The city of Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th Century by refugees from Epidaurum, the present-day town of Cavtat, who named their settlement Laus. Soon, next to the village there appeared yet another small Slavic settlement called Dubrava. In the 12th Century, the two localities decided to unite, and the channel that divided them was transformed into a street which still exists today (Stradun Street). A set of fortified walls was erected to protect the new town, from then on known as Dubrovnik, from a foray of war-ridden neighbouring nations.
Initially a part of the Byzantine Empire, during the Teutonic Crusades, Dubrovnik came under Venetian rule. In the 14th Century, however, the city won independence, becoming a prosperous free-state called the Republic of Ragusa. For centuries, Dubrovnik managed to balance successfully between Venetian and Ottoman aspirations, thus preserving its sovereignty. In 1806, however, Napoleon's forces overtook the city and in 1815 the town was annexed to the Austrian Empire.
During the remainder of the 19th Century, Dubrovnik struggled to unite with Dalmatia and Croatia. The attempts proved to be successful, for eventually the city joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, where it prospered until the 1940s. After World War II and several other conflicts which occurred in the area over the second half of the 20th Century, the city was carefully restored to its former condition and added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Today, it continues to be referred to as the Pearl of the Adriatic.
Located at the tip of a land-bridge connecting it to the mainland of southern Croatia, Dubrovnik welcomes its guests with an impressive set of historic fortified walls, nearly two kilometres long and twenty-five metres high. Divided into an inner and outer section, they’re supported by five bastions and fifteen towers. The city's defense system comes complete with two fortresses, Revelin and Lovrijenac. The latter stands on a 36-metre-high cliff outside the city walls. It’s said to have been built in just three months in order to prevent the neighbouring nation of Venetians from having Dubrovnik under their control. According to legend, the stronghold was ready just in time to chase away the arriving Venetians.
From the west, Dubrovnik's historical centre is guarded by the 15th-century Pile Gate, a stone bridge installed between two Gothic arches. The gate also includes a wooden drawbridge, which in the past was pulled up at night to protect the city from thieves and wild animals. The gate is adorned by a beautiful statue of the city's patron, St Vlaho. The eastern side of the old city is overlooked by the Ploce Gate, which includes a twin-spanned stone bridge, a drawbridge and a massive 17th-century outer gate. Between the Pile and Ploce Gates runs the Old Town's main street, Stradun, paved with limestone and lined with original 17th-century houses and small shops.
Undoubtedly, Dubrovnik's most significant monument is the 14th-century Franciscan monastery which was partly demolished by an earthquake in 1667. The church was promptly reconstructed using elements of the original construction. Today, it houses Europe’s third-oldest pharmacy and an impressive library of some 30,000 volumes and 1,500 manuscripts.