The Adriatic Sea has been the main source of wealth for many of the ancient cities and empires. Dubrovnik, Kotor and Budva are no exception to that and have been among the wealthiest cities in the Middle Ages. Going on an Adriatic road trip is an adventure like no other.
These city-states created a powerful group, which attracted many and were often under attack. However, this did not by any means made them less powerful, but exactly the opposite. These city-states became one of the most powerful and wealthy cities in the Adriatic.
Nowadays, the Pearls of the Adriatic are still glorious and catch the eye with their huge city walls, fortresses and sea views. Thus, it is probably one of the best Adriatic road trips you can take.
Day 1 – Exploring Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is located in the southern part of Croatia and is the most famous city-state, which is bustling with tourists almost all year round. The city-state was found in the 7th century by Roman refugees and was known as Ragusa or Rausa.
However, once the Roman Empire fell, it came under the protection of the Byzantine Empire and later under the Venetian Republic. Eventually, Dubrovnik broke free from those unions and became a free city-state with its own laws, institutions and fleet.
Dubrovnik was a city-state ruled by wealthy aristocrats that valued liberty highly. With their knowledge about maritime trade, they made strong connections with the other countries in the Mediterranean. Those connections helped Dubrovnik to become one of the wealthiest and most developed cities in the 15th century.
There is a lot to see and explore in Dubrovnik and it is good to have a proper guide, so here is one:
The Walls of Dubrovnik
The Walls of Dubrovnik are the most prominent landmark in the city and have been an inspiration for many movies, including Game of Thrones. They were built between the 14th and 17th century and surround the whole city. Their sole purpose was to protect the city from foreign invaders and thus the walls are pretty thick – 2 meters large and some of them are as high as 25 meters.
Nowadays, the Walls of Dubrovnik are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are one of the main attractions in the city. The walks around the walls of Dubrovnik goes through its fortresses, which are built at every corner of the walls. The fortress that is closest to the entrance of the Walls is Fort Minčeta, which was shot in a couple of scenes in Game of Thrones. In the past, it was used to protect the north part of the city and it also provides the best view over Dubrovnik’s old town. The other fortresses are Fort Bokar and Lawrence, which defended the west part of the city and any attack by sea. While Fort Revelin and Saint John guarded the eastern side and the harbor.
The walk around the Walls of Dubrovnik takes around 2-3 hours depending on your pace. It is recommended to do it either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as the heat is quite unbearable. The price of the ticket for the city’s walls is 200kn, which is around 30 euros.
Old Town of Dubrovnik
The old town of Dubrovnik is the highlight of any trip to the city. It usually starts with entering the city through the Pile gate, which will bring you in the city. On the right side you will see the Big Onofrio’s fountain, which was and is still used by the locals as a source of fresh water.
On the left side is the Franciscan monastery, which was built in the 14th century. The most interesting thing about the Franciscan monastery is that it houses the oldest pharmacy in Europe. Inside it you can also find various paintings, a music archive and an old library, which is very well-preserved. The entrance fee for the Franciscan monastery is 4 euros and includes the old pharmacy’s museum.
Then, you can continue through Stradun street, which is the main street in the old town of Dubrovnik. There are lots of souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes where you can try traditional Croatian meals. It is also recommended to go through and explore one of the secluded streets on the right side. They truly will bring the chill vibe Dubrovnik has.
The City Center of Dubrovnik
The city center of the old town of Dubrovnik is almost near the harbor of the city and at its end. There is the Church of Saint Blaise, built in Baroque style and known for its beautiful interior. The church was dedicated to the savior of Dubrovnik Saint Blaise.
On the other side is the Sponza Palace, which was the commercial center of Dubrovnik. Nowadays, it holds Dubrovnik’s oldest archives dating back to the 10th century, which is quite fascinating.
Before going to the harbor of the old city, you will encounter the city’s Clocl Tower. It was built in the 15th century and unbelievably still works today. You can enjoy the chiming bells every day at noon.
A trip to the island of Locrum is a total must while in Dubrovnik. The island has its own Natural Reserve, which is home to many exotic plants from all over the world. On top of that, it has a little museum dedicated to Game of Thrones, which houses the Iron throne itself. Thus, if you are a true Game of Thrones fan you should definitely visit it!
A boat ride to the island of Locrum takes around 15-20 minutes and costs around 20 euros
Day 2 – Exploring Kotor
The ancient city of Kotor, settled by Romans in the 1st century and later taken over by the Illyrians provides one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the Adriatic. This city-state just like Dubrovnik is located in a very strategic place – the Bay of Kotor. Secluded between the staggering mountain ridges and the Adriatic Sea, it was the perfect place to do maritime trade away from the pirates.
Many Empires like Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian and even the Ottoman Empire tried to take over Kotor. However, it always managed to keep its freedom and unique culture, which can be observed till this day.
