My friend and I were walking into the Old Town from our hostel. We passed a tour group standing on the edge of the dock, gathered close around the tour guide, who was showing them a picture.
“This man here, who is pushing the boat,” he was saying with a thick Balkan accent, “when Myrcella leaves for Dorne, was my chemistry teacher at the high school.”
We decided that was the most important bit of eavesdropping we’d ever done.
The Old Town of Dubrovnik is very picturesque, in part because of its walls. Back in the day, Dubrovnik was a rich port town, and one of the major trading ports in the Adriatic Sea, behind Venice. As such, it needed to defend itself against marauders and, on occasion, competitors, as Venice tried (and failed) to conquer Dubrovnik in 948 AD in a bid to become the single most influential sea power in the Mediterranean. The people of Dubrovnik, eager to continue their lucrative ways, built an extensive fortification system around their city that put even the most aggressive of attackers to shame.
The city walls of Dubrovnik run over 6,000 feet in length (for those of you keeping track, that’s more than a mile). While that might not sound like much, it was sufficient to surround most of the Old Town and create a protective barrier for the harbor. The walls reach up to 80 feet in height at some points, and are between 10 and 20 feet thick. If those walls weren’t enough to make you and your pirate crew think twice about besieging Dubrovnik, five different forts were built either into or immediately without the walls. So good was this defense system that it was not breached by a hostile force until 1806 – and even then, the walls did not fall, it was just that the people got really tired of Napoleon’s cannonballs being chucked over the walls.
This was a defense system worthy of King’s Landing. In fact, when Game of Thrones was being filmed in Dubrovnik, the film crew had to do very little to make the walls look like the description of the Lannister stronghold in the books. The walls were already so imposing that not even George R. R. Martin could have made them better (unless they were made of ice, but Dubrovnik/King’s Landing is too far south for that).
Visiting the City Walls of Dubrovnik:
Bonus Points: The city walls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Admission: There is an admission fee for going up on the city walls: either 150 Croatian Kuna (about $20), or with a Dubrovnik Card for 170 Kuna (about $25). If you’re going to be in Dubrovnik for a couple days, the Dubrovnik Card is a good option – it includes the city walls and admission to several different museums around town.
Entry: There are several entry points around the city. We entered via the stairs near the harbor, but just keep an eye out for the ‘City Walls Entry’ signs. You can buy tickets at the entry point.
Best Time to Go: Dubrovnik is a touristy town, and Game of Thrones fans flock to the walls to do homage to the spot where Tyrion and Daenerys do their plotting. I’d recommend doing them either first thing in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the potential excesses of the fandom.
Snacks: Never let it be said that I don’t pay attention to the important things. There are several cafes up on the city walls, so while I recommend taking a bottle of water with you, there is the possibility of stopping for some refreshment on the way. Many blogs say that it’s absurdly expensive to buy drinks on the walls, but it’s not that much more than in the city itself. We got small beers for 25 Kuna ($3.50) in the town and 28 Kuna ($4.10) on the walls – a bit expensive for a half a pint, sure, but not breaking the bank. Also, the world’s best orange juice is to be found in the cafes on the city walls – it’s worth every bit of the 29 Kuna ($4.25) I spent on it.
Plan your trip to the city walls here.
Game of Thrones fan? See the filming locations here. (Also, if that tourist video doesn’t make you want to jump right up and go to Croatia, you’re much to comfortable on your couch.)
And, just for kicks and giggles, see if you can spot the chemistry teacher!