blaise – patron saint of the city – between the Palace and the Stradun, and the Dubrovnik Cathedral directly opposite the Palace.
- Fort of St. John – from many angles it appears as if the fort protrudes into the sea; it is encompassed by a promenade which provides the best position to observe the beauty of the Adriatic on one side, and the Old Port on the other.
- The Lazarets – a quarantine erected in the 17th century to protect the city from the plague; fully preserved; today it is a common venue for clubbing and de rigueur for anyone who never misses a good party.
- Mount Srđ – mountain above Dubrovnik, provides an astonishing panoramic view of the Dubrovnik region; accessible by road and also by the newly restored cable car system, holds a military fortress from the Austrian period.
And that would be it guys. Actually, there’s much more to it, but putting all the history into words, would just turn out too long. Better way of getting to know the city of Dubrovnik, is by actually visiting it; and the best way to do so is, of course, on a motorcycle tour! We in MotoTrip have included city of Dubrovnik on all our motorcycle tours through the Adriatic’s- from short ‘Croatia Discovery’ tour, medium ‘Sunset Tour’ to 15 days ‘No Borders’ tour. We also set Dubrovnik a last point of our ‘Secrets of magical Croatia’ tour- an adventurous road/off-road motorcycle tour of Croatia; and the start point of our another adventure motorcycle tour: Albania vs Montenegro. We suppose that’s enough for you to realise that adding the city of Dubrovnik on a motorcycle tour- is a must! So pick your favourite tour and let’s go!
Feel free to let us know your thoughts by commenting below! Ride safe.