What to do with a free morning in Dubrovnik? Since our cruise was leaving way too early for us to join the “Game of Thrones” walking tour, we decided that we simply had to reclimb the city walls of course! The Costa Mediterranea arrived at 7 am, so we still had an extra 2 hours to kill before the city walls would allow visitors. Getting from Gruž Port into town was a breeze using public transportation. We were the only ones to attempt it from our cruise line…everyone else herded onto awaiting buses and taxis, which were probably rip offs. Gruž Port is located about 2 km away from Pile Gate, the grandest entrance into Dubrovnik old town, complete with a drawbridge! We bought our tickets in advance at the bus ticket counter (12 kn each) but read that we could also pay the bus driver directly, in which case the fare would be bumped up to 15 kn each. Orange buses 1A, 1B or 1C can all be taken from Gruž Port into town. We missed 1A while buying the tickets but bus 1B soon pulled up and we hopped on and validated our tickets for the short ride into town. Since we were visiting so early in the day, the bus soon became crowded with school kids but luckily, we had snagged seats so we didn’t have to jostle with the throng of bodies. It was impossible to get lost while taking the bus as it pulled up into a roundabout for the last drop off stop, and everyone disembarked just in front of Pile Gate. We had managed to beat the tour buses for a fraction of the cost…score!
Walking through the gleaming white limestone streets of Dubrovnik is a treat in the early morning. With very few other souls in sight, we felt as if we had the entire place to ourselves. This must be a magical city to spend the night in, especially once the day trippers are gone! We walked down the length of the stradun (sometimes referred to as “Placa”, the main street) which links Pile gate in the west to Ploce gate in the east. Lined by dozens of baroque buildings, the stradun never fails to impress. Last time we visited, we got to enjoy it with several thousands of other visitors…this time was better since hardly anyone is stirring at 7 am!
We ended up entering the city walls from the Custom’s House gate (which tourists must not know about because we had the entire first section to ourselves). The entrance fee was 100 kn (no Euros accepted so ensure you have Kuna or else you can pay with credit card). The views from the city walls are second to none. Both of us had visited Dubrovnik before on prior trips and both of us had climbed the city walls, but its an activity neither one of us wanted to forego given a second chance to see them again. These medieval walls (build sometime between the 8th and 16th centuries) are among the best preserved in the world. At a circumference of 2 km, it takes an average person between an hour to an hour and a half to walk the entire length of the city walls…we ended up taking our sweet time and easily spent over 2 hours admiring the fantastic views. We had brushed up on a bit of history about the walls prior to our visit…in some sections of the wall (land side), they are up to 6 meters thick, which shows that their primary function was to deter attacks from inland, not the sea. Of course over time, sections of the walls have been buttressed by towers and bastions. The Ottoman Empire had threatened from just a few kilometers away, and amazingly, Dubrovnik’s city walls were never breached!
After our city walk tour, we wandered around old Dubrovnik, visiting the Romanesque cloister of the Franciscan monastery. The monastery is most famous for its pharmacy (one of the oldest functioning pharmacies in Europe). There was no ticket seller present when we visited so we got to visit for free! Back out on stradun, we lingered at the Church of the Little Brothers. There is a gargoyle below knee height and the trick is to stand on it while facing the wall. Supposedly it’s the test of a real man, so count us both in, ha! Since our city wall ticket also included free entrance to Fort Lovrijenac (near Pile Gate), we decided to hike over there to check it out. Fort Lovrijenac was used as a prison. Its hard to feel too bad for the prisoners because the views from the fort are some of the best in the city!
Since we had to be back on the cruise by 12:30 pm for a 1 pm departure, we decided to head back after our whirlwind sightseeing tour. Catching a return bus was super simple and within minutes, we were back at Gruž Port with plenty of time to spare. Until next time pretty Dubrovnik!