Dubrovnik is nearly everyone’s favorite Croatian city and for good reason. She ain’t known as “the Pearl of the Adriatic” for nothin’. And while it’s sad but true that she was bombed heavily during the war, you should know that Dubrovnik’s got her fancy pants back and is as pretty as ever.
The difference between Dubrovnik and, say, Zadar is that Dubrovnik is made for tourists. Yes, real Croatians live here, but D-brov isn’t the place to experience authentic local life. You’re just going to have to do the tourist thing here.
While there are all sorts of luxurious things to do in Dubrovnik like lounging around on the beach or blowing your budget on drinks at the Buza bar, the one expensive thing you must do is walk the walls of old city.
Dubrovnik’s walls were built to keep unwanted visitors out. These days, visitors are exactly what the tourism industry wants, despite what one might think when experiencing sticker shock at the admission price…
Anyhow, if you’re going to walk the walls, first things first – you’ve got to get up on the wall somehow. I assume you’re staying overnight in Dubrovnik because the city isn’t a day trip from, well, anywhere except maybe Montenegro or a docking cruise ship.
The View from the Top
Once you’ve bled kunas in exchange for a ticket, get ready for the “wow” chorus that’ll be intermittently interspersed with “ooh” and “ahh” verses.
And, once you’re standing on the fortress, you’ll be able to tell just how insanely massive the walls really are. We sometimes have that despicable spoiled traveler disease that renders one jaded and unimpressed, a side affect of seeing too much of the world. Not so in Dubrovnik.
We were totally impressed. Flippin’ fascinated, in fact.
What’s There to Do at the Top?
After walking around in the hot sun for nearly an hour (I told you the walls are massive!), you might be ready for a drink. We noticed several shops and cafes selling ice cream bars, bottled water, and fresh-squeezed juice. You can even find bathrooms and some tourists stands selling overpriced wares here and there.
If you’re cheap like me, bring your own water and snacks and take a break near the cannons. They’re located on the sea side at a particularly wide stretch of the wall. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a pirate ship heading out to sea!
Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!
The European Wall of China
A smidge to the north of Dubrovnik is a lesser-known but no-less-impressive wall in Ston. I’ve heard it called the “European Wall of China,” which is profound in its impossibility but I digress… Visitors can enter the wall either in Ston or Mali Ston and walk to the other village.
According to our good ol’ pal Wikipedia, “The wall, today 5.5 kilometre long…links Ston to Mali Ston, and is in the shape of an irregular pentangle. It was completed in the 15th century, along with its 40 towers (20 of which have survived) and 5 fortresses.” The area is currently on the UNESCO Tentative List.
Since Ston doesn’t appear on many people’s bucket lists, the area is much quieter and rarely overrun with tour groups.
Now, this is the part where I usually tell you how great it was to be up on the wall and how we were the only weirdos up there with kids, if you’ve been here long enough, you know the spiel..
Most of the tourist sites in Croatia are closed in winter and admission is reduced or free in spring and fall. We (falsely) assumed that Ston would be the same. In fact, when we arrived, it looked abandoned.
When we tried to go inside the fortress, a guard chased us out and demanded money for us AND for the kids. Now, I’ll get to this in my kid-friendly Croatia post, but this is not normal. And, the fees were a bit steep.
Honestly, we might have paid it anyway, but our calves were screaming from walking the Dubrovnik walls the day before and to a hillside fortress in Montenegro the day before that (yeah, told you we’re weirdos). I wasn’t sure we actually wanted to torture ourselves further with more. stone. steps.
So, I politely said we just wanted to have a look and then hurriedly went in while the males stood within view of the guard.
I noticed that the rails were rickety in some parts with a sheer drop rewarding any missteps. The wall is long (5k), and I knew we didn’t have it in us to do three psycho wall hikes in 3 days.
So, I did what any other person in the Facebook-Instagram oversharing world would do: I took a selfie.
The walls of Dubrovnik and Ston are unique in the world and unique in their own ways. They both warrant a visit (though perhaps not Ston with under 5’s), and they both give you a glimpse into what life must have been like centuries ago in the old Republic of Ragusa.
Which wall would you rather visit? And, I’d love to know, what other walls around the world have you walked? This post is part of Our Croatian Family Adventure: Ten Days on the Dalmatian Coast series. Click on the link to view our bucket list and recaps of each excursion!