Regardless of whether you are visiting Dubrovnik for the first time or the hundredth, the sense of awe never fails to descend when you set eyes on the beauty of the old town. Indeed it’s hard to imagine anyone becoming jaded by the city’s limestone streets, baroque buildings and the endless shimmer of the Adriatic, or failing to be inspired by a walk along the ancient city walls that protected the capital of a sophisticated republic for centuries..
The story of Dubrovnik begins with the 7th-century onslaught of the Slavs, which had wiped out the Roman city of Epidaurum (site of present-day Cavtat). Residents fled to the safest place they could find, which was the rocky islet of Ragusa, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel. Building walls was a matter of pressing urgency due to the threat of invasion; the city was well fortified by the 9th century when it resisted a Saracen siege for 15 months.
Meanwhile, another settlement emerged on the mainland, which became known as Dubrovnik, named after the dubrava (holm oak) that carpeted the region. The two settlements merged in the 12th century, and the channel that separated them was filled in.
By the end of the 12th century Dubrovnik had become a significant trading centre on the coast, providing an important link between the Mediterranean and Balkan states. Dubrovnik came under Venetian authority in 1205, finally breaking away again in 1358.