In the first of a regular series looking at some of Croatia’s most famous – and perhaps lesser-known – sights in more detail, today we’re taking a look at the Old Town Walls, Dubrovnik. These famed walls run for a length of 1,940 metres around the Old Town part of Dubrovnik and are 25 metres tall at their highest point. In the interior, the walls have a thickness of between 4 metres and 6 metres, whilst on the portion facing out over the Adriatic Sea, they are 1.5 metres to 3 metres thick.
The walls are stunning to experience for yourself in real life and have a fascinating history. They have protected Dubrovnik during a number of attacks over the centuries and served as excellent protection during the Homeland War in Croatia in the early 1990s. The walls also withstood an incredibly powerful earthquake in 1667 (when 2,000 locals are estimated to have died, and many of the Old Town buildings were destroyed) and were barely damaged.
History of the Old Town Walls, Dubrovnik
Portions of the walls were first constructed in the 13th century, with the basic shape fully outlined by the 14th century. The walls were continuously added to over the subsequent centuries, with considerable work on the walls undertaken in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Many builders and architects contributed to the construction of the walls and their elements over time, including Juraj Dalmatinac (who worked on Minceta Fortress) who is famous for his work in Sibenik.
Features of the Old Town Walls, Dubrovnik
As we’ve mentioned, the walls run for 1,940 metres in length and include a number of towers, fortresses and gates, and we’ll take a look at some of the best ones here.
Minceta Fortress, completed in 1464, was the main point of defence on the land side of Dubrovnik and is in fact the northernmost point of the Walls as well as the highest point. (So be sure to climb for some fantastic views!) The Tower was originally built in a rectangular shape in the 14th century but was then changed to be a round tower in the mid-15th century.
Pile Gate is the main entrance into the Old Town on the western side and stands where Pile Fortress used to be, which was torn down in 1818. As you approach this gate you will cross a 15th-century, triple-arched stone bridge. Above the gate itself you will notice a statue of St. Blaise, Dubrovnik’s patron saint, that was sculpted by the famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic; the gate itself actually consists of two gates, and outer and an inner one which were built at different times.
On the western side of the Old Town is Ploce Gate which also consists of an outer and an inner gate and a stone bridge on its approach; again, this gate was constructed in the 15th century. Be sure to check out a gorgeous view of the harbour when you cross this bridge!
Next to Ploce Gate is Revelin Fortress which is also adjacent to the Old Town port. This fortress was constructed in the late 16th century to protect the city from attacks from Venice which were considered heightened at the time. These days, the fortress is home to Club Revelin – what an amazing place to do some partying!
St John’s Fortress to the southeast of the Old Town harbour stood to protect the city from attacks from the sea. Completed in 1557, today this amazing building is home to the Dubrovnik Aquarium and the Maritime Museum.
The circular Bokar Fortress stands to protect Pile Gate and the harbour just below. Completed in 1570, this fortress was used as an ammunition store and also to test canon range.
Lovrijenac Fortress stands separate to the town walls – but you will get an excellent view of this fortress when you make the walk on them, and a ticket to the town walls also includes a visit here. This was likely the most important defence of the city, given its position 40 metres up on these cliffs. Originally built in the 14th century – likely on the site of a previous fort, which existed perhaps as early as the 10th century – this triangular-shaped fortress was strengthened and changed over the centuries and also needed restoring after the 1667 earthquake. Amazing, the walls of the fortress that face the sea are 12 metres thick, but much, much less so on the side facing inland. Lovirjenac “plays” the Red Keep of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones.
Visiting the Old Town Walls
Obviously, the Old Town Walls completely surround the Old Town (the clue is in the name!) so once you’re in Dubrovnik, make your way over to the Old Town.
You can obviously marvel at the walls from many a spot inside and outside of the Old Town. In fact, walking around the outside of them – on the land side, of course – is one way of appreciating the magnitude of the walls and the level of protection they bestowed on the town. Should you get a chance, opting for a spot of sea kayaking in Dubrovnik is another fantastic way of seeing the walls, this time from sea level (of course!). Again, you can imagine how imposing the walls would have been to potential marauders.
Entry & Tickets
There are entrances up to the Town Walls by both Pile and Ploce gates, and you can buy tickets for the walls at both of these locations. Personally, we like entering at Pile Gate to make the walk around on the sea side first before heading inland and marvelling at all the pretty orange rooftops. It is also possible to buy tickets online on the Society of Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities website. Tickets cost €35 for adults and €15 for children under 18 (2023 prices). This includes entry to Lovrenjac Fortress as well.
You can learn more about the walls on the Society of Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities website. This society was formed in 1952 to protect, preserve and promote the walls. The same society also looks after the stunning town walls in Ston.
Take a look at our Dubrovnik Old Town Photos gallery to see the sights visible on and from the walls.