A formidable rival of Venice during the middle ages, Dubrovnik enjoyed special prosperity thanks to vigorous maritime trade. Today, perched on the Adriatic Sea, it is Croatia’s most popular tourist destination: a handsome stone-built city with an ancient harbour and sumptuous historical architecture. A warren of narrow streets and alleyways weaves through its lightly crumbling Old Town, a sunny and bustling place replete with ancient churches, monasteries, town-houses, and grand civic plazas. Half the pleasure of Dubrovnik comes from idly strolling and seeing what you discover.
The origins of the city are obscure – some say it was founded by refugees from the city of Epirdaurum; others say it was established by Greek sailors. Whatever its beginnings, Dubrovnik became a cradle of Croatian culture in the 15th and 16th centuries, asserting itself as an autonomous maritime republic and stronghold of mercantile activity.
Thanks to its progressive adoption of modern laws, institutions, and infrastructure, it was widely celebrated by scholars, artists, and forward-looking thinkers. During its golden age, its fleet of merchant ships travelled the world, bringing treasures from Asia, Africa, and the Orient. The flag of Dubrovnik (then known as Ragusa) billowed proudly over the city, emblazoned with its famous motto: Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro - Liberty is not sold for all the gold in the world.