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Walking the Walls
St Ivan Fort
Dubrovnik's walls measure 2km around but the thickness varies. On the landward side, the walls are four to six metres thick and on the seaward side only 1 1/2 to three metres. It's easy to tell where Dubrovnik's builders thought the threat was! The height also varies according to the configuration of the terrain; in some places it reaches 25m.
The oldest system of fortifications around the town were probably wooden palisades but that is merely speculation.
What is certain is that a fortification system was already being built in the 12th century. The bulk of the existing walls and fortifications was constructed during the 14th and 15th centuries but they were continually extended and strengthened up to and including the 17th century.
At the foot of the western and northern walls there was a moat (Posat) and to reinforce the defenses there were turrets and towers. For good measure the builders added five bastions, three round and twelve rectangular towers, two corner forts (Fort Lovrijenac and Revelin) and the massive St. Ivan at the entrance. The fore walls following the base of the main walls were also strengthened by semi-circular bastions and the Bokar tower.
As you look down at the town, notice the patchwork of colours formed by the red-roofs. Some are brand-new and some are centuries-old. The shelling of 1991 left gaping holes Dubrovnik's distinctive terra cotta roofs. Some were repaired with tiles from a factory in Slovenia, some came from Agen, France but most were produced in northern Croatia.
During the shelling of 1991, the walls suffered some direct hits but protected the city exactly as they were meant to.
Excavation and renovation of the walls is a continuing process and you may well notice some conspicuously new stone blocks.
There are three entrances to the city walls: at Pile Gate; at Ploce Gate; at Sv Ivan fort. For the purposes of this tour, begin at the Pile Gate entrance and head right. The first tower you'll see is Minceta Tower which looks like a chess piece. Work on the tower began shortly after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 which so alarmed the Ragusans that they decided to strengthen their defenses. Supervised by Michelozzo Mishelozzi, also known for his work on the Rector's Palace, the tower was ultimately completed in 1464 by Juraj Dalmatinac, known as the builder of Ston's fortifications and the Sibenik Cathedral among other Dalmatian architectural highlights. Below Minceta Tower is Gornji ugao (Upper Tower). Under excavation for many years, a 16th-century cannon foundry was revealed beneath the rubble. It has now been turned into a museum (30Kn)
From Minceta the walls slope gently down. On the right, you'll get a spectacular view of Dubrovnik's Old Town including the slope that was the site of the first Slavic settlement here. A further 300 metres brings you to Ploce Gate and the Revelin fortress which was designed to protect the city against an attack by the Turks, coming from the land.
At this point you're walking above the old port. From the east, the port was protected by the breakwater, Kase, which was constructed in 1485 by Paskoje Milicevic to protect against an attack by the sea. The gaps on each side of the breakwater were closed by floating barriers consisting of 180 tree trunks joined together with chains.
The next highlight is Sv Ivan (St John) fortress which protects the port and city on the southeastern side. It was built in the 14th century on the site of a much older fortress with the final additions being made in the 16th century. It now houses a maritime museum.
From the Sv Ivan fortress continue walking along the southern walls which stretch for 800 metres in a gentle curve along steep cliffs to the southwest corner bastion. The first 300 metres protect the seaward side of the Pustijerna district, one of Dubrovnik's oldest neighborhoods. A slight rise takes you to the highest point of the south walls where the very oldest settlement once was.
Then the walk descends to Fort Bokar which was begun in the 15th century and completed 100 years later. Under Austrian rule in the 19th century, it was used as a prison. It's one of the oldest buildings of its kind in Europe.
From the walls of Bokar, you get the best view of the outer western fortress of Lovrijenac, looming on a rock 37 metres high. Protecting the old town and Pile Gate from attack by both sea and land, it was likely built in the 11th century and then strongly fortified at the beginning of the 14th century. It was so essential to the defense of the city that it was strengthened again in the 16th century. Attesting to the importance of Fort Lovrijenac, its commander was the highest paid official of the Ragusan Republic.
Continuing a short distance from Fort Bokar takes you back to Pile Gate.
The walk takes about one hour and is very exposed to the sun. Try to avoid it between 11am and 3pm. It's also a good idea to check the cruise schedule as a crush of visitors can greatly interfere with your pleasure.
1 April - 31 May: 8.00 am - 6.30 pm
1 June - 31 July: 8.00 am - 7.30 pm
1 August - 30 September: 8.00 am - 6.30 pm
1 October - 31 October: 8.00 am - 4 pm
1 November - 31 March: 9.00 am - 3.00 pm
Last updated: March 28, 2016
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