Walking Tour: Dubrovnik’s Stradun
Start: Brsalje Square outside the Pile Gate, the west entrance to Old Town.
Finish: St. Blaise Church/Luža Square.
Time: Anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hrs., depending on how much time you spend exploring side streets, churches, and museums, and shopping or dining.
Best Times: Mornings from 8am to noon before the sun is overhead; evenings after 6pm and until the last bar closes, when the promenade segues into a fashion show for the young and beautiful.
Worst Times: Noon to sundown or whenever the temperature rises above 86°F (30°C).
A walk up and down both sides of the Stradun is an ideal way to become acquainted with Dubrovnik’s charms. Old Town’s smooth limestone path originally was a canal separating Old Ragusa from the mainland, and walking its length is a good way to get your bearings and become familiar with the attractions between the Pile and the Ploče Gates. There is a high concentration of important sites on and just off the Stradun, and lots of narrow side streets radiate up and out to intersect with cobbled streets that are packed with religious sites, historic architecture, shops, restaurants, a few courtyards, and even some residences.
Start your tour outside the Pile Gate in Brsalje Square, in front of the Pile Tourist Information Center.
1 Brsalje Square
Rendezvous in this leafy park. Before you enter Old Town, walk away from the street to the low balustrade. You’ll have an unobstructed view of the sea and Fort Lovrijenac to the right, and the 16th-century Bokar Fortress to the left. Lovrijenac is built on a high, rocky peninsula that juts into the sea, and it is Dubrovnik’s oldest defensive structure. These days, during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, it is used as a theater for Shakespearean productions and other performances. Daniel Day Lewis and Goran Višjić (Croatian native and TV star of “ER” fame) have performed here. Bokar was used as a prison in the 19th century.
Return to the street, turn right, approach the:
2 Pile Gate
This is the busiest portal to Old Town, really two gates you approach across a wooden drawbridge that once was pulled up each night to protect the city. Note the statue of St. Blaise carved into a niche above the opening of the 16th-century outer gate and another statue of the city’s patron (by Ivan Meštrović) inside the even older (15th-century) inner gate. Through summer, young men dressed in period costume pose as guards in front of the gate, conjuring up the atmosphere as it would have been during the centuries when Dubrovnik was an independent republic.
Step through the inner gate and stop a moment to orient. Walk through and note:
3 Onofrio’s Large Fountain & the Wall Walk Entrance
Walk inside the Pile Gate and immediately to the left you’ll see a steep stairway that leads up to the Minčeta Tower at the top of the wall. This is one of three access points to the top of the ramparts. To the right is Onofrio’s Large Fountain, a tall concrete dome that during the Middle Ages was a collection point for water flowing into the city via an aqueduct from the Dubrovnik River 12km (7 1/2 miles) away. The fountain was more ornate when it was completed in 1444, but the iron embellishments were destroyed in the 1667 earthquake. The fountain also supplied Dubrovnik with fresh water when the city was on lockdown during the 1991–92 sieges.
Stay left. The first building on your left is:
4 Church of Our Saviour
This tiny church was built as a memorial to the victims of a 1520 earthquake, but it became a symbol of strength when it became one of the few buildings to survive the 1667 quake that destroyed most of the city. Today it is used for concerts and exhibits.
Walk on a few steps to:
5 The Franciscan Monastery/Museum
Before you explore this building with its columned cloister and ancient pharmacy, note the small stone protruding from the bottom left of the church’s front and the people who keep jumping on it. .
Exit the monastery and begin your Stradun stroll in earnest to investigate the:
6 Stradun Side Streets
The Stradun (aka Placa) runs to the clock tower and the Ploče Gate. All the buildings along the way are almost identical in style, a result of post-quake construction in the 17th century. Note the arches that frame combo doors and windows. The sill was used as a counter over which business was conducted. If you’re up for a detour, head up Žudioska Street to visit the second-oldest synagogue in Europe and its original 17th-century furnishings.
