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The History of Dubrovnik, Croatia

June 7, 2016



“Those who seek paradise on earth should come to Dubrovnik”. These were the words of Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw when he visited the city in 1929. It is a lofty description but it is oh so accurate. Dubrovnik is visually stunning, but according to – travel specialists for Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Montenegro, perhaps it is its story too that makes it such a compelling destination choice.


The compelling history of Dubrovnik:


The name

Dubrovnik means ‘oak grove’. The name has been in use since the Middle Ages, and refers to the thick oak forest that once thrived there. That name was not officially adopted until 1929. Prior to this the city was known as Ragusa.


Early influences

Dubrovnik history shows that the city was inhabited by a Greek colony in ancient times.

Dubrovnik was then ruled by a sequence of powerful countries – including the Byzantine Empire and the Venetian Republic before gaining independence in the 14th century. From this point it developed into a powerful maritime centre. Dubrovnik managed to maintain its independence during a very turbulent era because it managed to attract the protection of influential countries.  Dubrovnik, the city-state, cherished its freedom, the protection of which motivated its diplomatic actions with other countries and events.


Forward thinking

In some ways, Dubrovnik was ahead of its time. In the 14th century it opened the first medical service and the world’s first pharmacy. It abolished the slave trade in 1418. It was one of the first countries to recognise the USA as a country, also.


Maritime city

Dubrovnik developed a strong maritime trade network. Their ships sailed as far as Great Britain and the city also owned colonies in India.


Earthquake and Wars

In 1667, 5,000 people from Dubrovnik died in an earthquake that also destroyed many public buildings.  Many churches, mansions, houses were ruined, but many did indeed survive and today’s visitors can still experience the gothic, Renaissance and baroque architecture during a holiday to Dubrovnik.


The buildings and architecture was very badly damaged by the fighting it witnessed in the Balkan War in the 1990s, where medieval city walls and beautiful cobbled streets took hundreds if not thousands of direct hits. But UNESCO stepped in after the war to manage a restoration effort and Dubrovnik is back to its former glory, which you can see today.


Independence, occupation, independence

Directly after the earthquake in 1667, Venice and Turkey set off to ‘assist’ Dubrovnik, however the city rightly saw these offers of assistance as a threat and sent ambassadors off to meet the invading forces and persuade them that they did not need help. They protected their independence at all costs.


Dubrovnik fell to Napoleon in 1808 when his French armies occupied the town. They had originally stood outside of the gates, asking for free passage. They were let in and then never left. Later the city came under the rule of the Austro Hungarian empire. And then after the Great War of 1914-1918 it became part of Yugoslavia, but today stands independent as part of Croatia.


Today’s Dubrovnik

The Pearl of the Adriatic is a destination that is not to be missed! If the history of Dubrovnik has made you want to see it for yourself, – travel specialists for Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Montenegro offer a variety of options on how to take in the splendour of Dubrovnik during a Croatian holiday:

-       The Split to Dubrovnik private guided tour spends a full day and two nights soaking up Dubrovnik history. Starting at the city gates, the tour works its way through the city’s main historical sights and you’ll see Dubrovnik and its history in the flesh.

-        The Croatian Adriatic coast and islands walking tour spends seven days soaking up the cultural heritage and beautiful sights in and around the coast – including Dubrovnik itself.

-       If biking around the countryside and islands that surround Dubrovnik, as well as exploring the city, offer two fantastic tours. There’s the Split to Dubrovnik tour and then the tour that focuses on Dubrovnik’s countryside and islands.



To find out more about holidays to Croatia, and specifically holidays to Dubrovnik visit – travel specialists for Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Montenegro. 


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