For decades, Dubrovnik has attracted many visitors, who are delighted by its unique and authentic beauty. One of Dubrovnik’s greatest attractions are the city walls, which stretch over 1940 metres, in the shape of an irregular polygon. The structure consists of the main city wall, 16 towers, three fortresses, six bastions, two corner fortifications, three fore-walls, three moats, two outer walls with breakwaters, and two drawbridges at the Pile and Ploce gates, which were raised each night to seal the entrance to the town. The thickness of the walls varies from 4 to 6 metres on the seaward side and 1,5 to 3 metres on the landward side.
The city walls of Dubrovnik took centuries to build. Construction began in the 7th century, while further reinforcements, including a series of imposing towers intended to protect the city against the marauding Turks, were added later on. The oldest systems of fortifications around the town were probably wooden palisades. The current form dates from the 13th century with systematic modernizations until 1660, when the last fortress, St. Stephen, was built. One of the most beautiful fortresses is Minceta, 80 metres high, dominating the city walls from the highest point at the north-western corner. Although separate from the city walls themselves, the fortresses of Revelin and Lovrijenac, perched on a cliff 37 metres above the sea. Above the entrance to this fortress is carved a Latin inscription, ‘Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro’ (‘Freedom is worth more than all the gold in the world'.)
Today's intact city walls, constructed mainly during the 12th –17th centuries, have long been a source of pride for Dubrovnik. This complex circular structure, amongst the largest and most complete in Europe, protected the freedom and safety of the ‘civilized and sophisticated’ Republic of Ragusa’ that flourished in peace and prosperity for five centuries. The walls were reinforced by three circular and 14 quadrangular towers, five bastions, (bulwarks), two angular fortifications and the large St. John's Fortress. Land Walls were additionally reinforced by one larger bastion and nine smaller semicircular ones, Fort Bokar, the oldest preserved fort of this kind in Europe. The moat running around the outside section of the city walls, was once armed by more than 120 cannons, making superb city defences and a formidable sight.
Another interesting feature along the walls is the Maritime Museum (inside the Bokar tower) containing objects, paintings and documents from the city’s history. The ground floor houses the famous Aquarium. The monumental space of the fortress creates a spacious and interesting ambience for visitors who can view specimens of Adriatic fauna in 27 basins of various sizes.
Many well-known architects of that time participated in the construction of the Dubrovnik city walls throughout the centuries, creating what is today one of the most beautiful monuments in Europe. Among the names remembered by history are Paskoje Miličević, Juraj Dalmatinac, Michelozzo Michelozzi of Florence, Onofrio and Simeon della Cava, Antonio Ferramolino of Bergamo and others.
The city walls were once a symbol of a powerful defence system, while today they stand as a unique cultural and historical heritage of the city of Dubrovnik. In 1979, the Old City of Dubrovnik (which includes a large part of the ancient walls of the city) joined other world treasures on the Unesco list of World Heritage Sites. A definitive 'must' on any visit to Dubrovnik, the medieval city walls are best explored by taking the full, two-kilometre walk along the battlements. Featuring ever-changing views out to sea and over the Old Town, they offer excellent photo opportunities and beautiful views over the Adriatic. A good starting point is Placa - the main entrance to the walls just inside Pile Gate.