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Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port | Know it All | Full Guide

Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a treasure trove of history, but nestled within its ancient walls lies a hidden gem: Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port. More than just a pretty harbor, this port played a vital role in shaping Dubrovnik’s past as a maritime power. Ready to explore? This guide will take you on a journey through time, uncovering the port’s fascinating story, from its strategic development to its transformation into a charming spot for locals and visitors alike.

Dubrovnik's Old Town Port
View on Fort St. John in Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port

Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port: A Journey Through Time

Back in the 1500s, Venice, once the king of the seas, was starting to lose its shine. This opened the door for Dubrovnik to step up and claim its place on the maritime stage. Trade by sea in fact became Dubrovnik’s golden ticket to wealth. By the 1600s, they boasted a world-class fleet of 180 to 200 top-notch ships.

But these weren’t your average vessels – Dubrovnik built bigger and better, crafting galleons, carracks, and navas capable of tackling long and perilous journeys. Their ships crisscrossed the Mediterranean, ventured into the Black Sea, and even braved the Atlantic Ocean, reaching ports in England, Germany, India, and in fact even America! Dubrovnik’s skilled sailors became world-renowned for their expertise, transporting goods across a vast network.

Building a Safe Harbor (15th & 16th Centuries)

Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port and its development is deeply connected to the work of a master architect named Paskoje Miličević. Rising to prominence in the 1400s, Miličević undoubtedly became the port’s “star architect,” leaving his mark right away.

His first project, built in 1470, was a low bastion guarding the port entrance right by St. Luke’s Fort. This addition offered in fact immediate security, allowing a chain to be raised between Fort of St John and St Luke’s Fortress at night to block enemy vessels.

One of his another most important contributions came in the 15th century with the construction of the Kaše breakwater. This breakwater provided a crucial layer of protection for ships nestled within the port.

In the early 1500s, Miličević continued his work, overseeing the port’s completion. This included designing the Ponta Gate and a sloping wall built along St. John’s Fortress. Finally, the grand finale of his work came in the mid-1500s when St John’s Fortress was expanded to incorporate nearby bastions and the port itself, giving it the form we see today.

Dubrovnik's Old Town Port, Porporela breakwater
Porporela breakwater in Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port

Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port as a Shipbuilding Hub

Dubrovnik’s shipbuilders were undoubtedly famous for their skills. Ships built “in the manner of Dubrovnik” were in fact known for being strong, durable, and simple. By the mid-1500s, Dubrovnik owned a massive fleet of over 180 large ships, making them a major maritime power. The Republic also made money from credit transactions and naval insurance, having established laws for naval insurance as early as 1568.

Nestled within the Old Port, you’ll find a unique building with three symmetrical vaults – the old Arsenal. During the Dubrovnik Republic’s time, this was where ships were built. To keep their shipbuilding secrets hidden, the vaults were sealed with bricks while a ship was under construction. Once the ship was complete, the wall would be removed, and the vessel launched.

A Changing Landscape (18th & 19th Centuries)

However, the discovery of new sea routes in the 18th century led to a decline in Mediterranean maritime trade. Despite this, Dubrovnik still maintained consulates in over 80 cities, and their fleet, including fishing boats, reached a total of 673 sailing ships. While not as powerful as Venice or the Netherlands, Dubrovnik’s fleet remained a significant force.

 

Dubrovnik's Old Town Port,
Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port

Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port Today

Today, Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port bustles with a different kind of energy. Nestled in the eastern part of the Old Town, this historic harbor has transformed into a hub for exploring the surrounding beauty.

Hop on a boat and set sail for nearby islands like Lokrum, Cavtat, or Mlini. Several sightseeing boat tours also depart from here, offering unique perspectives of Dubrovnik’s coastline. Feeling puckish? The Arsenal building we mentioned earlier has a new lease on life! Step inside this charming restaurant and travel back in time to an ancient shipyard. Carved wood tables and chairs welcome you with a warm atmosphere, while some booths are even built right inside ship skeletons! Pulleys and ropes hanging from the hall complete the nautical theme.