Continue along the Stradun past Zlatarska Street to the:
7 Sponza Palace
As you approach Luža Square, look left and note the graceful Renaissance arches of the Sponza Palace, which used to be Dubrovnik’s customs house. Today it houses the state archives, with a space set aside for the Memorial Room of the Dubrovnik Defenders. Multimedia images of destruction and photos of the young people who died while the city was under siege (1991–1992) during the War for Independence are moving reminders of the devastation that swept Croatia.
Exit the palace and walk to Orlando’s Column in the center of Luža Square. Pause at:
8 Orlando’s Column and Onofrio’s Small Fountain
Orlando’s Column will be in front of you as you exit the Sponza Palace, and the Clock Tower will be to your left. Note the statue’s forearm, which was Old Ragusa’s standard of measurement (512mm/20 in.). The Clock Tower features a pair of bronze men who move up to strike the bell on the hour. The Town Hall is to the right of the Clock Tower and Onofrio’s Small Fountain is in front of that.
Turn left from the front of Orlando’s Column and walk through the passageway between the Sponza Palace and the Town Hall. Turn left and head to the Dominican Monastery:
9 Dominican Monastery, the Old Harbor, and the Ploče Gate
The Dominican Monastery is a complex that includes a large church, cloisters, and a museum. The original 14th-century church was destroyed in the 1667 quake, and this one was rebuilt late in the 17th century. There are some interesting paintings inside, and the church doubles as a concert venue during the Summer Festival. The cloisters are a must-see, with courtyard gardens and interesting stonework.
Exit the monastery and go left onto Svetoga Dominika. Continue on to explore the old harbor, Ploče Gate, and Revelin Fortress, and/or retrace your steps and return to Luža Square:
10 Gradska Kavana & the Rector’s Palace
As you return from the Dominican Monastery, the Town Hall and Gradska Kavana (Town Café) will be on your left. You can break for a cold drink or coffee and sit at tables facing the square or go inside to the Gradska Taverna and grab a spot on the terrace overlooking the old harbor. The Venetian-Gothic Rector’s Palace is adjacent to the Gradska Kavana complex, fronted by pillars made of marble from Korčula and topped with interesting carvings. The interior is used for summer concerts.
Exit the Rector’s Palace and turn left to:
11 Dubrovnik Cathedral
The town cathedral was built in the late 17th century in the Baroque style. Inside, note the minimalist gray marble altar that was installed when Roman Catholicism ruled that the priest should face the people during Mass—its blocky style is incongruent with the Baroque surroundings. Don’t miss the treasury, which is loaded with priceless relics, including the skull of St. Blaise and a piece of the True Cross.
Exit the cathedral and walk around to the rear. Walk up Androvićeva to the Jesuit Steps and Church of St. Ignatius Loyola or turn left and walk past the Rector’s Palace to return to Luža Square.
12 St. Blaise Church
This 18th-century Baroque church is a tribute to Dubrovnik’s patron saint. Inside, the altar is the main draw, with its statue of the saint holding a model of the city of Dubrovnik as it was before the 1667 quake. Outside, the church’s wide steps are a popular resting/meeting place for tourists.
From St. Blaise you can return to the Pile Gate and inspect the shops along the south side of the Stradun, explore what you’ve just seen in greater depth, or venture up the steep side streets to discover more sights.
Escorted Walking Tours
Dubrovnik Walking Tours (www.dubrovnik-walking-tours.com; tel. 020/436- 846) offers a choice of amusing and informative daily guided walks. Advanced reservations aren’t required: Just show up at the Great Onofrio Fountain 10 minutes before the walk you want. The agency offers a “Discover Dubrovnik” walk, a “Story About the War” walk, an “Old Jewish Quarter” walk, and a “Game of Thrones Tour.” Check the website for days and times. Walks last 1 hr. and cost 12€, except for the GoT tour, which lasts 2 hrs. and costs 24€.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.