On the second day of your Adriatic road trip it is good to check the most prominent landmarks in the city of Kotor:
Old Town of Kotor
The old town of Kotor is a very magical place full with secret streets, tunnels and is surrounded by high bulwarks, which are protecting the city till this day. While walking around the old town of Kotor you will for sure encounter the Cathedral of Sveti Tripun, which is in the middle of the city center.
The cathedral was built around the beginning of the 12th century in the honour of Saint Tripun. Sveti Tripun is the protector of the city and is highly respected by the people of Kotor. Inside of the cathedral you will be amazed by its beautiful frescoes and will also have the chance to see its rich treasury.
Another landmark that is worth a visit is the church of Sveti Luka in Kotor. It was built around the 12th century as a catholic church and served as a school for the children of the city. Later, during the wars and the arrival of the Orthodox Christians the church was given to them. Nowadays, the church has 2 altars – one for Catholics and one for Orthodox Christians.
If you are interested in maritime trade, then you should definitely visit the Maritime Museum of Kotor. There you will witness some of the most incredible artefacts about the seafare trade at the time. Along with that there are lots of ship expositions and rooms containing Kotor’s wealthiest families riches.
The Walls of Kotor
Back in the days, the Walls of Kotor were built with the sole purpose to protect the citizens of the city. If the city was under attack, all of the citizens would climb to the top and shelter within the fortress or above the mountain ridges. Nowadays, Walls of Kotor are one of the main attractions in the city and was an inspiration for a castle in the hit series of Game of Thrones.
While climbing the Walls of Kotor you will witness some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. The Bay of Kotor is truly a mesmerizing view to look at and the higher you go the more beautiful it gets.
You can stop by the Church of Our Lady of Remedy, which is built near the walls. Then, you can head straight to San Giovanni Fortress from where you can have a clear view of the whole Bay of Kotor and the old city.
Our Lady of the Rocks island
Another attraction in Kotor and the Bay of Kotor is the Our Lady of the Rocks island. It is an artificial island on which a beautiful church was built. The island is set in the middle of Kotor Bay and is surrounded by Montenegro’s most magnetic cities – Perast, Risan and Konstanjica.
The place is very special for the people of the Kotor Bay, as there is a local legend about how the island was made. As the legend goes, a seaman after a shipwreck saw an icon of the Holy Mother of God in the water and decided to build a church on this place. Thus, every day he was bringing stones with his boat and was throwing them in the water. Eventually, the stones piled up and the island emerged giving him the opportunity to build the church in the 16th century.
Inside the church is truly astonishing with hand-painted frescoes and iconostasis. It has a couple of entrances and a beautiful little garden to enjoy. To get to it one needs to rent a boat or simply pay 20 euros to sail to it. Nevertheless, it is absolutely worth the visit!
Day 3 – Exploring Budva
On day three you can check the city of Budva, which was another medieval city-state. It was settled around the 5th century BC and is considered to be one of the oldest cities in Montenegro. Just like Dubrovnik and Kotor, Budva was home to the Mediterranean’s prominent sailors and explorers. Due to its good maritime trade and good connections with other cities and empires, it was among the richest cities in the Middle Ages.
Nowadays, Budva is a charming city attracting many to its old city and beautiful beaches near it that create a very romantic atmosphere. Thus, it is good to visit it, especially during the summer months or early autumn when it is not so crowded.
Old Town of Budva
The old town of Budva is quite small compared to that of Dubrovnik and Kotor, but it is just as charming and beautiful. Walking around it will feel like living in the past and it brings a very chill vibe. Unfortunately, the walls of the city can’t be explored, as there is no way to walk on them, but there is plenty to explore in the old town.
By some of the staircases around the old town you can witness very romantic sceneries and some of them look over to the island of Saint Nikola. One of them can be observed from the Citadela Fortress of the old town. However, the old town is also famous for its beautiful churches, which keep some of the most well-preserved frescoes from the Middle Ages. One of them is the church of Saint Ivan, which keeps paintings of many saints and even that of the Holy Mother of God with Christ.
Sveti Nikola Island
The island of Saint Nikola is one of the top attractions when in Budva. It is located in front of the city and can be observed from any part of the city. It is famous for its crystal clear water and beautiful beaches, surrounded by lush vegetation. Previously, the island was connected with the city by a sandy path, but the water level has risen and now the only way to go there is by boat. There are lots of boat taxis almost all of the time, thus you can visit it whenever you want.
About the Guest Author: Alex
Alex is a blogger at EarthOSea who has extensively travelled around Europe for the past 3 years. She has lived in Portugal in 2019 where she got more familiar with the Portuguese culture, traditions and language.
Alex’s specialty is mainly in travelling in a sustainable and less harmful to the environment way. She is focusing more on ways to travel on a budget or money-for-value. Along with that, she loves hiking and discovering uncharted islands, but she also loves staying at the beach with a book in hand.