Austrian rule in the 19th century saw the construction of the walkway along the port and Porporela breakwater. However, Porporela breakwater is a favorite spot for couples to enjoy romantic walks, with benches overlooking the sea. Also, at the breakwater’s end, a white stone monument honors Dubrovnik’s seafaring tradition. The inscription in Croatian reads “Znanje, Vjera, Srčanost” (Knowledge, Faith, Bravery), highlighting the values that shaped Dubrovnik’s maritime success.

Just a stone’s throw away, St. John’s Fortress now houses the Dubrovnik Maritime Museum. Here, you can in fact delve into Dubrovnik’s fascinating seafaring history. Explore exhibits that tell the stories of the city’s rise as a maritime power, its skilled shipbuilders, and its daring voyages across the globe.

How to get to Dubrovnik’s Old Port

Already within Dubrovnik’s Old Town Walls?

The Old Town Port is nestled within the heart of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. If you need directions on how to reach the Old Town itself from various points within the city, be sure to check out our handy guide! Visiting from Dubrovnik Airport? No problem, we’ve got a separate guide with the best ways to get to the Old Town.

Ploče Gate to Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port: A Scenic Walk

So, let’s explore the scenic route to the Old Town Port if you’re starting your journey at Ploče Gate. As you enter through the grand Ploče Gate, be sure to admire the imposing Revelin Fortress on your right side. Continue straight, passing by the Dominican Monastery. While, history buffs, take note – the entrance to Dubrovnik’s City Walls is located right behind the monastery!

Keep walking down St. Dominik Street until you reach the bustling Stradun, the Old Town’s main street. On your right, you’ll be greeted by the elegant Sponza Palace. In front of you lies Luža Square, dominated by Orlando’s Column and the awe-inspiring St. Blaise Church.

Ready for the next turn? Head left, and you’ll spot the charming Small Onofrio’s Fountain. As you continue your stroll, the Town Hall and Rector’s Palace will appear on your left side, showcasing Dubrovnik’s rich history. Just after these grand buildings, you’ll find the Ponte Gate on your left. Walk through this gate, and voila! You’ve arrived at Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port.


Must-see Dubrovnik Attractions

Entering Through Pile Gate?

Pile Gate is another popular starting point for exploring Dubrovnik’s Old Town. As you step through this grand entrance and onto the bustling Stradun, the main street, look to your right and you’ll be greeted by the impressive Large Onofrio’s Fountain. History buffs don’t miss the chance to explore the City Walls – their entrance is right next to Pile Gate on your left!

Continue strolling down the vibrant Stradun. On your left, you’ll see the beautiful Church of St. Saviour, followed by the imposing Franciscan Monastery. Soak in the atmosphere of the Old Town as you make your way towards the lively Luža Square.

Here’s where things change up a bit. Instead of turning left like we did when coming from Ploče Gate, take a right turn at Luža Square. Now, follow the same directions we mentioned earlier: you’ll pass the Orlando’s Column and St. Blaise Church on your right, and the charming Small Onofrio’s Fountain on your left. The Town Hall and Rector’s Palace will stand on your left side as you continue walking. Finally, your destination awaits! The Ponte Gate will be on your left – simply walk through it, and you’ve arrived at the historic Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port.

Tips for a Great Visit:

Good to know before you go:

FeatureDescription
LocationDubrovnik’s Old Town Port
Open24 hours
Admission FeeFree
Distance from Pile Gate:600 meters (1968 feet)
Walking Time from Pile Gate:8 minutes
Distance from Ploče Gate:450 meters (1476 feet)
Walking Time from Ploče Gate:6 minutes
Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port Information
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: The old town’s streets and the steps to the church are all made of stone. Comfortable shoes will make your exploration much more enjoyable.
  • Bring a Camera: You’ll want to capture the beauty of Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port!
  • Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port location on Google Maps!

Discover More of Dubrovnik

For further exploration of Dubrovnik, check out Dubrovnik comprehensive travel guide, filled with itineraries, activities, and all you need to plan your visit to this historic city.

Enjoy Your Visit!

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AdriaticExplorer
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